Graces Court Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: Hotel Royal, 12 Queen Street, #02-03
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am–2.30pm, 5.30pm–9.30pm
So what do we mean by 'a la carte buffet'? It basically means there is a fixed price ($14), yet instead of taking food from containers, you order from a buffet menu (pictured). This has its benefits, as the food arrives fresh. With that being said, Graces Court does have some dishes that are laid out on a table - Such as, bao, dim sum, fruits, soup etc. A key difference to Chinese and Indian buffets is that, for the former you are strictly not allowed to reuse any cups or plates that you have eaten from, regardless of the circumstances.
Of course, it is unimaginable to have a variety of Chinese dishes, without rice or noodles accompanying it. For this meal, I went for the Fragrance Rice. Overall I thought it was a commendable dish. The rice was well cooked, with the grains separated well, and also not too mushy. As well as decent texture, the flavour components of the dish were reasonably solid. Although there was not a ton of wok hei flavour, I did find it was a good amount.
One of the better dishes of the evenings festivities was the Sambal Kang Kong. Although deceptively simple (as most Chinese cooking is), the positive qualities were ample. Firstly, the vegetable itself was cooked well, so that the leaf had a creamy texture (my favourite part). Secondly, the wok hei flavour shimmered throughout the vegetables, making me want to go back for a second helping. Seasoning wise, I was pleased to see not so much chili was used, however, perhaps it could have benefited from a little less salt - A common occurrence in these dishes.
The next dish that was selected was the Sliced Fish with Celery. I'll get straight to the point with this dish, it made my face wince due to the amount of salt used in this dish. It would probably rank as one of the saltiest dishes I've tried since beginning reviewing food back in 2009. Subsequently, it is somewhat alarming how this dish was even allowed to leave the kitchen. The chef would benefit highly from actually tasting his dishes before he releases them to the public. Perhaps at a hawker centre stall it is forgivable to make such a mistake, but at a restaurant it is quite embarrassing.
The next dish sampled was the Bailing Mushrooms. For those that have never tried this species of mushroom, the texture can be best described as slightly chewy and mild in flavour. They are most notorious for being used to make mock abalone. Personally, I find this species of mushroom quite delicious, and a more refreshing change to the usually powerfully tasting shitake mushrooms. The vegetables that accompanied the mushrooms went well together. However, I found the sauce a little starchy and thick.
Mock seafood, in particular the mock jelly is probably my most despised aspect of vegetarian cooking in Asia. Mock prawns, such as those used in this Salad Prawn dish, did have a better texture to the usual tough and rubbery texture, which one might usually associate with vegetarian hawker stall prawns. However, what let this dish down was the lack of flavour in the mock prawns. It was a pity as the batter crust was light and tasty. Unfortunately though, the focal point of the dish is the prawn, and for me it was too tasteless.
Although the dishes so far were hardly exceptional, I am pleased to say that this review will end on a quite positive note, in the form of these Sauteed Eggplants. My texture preference for eggplant is very soft (almost mushy), thankfully these eggplants were not too hard. However, slightly longer cooking time would have result in the eggplants being more creamy (which is what I look for). This nice texture was accompanied by a strong yet delicious sauce, which complimented the flavour of the eggplant very well. The best dish of the day without a doubt.
TOTAL BUFFET CHARGE (per person) = $14.00
Conclusion - Although I found that the price of this buffet was very reasonable, the main qualm I have is that the food in general was a tad uninspiring. Even I myself, as a food reviewer, was slightly bored writing this review. Nothing leaped out from any of the dishes as being remarkable, and often amateurish mistakes were made in the seasoning of the dishes. The eggplant represented a rare peak in a sea of mediocrity. The restaurant does suit special occasions and celebrations well, but don't expect the food to be anything other than average.
Food - 5/10
Service - 5/10
Value - 7/10