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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant - Sengkang

Well well well. I have long been know for my staunch criticisms of the lack of vegetarian options in the Sengkang area. To my delight, yet another vegetarian Indian stall has opened its doors in the new Kopitiam Square food court. For those unfamiliar with Big Bites, you might remember the franchises old name - Chellas. They have a couple of other outlets dotted around Singapore, most notably their restaurant in Little India. When I reviewed their restaurant I was not very impressed, so I was curious to see if Big Bites (in stall format) would be more successful.

Big Bites Pure Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: Kopitiam Square, 10 Sengkang Square

Contact: 62976297
Opening Hours: Daily until 10pm

This stall has many different weird and wonderful finger food dishes, chaats and desserts. One of those is the Aloo Samosa. Aloo stands for potato, and samosa is a hard shelled fried snack, similar - in a way - to curry puff. This samosa was packed with potato, green chili and a host of Indian spices. I actually really liked this little snack, and the sweet chili sauce that accompanied it was a nice touch. My only gripe would be that (this is a common problem with this stall) the amount of spice inside was too much, leaving a jabbing spice sensations constantly torturing my tongue.

Price: $1.20. 7/10

One of my most beloved snacks (chaats) within the vast realm of Indian food is Pani Puri. The focal point of this dish is the hollow shells, in which soft and mashed potato is inside. The way to eat this is to pour the red sweet chili sauce inside, along with the olive green coloured liquid and then eat it all together. It is, needless to say, very enjoyable to eat. However, the potatoes need to been more flavoured in this version. Also, I found that it was really missing fresh coriander to give the flavour another level. Overall fun to eat, but I've had better versions elsewhere.

Price: $3.50. 5/10

The thing that really excited me about Big Bites opening in Sengkang was the wide variety of dosai's that they were offering. There is a page full of different variations. This is the original Plain Dosai. What is so vital about dosai is getting the texture of the crust perfect. This variation didn't quite get it right, overall it was too thick - Which inevitably made it too soft. Dosai must be crisp, if it is not, the eater doesn't get the same satisfaction of eating dosai. What was good was the live experience of watching the cook make the dosai, as it is cooked right at the front of the stall, instead of at the back. This was a nice touch, but the dosai itself was not quite there.

Price: $3.00. 6/10

More dosai delights, this time with the Masala Dosai. As I mentioned previously, the texture was the let down of this dish, with it being crisp and nice is some places. But as you can see in this picture, the outer areas were too thick and soft. The masala inside, however, was really delicious and thick. A word of warning, the red chili sauce that they serve with dosai is dangerously hot, and has strong garlic flavour. Whilst it is quite tasty, I would recommend taking very little - Unless you can take a lot of spice.

Price: $3.50. 6/10

We now move onto the set meals, which in my opinion represent good value from Big Bites. Starting with the Briyani Meal, what I was pleased with is the really generous serving of briyani rice, it was at least two bowls in size, the picture doesn't quite do the size justice. The curries change on a daily basis. But usually there is no thick and creamy paneer dishes (due to the cost I assume). It is usually vegetable based, such as eggplant, potato, cauliflower, ladyfingers and chick peas. The curries are generally very nice, with good spices. But there is too much chili powder used, making the curries too overwhelming. One thing that may irk eaters is the amount of whole ingredients inside, such as cloves, cardamom and cinnamon - Be careful what you bite on!

Price: $6.00. 8/10

The final set meal that I tried was the Big Bite's South Indian Set Meal. While this is slightly more pricey it does come with a lot more curry dishes and a chapati. Again, I have no qualms with the flavour of the curry, but I was dripping beads of sweat due to the amount of spice used. As well as the many curries served, they also give you a dessert, which you can see in the bottom right hand side. This yellow dessert was not as teeth grindingly sweet as other common Indian desserts such as kheer and gulab jamen. Nice meal, although pricey, this will stuff you!

Price: $7.50. 8/10

Conclusion - The most commendable attributes of Big Bites in Sengkang is that comparatively to other Indian stalls there is not too much salt or oil used, and generally the curries are of a high quality. Unfortunately, most the dishes are recklessly spiced, which is frustrating as it cancels out all the other nice flavours that are inside. Price wise, overall I find the set meals good value, although they might seem high - You must bare in mind they do serve a lot of food. The dosai and other snacks are a little too expensive, and although I will certainly return and eat here regularly in the future, it will probably be for the set meals, and not the other snacks.

