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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Beyond Veggie - Bukit Timah Road

A couple of weeks ago I shared a post about Beyond Veggie, who have been slowly amassing a number of outlets dotted all over Malaysia (eight in total).  After posting this review, a lot of people were confused why an outlet was never opened in Singapore - Well, now your wish has come true, Beyond Veggie is in Singapore.

Beyond Veggie
Location: 18 Greenwood Avenue, Hillcrest Park
Contact: 67631323
Opening Hours: Mon-Thur & Sun 11.00am-9.30pm.  Fri & Sat 11.00am-10.30pm

CLOSED DOWN - As of 14/12/2015

One thing I immediately noticed upon entering is that the ambiance is much better than their Malaysian outlets.  It seems like extra effort has been made for their Singapore branch.
As I mentioned in my Malaysia post, Beyond Veggie was the brainchild of the husband and wife owner of Secret Recipe.  I'm not sure why they wanted to open a chain of vegetarian eateries - It seems especially odd as most Secret Recipe outlets have a very meat heavy menu.
Upon scrolling through the menu, it is clear to see it was not designed with vegans in mind.  The dishes are very dairy and egg heavy.  To make matters worse, some of the staff don't understand what vegan means, although the female restaurant manager was very helpful and made things much easier for us. 
Beyond Veggie is quite well known for their fruit tea, and this time around I picked out the Passion Fruit Tea.  Vegans beware, the original version of this drink will include honey.  I had the honey switched to molasses, to make it vegan.  Overall this is a sweet and sour thick mixture, that has real pieces of passion fruit inside. 

Price: $9.90.     7/10
Another dish that will require special adjustments is the Nutty Mix Salad.  The original version will include mayonnaise.  In fact, every salad on the menu is non-vegan - What world are we living in when salad is not vegan, seriously?  Even non-egg eaters must be very careful - The fried mushroom salad for example, has the mushroom fried in egg batter (no mention of this on the menu).  This salad had a wide array of ingredients inside, and mustard dressing used as a replacement for mayo.  Overall the salad was a little flat and sour, perhaps the original version is better.

Price: $7.20.     6/10

Onto the main meals now, and we start off with the Yunnan Style Fried Vermicelli.  All in all, this was the best thing I tried from Beyond Veggie.  I really love how the bee hoon was juicy and packed with zesty flavour.  The portion size for all Beyond Veggie dishes is huge, and if you're a smaller eater you may struggle to finish.  Great dish.

Price: $9.90.     8/10

The second dish I picked out was the ''Thai Style'' Fried Kuey Teow.  Once this dish arrived, I was a little disappointed to see that the components to this dish were exactly the same as the fried vermicelli.  This dish bares almost no similarity to our conventional char kway teow, so if you're looking for that sort of experience you will want to avoid this dish.  The kway teow aspect of this dish was really poor, in my opinion.  It was too spicy and lacked any other flavour at all.  Even wetting it in lime juice couldn't bring out any of the flavour.  Not a dish that I would consider ordering again.

Price: $9.90.     5/10

Conclusion - What surprised me about Beyond Veggie was the price difference between Malaysia and Singapore.  In Malaysia, Beyond Veggie is the Original Sin of the vegetarian world (the most expensive place you could possibly eat).  However, in Singapore I found the prices were much more reasonable - Especially for the portion size and geographical location. That being said, the food quality was a little underwhelming and too heavy in animal products.

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

Friday, May 23, 2014

Zen Xin Vegetarian - Penang

There are many great vegetarian eateries that exist in Georgetown, but if you venture away from the city, you can also be treated to many more fantastic vegetarian delights.  Zen Xin Vegetarian is located on Jalan Nagore, which is going away from the main stretch of Georgetown, along Jalan Burma.  A variety of different dishes can be found at Zen Xin, all Chinese style.  Let's find out how good this place is...

Zen Xin Vegetarian
Location: 42 Jalan Nagore, Penang
Contact: 04-2286828
Opening Hours: Daily 11.00am-2.30pm & 5.15pm-9.30pm  Monday Closed 

The menu at Zen Xin consists of many pages, here is an example of one of the pages.
First dish I tried was one of the more economical dishes, which was named Kung Dao Eggplant.  Eggplant is an ingredient that I will consume on a daily basis, I can't get enough of the moreish creamy texture (when cooked properly).  Overall, this was a pretty decent dish.  The sauce that coated the eggplant and other ingredients was a little bit too salty for my taste - But this slight excess of salt is nullified when eaten with plain rice.  Portion size I found to be just perfect for the price.

