Wednesday, July 8, 2015

GreenDot - Paya Lebar

It was around 18 months ago that I posted my first review of GreenDot's original outlet (excluding their school outlets) at the newly opened (at that time) Bedok Mall.  Well, fast-forward 12 months and GreenDot have struck again at another brand new mall.  It must be said, GreenDot choose their locations very intelligently, which allows them to thrive.  Paya Lebar Square is still not running at 100% yet, but it is sure to be a mall with high traffic in the future.  Another big difference is the size.  GreenDot at Bedok Mall may rank as the smallest (per square feet) vegetarian eatery in Singapore - So it seems they have over-compensated for this by opening a large establishment this time around.

Location: #02-15/16/17, 60 Paya Lebar Road, Paya Lebar Square

Contact: 67022221
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00am-10.00pm  

Things have not changed that much in terms of the menu, compared with the Bedok Mall outlet.  The dishes are all fundamentally the same, with a few new additions finding their way onto the menu.
A look at more food options on the screen.
The GreenDot menu is clean and simple, but once again they have neglected to highlight which dishes are vegan (or even contain eggs) - This is a problem I already highlighted back in my 2013 review.  Apart from this, the menu reads well.  Foolishly, many restaurant owners will say 'I'm not targeting 'vegans', so why should I label for them?' - Such misguided owners need to understand that firstly, egg is considered strictly non-vegetarian to many who are living in Singapore; and secondly, it is surely best to avoid the amount of potential conflict and frustration amongst customers and be transparent about the contents of the dishes you are selling.

*Update - GreenDot have now changed their menus to include icons that display egg/dairy in the dishes.

At the main counter of the restaurant one can find all the pots of food for the bento set.  I was pleased to see that some labeling was done, highlighting which dishes contain egg, milk etc.  But still, it is the menu which needs this labeling so crucially.
The Customized Bento is what GreenDot are featuring most heavily on their menu, but customers are definitely going to complain about pricing here.  For what is essentially a shrunken version of economic rice, the price is way too high, especially as the food can barely fill a mouse on a diet - The plating doesn't help (the black container actually looks like it is designed for sauces, not food), as it highlights just how meager the portions are.  On the positive side, the dishes have improved from when I tried them at Bedok Mall (I still vividly remember the raw eggplant they sold to me at Bedok).  The quality of their brown rice was good, but overall I am really not attracted to the idea of spending $8 for small portions of economic rice.  It could be improved by having it in the form of a real bento, with fruits, salad and other various goodies in all the compartments.

Price: $7.90.     4/10

Ordering burgers at GreenDot is walking through a minefield of egg, cheese and milk, but I eventually figured out that ordering the Black Pepper Burger (asking for no cheese and mayo) was safe for vegan consumption.  Starting with the positives, the mock meat patty was good, and I found this meal to be far better value than the bento set.  I would, however, like to see ingredients with more character added into the burger - Instead of cucumber and decaying lettuce, which adds nothing, something like diced gherkin would add another layer of flavour.  The black pepper sauce was also quite bland and flavourless - I like my black pepper sauce to have more of a kick.

Price: $6.90.     5/10

Conclusion - GreenDot is a second generation F&B establishment (the father is the owner of Lotus Vegetarian), so I am sure plenty of help has been given to ensure GreenDot flourishes.  I like the branding and concept behind GreenDot, and it is encouraging to see a vegetarian eatery expand.  However, talking strictly in terms of the food, I haven't eaten anything that impressed me in the slightest from GreenDot.   If you're looking for more affordable vegetarian cuisine, the famous Xuan Miao Vegan stall has recently shifted from Circuit Rd to B1-51 of Paya Lebar Square, so there are now two vegetarian options within this shopping centre.

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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Wang Jiao Vegetarian Food - Paya Lebar

This review will be a quick one purely for documentation sake.  Wang Jiao is a eggless vegetarian stall located at the famous block 14 Haig Road hawker centre.  Why is this hawker centre so famous?  Well, mainly for one particular stall - Haig Road Traditional Putu Piring.  In fact, this stall was also my primary reason for heading to this hawker.  For those unaware, putu piring is basically the Malay version of tutu kueh.  But instead of coconut/peanut as the filing, there is gula melaka.

