Vegetarian

Vegetarian

Featuring Lucky Cat, Love Handle, Bodhi Deli (Fortune Centre), Infinite Happiness, Blooming Sprouts (Fortune Centre)
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Had been wanting to check out Love Handle at Ann Siang Hill for quite a while ever since the brand was re-launched. Whilst being previously a delivery-only online concept named Love Handle Burgers that had went on to being part of the menu offered at the now-defunct 8ASH, Love Handle has now became a standalone brand that occupies the former premises of 8ASH at 8 Ann Siang Hill. Taking up the space of the entire shophouse, Love Handle is now a concept with a focus on plant-based meats — the shophouse not only features a vegetarian restaurant on the upper levels, but the ground floor is now a plant-based butcher that also retails marinated and processed plant-based meats such as Spiced Tindle Chicken and Impossible Sausage (Minced) for those who are interested to make their very own plant-based dishes at home. Moving towards the main dining hall of the vegetarian restaurant at Level 2, the interior of the restaurant sets a different theme from the ground floor — a space that is decked simply with cemented walls and wooden floors; the furnishings coming with stark shades of blue and yellow that provides an eclectic touch. Picture frames are hung on the wall to fill up the walls, while there are some plants being placed in the corners of the restaurant to bring some life to the space. Expanding their menu selection from the burgers featuring plant-based meat in the past, patrons can expect other mains featuring plant-based meat such as the Mee Sua with Ginger Soy Chicken and the Impossibro Wellington 200g — they also do carry plant-based sides in the “Munchies” section of the menu like the Mom's Luncheon Meat and MyNuggets as well.

While we note that Love Handle had previously been serving a Chick’n & Waffle, the latter has since been no longer reflected in the menu during our visit and that the Chick'n & Pancakes takes its place instead. The Chick'n & Pancakes features pancakes (the description on the menu refers to them as Love Handle pancakes), and comes served with Southern Fried TiNDLE (i.e. the plant-based meat which replaces the use of chicken for this dish), maple syrup, and slaw. The TiNDLE here comes fried in the style similar to Southern Fried Chicken — comes with a golden brown batter on the outside, though does come in the form of a fillet as one would have expected. Cutting through the TiNDLE patty, it could be said that there is some distinction between the TiNDLE patty and what one would have expected from an actual chicken fillet. Whilst the TiNDLE patty was able to replicate the fibres of the meat to a certain degree, it does lack that juiciness and chewiness of white meat alongside that same tension that usually holds the meat together. Nonetheless, the TiNDLE patty was still pretty enjoyable — one could tell that there was some form of seasoning added to bring that familiar brininess and a slight hint of pepper to bring the soy-based(?) “meat” patty to flavour. Was actually pretty impressed by the Love Handle pancakes here though —the pancakes were especially well-executed being done thin enough so it does not feel too dense; all that whilst being fluffy and even lightly crusty along the edges. Of course, the maple syrup gels the Southern Fried TiNDLE and the Love Handle pancakes altogether the same way as how it would in the regular version of the dish that comes with fried chicken, while the tangy slaw provides a refreshing crunch should it all get too heavy from the carbs and fried stuff that is on the plate.

With Love Handle being evolved into a brand of its own, Love Handle has pretty much grown from being a burger-based establishment to a concept unique to its own. Plant-based meats have been popularised only in the past couple of years — while most establishments do look into serving them as-is in the form of meatballs and burgers to create a plant-based meat option on the menu, Love Handle has taken things to the next level with their creativity, and had incorporated a butchery as part of their concept to showcase the possibilities of plant-based meats through marination and seasoning. Their food menu in the vegetarian restaurant is an extension of this — providing patrons with a wide selection of dishes both familiar to Western and Asian palates that is pretty much an eye-opener on its own. With prices being kept affordable hovering between $16++ to $28++ for a main, Love Handle does seem to be doing what they do best — bringing plant-based meats closer to the mass market. Whilst I am one who probably still crave for all things meaty, Love Handle is a spot that I would certainly go to for a different take on plant-based meats and vegetarian fare moving forward.

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Wanted to head to Bodhi Deli for lunch since a colleague was mentioning about wanting to try the stellar vegetarian Fried Dumplings there; kinda bummed when we found out that they were only doing self pick-up orders for the day. Took a turn around to make our way down to the ground level, and chanced upon the new Blooming Sprouts that had just recently opened — also situated on the third level of Fortune Centre, just beside Japanese Curry Express. Being more of a hole-in-the-wall vegetarian establishment, don’t expect anything fancy for its decor here — the interior is simple and the furnishings are pretty functional; the entire decor can be a little haphazard with mis-matched furniture with odd placements for its tables and chairs due to space constraints. Dine-in capacity for each table is also pretty limited to one pax to three pax at most as well.

