Friday, December 12, 2014

86 Vegetarian Food - Tiong Bahru

Earlier this year I made my way to Beo Crescent to review a stall called Mei Jing Vegetarian Food, run by former temple cook Ah Kiat.  Well, little did I know, there is actually a second vegetarian stall at the block opposite from Mei Jing.  I was only made aware of 86 Vegetarian when the daughter of the stall owner messaged me and urged me to head down and visit.  Sure enough, I recently went down to check out their food.  86 Vegetarian is located in a really small and quite uncomfortable coffee shop, quite unlike the more modern coffee shops, which one is more used to.

86 Vegetarian Food
Location: Blk 40 Beo Crescent

Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-1.00pm.  Wednesday Closed.

Along with rice/bee hoon and dishes (of which, there is not a large amount of dishes to choose from), each day 86 Vegetarian has a special dish.  The special dishes and days sequence are as follows:-

Monday: Chicken Rice
Tuesday: Mee Siam
Thursday: Laksa
Friday: Bak Kut Teh
Saturday: Kway Chap
Sunday: Lontong

I was there on a Friday, and didn't feel like rice and dishes, so I picked the Bak Kut Teh daily special.  Personally, what I look for in a good bak kut teh is an intense herbal flavour (subtlety is lost on me).  So far, the best bak kut teh I've tried is from Simple Food, due to that aforementioned reason.  For this bak kut teh, there were a nice variety of ingredients inside, such as mushroom mock meat and carrot.  I also loved the Chinese celery.  It was the actual bak kut teh broth that was a let down though - It was just too weak and watered down for my liking.

Price: $2.50.     6/10

Conclusion - I wouldn't mind visiting 86 Vegetarian Food again to check out their other daily specials.  The bak kut teh was good enough, but nothing special.  If you're in the area, do check this place out!  Be warned though, this is one of the most uncomfortable and generally dingy coffee shops in Singapore - Better to da bao.

Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 4/10
Service - 7/10
Value - 7/10

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Green Meadow Organic Natural Cafe (Batu Pahat, Malaysia)

For Singaporeans looking to escape city life, the Malaysian state of Johor offers many interesting towns that are worth visiting for great vegetarian food (and durians).  We often think of Malacca, Penang, Kuala Lumpur etc as being where the best vegetarian food can be found - But smaller towns like Batu Pahat also have their fair share of delicious eateries.  Batu Pahat is only around 80km from Singapore, and can take less than two hours to drive there depending on ones speed.  For today's installment I feature Green Meadow, which is an all organic vegetarian cafe, located in this sleepy town.  For further updates, you can check out their Facebook page.  Recently in June 2013, Green Meadow opened another outlet in Kuala Lumpur.

Green Meadow Organic Natural Cafe
Location: No.106 Jalan Flora Utama 8, Taman Flora Utama, Batu Pahat, Malaysia

Contact: +60 7-432 8745
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 10.30am-8.30pm.  Sunday Closed.

Here is the seating arrangement.  The cafe (like the rest of Batu Pahat) is usually very quiet.  Green Meadow has been operating in Batu Pahat for over 10 years now.  Be warned, the prices at Green Meadow are not cheap - You will be paying Singapore prices for the food.  But at the same time, we have to remind ourselves these are organic ingredients.

Inside the cafe there is also a  various health products.
One concept that I thought was really clever from Green Meadow was a 31 day healthy eating program.  Each day of the month they have a set meal, which consists of soup, main and dessert.  One can even subscribe for an entire month (for a reduced cost) to ensure one eats healthy day in day out. 
Our meal kicked off with the Sushi Roll.  Stuffed in the center of the sushi was various vegetables, such as carrot and cabbage.  Overall, these eight pieces of sushi made for a nice little snack.  But really needed some condiments to be dipped into.

Price: RM6.50.     6/10
Korean Bibimbap was the next dish that made its way to our table.  Inside this pot was lettuce, carrot, cabbage, black fungus and seaweed.  The rice was cooked well, but didn't spend long enough inside the Korean pot - Thus, the rice didn't have a chance to crisp up near the outside of the pot.  The chilli sauce, that one is meant to smear over the ingredients tasted good, and had just the ideal level of spice.

Price: RM15.90.     6/10

If you're visiting Green Meadow, then the dish I would implore you to order would be the Pasta (Homemade Pesto Sauce).  This dish was really outstanding.  Being a salt addict, I loved how the pesto sauce had a high level of salt, which really brought the dish to life.  The spaghetti was cooked perfectly, as was the broccoli.  Crumbled cashew nut was used as a mock cheese for this dish.  Who says that healthy food can't be packed with flavour?  Price is on the high side, but this is a dish you should definitely order when visiting.