Wang Jiao Vegetarian Food
Location: 14 Haig Road,  #01-35
Contact: None
Opening Hours: Daily 6.00am - 8.00pm.  Closed Wednesday.

Wang Jiao is run by one ah beng style uncle who is selling the typical vegetarian hawker dishes.  I admire the hard working nature of this uncle, who works an incredible 14 hours per day, with only one off day per week.  It is a pleasant surprise, considering how most vegetarian hawkers are KO-ed by 1pm.
First dish I sampled was the Fried Rice.  I must confess, 80% of the vegetarian hawker food I eat looks the same, tastes the same and costs the same.  So it is difficult for me to write in great detail about such trite tasting food.  I desperately crave to find another Chef Wai, cooks who actually venture outside of the box and display unique talent.  This fried rice had a little too much cabbage for my liking, but the flavour was acceptable.

Price: $3.00.     6/10
Next dish was the Hong Kong Noodle.  When I first ordered this dish, I recollected back to Miao Shan vegetarian at Serangoon, who do a brilliant Hong Kong noodle.  This dish had a bit too much cabbage once again.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - This stall is the only vegetarian eatery inside this hawker centre, so if you somehow find yourself in this vicinity then this stall will be your only option.  The food was not bad overall, but at the same time quite forgettable.  I was more captivated by the putu piring.

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Nomvnom - Raffles Place

I am back again to review another new face from 2015.  Nomvnom is a vegan restaurant specializing in burgers and fast food.  Hold on, wasn't there another vegan fast food burger eatery in Singapore?  Yes, Vegan Burg.  Hold on again, weren't Vegan Burg previously located at this exact same address?  Indeed they were.  If you feel skeptical about these two apparent coincidences, you would be right.  Nomvnom is a 100% vegan eatery, with no onion or garlic in any of their food.

Location: 50 Market Street, Golden Shoe Car Park, #01-28D
Contact: 97526125
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am - 8.30pm

Nomvnom was created by Ng Wai Lek, who was previously the manager/director at - Wait for it - Vegan Burg.  This is, of course, a shining example of the ugliness of business, and how the golden rule applies to anything and everything in life - Don't trust anyone.  Either that, or use black and white paperwork to your advantage.  A none compete clause (NCC) being the best way to prevent your staff from copying your concept.  I'm not going to go into the details of the blow by blow between Vegan Burg and Nomvnom, but needless to say it is not pretty.

The Nomvnom poster displays a number interesting points about their food - No MSG, no egg, no trans fats, no onion/garlic and no original concept.  To be fair, I did like how the burgers combined a worldwide spectrum of flavours, such as kimchi, hummus, daal, truffle and otak.  But how well do these flavours match in burgers?  Lets find out...

Here is a look at the complete menu.
Similarly to Vegan Burg, you can order the burgers as a set meal or individually by themselves.
I picked out the Truffle Fries to start my meal.  Truffle fries have become one of Singapore's latest culinary trends over the last few years, although to be frank, most the truffle fries I've tried in Singapore are utter garbage, with super low quality rancid tasting truffle oil being used.  Nomvnom decided to take a slightly different approach.  Instead of tossing the fries in truffle oil, they instead added a truffle sauce on the side for you to dip the fries into.
Here is the truffle sauce which accompanies the fries.  I must say the sauce itself was well done, with a distinctive strong truffle flavour.

Price: $5.90.     7/10

Sweet Potato Fries are also available. 

Price: $4.50.     7/10
The first burger that I tried was the Mammoth Truffle.  I like the idea of using truffle sauce and double patty in a burger, and the flavours matched quite well together.  One key mistake Nomvnom has made (in comparison to Vegan Burg) is their bread.  Burgers need a bread that has a degree of firmness to it, otherwise it will wilt under the weight of the ingredients, and what you will get is a mess.  Nomvnom have opted to go with the soft delicate Asian style of bread making, which really can't work for burgers.  One bite and it was almost like the food version of Jenga, with all the ingredients slipping/falling everywhere - This is how important bread is!  I also tried the potato croquette burger, which I forgot to photograph and had the same problems with that burger.  This burger has potential when the bread is altered.  The truffle sauce can be reduced also, as the sauce is also guilty of making it messy.  This burger is the nightmare meal for a first date!

