Miao Shan Vegetarian @ Serangoon Central Drive

Miao Shan Vegetarian is a stone’s throw from the NEX shopping mall in Serangoon Central. It’s located in the L.A. KOPI Coffee Shop, which itself is located on the ground floor of a walk-up HDB complex. When I visited on Saturday morning (well, midday…) it was noisy and vibrant and full of old people. It had a nice feel to it, largely thanks to the patch of grass next to which we were sitting. Funny how the best, most peaceful tables are usually reserved for smokers.

MS offers the usual selection of veggie-friendly local delights: mee rebus, mee siam, laksa, hor fun, nasi lemak, and so on. The pricing is very reasonable – most dishes are either SGD 2.50 or SGD 3.00. I was keen to try the char siew rice, but when I arrived (about 12.30pm), the only dish available was the daily special: sin chew bee hoon. If you like choice, go early!

Miao Shan Vegetarian
#01-89 L.A. KOPI Coffee Shop, Block 262 Serangoon Central Drive
Open 06:00-13:00 daily

FRIED SIN CHEW BEE HOON (SGD 3.00)

I’m not much of a bee hooner, but was happy to give this Singapore-style variant a shot. The first thing I liked about it was the fact that there was very little residual oil on the plate; the flavours were, as a result, quite clean and distinct. The dish included shredded carrot, cabbage, beansprouts, and various mock meats. The beancurd skin contributed the most character to the dish, being crispy to the bite and smokey to the taste. This, combined with the sweetness of the accompanying chilli sauce and the sourness of the lime juice and pickled chillies, ensured that every bite provided an interesting array of flavours and textures. A decent meal, but not enough to convert me to the legions of die-hard bee hoon fans.

Verdict: 7.6/10

I got the impression that a lot of care goes into every dish that is served by Miao Shan. The owners are a friendly bunch, and the quality of the food makes this a place that’s worth supporting.  

Atmosphere: 7.1/10
Service: 7.9/10
Taste: 7.6/10
Value: 8.0/10

See also:
Hungry Ang Mo’s review
All About Veggie’s review

Jaggi’s Northern Indian Cuisine @ Race Course Road

Northern Indian cuisine is the subcontinent’s posh nosh: it’s luxuriant and – for all but the most hardened of ascetics – can be painfully deceptive. It’s one of those cuisines that is so delicious that gorging is the only viable consumption strategy. The flip side, of course, is that its deliciousness obscures the unwelcome reality that ghee always takes a little time to yield its miasmatic effect. You know when it does, for any position other than supine becomes a feat.

The Punjab is, in my view, the diamond in the crown of northern Indian food. It is a region known for its wheat and dairy production (think naan, paratha, and paneer – all good), and its reliance on the tandoor for cooking and baking. Combined, this is the recipe for some serious culinary magic. I mean, serious culinary magic.

I have been patronising Jaggi’s for nearly two years now. It’s a solid Punjabi performer, although the taste of the dishes is liable to change between visits, and the acoustics are notoriously bad. The pricing is also frustratingly opaque – you choose what you want, and then the server will conjure up a figure that you pay. Said figure always seems fair (everything below cost SGD 25.20), but seems a little subjective nonetheless.

On the upside, Jaggi’s always boasts a good selection of vegetarian (and non-vegetarian) dishes, it sells booze (beer, and some Indian wines!), and the server bears an uncanny resemblance to Freddie Mercury (same mouth, same teeth, no ‘tache). It’s a good place to drag los amigos along to. Just try not to knock your beer off the table and enforce the yobbish ang mo stereotype (speaking from experience here).

Jaggi’s Northern Indian Cuisine
34-36 Race Course Road
6296 6141
jagg@pacific.net.sg
Open 11:30-15:00 & 17:30-22:30 Monday-Thursday; 11:30-15:30 & 17:30-22:45 Friday; 11:00-16:00 & 17:30-22:45 Saturday-Sunday (and Public Holidays… Seriously!)

