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Friday, June 27, 2014

Sufood - City Hall

It is always exciting when I find out about a new vegetarian place in Singapore.  But Sufood was especially interesting to me.  The word Sufood may be new to Singaporeans, but it is a renowned vegetarian franchise in Taiwan.  There are currently 18 Sufood restaurants in Taiwan.  Singapore represents the first country outside of Taiwan that has a Sufood outlet.  So can Sufood take over Singapore, as it did with Taiwan?  Let's see...

Location: #02-19, 252 North Bridge Road, Raffles City Shopping Centre
Contact: 63335338
Opening Hours: Daily 11.30am-3.30pm & 5.50pm-10.00pm

Sufood recently commemorated their Singapore launch by breaking the Guinness World Record for serving the most amount of pizzas in the span of 12 hours.  They served a total of 3,574 - A large number.  The number of vegan pizzas they served during this record is a much easier to count - 0.  The event raised $12,015.50 for the Breast Cancer Foundation.

The seating of Sufood is quite large, with a total of 140 seats.  I was amazed to see that at dinner time the restaurant was totally packed.  On a side note, Sufood are looking to open four more outlets in Singapore by 2015, and eight by 2018 - Talk about expanding fast.

Note - Ala-carte is also available for those who do not wish to take the full course meal.The prices are: $12.80 per main course, $5.80 each for starter or soup, $7.80 each for salad and $4.80 each for dessert or drink.
Currently, Sufood is only offering a set meal, which is priced at $25++.  So this set meal will be the focus of my review. The set meal is eight courses in total, and claims to have a total of 200 ingredients used in all their dishes.  The menu offers mainly Italian fusion food, with no artificial flavours or MSG.
To start off the set meal, customers will get Rosemary Breadsticks, with a choice of their mustard or blueberry sauce for dipping purposes.  If you're vegan, you will have to go with the blueberry, as the mustard contains dairy.  The breadsticks were softer than I imagined, and didn't have as much rosemary as I was hoping for.  Dipping into the blueberry was interesting, and reminded me of my childhood jam sandwiches in England.  The blueberry dip is actually very mild, some might find it is too bland.

There are a total of four salad options for the set meal, with two of them being vegan.  I picked the Mushroom Salad.  Warning, this dish (and a few others) contains onions/garlic, so Buddhists take note - Although these dishes are quite clearly stated on the menu.  'Salad' seems like quite an odd term for this dish, as there was little green colour on the plate.  I did really enjoy the various species of mushrooms though, which were tender and juicy.


We moved onto the soup options, and I decided to go for the Mushroom & Pea Pottage.  This soup actually consists of three different types of mushroom (button, shitake and king oyster), which are cooked and blended together with sweet peas.  Placed on top is a piece of sliced bread and two pieces of capsicum.  The soup didn't really capture the different flavours of mushroom inside, and the pea flavour was quite minimal as well, I didn't detect any sweetness.  With all that being said, I really like the concept of pea and mushroom soup, and if the flavours could be intensified then I would adore this dish.

When it comes to the main courses, you can't help but be impressed with the quality of plating for the dishes.  This Baked Potato Al Funghi looked like a work of art on the plate.  It is true we eat with our eyes, and my eyes were very happy.  The baked potato was cooked very well, with a chewy and slightly crisp outer skin, matched with fluffy inner potato.  The mushrooms couldn't have looked better, and the taste was splendid too.


Another main dish I sampled was the Spaghetti Pesto.  I've always been a big fan of pesto sauce, I love the earthy and herb flavour that it has, and I was very pleased to find that this sauce was vegan.  Overall this was probably the best dish of the entire meal . The spaghetti was very well cooked, and the ingredients tangled amongst the spaghetti were cooked perfectly.  The pesto sauce was smooth and really succeeded in bringing out the superb natural flavour of the basil.  Large portion size, too.

Customers who choose the set meal also have a choice of one drink and dessert.  For the drink I selected The Very Berry and for dessert I picked out Osmanthus Flower Jelly.  Desserts are a little tough for vegans, with the jelly being the only dessert suitable for the vegan diet.  The jelly was sweet and captured the flower essence well. The juice was fine enough, but fresh juice always appeals to me more.

Drink: 6/10
Dessert: 7/10

Conclusion - The staff at Sufood are remarkably trained (they were actually sent to Taiwan for two months to undergo training), and the restaurant in general is immaculately run.  I must say that only a couple of dishes impressed me on the set meal, but I still consider it worth of the $25++ price tag.  It will be interesting to see if Sufood can take over Singapore, judging by their early popularity, I would say their is a good chance they can.

