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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vege Sense - Bugis

Fortune Centre is constantly changing, with new stalls opening up and old ones closing down every year.  Vege Sense may sound familiar to some of you, and rightfully so.  This establishment was once located on the ground floor of Fortune Centre - Previously specializing in vegetarian breads.  You can view my review of their old ground floor location here.  Around four months ago it gravitated up to the more tranquil second level.  So without further delay, lets find out what changes they have made...

Vege Sense
Location: Fortune Centre, 190 Middle Road
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Daily 7.00am-7.00pm.  Closed Sunday.

 CLOSED DOWN - As of 17/07/2013

The menu has really expanded significantly, compared to the previous location.  There are now a plethora of set meals available, along with Western dishes, and daily specials.  In my opinion, an eatery selling around 6-10 dishes is just about perfect.  I've been to so many places that have menus as thick as 'War and Peace', which tends to boggle the customers mind, and usually the standard of the dishes are lower also.  What I like about Vege Sense is they keep it nice and simple for the customer, without too many options.

We all have our personal favourite dishes, and I must confess that zhu jiao chu aka Spicy Vinegar Pig's Trotter Set is one of my most fondest.  Inevitably, because I adore this dish, I will naturally be all the more critical when the flavour balance is off.  This dish needs to have a delicate balance of three main ingredients - Ginger, sugar and vinegar.  Unfortunately, the ginger and vinegar were flying too far under the radar for my palate, instead the sauce was overwhelmed by sugar.  Considering the sauce was obviously flawed, the other ingredients inside were cooked well.  The black fungus (which I detest when overcooked), in particular, was cooked expertly.

Price: $5.50.     5/10

The next dish to the table was the Stewed Mushroom Pork Rice.  One thing that should be mentioned about both set meals I ordered, was they both came with a delicious ginger rice.  I found this to be a welcome extra touch, as my expectations were that plain white rice would be served.  Considering the pig trotter was a disappointment, this set meal was definitely a sign of improvement.  The braised sauce was absolutely packed with flavour.  The mushrooms absorbed all this sauce and exploded with flavour upon eating.  My favourite dish of the meal.

Price: $5.50.     8/10

On this particular evening, the daily special was the Burdock Burger.  Before we talk about the main attraction (the burger) let us chit chat about sides.  The french fries have a uncanny resemblance to McDonald's fries, with one exception, there is way more salt in this version.  Definitely the salt should have been reduced by at least 50%.  The standard burger has mayonnaise inside - But the owner could not verify whether it was vegan or not, so I asked for it to be excluded.  The burdock flavour in the burger patty was surprisingly strong, and matched well with the sesame seeds in the bun.  Pineapple, lettuce and tomato made up the other ingredients in the burger.  I found the burger pleasant tasting.  Although the fries were the big let down, I felt pleased by the chef's dedication to plate presentation.  So often chef's in Singapore simply don't bother to plate the dish nicely.

Price: $5.50.     6/10

Conclusion - Although I found that two out of the three dishes I sampled were slightly below par, I still support the philosophy of this establishment.  The owners are friendly (unlike a certain goblin lurking below on the ground level) and their menu has the potential to be very popular.  The standout was certainly the mushroom pork rice.  Vege Sense just needs to tweak the other dishes so that it matches the standard of that dish.  If they can do that, then success beckons!

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

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Pita Pan - Bayfront

Pita Pan is a 100% vegetarian Mediterranean eatery, that has recently opened its doors near to the infamous Marina Bay Sands complex.  This exciting new Indian-run establishment specialises in Middle Eastern cuisine, which is a food genre so seldom found in Singapore, especially a vegetarian rendition.  The restaurant interior is facing both indoors and outdoors - The inside is incredibly small, and thus you will struggle to get a free table, which is why most people seem to prefer taking away. 

Pita Pan
Location: #L1-87, The Shoppes, Marina Bay Sands, 2 Bayfront Avenue

Contact: 66887450
Opening Hours: Sun-Thu 9.00am-12.00am.  Fri and Sat 9.00am-2.00am

IMPORTANT NOTE - Pita Pan have another outlet at Marina Square, which is NOT 100% vegetarian.  Only the Marina Bay Sands outlet is purely vegetarian

Full details of the Pita Pan menu, can be found on their website.  I kicked this meal off with the Baba Ganoush.  This traditional Levant dish, consists chiefly of eggplant, olive oil (smeared on top) and a variety of spices added into the mixture.  This version was delectably creamy, and mild in flavour.  The olive oil - Which was generously distributed - Added good lubrication to the other ingredients.  The glowing red paprika on top tasted strong and fresh, unlike most bottled paprika in Singapore. This dish is served with a fresh and well charred pita bread. 