JEERA RICE

Two helpings of this stuff were needed – it was that good. Compared to the other, rather desultory starch options, the jeera rice shone like a rice-shaped star. The ingredients were few and simple – cumin (jeera means “cumin” in Hindi), green peas, onion, and some chopped coriander – but effective. Sweet and fragrant and delicious. 

Verdict: 7.5/10

PLAIN NAAN

Rather disappointing. The naan was a good shape, but the flavours were flat (read: non-existent). It was also too thin, and the upper layer lacked crispiness. A bit like chewing on cardboard, if y’know what I mean. 

Verdict: 2.8/10

ALOO KULCHA

Funnily enough, this was my first time trying aloo kulcha (aloo is “potato”, kulcha is a type of leavened bread), and I was very much looking forward to it. It smelt delicious when it was brought out – rich and buttery, with little smears of ghee on top. It also had a nicely charred colour, and was suitably dense. Unfortunately the taste was, like the naan, very disappointing. Whilst it was visibly stuffed with potato, chopped coriander and coriander seeds, the flavours lacked depth and seemed to have been diluted by the heavy use of ghee. Whilst the coriander added some orangey notes, overall it was flat and lifeless.

Verdict: 2.7/10

PANEER MAKHANI

Visually appealing, with large chunks of paneer and green peppers in a rich red curry sauce (makhani means “with butter”, and usually refers to a creamy curry sauce). The flavours were strong and peppery – the use of green peppers, black peppers, and chilli peppers was noticeable – but nicely balanced by the sourness of the tomato base. Whilst the chunks of paneer were of a good size, they were quite dry and crumbly, and almost fibrous to the bite.

Verdict: 6.4/10

PALAK PANEER

I’m a a big fan of palak paneer, but this one paled in comparison to that at M.B.S. on Rowell Road. It was bitter to the taste, and I felt that the palak (“spinach”) would have benefitted from being cooked for a little longer. Rather than providing a fragrant lift to the dish, the coriander made everything taste a little soapy and rancid. The chemistry behind this taste association is interesting, and can, amongst other things, be a function of genetic predisposition (read this article for more info). I get this association quite often with coriander-infused curries, but never when coriander is used as garnish. Fascinating, I know.

Verdict: 4.0/10

DHAL MAKHANI

A Punjabi staple, this, along with the jeera rice, was one of the highlights of the meal. Dhal makhani uses black lentils (urad) instead of the more common red lentils (masoor), which, I think, gives it a deeper and more savoury taste. This one was of a good thickness, and was also nicely spiced. In hindsight, just this and the jeera rice alone would have made a very satisfying meal.

Verdict: 7.4/10

CHANNA MASALA

The picture does not lie – this was a mushy, coagulated mess of a channa masala. It was also served cold. The flavours were bold and punchy, but it turned out to be quite difficult to swallow (literally). A classic example of how erratic Jaggi’s can be – the last time I had this (March 2014), it was in a spicy curry sauce that, if I remember correctly, was borderline oily. Talk about polar opposites!

Verdict: 2.2/10

LADDU

The laddu was of a generous size, and had a nicely subtle sweetness to it. The use of almond was judicious, and created a marzipan-like flavour. After the disappointments that preceded it, this provided a welcome lift at the end of the meal.

Verdict: 7.2/10

KALA JAMUN

Kala jamun are basically deep-fried gulab jamun with a dairy-flavoured filling. Like an Indian eclair, just a bit more oily! They are usually painfully delicious, and this one was no exception. The khoya (an Indian dairy product – the whitish filling in the picture) added a subtle sourness that helped moderate the sweetness a little. It was very tasty, but lacked cardamon flavour, which is, in my mind, the secret to a jolly good jam’.

Verdict: 7.8/10

A good six months or so have elapsed since my last visit to Jaggi’s, and I fear that the quality of their food may be slipping. It certainly isn’t what it was when I first started eating here. Nonetheless, it’s reasonably priced (especially compared to most of the other restaurants along Race Course Road), and has a nice vibe to it. If for nothing else, go for dessert. 