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

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food - Chinatown

Chinatown is always somewhere I have fond food memories of, whether it be the small tang yuan store, or the wonderful food experiences from one of my favourite restaurants, Yi Xin. This is one that I had never previously visited. Ci Yan is a quiet little shophouse style eatery where eaters can escape the bustle of the Chinatown markets. It is run by an elderly couple. Customers should exercise caution in regards to the opening times - They are not reliable, and the restaurant tends just to open when it feels like it. Customers may also be shocked by the lack of options, there are usually only serving two or three dishes.

Ci Yan Organic Vegetarian Health Food
8 Smith Street, Chinatown
Contact: 62259026
Opening Hours: Mon to Sun: 12noon - 11pm (although not reliable)

I absolutely adore the interior of this place. I felt a vibe of an old closed down book store. There is Tibetan Buddhist iconography all over the walls, with a large 'shrine' above the counter. It is a very small place, with only about 4-5 tables.

On this particular day, they were only selling two dishes, which I will get to shortly. But they did also have a snack available, which is the classic Curry Puff. I am not someone who tends to get curry puff from Chinese places, I find Malay/Indian makers tend to produce better quality. I was left beating my apprehension with a stick though, as these curry puffs were categorically delicious! The shell of the this pastry is crisp, yet not too over-fried. Inside the stuffing had been blended down well until it had a thick and creamy texture. Flavour wise the curry puff is not spicy, but does have a good earthy flavour, mainly coming from carrots. A real hit with me, one of the best curry puffs I've tried in Singapore.

Price: $1.10 (per puff). 9/10

We now moved onto the main dishes. As mentioned previously, on this particular day there was only two main dishes to choose from, so I got both. Starting with the Brown Rice Set Meal. This dish consists of corn, long beans, salad, brown rice, Chinese vegetables and a vegetable stew. Presentation wise they made this look nice on the plate, and gave the feeling that effort and warmth went into making this. The vegetables in this dish were perfect, they were cooked with a lot of mouth-watering wok hei flavour, moreover they were not under or over cooked - Thus still having some nice crunch to them. The stew I also found surprisingly moreish. The corn was drizzled in a slightly tart dark sauce, which again I can't really fault. A simple dish, but one where everything was done right, thumbs up from me.

Price: $5.50. 9/10

The other dish that they were offering to customers that day was the Burdock Mushroom Broth Noodles - Inside this wet noodle dish was turnip, carrots, cabbage, soft tofu, mushrooms, burdock, with coriander flung on top for added flavour. I must say, the highlight for me was the carrots - They soaked up the flavours of the broth fantastically with the juice exploding in your mouth when you bite into them. The pieces of burdock was also quite tasty, this came as a pleasant surprised as I usually find burdock quite flavourless. The noodles were cooked well, and still have some resistance upon biting. Another simple dish, but again it was cooked and prepared perfectly.

Price: $5.00. 8/10

Conclusion - It would be foolish not to mention the lack of variety, with there only being a handful of dishes, it doesn't give the customer many options. However, the few dishes that they do sell are cooked superbly, with flavours that are spot on, sometimes simple works best. So is it really such a bad thing to have such little choices? In my eyes, I would rather have the choice of two fantastic tasting dishes, opposed to 20 average tasting dishes - So I don't mind it that much. Inside this little shop house the look and feel is great, and this atmosphere is another element (coupled with the great food) that will mean I am coming back to Ci Yan sooner, rather than later.

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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

7 Sensations Vegetarian - Farrer Park

Little India is renowned for its assortment of North and South Indian vegetarian restaurant, but often those wandering off the beaten path, down those obscure Little India side streets can stumble upon Chinese vegetarian establishments, like this one. In fact, 7 Sensations has already amassed a strong following, back when it was under the name Yogi Hub. Since then, there have been statements suggesting a decline in the food quality, since the name change. Well, The Hungry Ang Mo was never one to prick his ears to gossip, so I thought I should venture down myself and see what standard this food is at.

