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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nature Vegetarian Delights - Serangoon

A few months ago I received a barrage of comments and emails announcing that my much beloved Nature Vegetarian Delights had closed. My heart sunk when I heard this news, but after a little research, I was relieved to discover they have simply moved location. They are now in Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre, which is directly opposite to their previous location. The restaurant has change aesthetically, this change is certainly for the better. Although I am skeptical whether this more isolated location will blossom the same stream of customers or not. For my previous reviews of the old location - Look here & here.

Nature Vegetarian Delights
Upper Serangoon Shopping Centre, Level 4, #04-57
Contact: 62868028
Opening Hours: 9am-9pm Daily. Closed on Monday.

Not only has the interior design undergone a brand new facelift, this also translates into the menu. It is fresh and glossy, compared to the old beat down version from the previous location. Content wise, I was relieved to see all of my old favourites, such as claypot pigs trotter and banana leaf sambal fish are still there. In fact, the entire contents of the menu has barely changed at all, with there only being a handful of new items added to the menu. I would have liked to have seen a few more new dishes added, but nevertheless, it is still a very solid menu.

Arguably one of the dishes that first catches ones eye is the Roti Prata with Black Pepper. I am always skeptical when ordering prata from Chinese eateries, as usually the standard is pretty terrible. What Nature Delights have done differently, though, is transform the conventional roti prata into a deli wrap style side dish. While I am in favour of this new method, I was less enthralled in the quality. The black pepper sauce inside was overly spicy. Additionally, very little mock meat can be found inside. The prata itself was fine, but serious adjustments need to be made before I would consider ordering again.

Price: $2.50. 6/10

Probably the most impressive dish I sampled during this visit was the Gong Bao Monkey Head Mushroom with Rice. The highlight is of course the monkey head mushroom, which had a beautifully crispy outer skin, and worked in harmony with the tartness of the kung pao sauce. Unfortunately the downside to this dish was, there was simply not enough pieces of the delicious mushroom. Instead, the ingredients seem more cluttered with carrots and bamboo shoots, and I found myself digging beneath them in hopes of finding one more mushroom piece. A little more of that delicious sauce would be welcomed also.

Price: $5.80. 8/10

Next up was the Bah Chor Mee. Overall, this was a solid dish, that had many positive attributes to it. Firstly, the noodles had a nice bouncy texture. The mock minced meat complimented these noodles well. The final key element, the sauce, was also packed with flavour. These three elements combined made for a very moreish dish. Along with a medium sized bowl of noodles, the customer also gets a small bowl of clear Chinese soup. In general, I am not a big fan of noodles dishes, but this is one that I would consider ordering again.

Price: $4.50. 7/10

Conclusion - As I have frequented Nature Delights on several occasions, and sampled a high proportion of the dishes on offer, what inevitably happens is that poor or adequate dishes are discovered in the menu. This is the case for almost every eatery in Singapore, so I don't mark it too harshly. What is important, is the very high quality dishes such as pig's trotter and sambal fish are still there and as good as ever! While the new location is not as convenient as the old one, Nature Delights still has enough loyal and die-hard customers, who will follow them wherever they go.

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tian Yi Vegetarian Food - Ang Mo Kio

My eternal thanks to Lydia, who recently sent me a detailed list of vegetarian eateries, that can be found in the Ang Mo Kio area. Tian Yi has an extremely loyal following in the area, with the place always having a long list of customers. The stall operates with two separate queues. The one of the left hand side is for ready made dishes, and other dishes such as chicken rice. On the right hand side, customers wait in line exclusively for their feverishly famous kway chap. This stall is open limited days and does not open in the evenings. Therefore, please take note of the opening times and days below.

Tian Yi Vegetarian Food
Location: Blk 527 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 10, #01-143
Contact: 96163119
Opening Hours: Wed-Sun 6am–1pm. Closed Monday & Tuesday.

Tian Yi is located in a large hawker centre named Cheng San Market & Cooked Food Centre. For those who want to experience what a true hawker centre atmosphere is like, then I would recommend visiting this place. If you're someone who spends most meals eating in a clean, quiet, air-conditioned food court - Then you are not experiencing what true authentic Singapore dining is all about. A true Singapore eating experience belongs in these slightly dirty, chaotic hawker centres. So come out of your air-conditioned bubble and experience real Singapore culture! More and more of these rustic hawker centres are disappearing, and with them, a portion of Singapore culture also fades away.

Although Chicken Rice is not signposted or mentioned at all on the exterior of the stall, I noticed a number of people ordering it, so was curious to try myself. Be warned, they probably don't have chicken rice available all the time. The quality of this dish was very high. I usually don't like the mock chicken to be made from beancurd sheets, however this version had fantastic flavour (incredibly authentic chicken taste). The rice also had the same delicious flavour, and I really liked the fresh coriander, which was added to this dish. The coriander mixed with the beancurd worked beautifully together. On the left hand side is a spring roll, which I bought for an additional 50c.