Atmosphere: 7.1/10
Service: 6.8/10
Taste: 5.3/10
Value: 7.4/10

See also:
Hungry Ang Mo’s review
Just Eat La’s review

Pine Tree Cafe @ Fortune Centre

Whilst Pine Tree Cafe’s name suggests a mysterious Ikea-eatery cross, the location is what gives the game away. Fortune Centre. A bastion of vegetarian virtue, and one of the few places in Singapore where the enlightened few may (just, may) outnumber their carnivorous counterparts. It’s like Hong Lim Park, but a bit less political and a bit more food-focussed. Indeed, Fortune Centre is one of those confused (and confusing) spaces that are found throughout Singapore. It’s one where shops selling Buddhist bric-a-brac exist alongside massage parlours and salacious (and annoying) masseuses. The mind boggles, the palate purrs.

Pine Tree Cafe is located on the relatively quiet second floor, just left of the escalator. It’s a popular and disjointed place – disjointed because most of the seating is actually in a separate unit located down a dingy passageway (and around the corner). The fare is mostly Chinese Hakka, with a fixed menu of rice sets, hotpots, yong tau foo and thunder tea rice, and an ever-changing array of daily specials. The service is typically no-nonsense – my plate was literally slammed down in front of me – which, in a way, is all part of the charm. Who said vegetarians were pacifiste, eh? EH.

Pine Tree Cafe
#02-09/13 Fortune Centre, 190 Middle Road
9815 4940
Open 10:00-21:00 Monday-Saturday; CLOSED Sunday

CHAR SIEW WONTON NOODLE (SGD 4.00)

It is said that the eyes are the window to the stomach, meaning if something looks appetising, then it will probably taste pretty good as well. This dish is the exception to the rule. It looked rubbish: grease-smeared plate, soggy lettuce, pale egg noodles and scratchy char siew. Before tucking in, what I looked forward to most was writing this most scathing of reviews.

Then I made the mistake of tasting the damn thing. Bloody fantastic! The wontons were delicate and crispy, and had an imploringly delicious seafood taste. I was given two, but would have begged for more (nearly did). The char siew may have looked dry, but it turned out to be a bit of a sly fox. Moist and flavoursome, it was very tasty. The serving of egg noodles looked a bit small, but turned out to be very generous. They had a robust and springy texture, and came to life when mixed with the sauce atop which they sat. Overall this was very, very good – no, it was superb – value.

Verdict: 9.0/10

HAKKA YONG TAU FOO (SGD 5.00)

The ingredients selected were: beancurd, aubergine, tofu, kai lan, and some seaweed-stuffed-tofu-type-thing. We found the choice of ingredients a little limited, especially seeing as most of them were processed soy products; more vegetables (mushrooms?) would have been nice. Egg noodles were requested, rice noodles were served, life goes on. The ingredients themselves seemed to be quite fresh and tasty, the problem lay with the sauce that was ladled (literally) on top. Very thick and very sweet, it was also infused (perhaps separately) with chilli. Combined, the sweetness, spiciness, and thickness of the sauce was quite overpowering, and did a wonderful job of masking the individual flavours of the ingredients. Unfortunately such practice is commonplace in Singapore, and is little more than a reflection of local taste preferences. Hmm.

Verdict: 5.2/10

Pine Tree Cafe is a popular place in one of Singapore’s vegetarian strongholds; it must be doing something right. The service leaves much to be desired, but the quality of the wonton noodle (specifically: the wontons) more than makes up for it. I’ll be going back.    

Atmosphere: 6.8/10
Service: 5.0/10
Taste: 7.1/10
Value: 7.0/10

See also:
Hungry Ang Mo’s review
Mr and Mrs Vegan’s review

Tamagoyaki

Tamagoyaki is, very simply, rolled-up Japanese-style omelette. It can be eaten by itself as a snack, as wingman to a main dish, as part of a bento, or chopped up and plonked on top of sushi. Sweeter than its western counterpart, tamagoyaki is addictive in both flavour and method of construction. Yes that’s right: construction. There is something immensely satisfying about rolling up layers of omelette and getting them to fuse together. It’s devilishly difficult the first time around, but gets easier with practice. Have a go – the payoff is immense!