Price: $12.50.     6/10

The one burger I tried which was the easiest to eat was the Nom Nom burger.  The nom nom burger is the most basic burger, but it was the one I enjoyed the most.  As mentioned, I didn't have to fight to keep all the ingredients from falling out of the burger, and the taste of the patty was enjoyable.  This is the burger I would order again next visit.

Price: $5.50.     7/10
Conclusion - Is there anyone reading this post that cares about business ethics (unless it concerns themselves)?...Nope, didn't think so - In which case, I do recommend checking out Nomvnom.  Some improvements need to be made in their burgers, but it seems like they are on the right track overall.  Vegan Burg was once the most talked about and successful vegan/vegetarian eatery in Singapore for a reason, and their food was not one of the big reasons.  Vegan Burg thrived due to brilliant marketing and promotion of their brand, and really over-achieved when you see their product.  Nomvnom are going to be facing a Everest-esque climb to reach that level...

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 5/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 6/10

Friday, April 24, 2015

Veganation - Clarke Quay

Anyone who opens a vegetarian/vegan eatery in Singapore is facing an uphill task, words can not describe what a difficult business F&B is.  The gradient of this uphill task will be all the more steeper if one is to move next to an already successful vegetarian eatery.  For Veganation, there is no question that moving within touching distance of Real Food is a daring move.  Will they be able to pull it off?  Let's find out...

Location: 6 Eu Tong Sen Street. The Central. #B1-40
Contact: 97977591
Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am - 8.00pm

UPDATE 17/08/2015 - Veganation is now indefinitely closed, it is unknown whether or not they will reopen again.

Veganation are starting off small, it is a take away counter only, with no seating.
One of the people in charge is (owner has requested his name to be removed as of 03/07/2015, he will be referred to under the pseudonym Dr X for the rest of this review), who for many months was under the tutelage of Hassan at Fill-a-Pita.  He is even using Hassan's signature falafel pita on the Veganation menu.
The goal of Veganation is to cherry pick the signature dishes of many countries all over the world, and place them onto one menu.  Currently the menu is quite simple, but there are dishes from Israel, Germany, Egypt, Vietnam, Mexico, Spain, USA and UK.
First dish I selected was the USA Burger.  Overall this was the best dish I tried from Veganation.  The lentil burger patty was soft and had just the right amount of firmness and the burger bun texture was better than what I expected.  Inside the burger was lettuce, tomato, BBQ sauce, mustard and chilli sauce.  Better sauces could have been used, instead of generic supermarket brands such as Masterfoods and Heinz.  The lettuce could have been fresher as well.

Price: $6.00.     6/10
Next, a dish that is close to my heart UK Shepherds Pie.  Obviously being from UK, this was a dish I recall eating frequently, especially during the colder winter months.  Regrettably, I have to say this was a very poor rendition of shepherds pie.  The flaws lie to two areas - Firstly, a good shepherds pie should be moist, not dry.  I suspect the pie was left out for too long, hence the moisture from the potato was gone.  Secondly, the pie seemed to have just one prominent flavour - Bitterness, which I was scratching my head as to where/how bitterness found its way into this dish.  Oh, and it was cold too...

Price: $8.00.     2/10

Lastly, we have the Spanish Paella.  Although not as bad as the shepherds pie, this dish was still a disappointment.  Once again, it fell victim to being left out in the open for too long, so it was both cold and the moisture was sucked out of the food (this will happen if you leave rice exposed for too long, hence the invention of the 'keep warm' function on rice cookers) - Occasionally sprinkling water onto the rice would help to avoid this.  Also this dish is a far cry from Spanish paella, which should be a potluck of different flavours and ingredients lurking inside.  This dish more closely resembled tomato rice, and didn't warrant the $8 price tag.

