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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Genesis Vegan Restaurant - Farrer Park

In the many years of covering the vegetarian/vegan scene in Singapore, I've come across countless vegetarian eateries that have opened and shortly failed, and only a few that have truly flourished.  Genesis Vegan Restaurant is indeed one of those few meatless eateries which have thrived in Singapore, remembered most fondly from their Clarke Quay location, which was consistently packed to the brim every lunch time, with a loyal fan-base of primarily office workers, who frequented that area.  A few months back, the landlord of their old location decided to claim back the shop-house, and they have now moved to their new location, which is near to Farrer Park MRT.


 




Genesis Vegan Restaurant
Location: 115 Owen Road

Contact: 64387118
Opening Hours: Mon-Thur & Sun 9.30am-9pm, Friday 9.30am-3pm. Closed Saturday.

 
I must say, their new location is incredibly isolated.  By isolated, I mean it makes Tuas look like Orchard Road.  It is on a small side street, which is primarily used almost as a mini industrial area, with a lot of abandoned buildings and car workshops.
One thing I loved from Genesis is their Mint Tea.  If I were to describe it in one word it would be intense.  They use a dried fresh organic mint leaf from Japan, which has a very strong full bodied mint flavour.  Upon drinking, you will immediately feel that almost overwhelming cooling mint flavour travel down your throat.  I love it.  They also sell large packets of this mint tea for $20.

Price: $3.00.     7/10
Genesis have built up a big following for their Chinese New Year goodies, I was at the shop during this particular period and watched the staff in the process of packing them.  Needless to say, all the cookies (and everything at Genesis) is vegan, so a great option for those who don't take eggs and dairy.
I was first served a plate of samples of some of the snack dishes at Genesis.  On the left we have the Yuba Roll and on the right we have the Dumplings.  I thought the dumplings were cooked well overall and I really enjoyed the filling inside.  Same can be said about the yuba roll, which had a nice crisp outer skin, with a generous amount of green vegetables in the middle.  However, it was the red capsicum dipping sauce (which accompanies both these dishes) that won my heart the most, I think I could literally drink that sauce.

*half portions of each are pictured.

Price: Yuba Roll $5.50.     7/10
Dumplings $6.00.     7/10


One of the more Chinese orientated dishes at Genesis is their Fish Head Vermicelli.  Unlike most vegetarian eateries, Genesis actually go to the effort of making their own mock meats.  This is good as it will mean that it doesn't have MSG and other harmful chemicals that processed packaged mock meat certainly has.  The mock fish texture was very good, and the vermicelli was cooked well.  The major thing lacking for me was the lack of flavour of the broth, however.  It was very plain, and needed a lot more salt and extra seaweed for a more fishy taste.  For those with very light tastebuds, then this would definitely be a dish I recommend.  If you have heavier tastebuds, then this dish may leave you feeling somewhat underwhelmed.

Price: $6.90.     6/10
One of the best sellers at Genesis is their 7 Layer Haystack.  As the name would suggest, this dish consists of seven layers (including a couple of sauces) all stacked on top of each other.  The bottom layer is a flavoured (almost Mexican style) rice, with beans on top.  The other layers are salads and I particularly liked the sweet element of the fresh pineapple layer.  For my tastebuds, the bean and rice layer needed significantly more salt, especially when eaten in combination with the salad.  Stronger spices (such as cumin, ras el hanout) could have been added to the rice and beans also, which would have elevated the taste.  Overall though, the ingredients were fresh, and went together very well.

Price: $8.90.     7/10
I was given another sample plate of two different pasta dishes that Genesis offer.  Starting first, with the green pasta closest to the camera, this is the Brazil Nut Cilantro Pasta.  I like the usage of brazil nuts, which give the pasta a very cloying milky taste, with the spaghetti is perfectly coated in this rich sauce.  I did find that the salt level was a little low for me, and I am sure typical Singaporeans will bemoan the lack of 'liao' (ingredients) inside.  I found the Sundried Tomato Pasta to be better balanced in terms of salt, and had a much more robust multi-dimensional flavour, so overall that one was my favourite.

Price: $8.90.     7/10 (green), 8/10 (red)

*half portions of each are pictured.
What better way to finish off the meal that a slice of Tofu Cheesecake.  I've always loved cheesecake, and is something that constantly pains me not being able to eat, after turning vegan.  Vegan cheesecake won't be the same as the real thing, but I still loved the creamy dense texture that the tofu was able to achieve.  The base (crust) was moist, and went well with the filling.  To make it more authentic, more salt and lemon could have been added, but overall this was an excellent way to end the meal.