Ingredients (serves 2 as a side)

Eggs (x3 large ones)
Soy sauce (x1.5 tsp)
Sugar (x1.5 tsp)
Kelp dashi powder (x1 tsp)
Water (x2 tbsp cold, x1 tbsp boiling)
Oil

Specialist equipment

A small, rectangular frying pan (or makiyakinabe)

Method

1. Make the kelp dashi: Add the water (both cold and boiling) to a bowl (total: 3 tbsp), and mix in the kelp dashi powder.

1. Mix the ingredients: Transfer the kelp dashi to a mixing bowl, and add the eggs, soy sauce and sugar. Beat until combined, using a fork or chopsticks.

2. Prepare the pan: There are three important considerations when making tamagoyaki:

  • The pan should be kept on a medium-to-low-heat. A fried egg this is not; it takes time to do properly…
  • The pan should be well-oiled, but not over-oiled – this can be achieved by adding a little oil to the pan, and then smearing it around using a piece of folded kitchen towel (as you would grease a baking tray)
  • The pan should be kept moving – both on and off the heat, and tilted to keep moving the egg mixture around

With these considerations in mind, apply a few drops of oil to the pan and smear around the base and sides using a piece of kitchen towel. When this is done, warm it up to a medium temperature.

3. Make and roll the omelette: Once the pan is warm, take it off the heat and let it cool down a little. Pour in about one third of your egg mixture and swirl it around so that it covers the base of the pan. Put the pan back on the heat (medium-to-low heat), and pop any bubbles that arise using a chopstick. The layer of egg should be quite thin, and it should take a few minutes to solidify.

Once it is about 95% solid, start to unstick the omelette from the sides of the pan using either chopsticks or a thin spatula. Slowly start to roll it up, starting with the far side and rolling towards you. Once rolled, press it against the side of the pan nearest to you (where the handle is) and let it set for a few seconds. Then push it to the far side of the pan. The first roll is the least important, so don’t worry too much if you mess it up!

Wipe the base and sides of the pan with the oiled kitchen towel. Pour in another third of the egg mixture and, again, swirl it around so that it covers the base of the pan. Lift up the first roll of egg so that the mixture can get underneath it. Again, let it cook for a minute or two, popping any bubbles that arise.

Once about 97% solid, start to unstick the omelette from the edges of the pan and roll. Ultimately you want to roll the second layer around the first layer, so start from the far edge (where the first roll should be sitting) and slowly roll towards you. Although I say “roll”, it should form a square shape (like a box) rather than a circular shape (like a cylinder). Again, once rolled press against the side of the pan nearest to you and let it set, then push to the far side of the pan.

Oil the base and sides of the pan one last time. Pour in the final third of the egg mixture and repeat. The final layer is arguably the most important (as this is the outer layer that everyone will see), so don’t mess it up!

Once your third layer is rolled, take the pan off the heat and keep the complete tamagoyaki pressed against the side of the pan nearest to you for about a minute or so, to make sure it has set.

4. Leave it to rest: Transfer your tamagoyaki to a chopping board and let it rest for a few minutes. The key thing to bear in mind when cooking eggs is that they continue to cook without direct heat. What this means is that even when you turn the heat off, they continue to harden and take shape (albeit more slowly). This explains why the first layer should only be cooked to 95%, the second layer to 97% and the final layer to 99%. Once the omelette is complete, the residual heat will continue to cook and fuse the egg together. Eggs. They’re amazing!

Once a few minutes are up (or when it’s cool enough to handle with your handles), slowly chop it into wedges and serve. Behold! Itadakimasu!

See also:
This rather nifty (and instructive) YouTube video!

Acknowledgements: recipe courtesy of MiKa!