Price: RM9.00.      7/10
The signature dish at Zen Xin is the Baked Nyonya Oats Fish, which when brought to the table, comes in a very intriguing foil parcel, with a small lime on the side.
After it arrive, the waiter will proceed to cut the foil.  I enjoyed watching the steam that was manifesting inside suddenly become realised when cut open.  The waiter will cut open the entire thing and then squeeze the lime liberally all over.
This is how the dish looked when totally opened up.  Sambal vegetarian fish is one of those things that can't go wrong really.  The mix of mock meat, chili and lime is a match made in heaven.  Yes, the price is a little bit excessive, and I did feel the pain when it came to paying for the meal.  In this dishes defence, the portion is quite large and I give extra marks for the elaborate way in which it is served to the customers.  I do feel that the price could be lowered a little bit though.

Price: RM16.80.     8/10

Conclusion - Zen Xin represents one of the better vegetarian eateries on the island of Penang.  The location may seem a little far out of the city.  But it can actually be reached within 10-15 minutes (depending on how fast a walker you are) from Komtar.  The sambal fish is a must try - If you can afford it!

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

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Woodlands Indian Vegetarian - Penang

If you compare Malaysia and Singapore there is one cuisine that is significantly better in Singapore opposed to its neighbour - Indian food.  For regular readers of my blog, you will know that I am an avid fan of Indian food.  It has always been the cuisine that has felt closest to my heart.  For Penang, there are really very limited options for Indian food.  Although Penang technically has a 'Little India' in Georgetown, it is nothing like the enormous vibrant Little India that exists in Singapore.  Today I will be reviewing one of the few vegetarian Indian eateries in Penang - Woodlands.  The other major vegetarian Indian eatery Sri Ananda Bahwan is located just opposite from Woodlands, on the same road.

Woodlands Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 60 Lebuh Penang, Georgetown, Penang
Contact: 04-263 9764
Opening Hours: Daily 8.30am-10.00pm 

To kick things off I went for the Banana Bajji.  Bajji (bahji) comes in many different forms, but basically they are deep fried finger food snacks.  I remember growing up in England, one of the most popular Indian snacks was onion bahji served wih mint chutney - I still miss it!  These banana bahji's were pretty forgettable overall, with there being little banana actually inside.  Instead, it was quite doughy on the inside, with little taste.  Not something that I would order again.  There are a total of four pieces.

Price: RM2.10.     5/10
Even those with extremely limited Indian food vocabulary, will undoubtedly know the notorious South Indian snack/meal dosai.  This Masala Dosai was grand, thin, crispy and an utter joy to consume.  The dosai comes with the usual array of Indian chutneys derived from coconut and tomato.  There was also a intensely flavoured sambar.  The only thing I felt that could be improved was the quality of the potato masala, which was at the center of the dosai.  It was quite dull, with there being little flavour.  Overall a pretty well cooked dosai though.

Price: RM2.80.     7/10

Conclusion - Out of the two Indian vegetarian eateries in Georgetown, I would have to say that I find the quality of food slightly better at Sri Ananda Bahwan.  Having said that, there is not a huge difference in food quality, and the ambiance is slightly better at Woodlands, so it is certainly worth visiting if you're craving South Indian food.

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

Friday, May 16, 2014

Di Shui Fang Vegetarian - Penang

Penang is one of those regions that has shown (and will show even more so in the future) an exponential growth in the abundance of vegetarian eateries on the island.  Di Shui Fang also goes by the name Waterdrop Teahouse, which has a number of cafes (usually located within their Pureland temples) all over the world.  There is one in Singapore, which I have written about a few times.

Di Shui Fang Vegetarian
Location: 16 Penang Street, Georgetown, Penang
Contact: 04-263 6300
Opening Hours: Tue-Fri 9.00am-6.00pm.  Weekend 9.00am-8.00pm.  Monday Closed. 

In Penang, the main cluster of vegetarian eateries are located within Georgetown, which is where Waterdrop can also be found.  Upon stepping inside, I felt a calming and soothing vibe to this eatery.  The ambiance of all Waterdrop outlets is like that, which is why they rank as one of my favourite places to pass my time.

This is the main menu.
Here is a look at some of the daily specials that are available.
Sweet Cassava was a dish that was quite new to me.  Cassava is a root, which is famed for being deadly to the human body if prepared incorrectly.  It is also a fairly pointless food item to consume nutritionally - With it only really being high in calcium and phosphorus.  The texture of cassava is like a super starchy dense potato, with it having little actual flavour by itself.  For this dish, the cassava is drowned in coconut milk and gula melaka, which definitely heightens the enjoyment of consuming cassava.  Not my favourite dessert, but worth trying.

Price: RM5.00.     6/10
The main dish that we ordered to fill our stomachs was Claypot Rice, which is not available on Wednesday and Friday. What I liked about this dish was the abundance of expertly chopped fresh ingredients.  What I felt could be improved would be to have a greater aroma from the claypot (you really couldn't tell by tasting that it was cooked in a claypot).  Also, I found that a greater amount of sauce would have added more flavour to the dish, which ultimately tasted quite bland by my standards.

