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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Circuit Road Market Vegetarian - MacPherson

This place was recommended to me by one my most loyal readers, Jiao. Her recommendations are always fantastic, especially the fried hor fun she urged me to try. This time her advice led me to Circuit Road, an area which is known for its wide abundance of vegetarian food, and an area I will be visiting much more in the future. This market has been recently built I think, as it seems quite new. Downstairs is a wet market, whilst upstairs we have the small and peaceful hawker centre. A variety of dishes are sold, but a lot they will not have available, as I experienced. It's only about a 5 minute walk from MacPherson station.

Circuit Road Market Vegetarian
Location: Blk 80 Circuit Road Market #02-03
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Daily until 1pm

Veg Lontong is not a dish you commonly find in typical vegetarian stalls, so I decided to seize this opportunity and order it here. The dish comprises of cabbage, long beans, a huge chunk of fried tofu and of course the vital ingredient of rice cakes (lontong). The mellow curry sauce was just perfect, it was creamy and smooth, without falling victim of being too spicy. The highlight of the dish for me was the cabbage, it was cooked just perfectly and absorbed all the curry sauce exceptionally. You can request this dish with or without an egg. A really tasty version of this popular Asian breakfast dish.

Price: $2.50. 8/10

One of the dishes Jiao urged me to try was the Mee Siam, and so I obliged. For those unfamiliar with this dish, it is similar in appearance to mee rebus, but flavour wise it is quite different. The noodles in this dish are the thin vermicelli variety. The sauce (instead of pumpkin) is derived from peanut, it is sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time - Superb. Once again, I think this dish was brilliantly done, with it being jam packed with flavour. This is another dish that is synonymous with breakfast munching. It's a little odd for me, as it's too rich, spicy and flavourful for morning time, I can't see it replacing my cereal and toast!

Price: $2.50. 8/10

Finally, we have the Fried Black Kwey Teow. I am an easy man to please when it comes to this dish, as it would rank among one of my most loved. However, something that can be improved upon in this dish is not mixing the chili spice into the dish. I prefer the chili to be either non-existent, or separate so I can choose to add it if I so desire. Additionally, I found it lacking that undertone of sweetness, which I typically expect from a good fried kuey teow. The rest of the flavours hit all the right marks though, so hardly a disastrous dish - Some areas for improvement though.

Price: $3.00. 6/10

Conclusion - What do we as customers want from a good hawker centre stall? The answer to that is great tasting food at really cheap prices. This vegetarian stall in circuit road certainly has astounding ticks in both of those boxes. The food is simple, yet really delicious. One minor critique would be that the mee siam and kuey teow was a little too spicy, I found myself needing a dish that had little spice and richness to it. For myself, I used to work very close to this area and was surprised I had not heard of it before. It's a place I would certainly recommend you try if you're in this area.

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

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dining Hall Buddha Tooth Relics Temple - Chinatown

I have Sunny and Prefer Vege to equally thank for bringing this secluded vegetarian eatery to my attention. The Buddha temple located at the back of the Chinatown markets certainly sticks out like a sore thumb. However, finding this air conditioned meatless eatery can be a little tricky. You need to find the sign for 'Dining Hall' and take the stairs down to basement 1 - These stairs are located at the side of this grand temple. An important note is that there is no cash register here, all the money you pay goes into a donation tin. Therefore, you need to give exact money, as no change will be given.

Dining Hall Buddha Tooth Relics Temple
Location: B1, Buddha Tooth Relics Temple, 288 South Bridge Road
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Daily 9am-3pm

One hurdle anyone non-Chinese will struggle with is the only form of menu is written in Chinese characters - So you might want to bring a friend along who can read Chinese characters. The menu itself is not very detailed, there is only a few dishes on sale. Additionally, there is rice and dishes available at the front, as well as various sandwiches and breads. On some days there may be special dishes that don't appear on the menu. so it's always worth taking a look at the front of the restaurant, or asking the staff about that.

As well as selling herbal tea, the temple also has a Homemade Special Drink. I am assuming the variety of the drink will vary depending on the day. On this particular day I was treated to a deliciously mild apple tea. This particular style brewing involves double boiling the apple.