Price: RM14.90.     9/10

Conclusion - If you're driving along the West coast of Malaysia, then making a pit stop at Batu Pahat is well worth it.  As well as conveniences like a number of shopping malls, there are also a handful of interesting vegetarian eateries.  Out of all the eateries I tried in Batu Pahat, I would rank Green Meadow as the best - The pesto pasta in particular is a must order.

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

Friday, December 5, 2014

Onn Vegetarian - Kallang

I'm back for a second review of Onn Vegetarian.  For those who follow my Hungry Ang Mo Facebook, you will know I can't stop talking about this place.  Since my first review many months ago, I feel that Onn has gotten even better.  Not only that, the stall has had a slight face lift.  Now a new signboard is present, highlighting their famous double boiled soup and what they title as 'green box menu'.  Green box menu is an alternate title for 'black box menu' - Black box menu typically means that every day there is a surprise - The chef just browses around markets and looks inside his fridge and then decides what to cook.  That is a perfect way to describe how Onn Vegetarian operates - Every day is a pleasant surprise.

Onn Vegetarian
Location: Blk 5 Upper Boon Keng Road, G5 Food House

Contact: 91526917
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-2.30pm.  Ad-hoc closing, follow their FB for updates. 

 Note - The following dishes I am featuring are my personal favourites from Onn, therefore this post is more of a 'best of' compliation.

The only significant criticisms I can give Onn Vegetarian is the opening hours and location - The G5 coffee shop doesn't get much traffic (70% of the stalls there have closed down and are still vacant).  G5 is the coffee shop equivalent of the Antarctica - It is a miracle how anything can survive there.  Moreover, closing at 2.30pm surely limits the amount of customers who can visit Onn, I know the opening hours have been a big source of frustration for many of my readers.

As mentioned in my first review, Onn Vegetarian is a two man team.  Managing the customers is John Tan, and the man in the kitchen is Chef Wai (pictured left) - Together they are a match made in heaven.  Chef Wai's main preparation area is right at the front of the stall, and he looks almost like a mad scientist, with steam rising from his work station and covering his face.  He just needs long unkept Einstein-esque hair and a white lab coat to complete the look.  He cooks every dish fresh to order, which will result in a longer waiting time.
I have mentioned this countless times, but a trip to Onn is really incomplete without trying their magnificent Double Boiled Soup.  Chef Wai has literally hundreds of varieties of double boiled soup, which he alternates on a daily basis.  The fundamental taste of all the soups are similar, but different ingredients are added and subtracted on different days.  Occasionally there will be stronger/bitter herbal soups, and on other days lighter more Cantonese style soups.  If you happen to catch this soup on a cool and rainy Singapore day, then you will be in for a real treat.  This soup is so good you will practically be levitating after finishing a bowl of it.  I especially love it when they add black goji berries inside.

Price: $6.00-$9.00 (varies depending on type).     9/10

A dish that is a slightly more regular visitor to the Onn regular menu is the Onn Mee Siam.  If you're someone who loves sour food, then this is the dish for you.  I honestly have never eaten a good mee siam in all the years I have been reviewing food in Singapore.  Often they are too oily, MSG loaded and recklessly spiced.  Chef Wai of course is too talented to fall victim to those sort of amateurish mistakes, and thus this mee siam was delectable.  It may be too sour for some though.

Price: $4.00.     8/10
I know it can be a little frustrating that many of the dishes I review at Onn are only available once every few months.  But one dish you can rest assured will be available on a daily basis is the Wanton Noodle.  Quite frankly, this is hands down the best wanton mee I have ever eaten.  The jet black sauce reminded me of the times I ate wanton mee in Ipoh in the past.  The wantons are fried perfectly, thanks to Chef Wai's almost obsessive meticulousness.  Instead of using conventional mock char siew, another variety is used, the juiciness and taste is much better than the local version of char siew.  Presented beautifully - If you've been on the quest to find the best wanton mee in Singapore, then please end your search here -  This dish represents perfection as far as wanton mee is concerned.

Price: 4.00.     10/10

Another dish from the chefs hometown, here is the Anson-Style Mee Rebus.  Don't adjust your screen, there are indeed crinkle cut fries inside the bowl.  What on earth are they doing inside?  Chef Wai explained to me that Anson mee rebus adds boiled potatoes into the bowl - He decided to use fries as a homage to his hometown version.  Although adding fries may be unconventional for some, there can be no debate over the quality of his mee rebus gravy, which is astonishing.

Price: $4.00.     9/10
There are always unexpected surprises whenever visiting Onn, and this Cod-Fish n Tou-Fu in Thai Spicy Basil Leaves was definitely one of them.  The plating for this dish was immaculate, with the mock fish 'head' scored diagonnally, which allowed the Thai sauce to seep into the core.  At the back, the chef designed a fish 'tail' from square shaped silken tofu  The Thai basil is the star of this dish, with the aroma of this herb shimmering through the entire dish.

