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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mani Iyer Mess - Little India

Followers of my blog will know that I am a great supporter of the vegetarian offerings along Syed Alwi Road.  With that being said, the different (lesser known) Little India streets also offer suitable reasons to visit.  Norris Road, for example, has a number of very cheap and authentic Indian eateries.  Mani Iyer Mess is one that has recently cropped up.  The restaurant is hardly non-Indian customer friendly, with a non-English alphabet menu on the wall.  During the afternoon they sell only white rice or briyani set meals, with more options becoming available in the evenings.  This place is 100% vegetarian.

Mani Iyer Mess
Location: 21 Norris Road  *Now moved to Hindoo Road

Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Unknown

Upon entering I asked 'do you have bhattura?', to which the waiter replied 'the bathroom is there'.  Lost in translation.  Since I didn't fancy eating the bathroom, I decided to opt for the Briyani Set Meal.  When ordering meals like this, you must be aware that at any point in time, you can request for the dishes to be replenished.  Therefore, in reality, this is an unlimited buffet-style set meal.  All the food from this eatery had very strong turmeric flavour.  Turmeric is usually a background spice in Indian cooking.  However, for this case, the turmeric flavour was very profound.  The dishes were flavourful and not too salty - But, I found the spice level a little too harsh. Price wise it represents terrific value for money.

Price: $5.00.     7/10

Conclusion - If you're looking to experience truly authentic South Indian 'home style' cooking, then I can assure you that Mani Iyer Mess is definitely a place to visit.  As I mentioned at the beginning of this review - This may not be somewhere a non-Indian will feel comfortable, for many reasons.  But I encourage everyone reading this, to have an open mind and give it a go!

Overall Rating
Food - 7/10
Ambiance- 6/10
Service - 5/10
Value - 8/10

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beano - Tanjong Pagar

I take no greater pleasure than roaming around obscure HDB neighbourhoods, rummaging around to see what shops and stalls are lurking in the void deck area.  Beano, created by ex-banker Alan Yoon in 2004, was once of those places I bumped into on one of my meaningless voyages.  Since its conception, it has developed a die-hard cult fan base in Singapore, especially for its infamous durian pudding and fresh soy milk.  Presently, there is only one outlet in Singapore - Perhaps the franchise might expand in the future.

Location: Blk 6, Everton Park, #01-16

Contact: 98527900
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00am - 8.30pm

The shop itself is incredibly small, with the majority of the foods being stocked in a fridge.  Also on sale are random items, such as steamed bao, kueh lapis and curry puff.  Almost everything (except perhaps the curry puff) is vegetarian.  However, vegans beware some of the puddings (such as bandung) contain milk.  Price wise, everything is pretty reasonable, with pretty much nothing costing over $1.50.

Pictured is the bounty that I extracted from Beano.  Without question, the highlight was the D24 Durian Pudding, which was rich and thick, and had a strong and aromatic durian flavour.  Of course, if you're not on the durian bandwagon, then this will not appeal to you.  But personally (as a durian addict), this was incredibly delicious for me.  The Beano Beancurd and Beano Soymilk were both very smooth and had a nice rich soya flavour.

Durian Pudding $1.00.     9/10
Soy Milk $1.10.     7/10
Original Beancurd $1.50.     7/10

Conclusion - It is small family run shops, hidden in dilapidated HDB's, that still are a lasting reminder that Singapore does have some culture remaining.  I always have a lingering regret, that I never lived in Singapore 30-40 years ago, when the way of life was much slower, the amount of people lesser, and the country had much more of an identity.  Therefore, visiting places like Beano, give me that satisfaction of seeing somewhere that wouldn't be out of place in 1970's Singapore.  Of course, this is supported by delicious food - Best of which is definitely the durian pudding.

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Genesis Vegetarian Health Food Restaurant - Clarke Quay

For this review, I had to be drugged, handcuffed and dragged against my will, back to Clarke Quay.  I awoke, feeling dizzy and unable to walk in a straight line (so pretty similar to most people in Clarke Quay on a weekend).  The reason for my visit was the sample the special Christmas dinner at Genesis, which is available over the festive period.  The restaurant itself is run by 7th day adventists, a unique small minority of Christians that do practice vegetarianism (well, at least a proportion of them do).  My personal spiritual inclination is more towards pure land mahayana Buddhism - But, it is great to see there are sub-sectors of other religions that do practice a meat-free lifestyle.