Price: $12.20.     8/10

Next dish I decided upon was the Hummus With Mushroom.  There are countless renditions of hummus that have spawned from the 'original' version.  An often long debated issue with hummus is the amount of garlic that should be used.  Personally, I prefer a generous amount.  With that being said, this version has present garlic flavour, but it is certainly not over-powering.  The texture of the hummus is moist and smooth (a powerful blender must have been used).  The sauteed mushroom and onion were placed in the center.  Once again, a fresh pita was served on the side.

Price: $11.90.     9/10

Perhaps one of the most bewildering aspects of the Pita Pan menu is the Full Pocket-Meal. There are a variety of set meals available on the menu, which are a little difficult to understand when ordering.  Moreover, actually knowing what to do after ordering is not explained correctly.  You must sit and wait, and then wait for your number to be called - Then you go up to the salad bar and customize your pita ingredients - None of this is explained.  This set meal comes with fries and a soft drink of your choice.  The customized pita pocket is delicious, especially the crunchy and fresh falafels that are put inside by default.  Set meals typically represent the best value on a menu.  But for this set meal, I found it the most over-priced and least value, compared to the other dishes I ordered.

Price: $15.90.     7/10

Conclusion - Marina Bay Sands is renowned for its casino.  I am not much of a gambler myself, but perhaps before going to Pita Pan I should have tried my luck, so that I could fund the payment for this meal.  It is expensive, there is no hiding from that.  However, I was extremely impressed by the quality of the food, with this style of cuisine being so hard to find in Singapore.  It made a refreshing change, but the price will keep me away from visiting regularly.  Especially when nonsense like service charge ($4, and most the food I had to collect myself) is needlessly added.

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

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Delcie's Desserts & Cakes - Bugis

Since my first review of Delcie's Desserts, I have received a large number of comments - With the major talking point being the cost factor.  Therefore, I was slightly cautious in igniting that debate once again.  However, considering Delcie's has now expanded into Fortune Centre (officially her second outlet) I felt the time was right to have a follow-up review.  Personally, I am a big fan of Delcie and her desserts, and therefore was delighted upon hearing the news that her business has expanded.

Delcie's Desserts & Cakes
Location: #01-28B, 190 Middle Road, Fortune Centre

Contact: 63339684
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 10.30am-6.30pm.  Sat-Sun 10.00am-6.00pm

For the regular visitors of her Upper Serangoon Road outlet, the array of desserts will be somewhat familiar to you.  Her most synonymous items, such as the molten chocolate cake, fudge brownie and blue forest cake are available at this new outlet - All of which, you can read my verdict on in my first Delcie's post.
One thing that disappointed me slightly was the lack of any seating options at the new Delcie's.  Personally, I'd enjoy sitting down and eating the cakes right then and there.  On a side note, Delcie is fast becoming the Elizabeth Falkner of Singapore, with a series of recipe videos recently being launched.  You can see some of these recipe videos on the Delcie's Desserts official website.  Also posted below is a video explaining how Delcie began her business and her personal story.

First up, we have the Pineapple Upside Down cake.  The quality of this cake is exceptionally high, with cake maintaining a glorious moisture.  Moreover, fresh pineapple is used in this dessert, and this makes a huge difference.  The fresh pineapple has a greater aroma, but doesn't have the acidity that a raw pineapple typically has.  The only negative would be the size.  If you're someone as unashamedly piggish as myself, then you could probably consume this cake in just one bite.

Price: $3.00.     8/10

One of the cakes that has been around for a long time is the Rainbow Cake.  The first question that might pop into peoples minds is - What is used to colour the sponge? The answer to this is vegan colouring extracted from vegetables, fruits and plants.  The white cream that is smeared between the layers has a zesty lemon tang to it.  If I was to nitpick, it could be said that this cake was a little too dry, especially in comparison to the pineapple cake.  Perhaps a little more of that lemon cream would have suppressed that concern.  Very satisfying slice overall (I bought the full slice).

Price: $6.00 (half) $11.50 (full).     7/10

Conclusion - The issue with Delcie's is always going to be the price.  Would I regularly purchase items from Delcie's?  Probably not, simply because my main culinary passion is for savoury food.  However, if you are someone (I'm guessing female) who has lived as a vegan for some time, and has been spending your nights hiding under your blanket in a cold sweat, your mind bombarded with lustful thoughts of gorging like a deranged primitive animal on a spongy creamy sweet cake - Then, I'm sure you can appreciate that price shouldn't be an issue in satisfying that craving.

Overall Rating
Food - 8/10
Ambiance- 7/10
Service - 9/10
Value - 6/10

Friday, February 8, 2013

Veggie Hub - Bugis

I was eager to visit Veggie Hub, after getting word of their double-boiled herbal soup.  Fortune Centre has been well-known for many years as one of the most heavenly spots for vegetarian food in Singapore.  Even though the landscape changes, what always remains the same is tons of vegetarian eateries.  This newly opened eatery is located on the ground level.