Price: $1.00. 7/10

As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are a handful of different buns and sandwiches sprawled out at the front of the restaurant. The one I opted to purchase was the Ham & Cheese Sandwich. Take note that this is indeed real cheese, and thus this is not an entirely vegan eatery. The sliced mock ham was smokey and had a really authentic flavour. Ham and cheese sandwiches are something eternally popular in my home country of England - Therefore I did enjoy this moment of nostalgia, while consuming this delicious sandwich. What I would have liked to see is the crust of this white bread left on the sandwich (not sure why they removed it). Additionally, a sharp sauce like mustard would add well to this sandwich.

Price: $2.50. 7/10

Everyone loves a good Wan Ton Mee, and this writer is certainly no different. One thing that is certainly wonderful about this modest restaurant is the prices of all the dishes are so low, especially as this is an air conditioned eatery. In this dish the mock char siew was very flavourful. This, along with the bok choy and thin yellow noodles make the classic combination we all know and love. The noodles had a good texture, but were a tad too sticky. But where are the wan ton's?...

...Here they are. They arrived separately in a small soup bowl. The soup (which arrived with all dishes) was quite delicious, it had a sharp flavour, which was countered well with the refreshing coriander, seen floating on the top of this soup. When I ordered this dish, in my mind I was expecting the crisp fried wan ton's to arrive, so I was a little disappointed that this variant arrived. The skin of the wan ton was a little too thick and tough for me, but the filling inside was flavourful.

Price: $3.00. 7/10

Final dish of this pleasing afternoon meal was the Mushroom Chicken Hor Fun. Within this dish were bok choy, shitake mushrooms, gluten mock chicken all tangled amongst the hor fun noodles. The soup which the ingredients were swimming in was tasty, with the mushrooms particularly being well seasoned and packed with flavour. Another commendable aspect to this dish was the portion size, which was big for the price.

Price: $3.00. 7/10

Conclusion - Handsomely sized portions coupled with affordable prices should encourage all vegetarians in Singapore to give this place a try. It is important to mention that this eatery is hardly a business per see. It is run by the temple and I presume the workers are volunteers. Bare this in mind when you pay for your meal, and perhaps give them a little extra. Food was better than I expected, and I found the atmosphere peaceful and calming. I will be going back again.

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

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ci Yin Vegetarian House - Serangoon

Over all of the reviews in 2010, one of the places that really stuck out as being a true diamond in the sand is Ci Yin Vegetarian House. I reviewed this place for the first time back in September 2010, and was blown away by the quality and thoughtfulness of the cooking here - Therefore, I found it fitting it give it a second review in 2011, to see how things were going. I am going to update my Top 10 Vegetarian Restaurants soon, and this place is surely going to make it onto the update version.

Ci Yin Vegetarian House
Location: #01-336, Blk 152, Serangoon North Avenue 1
Contact: 98639602 or 92296490
Opening Hours: Daily 7am-8:30pm. Closed between 2:30pm-4:30pm

 Note - Restaurant has now relocated to 532 Macpherson Road, UPDATE (23/03/2015), now relocated to Yishun Blk 418

There is no menu at Ci Yin. Instead, there are pictures of every dish available plastered on the wall. I must say, I love being able to see how every dish looks prior to ordering it. There is another list of other dishes available at the side of the pictures. The dishes range from many different styles, and it must be said that some of the dishes are really completely unique, verging on strange.

One thing Ci Yin is well known for is their representations of the animal, which the mock meat is meant to be. I know this will attract moronic statements, such as 'if you want to eat something that looks and tastes like a fish, then why not just eat a fish' - Of course those people are missing the point entirely, let's not pursue that digression any further. I am in adoration of this style of cooking simply due to the fact it shows a lot of time, care and thought has gone into making the dish.

This time around I thought it would be apt to order one of Ci Yin's less glamorous dishes, so I went for the Hokkien Mee. The first thing that struck me was this was a quite generously portioned dish for the price. Quality wise, I was pleased that the noodles were not too soft, and the dish in general had good smokey flavour, with a plentiful amount of ingredients inside. What was noticeably lacking was egg, which is something I consider integral to a good hokkien mee. Overall a pleasing way to start the evening though.