7 Sensations Vegetarian
Location: 9 Raffles Boulevard, Millenia Walk, P3-07 Parco Marina Bay

Contact: 62988198
Opening Hours:
Mon–Fri: 11am–3pm, 6pm–10pm. Sat-Sun:  11am-10pm 

CLOSED DOWN - As of 17/09/2015
A nice looking restaurant, with refreshing greens and natural wood coloured tables greets the customers - Interior wise it is a splendid looking place. This interior is a marked difference from the more homely look of Yogi Hub. The owners clearly had an agenda to make this restaurant more upmarket, which included a serious price hike to the food. The menu also is brilliantly designed, with well captured pictures of the highlighted dishes. Aesthetically I was gleaming with positivity about 7 Sensations. But of course, the most important thing is the taste of the food. So let us see how that went...

I was inspired to order this Mousakka after recollecting the delightful experienced I had with this dish during my review of Original Sin. This version, although cheaper, was a long way away from reaching the quality of Original Sin. It is difficult to know where to begin, in regards to the flaws of this dish, but I will try. The mousakka is not layered as is should be, and has no profound layers of cheese. The tomato base, which is essential to a good mousakka was completely absent, other than a couple of smears on the top. A good mousakka should have a rich and creamy texture, unfortunately this was quite dry and lacking in flavour. To top the list of sins off, uncooked breadcrumbs on the top is simply a hanging offense, in my book. The powdery texture which uncooked breadcrumbs provides is not appealing, and a dish like this needs that crunch from toasted breadcrumbs. Disappointing I'm afraid.

Price: $12.90. 4/10

I grabbed a spoon and desperately tucked into this Potato Au Gratin, with the futile hopes of a much improved dish (compared to the previous). I regret to say, this was another below par dish. This is simply a dry potato stack with a thin layer of cheese on top. What I am perplexed by is why there is no creamy sauce dripping over this stack, as this is what it is crying out for. Without it, it was just too dry, flavourless and boring for my liking. The potatoes also had an unusual acidic taste in-between the layers, which was exacerbated by the out-of-place dark vinaigrette. Presentation wise, it looked nice and I have no complaints about that. But, it always comes down to texture and taste, and amateurish mistakes were made to what could have been a really nice little dish.

Price: $11.90. 3/10

At the point of the arrival of the third dish, I was already losing the will to live, and was praying for a considerable improvement. To my delight, this Thai Style Green Curry did bring sunlight to this torrential downpour of poor food. The ingredients inside this curry were nice, with eggplant, potato and mock meat (mutton) swimming inside. The real highlight for me was the small cherry/baby tomatoes, these were cooked delightfully and popped with flavour before melting in the mouth. The curry was thick, creamy and moreish. I do have a complaint, which is for this price it should have come with rice. The rice you see in the picture had to be paid for separately. But overall, this dish was considerably better than the two previous to it.

Price: $15.90. 7/10

Conclusion - There are a number of vegan options here, but this is not a strictly vegan establishment. Moreover, contrary to what you might think, this is not a particularly healthy place either. Especially in the case of the green curry, I felt my trouser button rearing to pop with all the potato, mock meat and coconut cream heavy curry. It is difficult to get over the disappointment for the first two dishes, but the curry did make up for it slightly. Still, I must say for the incredibly high price paid this place it is certainly not worth it. Those looking for a fine dining experience, it is better to pay $10-15 dollars extra and visit Original Sin, and enjoy real high quality food.

Overall Rating
Food - 5/10
Ambiance- 8/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 3/10

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vege Sense Sandwiches - Bugis

The area of Bugis and Little India is blessed with a good abundance of bakeries, and this is another one which I have glanced upon a few times, when previously visiting the Fortune Centre. We all know about how superb the Fortune Centre is for vegetarian/vegan food, so I am sure I don't need to add anymore on that. This place is on the ground level, and has a nice funky green sign to lure customers in. They sell an array of different sandwiches (including tuna and sardine) all priced at $2.50. Regrettably I went in a later hour, and they had sold out of most things, so I grabbed whatever looked best

Vege Sense Sandwiches
190 Middle Road, Fortune Centre, Level 1
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours:

This is the Curry Bread. Simple by nature, it is a soft bun, which a generous clump of curry mixture in the centre of the bread. The curry inside was simple, it was not spicy (if anything it was a little sweet), flavour wise not too bad though. Ingredients wise inside it was only potato, and it would have brought a smile to my face to see at least one other ingredient inside. Nevertheless, certainly a credible bun.