Price: $4.50.     8/10


Conclusion - The standard of the food at Genesis is as strong as ever, and most of the dishes I thoroughly enjoyed.  I must say that the location is probably the worst I have ever seen for a restaurant in Singapore, which is really a pity as the food doesn't deserve to be hidden away in some abandoned side street.  Even with the bad location, there were a number of tables occupied over the lunch period when I visited, which is a testament to the back history of good service and food quality that Genesis has accumulated over the years.  Lets be proactive and head down to support them at this new location.

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 8/10

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Jing Yi Vegetarian - Bukit Gombak

It has been almost three years since I originally featured Jing Yi Vegetarian on Hungry Ang Mo, I featured them predominantly due to the glowing feedback that I was receiving about their now famous dry hor fun.  For those poor souls living in the West of Singapore, it is indeed difficult to find good vegetarian food.  But for today's review, I do believe I will be reviewing one of the (if not the) best vegetarian stall in the West.  This review will not just be featuring their signature hor fun, but it will be a review of their entire menu.  Are they just a one hit wonder?  Or is their food of an excellent standard across the entire menu?  Lets find out!









Jing Yi Vegetarian
Location: Block 359, Bukit Batok West Avenue 5
Contact: 91811413/90669185

Opening Hours: Tue-Sun 2pm-9pm.  Closed Monday.


Here is a look at the first portion of the menu...
...Second part of the menu.
















One crucial skill in the world of Chinese cuisine is the ability of the chef to control the wok.  Not only in terms of temperature management, but the ability to transfer the aroma of the wok into the food that is being cooked inside.  This skill is more commonly known as 'wok hei'.  This skill should not be confused with burning or charring the ingredients.  The chef at Jing Yi is one of only a handful of individuals in Singapore who have mastered this skill.  I still rank the Cantonese auntie at Lin Lin to be the best at this, although she recently retired from the kitchen and now it is a foreign cook (with a vast difference in ability) who is now cooking there.  So considering the Lin Lin auntie has retired, the Jing Yi chef by default is probably the best in Singapore now.  Just look at all that smoke in the picture.
This time around I was keen to test out the chefs ability for other dishes, besides hor fun.  Firstly, we picked out the Xiang Chun Fried Rice.  Xiang chun (香椿) is a paste made from the leaves of the toona sinensis deciduous tree, and is one of my all time favourite ingredients in Chinese cooking.  This fried rice was very well cooked overall - The xiang chun paste was evenly coating every grain of rice, and the overall wok aroma was above average.  The portion size was huge, and there was a generous heap of mock pork floss sprinkled on top.

Price: $4.50.     7/10 
On to the famous Fried Dried Hor Fun.  I have always been of the belief that if you want to taste wok hei in hor fun at its best, then it must be the dry version.  I've had many wet hor fun variations before, and never enjoyed it the same as its dry counterpart.  The wok hei is excellent in this dish, there is no denying that.  Every ingredient on the plate has that amazing smokey aroma, without any of them being charred or burnt.  I liked the addition of the lime, which matches nicely with the ingredients.  For hor fun, this is really as good as it gets.

Price: $4.00.     9/10
Green leafy vegetables are seldom something I crave, but I decided to give these Stir Fried Sweet Potato Leaves a shot.  Once again, it seems like anything coming from this chefs wok have that awesome smokey flavour, and this dish was no exception.  The vegetables were cooked to perfection, I particularly love the creamy texture of the leaves of this vegetable.

Price: $6.50.     7/10













Conclusion - If you want some of the best Chinese vegetarian tze char in Singapore, then Jing Yi would rank up there as some of the best.  I love the food at Jing Yi, and it is great that we have a good quality vegetarian stall like this in the West of Singapore.  It is best to avoid going during common eating times (especially on weekends) when the waiting time can be up to one hour.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 8/10
Value - 8/10

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Kwan Imm Vegetarian Restaurant - Marine Parade

When I think of Kwan Imm Vegetarian, I think of one of the most well known budget eats in Singapore, which has been running successfully in Geylang for countless years now.  Second thing I think of is the auntie who founded Kwan Imm, and famously struck a million dollar lottery jackpot a few years back - And here was me thinking gambling was frowned upon in Buddhism.  Well, apparently she has injected that windfall into opening another Kwan Imm Vegetarian eatery, this one being a full fledged restaurant.












