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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant - Farrer Park

LinkThose that wander down the famous Syed Alwi stretch will undoubtedly notice the giant Ananda Bhavan restaurant, which is probably three times the size of any other restaurant on the street. Keen readers of my site will know I have already reviewed their Changi Airport outlet on a couple of occasions (review 1 & review 2). Aside from Komala Vilas, Ananda Bhavan must surely be the most recognisable vegetarian franchise in Singapore. So what is the secret to their undiminished popularity? Hopefully this review will get to the bottom of it.


Ananda Bhavan Vegetarian Restaurant
Location:
95 Syed Alwi Road
Contact: 63980837
Opening Hours: Daily: 24 Hours

As Ananda Bhavan is typically a South Indian establishment, it seemed to make sense to try arguably the most well-known South Indian offering - The Masala Dosai. What struck me straight away was the exorbitant prices for almost every item. Paying over $4 for a simple dosai strikes me as quite odd. Especially as there was nothing particularly special or unique about this offering. In fact, I found the masala in the centre of the dosai to be a little too moist and lacking flavour. The coriander chutney was a welcome addition, and the dosai itself was coloured a pleasing golden brown. But I still have to question why I am paying so much for such a dish.

Price: $4.20. 4/10

When venturing to South Indian eateries, perhaps the thing I most look forward to ordering is the set meals. On this evening, I went with the Briyani Set Meal. The dish comes with a myriad of mini curries, daal, yoghurt and vegetables. Coupled with vadai, poppadom and a puri (mini bhattura). The highlights of the dish were the vegetable kurma, which had extraordinary flavour. The briyani rice was also a good attraction. What I thought could have been improved on was the amount of spice used. The sambar in particular was recklessly spiced. An enjoyable meal certainly, and the only thing on the menu which even vaguely represents value for money.

Price: $9.60. 7/10


Conclusion - The biggest set-back was the huge price tags on almost every dish at Ananda Bhavan. Comparatively speaking, this restaurant is more expensive than high end Indian establishment, and I'm confused as to why? Additionally, why is this place still getting so many customers? For me, Ananda Bhavan is a low/middle end eatery charging high end pricing, which doesn't work in my world. Therefore, in summary, I feel the pricing is a huge injustice. To top things off, a 10% service charge is also given. For what I am not sure, as half the food you have to collect yourself. If the prices for everything was slashed in half, then I would be a lot more excited about this outlet. But as they are not, I find it to be a disappointment.


Overall Rating
Food - 6/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 6/10
Value - 2/10

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Vegelicious - Paya Lebar

Over the last few weeks, I received a number of emails and comments urging me to try out this new 100% vegetarian restaurant, which opened its doors around one month ago, in the Geylang area. Geylang has a great abundance of vegetarian eateries, therefore competition may be stiff for Vegelicious. The owner of the restaurant is a chap named Mr Tan. Since the opening, a Facebook page has also been created - Here - This page can help give additional information that you might require, prior to visiting. Distance wise, it is a short walk from Exit D of Payar Lebar station. A few minutes walk down the street from the famous smelly tofu restaurant.


Vegelicious
Location: 733 Geylang Road
Contact: 67471927
Opening Hours:
Tue–Sun: 11:30am to 3:00pm & 5:30pm to 10:00pm. Closed Monday.

CLOSED DOWN AS OF 12/12/2011 (Owner will be opening a new stall in Yishun in the future)

With so much competition in the vegetarian restaurant world these days, it is important to find a unique niche market. One way to go about doing this is a creative interior design. Vegelicious certainly ticks this box. It has an captivating and colourful artsy theme. All of which has a new and fresh feel to it.





Another way to create a niche market for yourself is to have a unique and exciting menu. Although the menu at Vegelicious is not very vast, it does have unique dishes, which are native to Taiwan. As well as Taiwanese dishes, there is a variety of soup pots (pictured) to choose from. Customers firstly are able to choose the ingredients, followed by the soup type, and then whether they would like noodles or rice to accompany it. Western dishes are also on offer, which I will explore later in this review.