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interview Q&A: Yuga & Vaishnavi (Jiv Jago Vegetarian Cafe)

Jiv Jago Vegetarian Cafe
Location: 17 Bali Lane
Contact: 96796722
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 12pm-9pm. Sunday Closed
CLOSED DOWN - As of 17/07/2014 - Owners are intending to re-open Jiv Jago again sometime in the future at a different location.

Recently I was lucky enough to sit down and interview Yuga and Vaishnavi, who are the husband and wife duo that run Jiv Jago Vegetarian Cafe - A 100% vegetarian cafe selling Western food.  Below is the interview I conducted with this charming pair, I hope you enjoy!

Vaishnavi (left) & Yuga (right)

What was your reason for opening Jiv Jago?
Yuga: I’ve always wanted to start a business, and the freedom that it entails.  In the past, I was a speech & drama teacher and have done independent film making too.  It was only when Vaishnavi suggested that we go into the food business that I started to think about it seriously.  Initially I was quite against the idea, because I have a phobia of carrying things!  So I didn’t know how it would work out.  It was only when Vaishnavi starting to plan the menu and when we found our perfect spot at Bali Lane, then I realized that we could really could do this!

Vaishnavi, how much pressure do you feel following in your mother’s footsteps?
Vaishnavi: Actually I don’t feel that much pressure at all.  No one around me has any expectations that I should be like my Mum, they are just happy for me to go in whatever direction I want.  Even my mother (Mdm Rajeswary – Gokul owner) lets me be free to express myself in the kitchen, so I don’t feel any pressure at all!

What are the pro’s and con’s of running a business/café as a couple?
Yuga: When we first started, it was not easy.  I was totally new to the idea of what to do in a café.  So definitely we really fought a lot at the beginning!  The good thing is that we are able to spend much more time together as a couple.
Vaishnavi: The pro’s are that I can watch whoever he (Yuga) is talking to!  Seriously though, we work well together, because Yuga is a people person, and does a fantastic job at entertaining the customers.  I’m the exact opposite, so working behind the scenes plays to my strengths.

When you were designing the menu, what was your inspiration for serving Western vegetarian food?
Vaishnavi: Firstly, as vegetarians I believe we want variety in the type of Western food we eat.  So I really wanted to open a café that served a wide variety of all different types of Western cuisine, instead of just pasta, for example.  So we did our best to create a wide menu that served all sorts of Western items, such as burgers, chops, pasta, pizzas etc.
Yuga: We wanted to focus on one particular theme, which we decided would be Western, and then perhaps expand the menu further.

Various picture frames on the wall.

What are the best/most liked dishes at Jiv Jago?
Vaishnavi: Definitely the beef burger and spaghetti bolognese are hot sellers for us.  Our mutton pizza is also a favourite with many of our regular customers!
Yuga: All our pasta dishes are very good sellers.  The cheese fries are also quite popular.  Each day is always different though, some days we have almost everyone ordering pasta dishes, then the next day everyone ordering chop dishes – So it is very difficult to order from our suppliers!

Looking at your menu on a whole, how many of the dishes are vegan friendly?
Vaishnavi: Dishes like the alfredo, al fungi pasta, and mushroom soup are not vegan friendly, because they are all cream based.  Cheese fries also are obviously not vegan.  Everything else on the menu is either vegan or can quite easily be made vegan.  We even get customers who are vegan wanting to order the pizzas – So we just omit the cheese from the pizza and serve to them.

What are the plans for the future at Jiv Jago?
Vaishnavi: We are definitely going to add a lot of new items on the menu in the future.  I do have a list of about 10 other items that I would love to add to the menu, so customers can definitely expect new items in the future!

Vaishnavi, how and where did you learn to cook?
Vaishnavi: I definitely learnt the basics from my mother.  But for the rest of my cooking skills I learnt on my own, through improvising.  So a lot of the time I still use the basics from my Mum, but then add my own ingredients, which I thought would make the dish even nicer.  It was all very experimental!

Vaishnavi (left) posing with her mother Mdm Rajeswary (Gokul owner)

Readers’ Questions:-

Are you going to sell only Western food in the future?
Yuga: I also wouldn’t mind doing Western fusion food in the future!  But for now, we will be sticking to only Western food.