Price: $1.50. 6/10

Next up is this Pizza Bun, A wide variety of ingredients were found lurking under the thin layer of cheese on top of this bun. This is not vegan cheese, by the way - Thus, vegans beware! There were mushrooms, pineapple, tomato and capsicum on this bread. The combination of bread, tomato and cheese can never really be a disaster, and this was quite an appetizing bread overall. I especially liked the burnt cheese bits around the outskirts of the bread.

Price: $1.80. 7/10

Conclusion - A nice little bakery/sandwich shop. It was a pity that I didn't arrive here earlier to have a sample of their sandwiches (which they seem most well known for). With so many vegetarians/vegans making the homage to Fortune Centre, I am sure this place will get good business. Although it is on the ground level, it is still a relatively peaceful and quiet bakery, which also has seats, for those wanting to sit and relax.

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

Friday, February 4, 2011

Nutrihub Organic Fusion Cafe - Orchard

I have been meaning to visit this place for quite some time, but due to my general hatred of Orchard, and this place closing so early - It has prevented me from visiting for many months. This place can be accessed from both Orchard and Somerset stations, it is closest to Centrepoint. Contrary to the rest of Orchard, Cuppage Plaza is refreshingly peaceful and stress-free, I like the atmosphere a lot. As the name would suggest, this is a 100% organic place, which is also completely vegan. For more information about their eatery, you can also visit their blog - click here.

Nutrihub Organic Fusion Cafe
5 Koek Road, Cuppage Plaza, B2-25/26
Opening Hours:
Mon-Sat 10am-7pm; Closed Sunday

WARNING - Relocated to Chinatown (46 Temple Street) - REVIEW HERE

As well as a reputable array of organic dishes, Nutrihub has also gained accolades for its infamous nut milks. They have many varieties, in this case we tried the Almond Nut Milk. The drink is thick and creamy, with shreds of almond floating around in the drink. I love the taste, and I adored the rich flavour that the almond created. The only setback to these drinks is the price - I was eager to try, and therefore willing to pay this price tag this time around. But if I were to return again, I don't foresee my wallet being able to part with $5 just for a drink. The quality of these drinks is good, but you pay a considerable price.

Price: $5.00. 7/10

Each day Nutrihub has their Organic Brown Rice Meal on offer, with the different components that accompany the rice changing as the week progresses. In this case, the brown rice was accompanied by an assortment of vegetables, including baby bok choy. The most captivating part of the dish (at least in my eyes) was the seasoned soft tofu, I really enjoyed this. One thing you will soon discover from the food at Nutrihub is the lack of profound flavour, although most people will see this as a negative thing (and in a way it is), but what it highlights is the lack of msg, sodium and another harmful properties in the food. In short, this dish isn't packed with flavour, but you can feel good that it is healthy for your body.

Price: $6.00. 6/10

Next up we have the Mushroom Veggie Ramen (Dry). Apologies for the blurry pictures, these were taken from my phone camera. This dish was packed with more flavour compared to the others that we tried, and that strong flavour comes from the mushrooms, which contain heaps of natural flavour. The ramen noodles were bouncy and delicious. One negative aspect to the cooking at Nutrihub was that a lot of the same vegetables were used in all the dishes, so I found myself getting a little bored of carrots, bok choy, etc. A little more variety would have made the dishes more unique. Although this dish is dry, it did come with a slight soup base, which was fine, as it was very tasty.

Price: $6.50. 7/10

One of their more interesting dishes (and newly added to the menu) is the Soy Milk Bee Hoon (Soup) - Certainly in all the vegetarian/vegan eateries I have visited in Singapore, I have never seen a soy milk soup base like this. The shredded seaweed on top of this dish give the soy milk an undertone of fish, which I was not sure worked in harmony together. The noodles were of a high quality, but again it was the same vegetables swimming in the soup, which was a little boring. The soup itself doesn't have a very strong soy flavour, but nevertheless I liked the originality of the idea of a soy based savory soup.

Price: $6.50. 6/10

Conclusion - As mentioned previously, the main thing that will strike customers who consume the Nutrihub food is the lack of flavour in the dishes. If you are someone looking for strong flavoured dishes, then I would recommend against visiting Nutrihub. However, those that are looking for healthy and nutritious organic vegan food (which is impossible to come by in our typical MSG, salt, oil filled vegetarian stalls) then I would definitely suggest paying Nutrihub a visit. Price wise, I found this place reasonable, especially as all the ingredients are organic. They have a variety of sushi dishes also (but were unfortunately sold out of it when I was there). Next time I will be sure to try them!

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