The highlight of my dining experience at Vegelicious surprisingly came within the first few seconds of taking my seat. One of the signature ingredients used in this restaurants cooking is Xiang Chun. This is also commonly known as Chinese toon. This paste (pictured) is given complimentary at the start of the meal. The main ingredient of the paste is derived from the toona sinensis tree, which is a synonymous tree in Chinese culture, used for medicinal uses also. The flavour of this paste is simply outstanding. It is difficult to capture how it tastes in words, so I can only urge you to pay a visit and try for yourself!

This signature paste is also conglomerated into many of the dishes at Vegelicious. For example, here we have the 'Xiang Chun' Tofu. Inevitably, the hero of this side dish was the xiang chun paste, which was dolloped on top of each block of soft tofu. Although soft tofu is not something I usually order, this dish did provide a cool and refreshing addition to the meal. Although tofu is often labelled as bland and tasteless - This dish did help to prove that adding other components to tofu can make it exceedingly enjoyable.

Price: $2.00. 7/10

Immediately after seeing this Minced Meat Rice on the menu, my eyes opened brightly and a wide smile became etched on my face. Those that are reading this and have been to Taiwan, will be vividly familiar with this dish already. It can be found in practically every Taiwanese restaurant, however, in Singapore, unearthing this dish can be difficult. I was even more pleased when I tasted this dish and found the authenticity to be high. The mock minced meat (derived from mushrooms) was moist, yet dry enough not to render the rice soggy. While the texture and consistency was a success, what I thought it was lacking was a prominent basil flavour, which the traditional Taiwan dish is renowned for.

Price: $3.00. 8/10

As Vegelicious places so much emphasis on the soup pots, I certainly had to order one. The pot I opted for was the Mock Meat Pot. I chose the kelp soup and noodles. Starting with the soup ingredients, I found that the black fungus and leafy vegetables were welcome additions to the dish. The mock meat consisted of prawns, fish balls, ham etc. For me, it was too gluten heavy, and preferably I'd would have liked to have seen a variation of different styles of mock meat (such as soy/seaweed mock fish). The soup base didn't have a very strong kelp flavour, but the noodles were cooked superbly and were seasoned well.

Price: $5.80. 6/10

To add variety to this review, I thought it fitting to sample one of the handful of Western dishes that Vegelicious is offering. This is the Chicken Chop Rice. The most attractive aspect of this dish is certainly the price, which represents incredible value. Quality wise, the mock chicken chop was not as dry as I was expecting it to be, which was a relief. The batter also tasted great. A surprise inclusion was a small portion of cubed potato salad. As a Westerner, potatoes always warm my heart, so I was pleased to see this on the plate. Moreover, it is good to see restaurant try to add something new to the typical trite Singapore Western dish.

Price: $4.00. 7/10

Conclusion - I am certainly pleased that we have a restaurant like Vegelicious now in Singapore. I can foresee that I will be regularly visiting this restaurant, to order the dishes that I miss so dearly from Taiwan. I just hope that word gets around about this new vegetarian restaurant, so that more people can visit and enjoy. The food quality is very good, but what really caught my eye was how affordable it was. Considering the fact that this is an air conditioned restaurant, I found the pricing really good value.

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

Monday, October 24, 2011

Miao Yi Vegetarian Restaurant - Botanic Gardens

After doing my first review of Miao Yi at the end of 2010 - I received tons of comments and emails pleading with me to try the suckling pig from Miao Yi. I must admit, when I receive all that feedback, I certainly did regret not ordering it. This regret has been plaguing me for almost a year! Therefore, recently, I decided to end this torment, and head to Miao Yi for the sole purpose of sampling this famous dish. Recently, with the completion of the circle line, Miao Yi (Coronation Plaza) has become much more accessible. It is now merely a 8-10 minute walk from the new Botanic Gardens MRT.


Miao Yi Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: Coronation Plaza, 587 Bukit Timah Road
Contact: 64671331
Opening Hours: Daily 11am-3pm, 6pm-10pm

CLOSED - Miao Yi has now moved over and merged together with Xin Man Yuan Vegetarian, which was previously bought over and is under the same owner.

The first thing that struck me about this dish was the extremely high price tag, which immediately sent my wallet into a coma. To avoid confusion, the suckling pig is under the name Double Flavour Broiled Mock Pig. Before discussing the suckling pig itself, lets first explore the other components of the dish. The dish comprises of cucumber, lettuce, sweet soy sauce and mock suckling pig. The concept of the dish is the wrap all the ingredients into the lettuce (wraps/parcels) and then eat. Although this can get a little messy, it is definitely an enjoyable eating experience.