A lot of people may be concerned that Western vegetarian food is not particularly healthy, especially with it being very heavy on mock meats.  Is serving healthy food a priority at Jiv Jago?
Vaishnavi: We do have salad options at Jiv Jago, and we do get customers that don’t like mock meat.  If customers want a pasta dish, for example, without mock meat – Then we have veggie galore and other pastas they can choose from.  Even though some of our items do have cheese/cream etc, we still believe it is much healthier than eating meat!  Also we definitely cater for customers who request for less oil, less salt, less spice etc.
Yuga: I believe that the term ‘vegetarian’ doesn’t always have to be associated with green and healthy.  Vegetarianism, to me, is simply a choice of food consumption to avoid eating meat.  Definitely we support healthy living and healthy food, but at the same time we wanted to open somewhere whereby vegetarians can pamper themselves.  We want people to know it can be cool to be veg!

What makes Jiv Jago unique when compared to all the other vegetarian eateries in Singapore?
Vaishnavi: I would say it is the menu, because we have a wide spread of all sorts of Western food, which can’t be found anywhere else in Singapore!
Yuga: One thing is the menu, the other thing is that I believe we are a place where everyone can come, have fun and be as loud as they want.  I want people to think that if meat-eaters have McDonald’s, then vegetarians have Jiv Jago!

Want more information on Jiv Jago? - Here is my full review of their Bali Lane outlet!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Happy Tree - Kallang

Having opened recently in February 2014, Happy Tree aims to bring super healthy food to the masses in Singapore.  Happy Tree is a small and peaceful restaurant, with very friendly and hard working staff.  If you're looking for a place that serves healthy vegan food, then Happy Tree will definitely excite you.  But does the food have enough flavour and appeal to entice the majority of the Singapore population?  There is only one way to find out - Let's taste the food...

Happy Tree
Location: #01-1085, 16 Upper Boon Keng Road
Contact: 68468160
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11.00am-8.00pm.  Sun 11.00am-5.00pm.  Saturday Closed.

CLOSED DOWN - As of 25/01/2015

The menu at Happy Tree is quite delightful, and beautifully done.  The array of colourful drinks particularly caught my eye.  Everything on the menu is vegan, with the one exception being the 'AvoGreen' drink, which has raw honey added inside - Vegans take note.
Happy Tree pride themselves on adding no MSG, artificial food colouring and flavouring into their food.  They also refrain from any deep frying and don't add any white sugar.  Most of the food is steamed.
Like I said, I struggle to resist colourful drinks, so I started off with the Cacao Banana.  For this drink, frozen banana is blended together with cacao powder (a supposed high source of antioxidants and iron).  This drink is essentially a smoothie, with shavings of cacao/cocoa sprinkled on top, which I found to be a particularly endearing extra touch.  The drink itself is thick and ice cold, which I adored.  I did find there was a lack of sweetness though, probably because no extra sugar is added.

Price: $5.00.     7/10
After ordering one, I simply couldn't stop.  So I picked out the True Blue smoothie as well.  This drink follows the same concept as the previous one, but this time it is frozen blueberries that are added to the drink.  The base for all the smoothies at Happy Tree is organic brown rice milk.  Once again, this drink did seem a little bland and lacking in sugar.  But on the plus side, I am sure it is good for our health.

Price: $5.50.     7/10
Eventually I managed to pry my eyes away from the drinks section long enough to order some actual food.  We kicked things off with the Inari Brown, which acts as a healthier version of the traditional Japanese inari.  This side dish uses organic brown rice in the center, with shitake mushroom and carrot mixed into it.  The taste was pretty good overall, but could have done with the classic Japanese accompaniments of light sauce and wasabi to give that extra kick that it needed.

Price: $4.80.     7/10
Lastly we have the Brown Rice Ramen Soup.  This dish has a variety of ingredients swimming inside, such as broccoli, carrots, needle mushroom and tofu.  The ingredients are mostly steamed, and were cooked just perfectly.  The noodles are made out of unbleached brown rice, and had nice bouncy texture.  The weakness of this dish for most will be lack of depth and flavour.  The soup base is very mild, therefore I found it quite uninspiring to continue eating.  No doubt this dish is healthy, but hardly a joy to eat.