Price: $3.50. 7/10

Those who read through my first post on Ci Yin will know how much I adored the Spicy Sambal Fish. Second time around, I simply couldn't resist the urge to order it again. I was pleased to discover that the quality of this dish has not diminished since my first sampling back in 2010. I won't go into the details as you can read about the intricate details of this dish from my first visit review. Needless to say though, this is one of the best dishes I have tried in Singapore.

Price: $10.00. 10/10

Inevitably, in any restaurant you will eventually stumble upon a poor dish. Unfortunately the Curry Baked Rice was that lackluster dish I was dreading to find. I am certainly a big fan of Ci Yin, and see it as one of the most promising vegetarian restaurants in Singapore, but I can't escape from the fact this was not a good dish. The surface on top is dried cheese, which is certainly unusual, and doesn't work very well. Inside the rice is a little too mushy, with other ingredients being green capsicum, corn, tomato, and mock mutton meat. Overall all the components combined make it a dry and dreary dish. Also it has a certain stale taste to it, which makes me think it was made quite some time ago. Before you ask, I have no idea what the 'm' or '3' smeared on top of the dish means/represents.

Price: $5.80. 4/10

Conclusion - My second visit to Ci Yin was dampened, in a way, by the curry baked rice. But overall, it was another positive experience from one of my favourite vegetarian restaurants in Singapore. Serangoon north is, of course, famed for housing Li Wei, and now with Ci Yin only a stones throw away, I certainly envy the residents living in that area. Those that don't live so close, this is certainly a place worth traveling for.

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

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trust Organic Healthy Kitchen - Paya Lebar

I'm a firm believer that organic vegan eateries will rise exponentially as peoples quest for a healthier lifestyle progresses over time. Therefore I was pleased to find out from one of my readers ('justicenequality') that another new organic establishment has opened its doors. Location wise, this place is hardly in a convenient area for those taking public transport. It is possible to walk here from the new Dakota MRT, however be prepared for at least a 20 minute walk. It is also possible to take buses from Dakota or Paya Lebar MRT, for those opposed to the idea of walking.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 08/09/2011

Trust Organic Healthy Kitchen
Location: 328 Joo Chiat Road, #01-03
Contact: 63459355
Opening Hours: Daily 9am-9pm (Closed on 1st & 3rd Wednesdays of every month)

Not only was the prospect of a new organic eatery exciting enough, I was also joined for dinner today by 'Doufu Mafia' one of the most prominent vegetarian bloggers in Hong Kong. The menu is quite detailed, with a lot of interesting dishes. It is worth noting that many of the dishes, however, are only available on certain days of the week - Therefore whenever you go, some portions of the menu will not be available. This eatery prides itself on using organic vegetables, along with being entirely vegan.

This eatery offer three types of sushi to customers, the one we opted for was the Organic Temaki Sushi. No rice is inside these sushi, it is purely vegetables. To be more precise, there is purple cabbage, carrot, lettuce, beetroot and mayo. A cautionary note, which I must share, is although this place claims to be 100% vegan, they asked whether we can consume eggs when ordering this sushi. This leads me to believe that the mayonnaise used inside is containing eggs. The sushi overall was nice, but small is size and a little plain in flavour. It would have benefited more from slightly more sauce used, and a more zesty flavour.

Price: $5.30. 5/10

Next up we ordered one of their side dishes ('side dishes' is not really an apt description, as some of their main courses are smaller). This is the Fried Organic Soy Bean Hijiki Cake. I was highly welcoming of the black beans that were placed on top of the patties, and added a credible flavour dimension to the dish. The patties themselves were not bad. One flaw is in their texture, as I found it to be a little too doughy. One of the better dishes I tried, but its texture didn't appeal to me.

Price: $4.90. 6/10

Trust Organics biggest flaw became glaring obvious in this next dish. Introducing the Miso Soup with Cauliflower. Just in case my picture doesn't put things in correct perspective - This is a rice bowl. One rice bowl. For a dish that I pay such a high price for, it was outrageous that something so incredibly miniscule would arrive. This soup certainly has strong miso flavour. Miso soups typically only have a slight undertone of flavour, this however was very strong - Hence very salty in taste. The cauliflower was cooked well, but overall this is a very basic soup. For the size, this should be 1/3 of what I paid. A truly insulting price tag.