Carrot, chickpea & tahini patties

Trying to find a half-decent vegetarian burger can be a joyfully frustrating task. The joy comes in the sheer variety of flavour combinations available (it’s amazing what can happen once released from the grip of seasoned flesh); the frustration is in finding the right one. I’m still searching, but this recipe is an adequate placeholder for now.

Ingredients (yields 4-6 patties)

Carrots (x2 large)
Chickpeas (x1 can)
Wholemeal bread (x2 slices)
Onion (x1)
Tahini (x2 tbsp)
Egg (x1)
Lemon (x1)
Sesame seeds (x2 tbsp)
Cumin (x1 tbsp)
Olive oil
Salt (to taste)
Pepper (to taste)

Method

1. Grate, blitz, chop, rinse, and then grate again: Prepare the ingredients by: (1) peeling and grating the carrot(s) into a bowl; (2) toast the bread (well) and blitz (or grate) until you have breadcrumbs; (3) roughly chop the onion; (4) rinse the chickpeas under cold water, and; (5) grate off the zest of one lemon.

2. Round 1 of patty construction: Add about a third of the grated carrot, the rinsed chickpeas, the roughly chopped onion, the tahini, cumin and egg to a large bowl.

Then blitz until it forms a thick paste.

3. Round 2 of patty construction: Add some olive oil to a frying pan, along with the rest of the grated carrot. Cook the carrot on a medium heat until soft and golden (around 7-10 minutes).

4. Round 3 of patty construction: Add the cooked carrot to the bowl with your thick paste, along with the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and sesame seeds. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Mix everything together with your hands.

When combined, shape into patties (x4 large; x6 medium).

5. Cook the burgers: Add some olive oil to a frying pan and fry the burgers until crisp and golden on each side. Takes about 5 minutes per side.

6. Serve and savour: They can be eaten with a salad, or in the more conventional burger-style for those bereft of inspiration (as I am so wont to be).

69 Cold Soya Beancurd @ Blk 724 Ang Mo Kio Food Centre

With two well-stocked fridges standing sentry-like outside (not to mention the mildly titillating name), it’s hard to walk past 69 Cold Soya Beancurd without giving it a second glance. It’s a stall that commands attention, and which I think is one of the more unique players in Singapore’s marketplace for ‘curd. Beyond its bold presence, the owner/server had a non-pushy demeanour and was surprisingly well-spoken. From the outset I couldn’t help but feel that I would like this place.

69 CSB provides a colourful and sensible selection of flavoured beancurds. They range from the classics – original, almond, mango, strawberry, and yam (SGD 1.50 each) – to the exotics – green tea (SGD 2.00) and durian (SGD 2.50) – and some other flavours as well (blueberry, lychee, etc.). A few soy-based drinks are also available. It’s a one-stop soya shop, and a rather good one at that.

69 Cold Soya Beancurd
#01-11, Block 724 Ang Mo Kio Food Centre
9321 7681
Open daily

ORIGINAL BEANCURD PUDDING (SGD 1.50)

This was a very pleasing tub of ‘curd. The texture was light and silky smooth. It was a little sweeter than usual, but it was also more chilled; the crisp coolness had a beautifully moderating effect on the sweetness. Overall the texture and flavours were delicate and in near-perfect harmony with each other.

Verdict: 8.9/10

ALMOND BEANCURD PUDDING (SGD 1.50)

I know, I know, the pictures are nearly identical, but that’s hardly my fault! The almond beancurd was just as good as the original, but with one key exception – the almond flavour. Absolutely nothing wrong with it, but, with the original tasting so good, I couldn’t help but feel that the almond was a bit of an unnecessary distraction.

Verdict: 7.6/10

A great find – 69 CSB provides a delicious and quite unique tub of ‘curd. Well worth a visit, my advice is to forget the flavours and stick to the original. You won’t be disappointed. 