Kwan Imm Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 336/338 Tanjong Katong Road
Contact: 63480019/63482770
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.00am-3.00pm & 6.00pm-10.00pm

This restaurant is very traditional, closely resembling eateries such as Miao Yi, Xin Man Yuan and Grace's Court.  The traditional Chinese restaurant in Singapore are mostly always a disappointment to me.  Unlike Hong Kong, the food in these traditional eateries tend to be very underwhelming (in my opinion), and are basically just hawker tze char dishes plated more nicely.  There are some rare exceptions, but most tend to follow this theme.  Of course, traditional Chinese eateries will hit you with a lot of additional charges - Pickle charge, tissue charge, snack charge, service charge, GST, going to the toilet charge, sitting down charge etc.  For a typical meal in these restaurants, put aside $10-15 for additional charges.
The menu is currently in its developmental stage, in fact the owner/staff was quite against me taking a photo of it.  The plan is to do an official launch around mid-December 2015, where the menu will be ironed out more.  Pricing wise this restaurant is considered on the high side.
First dish to the table was the Beancurd with Mushroom.  After consulting with the waitress, they highly recommended we order this tofu dish, so I couldn't resist ordering.  The beancurd in the center of the plate was apparently made by themselves, but I wasn't too impressed with it quite frankly.  It just tasted like mashed up tofu, and had very little flavour.  The sauce was very typical, satisfying enough, but nothing special.

Price: $10.00.     6/10
Next dish was the Broccili with Arctic Lappa.  Before you wonder what artic lappa is, let me explain - Artic lappa is another name for a variety of burdock, which in this preparation has had the skin peeled and then ultimately fried with the rest of the ingredients.  The sauce for this dish was very similar (if not identical) to the previous beancurd dish, so my thoughts on this sauce was the same as the aforementioned.  The ingredients were cooked well, but it was a pretty flat lifeless dish overall.

Price: $15.00.    6/10
The last dish was the Stir Fried Vermicelli.  Overall this was the most impressive dish of the evening.  The noodles were cooked very well and had excellent flavour.  This dish had seemingly every mock meat ever created tangled inside, so if you're not someone who enjoys mock meat, then this is a dish you will want to avoid. 

Price: $8.00.     7/10












Conclusion - I have a very neutral feeling about this new restaurant.  Like all traditional Chinese restaurants in Singapore, they seem to be selling the same food, cooked the same way, with the same ambiance, for the same price.  I admire the ambition of the Kwan Imm owner to open something different, compared to her coffee shop - Having said that, it doesn't appeal to me, and I won't likely be a regular visitor.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 5/10
Value - 5/10

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant - Little India

When I first started singing the praises of Gokul, it was coming up to 10 years ago, back in 2007.  Back then, when I mentioned the word 'Gokul' to any vegetarian in Singapore, their default response was 'huh?' - Fast forward almost a decade, and you'd have to be living under a rock not to know about Gokul (you're welcome Singapore).  It has famously been featured as number 1 on my Top 10 Vegetarian List for Singapore for over five years.  Like anywhere that has become universally successful, the challenge is always maintaining that level - Especially in an environment where staff quit almost as soon as they start working, and employment passes become more and more difficult to obtain.  It has been over two years since I have last reviewed Gokul, so let's see if they have managed to keep their ridiculously high level up.


Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 19 Upper Dickson Road
Contact: 63967769
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00am-10.30pm.


I had not been to Gokul in a while, and I must say the staff were almost entirely new faces to me, I only recognized one familiar face.  The staff are now taking orders on their mobile phones, not something I am a big fan of, as it gives that 'messaging my girlfriend while working' vibe (even if they are not doing that).  I love Gokul, but I have to be objective and say that service quality has dropped significantly, most likely due to the fact that Vijay, who has been such a vital member of Gokul's family in the past, is no longer working for them.  In the past, the staff had a faultless level of attentiveness, and a personable manner with customers, unfortunately I find that service quality is lacking now.  The ambiance of the place is great, and they were practically full at 3pm, a testament to how popular they are.  On a side note, their menu has been edited somewhat, and now slightly lesser variety of dishes are available, but still there is an almost crazy amount of options.  Also, they now have all the vegan items clearly indicated on their menu - Thank you so much for doing that Gokul, it really makes our lives much easier.