Onto the focal point of the dish. There was a total of 16 pieces of mock pig, all coated in a light batter. The pink/red outer layer ('skin' layer) was crunchy, but lacked the chewy texture I was longing for. The next layer was mushroom stem mock meat, which was well flavoured. However, this layer broke apart too easily. This flimsiness made the wrapping and sauce dipping quite troublesome. When combined with the sauce and lettuce, it certainly came together as a nice tasting dish. However, my enjoyment didn't reach the levels I was hoping, for such an extravagant dish. Although my score below may seem a little harsh, if this dish was $15 cheaper then it would get a much higher score. But sadly, the price is a huge hindrance.

Price: $35.00 (M). 6/10

Conclusion - As I would certainly categorise myself as a thrifty foodie, the notion of paying $35 for one dish is something I struggle with comprehending. However, I am willing to tolerate such an astronomical price tag, providing the dish is astronomically excellent. In the case of the suckling pig, I certainly enjoyed it, but I simply didn't find it worthy of its price tag. Moreover, Miao Yi is notorious for hitting customers with countless extra charges, which adds usually $5 onto the total bill. If you've just got lucky on the Totto, then why not give this dish a try. If not, then I suggest spending this hefty sum elsewhere.

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

North South East West Vegetarian Cuisine - Marine Parade

North South East West quickly emerged as one of my favourite vegetarian eateries in Singapore, after visiting it numerous times (review 1 & review 2) I was overwhelmingly impressed by the consistent quality of all the dishes I tried. Admittedly, I was a little frustrated when I heard they had shifted their restaurant to further away from Parkway Parade, as it is a little more tricky for me to get to. Nevertheless, Tanjong Katong can be reached within a few bus stops from Parkway. Alternatively, the new Dakota station is also not too far away. So did the change of location result in a change in food quality? There is only one way to find out...


North South East West Vegetarian Cuisine
Location:
200 Tanjong Katong Road
Contact: 81000049
Opening Hours: 11am – 10pm (Closed Mondays)

I was pleased to see that the location change did not effect the menu. North South East West has probably one of the most vast and detailed menus that you're likely to find in Singapore. Subsequently, customers can often be spoilt for choice, with there being simply too much to choose from. Of course, this is a good problem to have! One thing that has changed, however, is seemingly more dishes on the menu have a white sticker over them saying 'not available'. The interior design of the restaurant follows a similar theme to the old location.


Without a doubt, one of the highlights from my previous visits to North South East West was the Mustard Cheezy Balls. Although some people may feel a little aggrieved by only receiving five balls, I do find that the quality of this snack makes it worth it. I have received feedback on my site from people stating that they don't find these balls too appetising - So perhaps they would be categorised as an acquired taste. They are best eaten when freshly arrived to the table, so that the mustard filling will ooze out when you take that precious first bite.

Price: $3.00. 8/10

The signature dish of North South East West is without question the Hainanese Beef Noodle. When first visiting this restaurant, it was this dish which really blew me away. I am pleased to say that the quality has still remained the same after the location change. Portion size wise I find it to be a good size, and the thick brown broth is absolutely delicious - I could probably just drink the broth by itself. The turnips do a great job in absorbing the broth, so they taste great when you bite into one. The 'beef' is derived from mushroom stems, which again goes well with the rest of the ingredients.

Price: $5.50. 8/10

My past impression of North South East West was that they possess probably some of the best Western dishes in Singapore. Their hotdog set is particularly yummy. However, when receiving the Choppy Chicken Meal, I did feel a little underwhelmed. For me, the mock chicken patties are a little dry, and thus lets down the dish a little. With that being said, the batter tasted really fantastic, and overall I didn't have any problem greedily finishing the lot. Certainly the components on this dish were all credible. Yet, nothing really leaped out as being extraordinary. I recommend ordering the other Western dishes on the menu instead.

Price: $6.80. 6/10

Conclusion - I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, when I discovered that the menu quality, and the food quality were the same as the previous location. North South East West is a restaurant which I truly cherish in Singapore. For those who have not experienced the food from here, I urge you all to do so, as it is undoubtedly, in my mind, one of the best vegetarian restaurants in Singapore. Don't let the more awkward new location put you off from visiting!