Genesis Vegetarian Health Food Restaurant
Location: 1 Lorong Telok

Contact: 64387118
Opening Hours: Mon-Thur 8am-8pm, Fri and Sun 8am-3pm. Closed Saturday

Personally, my biggest highlight of Christmas (when I was mentally decaying in a black cloud of misery in England) was my mothers notorious dinner.  Although to Eastern tastes, it may seem too stodgy, dry and carb heavy - For me, it was pure bliss.  My first concern when ordering Western food in Singapore, is that the chef won't understand how the dish should be traditionally made, and therefore may resort to mutating it into some mismatched Western-Asian fusion meal.  So lets find out if that was the case here...

The Christmas Special meal is certainly not cheap, and perhaps is guilty of not giving enough content, to justify the price.  Critics may also find it too dry.  There is a small saucer of cranberry sauce (which was tangy and delicious), but personally a Christmas dinner is incomplete without a rich gravy.  Moreover, the roasted potatoes needed a more crunchy outer skin.  The roasted garlic was divine, though.  The turkey was stuffed well with a variety of ingredients, and wrapped in a thin beancurd sheet, but again, really needed a good gravy to support it.  Admittedly, I am very 挑剔 (picky) when it comes to this meal, so perhaps I am a little too critical.  The meal does have high points, but I think with a little more research of the traditions of the meal, it would result in a better end result.

Price: $14.90.     6/10

Conclusion - Is it as good as my mums famous festive dinner?  No. Perhaps I was expecting a little too much, and I am sure for most people this would be a satisfying meal.  For myself though, I can't help but compare with what I traditional expect from this holiday meal.  One thing I am sure people ordering this dish will agree upon, is that more content is needed for the price, or if not, then a reduction in price.

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

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Fo Lai Ping Vegetarian - Braddell

A reader by the name of Li contacted me over a year ago now (sorry it took so long, Li) urging me to try the chicken rice from Fo Lai Ping, a stand-alone 100% vegetarian eatery, located just outside from Braddell MRT.  The eatery is pretty quiet during the lunch time period, with a inconspicuous bunch of senior uncles vegetating together on the nearby seats.  I exclaimed ''ah jek, wa a sai chiam ka jit hoon?'' and joined them for a quick bite to eat...

Fo Lai Ping Vegetarian
Location: Blk 107, Toa Payoh Lor 1

Contact: 63580107
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am - 9.00pm
Fo Lai Ping has a list of daily specials.  As you can see, the chicken rice is only available on Fridays.  The chicken rice is available in both white fleshed (steamed chicken) and fried chicken varieties, which I will go into more detail on below.  As well as these daily specials, there are 10-15 other dishes that are available on a regular basis, in additional, also, to economic brown or white rice dishes.
Starting first with the regular Chicken Rice, I was a little perplexed as to the inclusion of ladyfingers in this dish.  Traditionally, chicken rice should be served with uncooked cucumber and tomato.  The ladyfingers tasted good, but felt out of place.  The mock chicken was crunchy and flavourful, but the texture felt a little flat and tough for my liking.  The rice and soup were both commendable, but the rice needed the black soy sauce, which was inexplicably absent.  Overall an average dish, lets see if the second version of chicken rice was better...

Price: $3.00.     6/10

I am calling this dish White Chicken Rice, as I usually refer to it as bai ji fan 白鸡饭 when ordering.  It is, in fact, a variant of chicken rice that is meant to replicate steamed chicken - Li Wei in Serangoon do a superb version of it.  Fo Lai Ping's version overall disappointed me.  Yet again, there was no black soy sauce in this dish.  Moreover, the mock chicken was extremely soggy and almost disintegrated upon consumption.  The texture and flavour of the rice was the high point, but the other elements of the dish really let it down.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - Well, the chicken rice was not even close to the best that I have tried.  I maintain once more, if you wish for truly sensational chicken rice, then there is only really one choice - Li Wei Vegetarian.  With that being said, it is nice to find out about another vegetarian eatery, and perhaps the other dishes they have on offer are of a higher standard compared with the chicken rice.