Atmosphere: 7.0/10
Service: 7.8/10
Taste: 8.3/10
Value: 7.3/10

See also:
Lazy Foodies review

Keat Lim Vegetarian Food @ Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6

Sandwiched between Broadway Plaza and the Masjid Al-Muttaqin, Keat Lim Vegetarian Food is located directly opposite the Ang Mo Kio Park McDonalds. It unflinchingly stares Ronald in the face, juxtaposing local hawker stall with global fast food chain, fresh vegetables with processed meat, David with Goliath, good with… I think you get the picture.

Keat Lim is a vegetarian stall that boasts a large kitchen, autonomous payment counter and wide-ranging menu. I actually found the menu quite limited insofar as most of the dishes tended to be variations on a theme. Such variations involved choosing between different mock meats and sauces; a semblance of choice where it doesn’t really exist. But if that’s what it takes to keep the punters happy, so be it.

Keat Lim Vegetarian Food
#01-4206, Block 728 Ang Mo Kio Avenue 6
9693 2138
Open 11:00-21:45 daily

SET MEAL WITH MOCK CHICKEN & BLACK BEAN SAUCE (SGD 4.00)

For the seat meal, you can select which mock meat (fish, pork, chicken, squid, or beancurd) and sauce (sambal, sweet & sour, black bean, kung pao, black pepper) you would like to go with your serving of rice and veggies. A bit silly if you ask me, as the mock “chicken” resembled its meatier namesake in name alone, but anyway… Actually the chicken was one of the best parts of the dish, being crisp on the outside but spongey on the inside. The vegetables (celery, black fungus, mushroom, carrot and red chilli) were fresh and crunchy, but the sauce was a complete washout. Bland and watery, it lacked any sort of flavour.

Verdict: 6.8/10

HOTPLATE BEANCURD (SGD 8.00)

Served sizzling hot, the beancurd comes in either regular (SGD 8.00) or large (SGD 12.00) sizes. The slabs of tofu were substantial, and had a deep-fried exterior and soft, silken tofu-like interior. The vegetables (celery, red chilli, sugar snap peas, carrot, mushroom, babycorn, cauliflower) were also fresh and tasty. But once again, the sauce let this dish down. To my surprise it was sweet and spicy (the sweetness was dominant). The flavours were strong but superficial; they did not evolve in the mouth, nor did they linger on the tongue. The Hungry Ang Mo called the sauce of this dish “good, but nothing exceptional”; I would omit the “good” and stick to “nothing exceptional”.

Verdict: 5.7/10

I found Keat Lim to be a little deceptive. It provides a lot of options, but limited quality. Whilst the vegetables were colourful, crunchy and fresh, it was the sauces that were the Achilles’ heels of both of the dishes I tried. Overall, nothing special.   

Atmosphere: 6.4/10
Service: 6.5/10
Taste: 6.3/10
Value: 6.3/10

See also:
Hungry Ang Mo’s review

Potato wedges with rosemary

The potato wedge is, arguably, one of America’s greatest innovations. It’s certainly one of its more significant contributions to global gastronomy. More robust than chips – and with more exciting flavour combos – it’s hard not to be wooed by the wedge’s rustic charm. This recipe is fairly standard, but can easily be tweaked by substituting the salt and rosemary with paprika and chilli, or by replacing the breadcrumbs with grated cheese. Grated cheese? Now that’s a good idea!

Ingredients (serves 2)

Potatoes (x3)
Wholemeal bread (x1 slice)
Olive oil (x3 tbsp)
Rosemary (dried or fresh; to taste)
Salt (to taste)

Method

1. Make some breadcrumbs: Toast the slice of bread until well-toasted (the more toasted it is, the easier it will be to crumbify). Make breadcrumbs by either grating the toasted bread into a bowl, or blitzing it in/with a blender. The finer you can get the crumbs, the better. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees (turn on the convection or fan setting if you have one).

2. Prepare the potatoes #1: Scrub the potatoes until clean, then cut them lengthways into wedges. One potato can yield six wedges. Chuck them into the bowl of breadcrumbs.

3. Prepare the potatoes #2: Add the olive oil, rosemary and salt to the bowl and mix well with your hands. It’s a messy and manly job.