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant - Little India

When people talk of Indian food in Singapore, almost instantaneously the first words that pops into most peoples heads will be Komala Vilas. This hugely successful South Indian chain of restaurants was first conceptualized back in 1947, by Indian immigrant Mr. Rajoo. This outlet, on 76 Serangoon was his first Komala Vilas restaurant, and therefore it stands out as the most classic. However, over time Komala Vilas has opened up countless outlets throughout the island. Upon entering the eatery, it definitely does feel like stepping back in time somewhat, almost like visiting a living food museum, which is a unique experience.


Komala Vilas Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 76 Serangoon Road
Contact: 62943294
Opening Hours:
Mon–Sun: 7am – 10.30pm

If I was to describe my dream meal for Indian cuisine, then certainly a Masala Tea would be accompanying my food. The creaminess and wonderful flavours compliment Indian cuisine perfectly. Sticking with the classic Indian theme, I liked how this tea arrived in the tradition cup and saucer. The tea itself was creamy and not too sweet. The flavours of the spices used shimmered throughout the tea. A nice tea, but the best masala tea award still goes to Ananda Bhavan (Changi Aiport) for me. Other traditional Indian drinks, such as lassi are also available.

Price: $1.60. 7/10

A dish that is guaranteed to provide a shocked expression on an inexperienced Indian foodie is by ordering a Bhattura. This huge Indian bread best resembles an inflated puffer fish, with it being completely hollow on the inside. It is famed for having channa masala (chick pea curry) as its accompaniment. The downside of bhattura is that there will definitely be lots of oil on the bread. However, I found this particular dish very delicious, with the bhattura being light and not too weighed down with oil. This dish is best enjoyed using simply your hand and dipped into the curry. A welcome addition was the raw onion, which added another flavour and texture component to the dish.

Price: $4.20. 8/10

Perhaps the best value food in Komala Vilas can be found in the set meals. Here we have the Vegetable Briyani. I was pleasantly surprised upon arrival, when I saw a metal tray packed to the brim with various curries, breads, rice and yoghurt. In total there are eight main components - Yoghurt/curd, briyani rice, chapati, sambar, daal, vegetable kurma, poppadom, pickle and a dry vegetable dish. All of the aforementioned were cooked well, and to my delight, were not too salty or spicy. For those looking for an apt introduction to the cuisine at Komala Vilas, you can't go wrong with this set meal.

Price: $7.00. 8/10

For myself, the ideal way to summarize an Indian feast is with a extremely sweet and sinful Gulab Jamun. I always particularly appreciate consuming this high sugar dessert, mainly due to knowing how tricky it can be to perfect when making it. Although appearance wise it looks simple, a lot of skill is required to produce a successful gulab jamun. This particular dessert came with a delicious sweet rose syrup. The dough ball was perhaps a little too dense for my liking, but overall it satisfied my itch for something sinfully sweet.

Price: $1.20. 7/10

Conclusion - Often when restaurants become overwhelmingly popular, there is a tendency to see the standards ultimately drop. Thankfully, this outlet of Komala Vilas has stayed true to its roots, with the interior design and style of cooking remaining the same, even after 60 years. Those looking to experience Komala Vilas should definitely visit this outlet - Try to avoid the Komala fast food chains, which are dotted around Singapore, as these are a completely different owner and standards. The highlight of the meal was the bhattura, but everything ordered was delicious.

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

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Graces Court Vegetarian Restaurant - Bras Basah

Graces Court generates the bulk of its income from wedding functions and other such celebrations. During the week, the restaurant is pretty bare. This particular lunch time there were only three other tables in use. Those following the Hungry Ang Mo for some time will be aware that this is, in fact, my second visit (first review can be viewed here). I decided to visit again to try their a la carte buffet. It seemed to represent good value at only $14 per person. I must say, during first visit I found the cooking at Graces Court a little clumsy. Let's hope this second visit produces tastier dishes.



Graces Court Vegetarian Restaurant

Location: Hotel Royal, 12 Queen Street, #02-03
Contact: 62385085
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.


7/10


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.

7/10

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.

2/10

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.

6/10

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.

6/10

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.

8/10

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.

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