Firstly I couldn't resist the classic Indian dish Aloo Gobi, one of my all time favourites.  Aloo gobi (literally meaning potatoes and cauliflower) can come in wet and dry versions, this one was the former.  This was an excellent addictive curry, and I could have easily polished off three bowls of it. The ingredients were cooked to perfection, and the curry was mild, yet packed with flavour.

Price: $9.00.    9/10
To go with our curries, of course, one needs rice - We went for the Chef Samsuddin Signature Biryani.  This dish is their most highly rated rice item on the menu.  The rice portion is very generous, and comes with sambar and raita (non-vegan) on the side.  The rice was flavourful, and not too spicy.  In terms of improvement, I found that there was a bit too much mock meat inside (Gokul's menu, in general, is quite mock meat dependent).  But aside from that, it was an excellent biryani - I loved the super long grains of basmati, and the green sliced chilies (although quite deadly) gave a excellent overall flavour to the dish.

Price: $12.00.     7/10
Next we have the Claypot Fish Curry.  I loved how this dish comes with the flame still going strong underneath the claypot as it arrives to your table.  Inside the curry there are slices of mock fish, ladyfingers, eggplant and tomatoes.  The curry gravy was thick and thankfully not drowned in excess oil, like many fish curries that I have devoured in the past.  I like the dimensions of flavour in the curry, but found that the sour levels in the curry could have been amplified somewhat.  Aside from that small mark for improvement, this is overall a magnificently executed dish, which I have ordered several times in the past and never been disappointed.

Price: $10.00.     8/10
Out of all the dishes at Gokul, the Sukka Mutton might be my personal favourite.  I love dry strong flavoured curry dishes, and this one ticks every box for me.  The curry flavour was intense, with several depths of flavour - Due to this incredible array of flavours, it really makes the mock meat feel very real, as its real taste is masked by the glorious curry.  I loved the addition of the curry leaves, and was glad the sometimes irritating whole garam masala was barely detectable.  Nothing negative to say about this dish, it is close to perfection and definitely a dish you should be ordering when visiting Gokul.

Price: $9.00.     9/10






Conclusion - Just a reminder, all the food at Gokul is without MSG and has no onion or garlic in any of the food - Considering that, it is really amazing how fantastic and flavourful the food is.  In terms of quality, I find that the food quality has not dropped at all - The dishes that I have loved over the years are still just as great.  PLEASE, I BEG YOU don't go to Gokul, see unfamiliar dishes and then cowardly select 'safe' fusion dishes like mee rebus, prata, clear soup etc - Your fear of the unknown will really deprive you of experiencing Gokul at their best.  Nothing left to say, except if you haven't been to Gokul yet, then shame on you - If you have, then I am sure you will share my sentiments about the quality of food at this excellent eatery.

Overall Rating
Food - 10/10
Ambiance- 9/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 8/10

Monday, November 9, 2015

Ratsamitham - Chiang Mai, Thailand

Thai vegetarian food can basically be divided into two categories.  There are the local style red and yellow 'jey' vegetarian eateries, which serve economic rice and dishes at dirt cheap pricing.  Then there are the more up market vegetarian eateries (usually located in the center of town) which are aimed more towards expats and tourists (of course, the price being much higher).  Today, I am reviewing one of the former, which goes by the name Ratsamitham.












Ratsamitham
Location: Sirithon Road, Chang Puak, Chiang Mai, Thailand
Contact: 053-221-501
Opening Hours: Daily 7.30am-4.00pm.  Closed Sunday. 


Out of the many traditional style vegetarian 'jey' Thai eateries that I visited in Chiang Mai, I would have to say the best variety of dishes came from this eatery.  There were several tofu dishes, curries, vegetables and fried items.
Here was my assortment of Rice and Dishes.  I went for the potato curry, preserved stir fried vegetable and the scrambled fried tofu.  The fried tofu reminded me a lot of lab, which is one of my favorite dishes, but it didn't have the various herbs inside that one would typically associate with lab.  The potato curry was probably my favorite, it had a good kick of spice, and went nicely with my plate of rice.

Price: 30THB.     6/10











Conclusion - Nothing much else to say about this place.  If you're in the area, then definitely I would recommend checking this place out for a cheap satisfying meal.  Not necessarily a place I would travel long distances for though.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 8/10
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