4. Roast at 180 degrees for 40 minutes: Spread a sheet of aluminium foil across the shelf in your oven, and arrange the wedges on it (the outer skin of the potato facing down, wedge part facing up). Any leftover breadcrumbs can be sprinkled on top. Roast at 180 degrees for 40 minutes, or until golden brown. This is a lower temperature and longer timeframe than other recipes may suggest, but it works. Believe me. Long and low: it’s the only way to go!

5. Serve: Wait to cool a little, and then serve with malt vinegar, beer, and a baseball cap. Failing that, try (veggie) burgers or sandwiches. 

3 Petits Croissants @ SOTA

With the recent relocation of Le Cafe from Peace Centre to Suntec, residents of SeleSep (Selegie-Prinsep, obvs) and environs have been bereft of a good bakery. (That’s actually a lie but, for literary effect, nevermind). Thankfully, 3 Petits Croissants has recently stepped up to the proverbial plate. Opening its (many) doors for business on 19th September, the bakery-shaped hole along SeleSep did not last for long. Phew.

Boasting a name that is as naff as Le Caf’ ($10 says it represents 3 partners, or something like that), 3PC is located on the corner of Prinsep Street and Orchard Road, within the artsy confines of SOTA. It’s large, very large (maybe a bit too large for a bakery), and has enough tables and chairs to seat a small army of patrons. It’s also well-positioned (between Dhoby Ghaut and Bras Basah MRTs), and can expect a lot of pedestrian traffic. Overall it feels like an ambitious project, especially given that its size contravenes (what I believe to be) the key operating principles of a successful bakery: small, homely, and transient.

3PC provides a smorgasbord of baked stuff (breads, tarts, viennoiseries and feuillettes) and brews, although the options were limited when I visited. Nonetheless, the occasional wafts of buttery goodness coming from the ovens were satisfying and, I was pleased to note, followed me out the door. In the wonderful world of bakeries, smell really is all that matters. Forget marketing, it’s the smell that does the selling.

3 Petits Croissants
SOTA, 1 Zubir Said Drive
franck.a@3petitscroissants.com
Website
Facebook
Open 08:00-20:00 Tuesday-Sunday; CLOSED Monday

CROISSANT (SGD 2.70)

Quite small, flat and skinny, this looked a little disappointing. I prefer my croissants to have a little more volume – puffed up and boastful rather than limp and subdued. To be honest, this looked like something you would buy from a supermarket. Visuals aside, I found the flavour of the butter to be a little too residual, which wasn’t helped by the fact that it was only served lukewarm. The outer shell was, however, nice and crisp.

Verdict: 5.9/10

CHOCOLATE CROISSANT | PAIN AU CHOCOLATE (SGD 2.90)

Like the standard crois’, the pain au c. hardly sold me on its appearance. It was, however, quite dense, with multiple layers of pastry encasing the chocolate filling. Whilst the filling was frugal, the chocolate had a nice bitterness to it. Again, it lacked warmth, volume and confidence.

Verdict: 6.3/10

FINANCIER (SGD 1.50)

A rather dense financier – certainly more dense than what i’m used to. The texture was moist and heavy (borderline soggy) rather than light and springy, and was the same throughout (i.e. the top and sides were, unfortunately, not crisped). That said, the flavour of the almond came through nicely and, because of its moistness, gave it an almost marzipan-like sweetness. Also comes in lemon. Or citron.

Verdict: 6.5/10

RAISIN BRIOCHE | PAIN AUX RAISINS (SGD 3.00)

Again, a little on the small side. The amount of raisins used was generous, but they didn’t contribute much (or any) richness to the overall flavour. I found the pastry to be crisp but quite dry, which wasn’t helped by the general lack of creme patisserie filling. Quite expensive for what it was.

Verdict: 5.3/10

It’s very early days for 3PC, but I can’t help but feel that it may struggle. The vienoisseries I tried all passed muster in terms of taste, but they all disappointed in terms of texture and visual appeal. 3PC may suffer from having too much space, and too little distinctiveness.