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

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Vegan Burg (Delivery) - Eunos

After reading Vegan Ash's critical post on the Vegan Burg delivery service.  I decided to use myself as the living litmus test, to see if Vegan Burg have learned their lesson on poor customer communication, poor internal communication and poor time management.  This is not my first time ordering delivery with Vegan Burg, in the past I have had mixed feelings - Both in terms of the delivery quality (usually never coming on time), and the food quality, which I will elaborate on more below...

Vegan Burg
Location: 44 Jalan Eunos
Contact: 68446868
Opening Hours: Daily 11:00am-9:30pm (Excluding Public Holidays)

Update - As of February 2013, Vegan Burg are now charging a minimum order of $100 (plus $12 delivery charge) for most areas of Singapore.  Just when I thought Vegan Burg's delivery system couldn't become anymore of a joke - It just has.

Upon placing my order on the phone, I requested for the food to be delivered at 8.30pm.  At 6.25pm, to my shock/confusion I heard my intercom ringing.  Sure enough, it was the delivery man, inexplicably two hours early!  I called the hot-line once again to ask what caused this mix-up, the staff member could only apologize, without being able to give any justifiable reason.  In terms of the quality of the burgers, the quality is vastly different from what you receive at the restaurants.  Burgers are something that are best served fresh.  Therefore containing it in thermal carrier bag (especially when they are so often late) is inevitably going to make the burger buns a little soggy and stale.

Conclusion - The only impartial verdict I can come to from my experience with delivery orders from Vegan Burg is, it is simply not worth the time and trouble.  I am not a particularly picky person, therefore if the delivery man is 20 minutes early/late I will just smile and accept.  However, when we move into hours early/late, then it can only be described as sheer incompetence in service.  I didn't receive the same apathetic attitude from the staff that Ashley got, but the inconsistent and unreliable service is enough for me to join Ashley in her stand of abstinence from the delivery service at Vegan Burg.  I will give Vegan Burg all the credit in the world, they have risen to a level of success, that even whatever the Hungry Ang Mo writes, it will not severely effect their success - Therefore, all I can do is simply hope that things improve in the future.

Overall Rating
Food - 5/10
Service - 2/10
Value - 5/10

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Ji Xiang Vegetarian Food - Chinese Gardens

I am always pleased by the stream of comments and emails I receive suggesting I visit somewhere and sample a certain famous dish.  In turn, I do my best to oblige to all suggestions, whenever possible.  Ji Xiang is a place suggested to me by a reader a while back, due to their well known carrot cake dish.  Unless you live close by, this is certainly not an easy place to get to, although it is conceivable to walk from Chinese Gardens MRT - If you're a brisk walker like myself, it will take you around 10 minutes.  Enough small talk, lets examine Ji Xiang's offerings...

Ji Xiang Vegetarian Food
Location: Blk 221, Jurong East Street 21

Contact: Unknown
Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-2.30pm & 5.30pm-8.30pm
If the Carrot Cake is the dish synnomous with this stall, then it would be foolish for me not to try it.  Carrot cake comes in two forms, white (bai se 白色) and black (hai se 黑色).  I usually tend to go for the black variety as the flavour is stronger, hence more to my preference.  This version had decent flavour, but I was disappointed by the large pieces of carrot cake.  Smaller pieces allow the flavour to be more distributed, instead of a huge bland piece. 

Price: $2.50.     6/10
The Chicken Rice on offer consists of three mock ham slices, mock chicken derived from beancurd sheets, a couple of pieces of cucumber and rice.  The rice was quite firm in texture - I am certainly someone who prefers my rice very hard.  But if you prefer softer rice, then this dish may not match your preference.  The bean curd sheets and rice both had good flavour.  However I was unhappy to discover that the orange chicken rice chili was absent from the dish.  Not perfect, but a pleasing dish overall.

Price: $2.50.     7/10

Conclusion - The staff from this humble little stall are friendly, and seem proud of the food they have on offer.  Overall, I enjoyed the food from this stall, and (if I stayed closer) would consider returning again to sample more of their dishes.

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