Price: $7.90. 3/10

Next up is the Fried Turmeric Brown Rice. Although brown rice is far more healthy than its white counterpart - I find that the problem with brown rice is its stodgy texture. This is particularly a problem when eating a simple rice dish such as this. Overall I found that this rice was too dry, and became quite a shore to consume due to its lack of flavour and dry texture. No doubt, this is a healthy dish due to the amount of turmeric and brown rice, but taste wise I didn't enjoy it.

Price: $6.90. 4/10

After all the small portions of food arrived, we quickly realised this would not be enough to fill us. Therefore we decided to get one other dish, that being the Organic Yummy Soba. The components to this dish were carrots, long beans, baby tomatos, seaweed, and beancurd. These ingredients were all positioned around the most integral component, which of course is the soba noodles. The texture of the noodles was good, and when coupled with the seaweed it gave a wonderful flavour of the ocean. Overall it is a decent and refreshing dish, which was the best of the night. Once again, the size of the dish probably doesn't justify the price, but I found the quality of the food above average, perhaps a little more sauce needed though.

Price: $9.90. 7/10

Conclusion -The food from organic eateries is often branded as bland and flavourless - I appreciate that Trust Organic has tried to debunk that perception by making their dishes as packed with flavour as they can muster. However, portion size was staggeringly small. Even a mouse on a diet would leave Trust feeling discontent. Ambiance wise, the place still looked new and clean and had a peaceful feel to it. Staff wise, they were friendly, yet never seemed to bring customers sufficient amount of utensils, plates or bowls - Which was a little frustrating.

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

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lovingwell Vegetarian - Aljunied

Avid vegetarian foodies should already be well aware of the myriad of vegetarian delights that surround the Geylang area. I became aware of Lovingwell from a new vegetarian blogger - Prefervege - Taking a browse on her site is definitely worth while. This coffee shop looks fresh and new, which leads me to believe it has been renovated recently - No air-con though. A variety of Chinese dishes are sold at this small little stall. It's a little strange not seeing any prices on their signboard, but I was informed by the friendly auntie that everything is priced at $3.50.

Lovingwell Vegetarian
Location: 56 Geylang Lorong 25A
Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Unknown


First dish of the evening was the Hor Fun. I really like the texture and flavour of the noodles in this dish. The noodles were soft, yet chewy and were smoked well by extensive cooking in the wok. The wok hei was not quite to the level of Lin Lin though (a must for anyone who has not been there yet). Ingredients wise, there was bok choy, gluten mock meats (which I despise), black fungus, green chili, pea pods and a few different varieties of mushroom. The sauce looked a little dull, but upon tasting it was not too bad, but perhaps lacking depth of flavour slightly.

Price: $3.50. 7/10

Bittergourd, in my opinion, is the best possible vegetable you can consume on a daily basis. I myself drink a glass of bittergourd juice every morning. This is the Bittergourd Steamed Rice. Presentation wise it looked (as you can see) incredibly sloppy, with there being very few bittergourd segments also. With that being said, the soup that the ingredients were swimming in was hearty and flavourful - Good for a cool night. I was also pleased the dish was not too greasy. Not bad overall, but really needed more bittergourd to justify it's dish name and price.

Price: $3.50. 6/10

Final dish of the evening was the 'Xiang Chun' Sliced Chicken Rice. The xiang chun style of cooking is not something I am particularly educated about. But the main difference in this chicken rice variation is the inclusion of a thick dark sauce, which mock chicken (from gluten), carrots, shitake mushrooms and red chilli were drowned in. This sauce was quite strong, tasting of pepper and curry leaves with a slight undertone of sweetness. This strong sauce is welcome, as the gluten mock meat is quite tasteless.

Price: $3.50. 7/10

Conclusion - Overall I thought that this was a pretty decent stall. What I would like to see improved in the future is a little more care to be taken with the dishes. Although the dishes at Lovingwell may look visually unpleasing, what they do well is have good sauce/soup bases for their dishes, that are packed with flavour. With the high competition for vegetarian food in Geylang I may not necessarily be coming back here with any deal of frequency. Nevertheless, it was a credible stall.

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