Price: $8.00.     8/10

Considering how Chef Wai is Cantonese, I had quite high hopes for his Sweet n Sour Monkey-Head Mushroom.  This dish, which is basically a vegetarian take on 咕咾肉, is arguably the most famous Chinese dish in restaurants in Western countries.  The key to the success or failure of this dish is in the sauce.  Although Chef Wai's sweet and sour sauce is not the best I have tasted (number 1 spot is Tung Fong Siu Kee Yuen in Hong Kong), it is still probably the best in Singapore, perhaps only rivaled with Divine Realm in Hougang.  I really loved the deep fried monkeyhead mushroom, which were firm and juicy.

Price: $9.00.     8/10
Stir-Fry Eggplant with Salted Fish n Pork Belly is another example of ingredients cooked perfectly, and matched with a delicious zesty and sour sauce.  The salted fish is crunchy and goes well with the mushy and creamy eggplants. 

Price: $7.00.     8/10
Here is the Braised Bittergourd n Beancurd in Black Bean Sauce.  Bittergourd is an ingredient you will find often in Chef Wai's dishes, and he cooks it splendidly.  He cuts the bittergourd in a quite unorthadox fashion (almost as if cutting capsicum), but the end product is fantastic.  Although the bittergourd is good, it is the mind-blowing black bean sauce with mushroom stems that really brings everything to life.

Price: $6.00.     8/10

Since doing my first post at Onn, and giving their Thai Green Curry a score of 10/10, green curry has almost become their signature dish.  Their green curry is sensational, no doubt about that.  But what I have learnt, after eating at Onn countless times, is that green curry is not their best dish - In fact, they have many dishes that are just as amazing as the green curry.  This green curry gets my praise for simple reasons, the chef is able to recognise and stay true to Thai cuisine.  However, consistency is sometimes an issue, with it sometimes being too diluted or the flavour not quite being there.  Also I abhor the mock sotong inside.  For those two reasons I have given it a reduced rating of 9/10.

Price: $8.00.     9/10

One ingredient that is used frequently in Onn dishes is 腐乳, which is a fermented soya bean.  This Stir-Fry Ladies Finger in Fermented Bean Sauce is great example of a dish with all the ingredients inside cooked perfectly, and an outstanding sauce.  Cooking ladyfingers well is not as easy as it sounds.

Price: $7.00.     7/10
Taking a break from his typical modus operandi of sourness and spice, this Mei Cai Kou Rou.  Mei Cai (梅菜)is a dry pickled Chinese mustard vegetable, which is used in many Chinese dishes.  More specifically, mei cai can be divided into both sweet and salty varieties.  Interestingly, Chef Wai uses the sweet variety for this dish.  The final two words kou rou (扣肉) means steamed pork - Needless to say Chef Wai uses a mock meat to replicate the pork. 

Price: $5.50.     8/10
One thing I love about Chef Wai is how he has mastered spice and sourness, and isn't afraid to take risks.  This Anson Spicy n Sour Fish was a true pleasure.  It is a tough decision, but I would have to say this is the best dish I have eaten from Onn (even better than the green curry), and one of the best dishes I have ever eaten in my life.  The spice and sourness are cranked into overdrive, and if you love strong tasting food, then you will love this.  For those 'eat to live' individuals who take a almost perverse pleasure in eating plain brown rice and steamed vegetables - Then this dish may be too much of an assault on your tastebuds, but for those who love flavour, then this dish will have you shivering with delight.

Price: $7.00.     10/10
If you're a sour lover like myself, then look out for the Briased Spicy n Sour Fresh Mustard Vegetable.  This dish is served in a tom yam style soup, which was glorious - I don't believe anyone can match sour and spice together as effortlessly and briliantly than Chef Wai.

Price: $6.00.     8/10

The last dish of this epic post is Tom Yam Eggplant.  Once again this dish exemplifies sour and spice done perfectly.  The tom yam paste (which the chef makes himself from scratch) is addictively delicious.  The eggplants make a great dance partner to this glorious paste, and are cooked perfectly.  This dish could be a little on the oily side for some, but one cannot deny the immense taste. Another one of my favourites.

Price: $6.00.     10/10

Conclusion - To be frank, this post could just keep going on and on endlessly, going through hundreds of dishes that Chef Wai produces.  This post only shows a small percentage of what Chef Wai is capable of - And if you ask my opinion, he ranks as one of the greatest chefs I have ever met.  Onn Vegetarian have not achieved even 10% of their potential - Chef Wai's food belongs in a better location (cafe/restaurant, not a coffee shop), with longer opening hours.  Perhaps Onn can be faulted on being priced too high, but considering the quality and presentation (and that each dish is freshly prepared), I feel it is well worth it.