Price: RM8.00.     6/10

Conclusion - This time around I found the food at Waterdrop to be quite average in quality.  Having said that, you can never really go wrong at Waterdrop, who always serve interesting dishes with top notch ambiance to boot.  If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Georgetown, then this is a great place to go.

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

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Vegetarian Wan Tan Mee Stall - Penang

Recently I mentioned in a previous Penang post that there are a number of vegetarian stalls/restaurants, which have been opened by non-vegetarians who see a better market in targeting vegetarian customers.  Another one of those stalls is a famous wanton mee stall located at Batu Lanchang Food Court.  Previously this same stall was selling non-vegetarian wanton mee, and subsequently switched to vegetarian.  You can see on the signboard that the owner has literally crossed out the characters 蝦水 (prawn) and replaced the sign with the Chinese character that all vegetarians should be familiar with - 素.

Vegetarian Wan Tan Mee Stall
Location: No.12 Batu Lanchang Food Court
Contact: 016-4147299
Opening Hours: Daily 12.30am-4.00pm.  Monday & Friday Closed. 

The Wanton Mee available at this stall is made more in the style of Penang wanton mee, with its generous puddle of dark sauce at the bottom, which fills the ingredients with intense flavour.  The juicy mushroom, crunchy vegetable and thinly sliced mock meat all worked perfectly together.

For this dish, the wanton are the soup version, and are served in a separate bowl.  As I chose the large (大) portion, the size was really quite big, with many vegetables also lurking in the bowl wanton soup.  For the price, there is no doubt that this dish is fantastic value for money, with the taste also being well above average.

Price: RM3.20.     8/10

Conclusion - Since switching to vegetarian, this stall has built up a reputation within the vegetarian community of Penang for serving outstanding vegetarian wantan mee.  Although I've eaten better in Singapore, I still agree that this wanton mee is above average and certainly worth visiting. 

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

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Consummation Of Life Vegetarian Resturant - Penang

Back for another review from Penang island.  Consummation of Life has been existing quite successfully in Penang for many years now, and is particularly popular with the older generation, as it is one of the more traditional style Chinese restaurants.  The owners of this restaurant should really consider investing in a new signboard -  Their current one is a rusty hideous thing, which looks like a mouses fart would knock it off the building.

Consummation of Life Vegetarian Restaurant
Location: 288A-1-3, Fortune Court, Jalan Thean Teik, Air Itam, Penang
Contact: 04-828 6540/016-489 4266
Opening Hours: Daily 10.30am-2.30pm & 5.00pm-10.00pm (Closed Tuesday)

Chinese soup is something I usually avoid (unless it is given free on the side).  Therefore, I didn't have very high expectations from this Soup of the Day.  For a Western palate, Chinese soup is going to taste prodominently of nothing, and the consistency is that of water.  Having said that, over the years, I have grown to appreciate Chinese soups slightly more.  This soup was quite bland, but the vegetables inside were well cooked.

Price: RM5.00.     5/10

I was a little underwhelmed by the visual look of this next dish, which is named Beancurd Bag with Vegetables.  The phrase 'beancurd bag' conjured up many images in my mind, and I was curious to see what arrived to the table.  Rather disappointingly, it was just pieces of sliced beancurd.  Although this dish suffered from lack of imagination, the flavour was still pretty good.   I enjoyed the goji berries that were inside and the sauce was quite enjoyable.  One other issue with this dish was the plate used.  The sauce could spill off too easily, and made for quite a messy eating experience.

Price: RM8.00.     6/10

Does anyone hate satay?  Yes, I know there are many people vehemently opposed to consuming mock meat, but satay is really the ultimate late night supper food sin snack.  This eatery serves Indonesia Style Satay (I'm not sure what the difference between Indonesian and Malaysian satay is), which consists of a total of six pieces.  The mock meat was flavourful and juicy, but I was hoping for a better quality peanut satay sauce - It was very one dimensional, and subsequently let the dish down.

Price: RM8.00.     6/10

Lastly, we ordered the Crispy Calamari.  This dish acts as a perfect finger food, with the mock calamari (which is mushrooms).  I had a few problems with this dish.  Firstly, the fried pieces were not as dense as I would have liked.  In fact, many of the pieces had quite a hollow feel to them.  I wanted to bite down and enjoy the juicy chewy texture of the mushroom, and unfortunately I didn't get that.  Moreover, I thought that a more creative sauce could have been given, instead of the trite sweet chilli sauce.

Price: RM7.00.     5/10

Conclusion - Overall I didn't find the food to be anything too exception from Consummation of Life, but nevertheless, they have an extensive menu, and perhaps I was jus unlucky with the dishes that I selected.