Veggie Hub
Location: #01-05, 190 Middle Road, Fortune Centre
Contact: Unknown

Opening Hours: Unknown

CLOSED DOWN - As of 18/6/2014

Unfortunately, something extremely unique happened as soon as I visited.  When I was taking pictures of the outside (without stepping foot in the eatery), a sour-faced staff auntie started shouting at me to stop taking pictures.  Amazingly, having reviewed almost 300 stalls/restaurants in Singapore, this is the first time anyone has mentioned anything in opposition to me taking photos, especially considering I hadn't even gone inside the eatery.  So unfortunately, this 'review' is void of any photos of dishes, considering I was banned from taking any.  In fact, after hearing this aggressive lady hooting and hollering at me, I decided not to even step foot inside.  Instead, I took my business elsewhere.  I did manage to snap a picture of the daily specials (pictured left), before being chased away.

Conclusion - Every time I review restaurants or stalls, I always make sure that I never tell any of the staff about my blog or that I am a food reviewer.  The reason being, I don't want them to make a special effort in the treatment that they give me - I want the treatment and food quality to be identical to what any typical customer will get.  It is times like this when I'm glad I take this stand, as being an anonymous customer allowed me to see what the Veggie Hub staff are really like.  I don't know what to say about the food, as I didn't have the chance to eat it, but in terms of staff treatment - I can't emphasise enough how much I recommend staying away from this establishment.

Overall Rating
Food - N.A
Ambiance- 0/10
Service - 0/10
Value - N.A

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Zi Zai Vegetarian - Yishun

The Zi Zai 自在齋 chain of vegetarian eateries have totalled to four in Singapore, for this review I will be focusing on the Yishun outlet.  But, the other three are located in Tampines Avenue 4, Bendemeer Road, and Circuit Road.  Zi Zai is extremely well known throughout the vegetarian scene in Singapore, therefore it is really a crime that it has taken me to long to write about them.

Zi Zai Vegetarian
Location: #01-10, Block 236, Yishun Ring Road
Contact: 63654419

Opening Hours: Daily 7.30am - 9.45pm

Posted on the walls of this eatery are the precise locations of the other outlets, the opening time and their simple breakfast menu.  Other than the breakfast menu, there is also an extremely detailed menu (see below).  The range of options are quite vast, and thus took a lot of deliberation on my part, before deciding on what to order.  Moreover, on the right hand side of the eatery, there is a roti prata chef.  I must say, the roti prata served looked absolutely fantastic (made by an Indian chef).  Unfortunately though, the prata being served is not vegan (milk is used in the dough), so this poor vegan reviewer had to grind his teeth and resist the temptation of ordering.  Those that are not vegan, please order and let me know how good it is in the comments section.
The aforementioned breakfast menu is certainly where the best value dishes can be found.  Seemingly, the breakfast menu extends all the way into the evening, as the dishes were still available when I arrived later in the day.  The other menu has a wide selection of more elaborate dishes - But price wise, there is a steep incline.  Make sure to state whether you can consume eggs or not, as eggs are used in many of the default dishes.
First dish I sampled came from the more expensive menu, and it was Carrot Cake.  This dish comes in three sizes - I ordered the smallest.  The medium size costs $5 and the largest will set you back $7.  What I liked about this dish was the freshness that the raw coriander brought, and the sharpness of the chili sauce.  For the carrot cake itself though, I found it to be a little too dry, lacking in the juiciness and moisture that I come to expect from a good carrot cake.  Also I found the chunks to be a little too big in size.

Price: $3.50.     6/10

One of the breakfast dishes that seemed to be most popular amongst customers was the Wanton Mee. This dish has an abundance of ingredients, such as mushroom, mock ham slices, vegetables and wanton (of course).  All the ingredients tasted fresh, and I was pleased by the bouncy texture of the noodles.  Along side the main bowl, was a smaller bowl of herbal soup, which suited the dish nicely.  The glaring weakness, however, in this dish are the actual wantons.  The skin of the wantons were tough and stale in texture.  Probably one of the poorest versions of wanton I have had - This was such as pity, as the rest of the ingredients were perfect.

Price: $3.00.     7/10

Conclusion - This review has merely scratched the surface of Zi Zai.  There are plenty more dishes, and three other outlets that I have yet to try, so I don't want to leap to any opinion on Zi Zai, until I have also review the other outlets. For the two dishes that I sampled on this particular day, I found them to be average or (if I'm kind) slightly above average in quality.  I will do my best to seek out the other three Zi Zai outlets soon!

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