Price: $8.00.     4/10

Conclusion - Veganation are still very new, so I am trying to be as gentle as I can in this review.  Dr X seems like a friendly and dedicated individual, so it does pain me to say frankly that the food is not up to scratch.  I think Dr X and his colleagues need to learn the basic fundamentals of the dishes they are producing first, and if the culinary expertise/skill is not strong, then keep things simple - This is the key to success of eateries like Fill-a-Pita.  Franchising a second Fill-a-Pita stall at this location would have been a better idea...

Overall Rating
Food - 4/10
Ambiance- N/A
Service - 8/10
Value - 4/10

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Zi Zai Vegetarian - Boon Keng

Many will remember a long long time ago, when HAM was just a baby, I did a couple of reviews on a restaurant called Forest Dew.  One review back in 2009 and another in 2011.  Well, fast-forward another three years since my last review, and things have indeed changed.  Forest Dew is no more...In terms of the signage at least.  This restaurant has been taken over by the owner of Zi Zai - Taking over eateries is somewhat of a hobby of his, as he has also recently acquired Mai Zhi Su in Ang Mo Kio as well.  Who knows, maybe I will be getting an offer for him to take over Hungry Ang Mo soon too?  Kidding aside, I went to Zi Zai interested to know what changes might have been made, whether for the better or worst - Let's find out...

Zi Zai Vegetarian
Location: #01-523 Blk 23 Bendemeer Road
Contact: 62939579
Opening Hours: Daily 10.30am-10.00pm. 

One thing has clearly changed - The decor.  The look and feel of the place is very similar to Zi Zai's latest brain child D'Life.  As with D'Life, the decor is tremendous, a vast improvement compared to the old design.  One thing missing (as with D'Life) is music, it would really bring more life into the place, and mask the sound of the wok.  Interestingly, although the decor and name has changed, Zi Zai is using the same menu that Forest Dew used (it even still has the name Forest Dew on it).
First dish was the Green Curry Fried Rice.  I was going back and forth on this dish.  In terms of green curry, I've been a little spoilt recently, indulging in Chef Wai's mind-blowing green curry cod fish.  So subconsciously my expectations are high, and thus this green curry rice didn't have enough kick for my liking.  Having said that, I did find the rice was very well cooked and there was suitable green curry flavour in the rice.

Price: $7.00 (δΈ­).     6/10
One of the dishes the waitress highly recommended was the San Bei Tofu.  The tofu was fried well, but frankly I didn't like the texture of the tofu itself.  It had that weird almost jelly-like texture, which felt really artificial to me.  The sauce was decent enough, but they should change tofu supplier.  The most disappointing dish of the meal.

Price: $9.00.     6/10
I must admit, the urge to order anything green (except green curry) seldom goes into my head when eating out.  Nevertheless, I kept an open mind for this Fried Water Cress, and I'm glad I did.  This dish was easily the best of the meal.  To me, there is only one way to enjoy Chinese vegetables, and that is fresh tze char style straight from the wok to the plate.  This watercress had incredible flavour, and was cooked to the perfect texture.  The sauce was not too overpowering, and I liked the addition of the small pieces of TVP.  Definitely a dish I would recommend you order.

Price: $6.00.    8/10
Lastly, we have the Savory Brinjal.  Eggplant is without a doubt one of my favourite ingredients, but I can't tolerate it when it's undercooked.  To my relief, for this dish the eggplant was cooked just enough, verging on undercooked but still passable.  Still, I would have enjoyed it more if it had that soft melt in the mouth texture.  The sauce was strong and had just the right amount of spice.

Price: $7.00.     7/10

Conclusion - Zi Zai have recently sparked a lot of controversy for reasons I am not going to go into in this post.  My objective opinion on purely the food is that it is a little hit and miss, but overall the food is at a better quality, compared with most vegetarian eateries.  The staff (for my personal experience) were good and the decor is fantastic.  Boon Keng/Bendemeer has a lot of options in terms of vegetarian, but Zi Zai is one I could see myself frequenting.

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