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

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friend of Vegetarian - Penang

Friend of Vegetarian is a small little stall located at Heng Leong Cafe.  It can be a little tricky to locate, as it is nestled within a small hawker, away from the main road.  The hawker is actual located directly opposite Bomba.  For more information about this stall, you can check their Facebook page here.  This stall sells a variety of dishes on different days - Such as nasi lemak, soup noodles and dry noodles.  The only downside is the early closing time, so make sure to get there early!

Friend of Vegetarian
Location: Heng Leong Cafe, 310-G-4 Perak Road, Jelutong, Penang
Contact: 016-481 8581
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00am-1.00pm.  Monday Closed.

On this particular day Friend of Vegetarian was specialising in noodles only.  We picked out the Hokkien Mee as the first dish to sample. Surprisingly, a lot of the veggie stalls/restaurants in Penang are run by non-vegetarians, who see better business prospects in running vegetarian eateries, Friend of Vegetarian is one of those.  This was a pretty spicy, but quite flavourful dish..  I loved the tofu and the mock pork lard on top added a nice extra crunchy texture.

Price: RM3.00.     7/10

Next dish to the table was the Wanton Mee.  This dish has always been one of my most favourite, but I am particularly picky when it comes to the type of wanton used.  For Friend of Vegetarian, they use light thin textured wanton with very little stuffing.  The texture of the noodle and flavour of the dark sauce was quite delicious, and the quality of mock char siew used was also quite good.  Definitely worth the price.

Price: RM3.00.     7/10

Conclusion - Considering that these dishes are being sold at only RM3, it would be unjust to criticise the dishes available at Friend of Vegetarian too heavily.  In fact, the quality of the dishes are pretty good, and I look forward to visiting again in the future to try their other special dishes.

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Happy Ice Valley - Ipoh

I love travelling around and sampling different food in Malaysia.  Each region have their own unique dishes, which constantly surprise and delight me.  For today, I will be featuring Happy Ice Valley, which is a 100% vegetarian that has been running successfully in Ipoh for over eight years now.  Be warned, the auntie owner who runs this shop quite openly admitted to me that some days she doesn't feel like opening, and therefore she doesn't (its great to be your own boss).  Due to the unpredictably casual nature of the owner, it would probably be best to call in advance prior to visiting.

Happy Ice Valley
Location: 31 Jalan Medah Ipoh 2, Hulu Kinta, Perak
Contact: Unknown (anyone who can provide please do so)
Opening Hours: Daily 8.00am-3.00pm

The inside of Happy Ice Valley is that of a typical traditional Chinese eatery.
Here is the menu...
One of the signature drinks at Happy Ice Valley is their mulberry leaf tea, so be sure to order that if visiting.
Chicken Rice is a ubiquitous dish, which can found all over Singapore.  In Malaysia it is a little more tricky to hunt down this dish, however.  Happy Ice Valley was the only vegetarian eatery I visited in Ipoh that was selling chicken rice.  The mock chicken in this dish is made using beancurd (similar to the Singapore version), with the trademark orange chilli and cucumber as accompaniments.  Overall a pretty good chicken rice, but I found that the rice could have benefited from an increase in flavour.

Price: RM4.00.     7/10

I've been going around Malaysia for quite some time now trying to seek out the perfect Curry Mee.  Most of the curry mee I've eaten in Malaysia has been bland and totally forgettable.  However, the curry mee at Happy Ice Valley was probably the best that I have eaten in Malaysia.  To my surprise, this curry mee managed to be full of flavour.  It was not too spicy, with perfectly cooked ingredients lurking inside.  The fresh mint leaves on top added an ideal freshness, which complimented the rich flavour of the gravy.

Price: RM6.00.     9/10
If you're looking for something slightly more healthy, then you may want to opt for the Sliced Bittergourd Noodle.  Bittergourd is one of my most favourite vegetables, and due to the numerous health benefits, it should be a regular part of anyone's diet.  I even used to drink a glass of freshly juiced raw bittergourd every morning - Try if you dare!  This soup was pretty decent overall, and thankfully not too salty.  The bowl contained a wide variety of ingredients - I particularly enjoyed the tomato, beancurd and coriander.

Price: RM5.50.     7/10
Lastly we decided to order the Bak Kut Teh.  This black coloured herbal soup style dish has a unique flavour that non-Chinese palates often struggle to appreciate.  For myself, I adore bak kut teh, when it is cooked well.  Herbal soups like this take a lot of time and patience from the cook, in order for the herbs to truly release their magnificent flavour.  Often, restaurants don't have the time to cook dishes for long periods of time, and ultimately the flavour of their herbal soups is usually sub-standard. This soup did have good flavor, another solid dish.

Price: RM7.00.     7/10

Conclusion - Happy Ice Valley represents one of the better vegetarian eateries in Ipoh, and one I would certainly recommend you visit.  The only setback is the early closing time, and unpredictable opening days - Call first to avoid disappointment.

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