Price: $2.50. 8/10

Kway Chap is the dish that most people come to Tian Yi to order. However, it is only available on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. This popular teochew dish can be broken down into two separate components. On the first plate (pictured), we have mock intestines, fried tofu, salted vegetables and tau pok all placed in a shallow braised sauce. Fresh coriander again on top. The ingredients really absorbed this braised sauce well. The richness of the sauce, the saltiness of the vegetables and the freshness of the coriander all worked incredibly well together. Now lets move onto the final component..

Needless to say, the one remaining vital ingredient is the kway or rice flour sheets. The texture of the kway was top notch, and you can really tell the freshness in the texture. The kway is swimming in a dark soy broth, which doesn't have the potency of the braised sauce on the other plate. A welcome addition to the broth was the goji berries inside. One final praise should be addressed to the deliciously aromatic chili paste, which the ingredients can be dipped in, to give an added kick to the dish. For such a meager price, one can enjoy one of the most satisfying meals Singapore has to offer. Food lovers, I urge you to visit and enjoy!

Price: $2.50. 9/10

Conclusion - I am so often used to visiting places that have huge reputations for serving 'fantastic' dishes, and ultimately being disappointed. The kway chap at Tian Yi, however, surpassed my expectations. It was a truly delicious and affordable offering, that every food lover in Singapore should try at least once. Unfortunately, the awkward opening times might make visiting this place a challenge, for those with inflexible schedules. But my advice is do you best to visit, as you will not be disappointed.

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

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Jaggi's Northern Indian Cuisine - Little India

For those that have followed my website over the years, you will know I am a 100% vegetarian, and most the eateries featured on my website are completely vegetarian. However, for Indian food, even non-vegetarian eateries contain at least 50% vegetarian dishes. Therefore, in the future I will be writing about more of these veg/non-veg eateries. Of course, it will be only the vegetarian food that I consume. Today's post will be on Jaggi's, which is arguably one of the most reputable Indian eateries in all of Singapore. Nearly every Indian I have met speaks fondly of Jaggi's, for its home cooking style North Indian food.

WARNING - This place is not 100% vegetarian

Jaggi's Northern Indian Cuisine
Location: 34 Race Course Rd, #03-05
Contact: 62966141
Opening Hours: Daily: 11.30am–3pm, 5pm–10.30pm

One thing I got really excited about, was seeing Bharwa Karela, also known as kakarakaya vepudu, or to put it more simply - Stuffed bittergourd. I have seen several recipes for this side dish, but have yet to find it anywhere in Indian restaurants in Singapore. It certainly lived up to my expectations, the skin was soft and still had the hint of bitterness to it (although it was not overwhelming). Inside is a typical Indian masala, consisting of chiefly onions, tomato and spices. Bittergourd is undoubtedly one of the healthiest things a human being can eat, with countless beneficial properties containing within. However, this style is fried, and therefore is not as healthy as one might think. Certainly it is delicious though.

The way Jaggi's works is akin to a cafeteria, where you go up and select from many items on display. The vegetarian options are all on one side. I selected palak paneer, paneer butter masala, aloo gobi, kofta masala, bharwa karela, two plain naan, and one gulab jamun. Considering I ordered so much (easily enough for two people) I consider the total price to be more than reasonable. The plain naan was a little too thick, but charred well and had pretty nice texture. The overall flavour of all the curries is significantly different to what is on offer in most Indian restaurants, the flavour of the paneer and sauce has more of a sourness to them. The portion size of the curries is not big, but in some ways this is good as it allows customers to sample many different types. An incredibly satisfying meal overall, the paneer butter masala being my personal favourite.

Price: $19.70. 8/10

Conclusion - Although this place is not 100% vegetarian, there are many vegetarian options on offer. The bharwa karela was superb, and considering how difficult it is to find this in Singapore, I would suggest taking the opportunity to order it. I enjoyed all the curries, even though the taste was slightly different to what I am used to. Although it would not be my number one choice when in the Little India area, I can still appreciate why it is so beloved among Indians in Singapore.

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

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Vegan Burg - Raffles Place

Success for a new eatery in the competitive Singaporean market is not an easy feat. Without a doubt, Vegan Burg has emerged as one of the most successful newcomers to the vegetarian scene of all time. The original Eunos branch was talked about endlessly, and attracted thousands of curious customers. Due to this success, a second outlet has now been opened in Golden Shoe Complex. I arrived to the new outlet on their opening night, and was expecting it to be packed with to the brim with customers (especially due to their one buy get two free burger promotion). To my surprise, the place was virtually empty.

Vegan Burg
Location: Golden Shoe Carpark
Contact: 68446868
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-8.30pm. Sat 11am-4.30pm. Closed on Sunday.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 11/02/2015

The burgers, hotdogs and fries are all certainly delicious from Vegan Burg. But one issue that needs to be addressed is the drinks on offer. The 'fruit' drinks taste quite diluted and artificial. Moreover, the cup size is incredibly small. Western fast food always needs a tasty drink to accompany the food, and this aspect is completely void in Vegan Burg. There are tons of options, such as soy milkshakes or fruit juice that is freshly juiced - Which would suit Vegan Burg's style much better than this artificially flavoured nonsense.