Atmosphere: 7.0/10
Service: 6.5/10
Taste: 6.0/10
Value: 6.2/10

See also:
This article in the Huffington Post about the relationship between the smell of baked bread and kindness! 

NamNam Noodle Bar @ Plaza Singapura

NamNam is a chain of Vietnamese eateries, most of which are conveniently nestled next to escalators in busy department stores. As such, every outlet is surrounded by a whirlwind of pedestrian traffic moving both laterally and vertically. The Plaza Singapura branch is an eatery that I felt like I knew before I even knew it (if you know what I mean). The management appear to have mastered the art of subliminal awareness, something which I think is very clever indeed.

Perhaps such locational savviness is to be expected, as Nam2 is nestled within the Les Amis Group’s pantheon of brands. It is, accordingly, a pretty slick operation. Nearly everything – from the decor, to the website, to the pricing – is about right. The flooring deserves a special mention: geometric blue and white squares that are nicely worn and dizzyingly retro-cool. The one thing letting it down is the inefficient seating and payment system – whilst you are meant to queue separately for each, most people don’t. What follows? Confusion.

Nam2’s self-proclaimed “Pho-Losophy” is to serve MSG-free Vietnamese street food quickly, and at an affordable price. The menu spans a range of banh mi’s (Vietnamese-style baguettes), pho’s (rice flour noodles in broth), other noodle and side dishes, and desserts. Desserts aside, there are precisely two savoury vegetarian options on the menu: a vegetarian banh mi and fried vegetarian rolls. Pathetic. Nonetheless, the banh mi sounded enticing enough for me to rise above such blatant veggie-snubbing and politely join the lunchtime queue. An exemplar of grace and good manners, what!

NamNam Noodle Bar
68 Orchard Road, #01-55 Plaza Singapura
6837 2234
eat@namnamnoodlebar.com.sg
Website
Open 10:00-21:30 daily

FRIED VEGETARIAN ROLLS (SGD 4.90)

The rolls themselves were rather run-of-the-mill (containing radish, carrot, and glass noodles), although it should be noted that the oiliness was minimal, and they were served on a very cool sheet of greased paper that was printed with a Vietnamese streetscape. Nice touch. The dipping sauce was good – the chilli, garlic and citrusy (lemon and lime) notes really helped to transform the taste into something from the streets of Saigon.

Verdict: 7.3/10

VEGETARIAN BANH MI (SGD 5.90)

These baguettes are often sold from roadside carts in Vietnam, and are one of the more enduring (and positive) legacies of the French occupation. My banh (“bread”) mi (“wheat”) was served warm, and densely packed with lemongrass tofu (although the lemongrass was non-existent), omelette, fresh and crunchy ‘erbs and vegetables (coriander, red chilli, cucumber, radish) and glass noodles. Whilst the bread was quite dry, the vinaigrette used to season the vegetables was refreshingly sour, and another sauce added a deliciously smokey flavour. Overall it was very tasty and well-priced, although the flavours weren’t definitively ‘Nam-esque.

Verdict: 8.3/10

VANILLA PUDDING WITH PALM SUGAR CARAMEL (SGD 3.90)

Served well-chilled, the vanilla pudding looked incredible. The first few bites were rich and creamy and full of character. The texture was very solid and robust, to the point that it reminded me a little of nougat. Vanilla seeds were strewn liberally throughout the pudding, but it would have benefitted from having a little more caramel sauce. Whilst i’m happy to turn a blind eye, the more staunch vegetarians out there might want to give this a miss, as the use of gelatin was quite apparent.

Verdict: 8.5/10

Nam2 offers an infuriatingly small selection of vegetarian dishes that are, nonetheless, quite delicious and very good value. It is very well-conceptualised and quite well-executed. I like this place; I only wish I had a few more reasons to return.  

Atmosphere: 8.1/10
Service: 6.7/10
Taste: 8.0/10
Value: 8.4/10

See also:
Ladyironchef’s review
Daniel Food Diary’s review