Price: $6.50.     6/10

Conclusion - If you're someone that has grown up indulging in the typical Singapore hawker centre delights, then the food at Happy Tree will inevitably seem a little bland and forgettable.  But on the flip side, you know visiting Happy Tree will nourish the body and be without many of the harmful ingredients that the hawkers are using in their cooking.  So for me, the lack of taste is worth it!

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

Friday, June 20, 2014

Hao Zhi Wei Vegetarian - Jurong West

I know I've promised it for so long, but over the next few months my readers can really expect to see a lot more reviews coming from the West of Singapore.  For today I will be doing a quick review of a vegetarian stall called Hao Zhi Wei.  Immediately when I visited this stall, I was impressed by the kind hearted nature of the lady owner.  She was very open about recommending which dishes she thought were the best, and didn't have that typical acerbic aggressive attitude that many stall aunties have.

Hao Zhi Wei Vegetarian
Location: #01-885, Stall 4, Blk 503 Jurong West Ave 1
Contact: 93281251
Opening Hours: Daily 6.30am-9.00pm.  Closed Monday (unless 1st or 15th).

CLOSED DOWN - As of 30/03/2015

Pictured here we have a full list of all the dishes that are available at this stall.  The most expensive item is the mutton rice, which costs $4.50.
Here is a look at some of the daily special that are available at this stall.
Here are the economic rice dishes that are available.
We started our food exploration off with the Kwap Chap.  Recently I've been unwittingly eating a lot of different kway chap's from many different hawker stalls.  I haven't, until this day, encountered a kwap chap that beats the incredible version at Tian Yi in Ang Mo Kio.  With that being said, this version was full of flavour and had an interesting variety of ingredients inside.  The kwap itself didn't break apart when prised out of the broth with my chopsticks, and I particularly enjoyed the mushrooms that oozed flavour when bitten.

Price: $3.00.    7/10
The next dish we picked out was Vegetarian Prawn Mee Soup.  Typically, I will tend to avoid prawn noodles, as I dislike the rubbery mock prawn that is often used in most vegetarian eateries.  Overall the soup base of this dish was a bit of a let down, it didn't have much flavour.  Not only that, but after eating I felt quite thirsty, which is usually an indication that MSG has been used inside.  I did like the freshness of the noodles and the other ingredients, but all in all it was a bit of a let down.

Price: $3.00.     6/10

Conclusion - The food at Hao Zhi Wei may be nothing special, but the kind and positive attitude of the staff certainly makes up for any flaws that the food might have.  If you're living in the West, then this place is worth a visit.  Not somewhere I would travel long distances for though.

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

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Seed Natural Food Cafe - Penang

Back to Penang reviews, and we are back in Georgetown, which is the vegetarian hub of the island.  Although vegetarian food can be found throughout the island, the most interesting veggie restaurants are all in Georgetown.  Seed Natural Cafe places an emphasis on serving super healthy food to the customers.  The issue with many healthy eateries is that the food can sometimes be seen as too bland - Let's find out how the food at Seed Cafe copes...

Seed Natural Food Cafe
Location: 6 Nagore Road, Georgetown, Penang
Contact: 016-454 6646/016-475 8105
Opening Hours: Mon-Sat 9.00am-6.00pm.  Sunday Closed.

Here is a look at the menu.  Changes are often made on a daily basis.
This is the set lunch that I decided to review. 
The Appetizer consists of clear soup, a vinegar drink and salad.  You will not find excess salt, sugar or MSG in any of the food here.

The main course for the set meal was the Curry Mee.  I have to say, this was probably the worst curry mee that I tried throughout my entire Malaysia food journey.  The curry sauce/soup had literally no flavour at all.  It was tantamount to drinking water.  I am sure the up side of this lack of flavour is the dish is much healthier overall.  For myself though, I need some flavour in the dish.  The dish did have a nice abundance of other ingredients, such as tofu, long beans and cabbage.  I need flavour, flavour flavour...

The last aspect of this meal is the Dessert, which on this particular occasion was soft tofu in a sweet gula melaka sauce.  Personally I didn't find that the gula melaka was very fragrant, and thus didn't give the dessert the life that it needed.  Tofu is a blank canvas, so the ingredients that are used together with the tofu are very important.  For those who enjoy simple tastes, you may be able to appreciate this dessert.


Conclusion - If you're looking for a healthy meal, then definitely Seed Cafe is a great place to go.  It is clear that great efforts have been made to reduce the amount of salt, sugar, oil and other harmful substances in the food.  However, if you're looking for good tasting food, this is probably a place you will want to avoid.

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