As you can see by the picture, I partook in the (one day only) special promotion offer, which represented really smashing value for money. Nothing much has changed in terms of the quality of the burger. However, this outlet now has a self-service style, where customers pick up the burger they want from a heated tray, next to the cashier. I have no qualms about this method, as long as the burgers haven't been sitting there for too long. Over time, there have been a number of new burgers released, their latest offering is a tom yam burger. This 'luxury' burger is more expensive than the typical burgers on offer, though.

Having been to Vegan Burg on several occasions, I have sampled almost every burger they have to offer. However, one that slipped away from my radar was this Cracked Pepper Mayo. One problem with eating burgers is they can be extremely messy (not somewhere to go on a first date). This is especially so when they are pre-wrapped, as the sauce (in this case mayonesse) tends to ooze out all over the wrapping. This problem is made all the more irritating due to the fact this eatery has no sink inside the vicinity. Flavour wise the burger tasted great, though.

Price: $5.85. 7/10

Conclusion - This is only the beginning of Vegan Burg's expansion in Singapore. In July 2012 they will be opening their third outlet in Singapore, this time located in Marina Bay Boulevard. This is also coupled with a rumored launch in Australia too. Therefore, it is safe to say that the future is looking bright for the Vegan Burg franchise, and rightfully so, their concept is fresh and unique, and their food tastes great!

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

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant - Little India

I am always curious which of my reviews are most viewed. Gokul (no doubt due to it being ranked number 1 on my Top 10 Vegetarian Places list) is always one that gets a lot of readers. What is so special about Gokul is not only their Indian food. In fact, Gokul is an extremely diverse restaurant - Selling authentic Chinese, Western, Malay, Indonesian and Indian food. The key emphasis is on the word authentic, as these other cuisines are not 'Indian versions' of the dishes. They stay true to the origins of the authentic dish. It is these 'other' cuisines that will be the focus of my review on Gokul this time around. If you wish to read about just the Indian food Gokul offers, then my other review (HERE) is where you'll want to click next.

Note (06/09/2013): Since this review, significant changes have been made to Gokul.  Please CLICK HERE to see my 2013 review of Gokul. 

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 19 Upper Dickson Road
Contact: 63967769
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00am-10.30pm.

Although the price tag for this Islamic Dhum Briyani may seem a little hefty, please bare in mind this dish can be an entire meal in itself. The rice and curry were both sensational in this meal. Starting with the rice, this light briyani rice was a bundle of unexpected treats - Items such as raisins, cashews, mock meat can be found lurking inside. This gave the rice a lot of additional flavours and textures, which kept me captivated. Accompanying this rice, was a thick daal-esque curry, which was flavourful, non-spicy, and could be eaten on its own. Eggplant was the prominent ingredient in the curry. Superb dish.

Price: $7.50. 9/10

Ayam Masak Merah can basically be described as chicken in tomato chilli sauce. It's origins are said to be from Malaysia. However, the Indonesian dish named ayam masak habang is virtually identical. Many Malay curries follow a principle of having four main spices used (green cardamom, star anis, cloves, cinnamon). However, the main distinguishing flavour in this curry is the zestfulness of the lemongrass. Typically Malay/Indo curries put me off due to the high spice levels, but this curry was spiced perfectly. Overall it was absolutely delicious. The mock chicken was quite different to the type usually used at Gokul, instead it was gluten derived. This curry would rank among one of the best I've sampled at Gokul. Finding a vegetarian version of ayam masak merah in Singapore is virtually impossible, so seize this opportunity and order it!

Price: $7.50. 10/10

As mentioned at the start of the review, Chinese dishes can also be found on the Gokul menu, and surely the most synonymous Chinese dishes of all time is Chicken Rice. Again, the flavours and look of this dish are completely authentic, there are no Indian spices lurking inside. The rice was textured well, and flavoured. The mock chicken was derived from gluten, and although the texture was acceptable, I have tried better elsewhere. In addition to chicken and rice, there is also a mock chicken wrapped in pandan leaf, which was a welcome addition. The chilli sauce had perfect bite. Visually the dish looked incredible, with all the ingredients sitting on the banana leaf, which also adds to the overall flavour.

Price: $6.00. 8/10

Conclusion - What can I say about Gokul that I haven't already said before? There are many people who read my reviews, and surely think that I am being overly positive or biased towards Gokul - But believe me I am not. There is a reason why I consider this to be the best vegetarian eatery in Singapore, and that is because almost every dish I have sampled from this restaurant has been outstanding. This achievement is extremely difficult to obtain, and must be commended. Whether you order Indian food, or other cuisines at Gokul - You will not be disappointed!

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