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

Sunday, November 30, 2014

JanxDen Greenlife Cafe - Penang

Over the last 10 years, Penang has really seen a significant growth in modern new vegetarian eateries on the island.  Janxden (which may rank as one of the worst names to ever call an eatery) was one of those new breed of vegetarian eateries on the island.  Along with their original outlet in Georgetown, they have another outlet at the newly built All Season Place, at Farlim area.  For more information, you can check out their Facebook page here.

JanxDen Greenlife Cafe
Location: 21 Jalan Chow Thye, Georgetown, Penang
Contact: 604-2268414
Opening Hours: Mon-Tue & Fri-Sun 12.00pm-3.00pm & 6.00pm-9.00pm.  Wednesday 12.00pm-3.00pm

The meal began with the Vietnamese Roll. This is a perfect snack to start any meal.  Known as goi cuo in Vietnamese, these spring rolls use rice paper sheets (banh trang) to encase freshly chopped vegetables, and in the non-vegetarian version pork is also added.  The key to success of this snack is in the herbs - Particularly mint.  The Vietnamese rolls at JanxDen didn't quite have enough mint flavour, and thus was ultimately a little bland for my liking.

Price: RM4.90.     6/10

Another snack available was Grilled Mushroom.  Visually it must be said that this dish looked outstanding on the plate.  The mushrooms had a great crunchy texture, yet were still wonderfully juicy.  The mushrooms were made all the more delicious when dipped in the oil.

Price: RM8.80.     7/10
Pumpkin Pasta was the next dish that made its way to our table.  I had mixed feelings about this dish overall.  I certainly liked the pumpkin sauce, which had a nice sweetness.  This sweetness was matched well with the sourness from the lime.  Ingredients wise, however, I found that something more exciting could have been added inside.  Not a bad dish overall, though.

Price: RM12.90.     7/10

Last dish of the evening was the Nasi Lemak.  This was probably my favourite dish of all - I loved the fried mock fish, which was along side a delectable chilli tofu mixture.  The rice was a little on the bland side, and failed to capture the glorious aroma of coconut, but aside from that this was an excellent dish, one I wouldn't hesitate to order again.

Price: RM8.90.     8/10

Conclusion - The Janxden series of vegetarian restaurants are certainly some of the most impressive that I saw when living in Penang.  I love their variety of cuisines that are present at these restaurants, and the quality seems to be above average. 

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

Friday, November 28, 2014

Supreme Vege - Ubi

My gratitude must be extended to a reader named Jenny, who recommended I head to Ubi area to try out a new vegetarian eatery named Supreme Vege.  I was expecting a coffee shop stall, so I was quite surprised to find this is a stand alone shop stall.  This eatery has only been in operation for three months.

Supreme Vege
Location: #01-179, Blk 305 Ubi Avenue 1
Contact: 91590267
Opening Hours: Daily 6.30am-2.30pm.  Closed Monday (closing day is usually random though, so call ahead first)

When you visit Supreme Vege you will feel like you have stepped into a family kitchen.   The head of this kitchen is Sally Eng, a full time vegetarian who had previously been cooking as a temple cook for over 10 years, before deciding to embark on Supreme Vege.  Along side her in the kitchen is her daughter.
Whatever day of the week you visit Supreme Vege you will be in for a treat.  Each day they have two specials.
Here are a few more items that are available to order.
Along with the two special dishes every day, you can also select the rice/bee hoon and dishes.  At the corner I saw a quite incredible looking potato curry, which I really regret not trying!
I visited on a Tuesday, so first special dish was the Mee Rebus.  I've eaten a number of good mee rebus in Singapore, and this version would rank as one of the best - Perhaps only slightly inferior to Jian Kang in Toa Payoh (which I rank as the best).  Mee rebus has a number of essential components, but none greater than the gravy itself.  I loved the slight sourness (brought to the forefront even more after squeezing the lime).  Sweet and sour are a match made in heaven, and when added with the crispy fried vegetable (菜饼), it really made for a very enjoyable dish.

Price: $3.00.     8/10
Prawn Mee is one of those dishes that is a real test to make it vegetarian.  I have eaten countless prawn mee renditions in Singapore, and so far I have only eaten one which I loved (thank you Henry Wang for giving me faith that prawn mee can be made vegetarian!).  The prawn mee at Supreme Vege is better than most, but still not a dish that I would order again.  The soup is too flat, and doesn't have that much needed kick.  The biggest redeeming factor is the finely sliced (and then fried) cabbage pieces on top, which adds a nice pungent flavour, which would otherwise normally come from onion/garlic.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - With the various special dishes that are served on different days, I definitely could see myself returning to Supreme Vege on a regular basis to try them all out.  From what I sampled, I would have to say 'so far so good' for their food.  Moreover, the friendly family ambiance makes me all the more encouraged to return.

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