The menu for now comprises of pizza, pasta and burger offerings — whilst skimming through the items that they have to offer, the Tom Yum Pasta was something that pretty much struck a chord for us. After all, vegetarian pastas usually don’t offer much of a fusion component; the infusion of Thai elements such as Tom Yum was pretty interesting to say the least. All pasta dishes offered at Blooming Sprouts feature in-house vegan sauces that are claimed to be freshly made in-house; the Tom Yum Pasta is described to come with elements such as “Thai infused herbs tossed with spaghetti and fragrance coconut milk”. First taste of the atom Yum Pasta and it is without a doubt that the in-house vegan sauce is the element that shines here — there isn’t quite a difference between the usual Tom Yum Cream Pasta served elsewhere and their rendition that featured vegan Tom Yum sauce here; while it is noted that they seem to emphasise a lot more on the herbs with a mellower sort of tang here, we really enjoyed how the flavours did pull through and the sauce wasn’t quite as jelak, yet also not as watery as some of the Tom Yum Cream Pasta we had come across. It does come with a manageable spicy kick for those who are tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness; aptly tickling the tastebuds without having one break into a sweat. While there aren’t any meat elements, it does come with broccoli and some mushrooms; the former with its florets slightly charred for a contrast of flavours, and the latter providing a nice, soft crunch to the dish.

Being more of an establishment that seemed to be setup from the founder’s love for cooking, there is somewhat of a cosy feeling when dining at Blooming Sprouts — one that kinda exudes homeliness through their food despite its simple surroundings. One could probably tell that the food here has been developed with passion; a lot of effort and time spent to create a flavour that would resonate with vegetarian and non-vegetarian palates alike — at least through the Tom Yum Pasta we had. While we have yet to try the other items that they have to offer, Blooming Sprouts is a spot that I would not mind returning to for lunches around the workplace when I am craving for simple vegetarian pastas; no doubt Pasta & Co. is still my favourite spot for artisan, handmade pastas in the ‘hood, but Blooming Sprouts would do for a more affordable, fuss-free option.

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Yet another one of those places that I was eagerly waiting to make a return to ever since work-from-home has been implemented — decided to head down to Bodhi Deli on one of those days where a trip to office is needed so I could get myself this Chicken Cutlet Noodle that I was looking forward to having for quite some time.

Being a vegetarian establishment, the Chicken Cutlet Noodle looks almost like how a standard chicken cutlet noodle from any other meat serving establishment would — the mock chicken cutlet is almost akin to the real deal; golden brown fried crispy panko-crumbed batter with “meat” that is tightly packed and layered as though there are fibres just like chicken, while the noodles here comes with only the single choice of Mee Pok. The Mee Pok comes tossed in lightly savoury yet spicy sauce that is comparable in flavour to that of hawker stalls serving Bak Chor Mee, and even come with crispy crumbs over the top that replicates that of crispy pork lard — simply divine. Just like some stalls that serves wanton noodles, the plate of noodles also comes with stalks of Bok Choy on the side; theirs being immensely fresh and crunchy. All in all, a really stellar plate of vegetarian noodles that even a meat lover like me would crave for from time to time.

Pretty glad to see how far Bodhi Deli has come along; originally just a kiosk stall with seatings scattered across the aisles within the shopping centre for dine-in, they have since also expanded to include a dine-in area in a unit behind. Still, the stall is still a popular dining choice, with the dine-in area being usually full, and staff assisting to allocate seats for diners who have yet to find their seat before making their order — pretty much a testament to the quality of food served here. Also managed to try their vegetarian Dumplings during this visit, which was almost akin to having the real deal with meat and is something I will order to share around the next time I am here. Needless to say, I will be craving for this till the next time …

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Specialty cafes are pretty much of a common find these days — that has been so given how the third-wave coffee movement had hit the shores a number of years back with cafes sprouting up all over the island. That being said, specialty cafes serving up vegan/vegetarian fare is a tough find — Lucky Cat is one of such places that had opened its doors at Hougang Community Club serving up vegan/vegetarian items alongside specialty coffee.

There are really quite a number of items that caught our eyes which we also ended up ordering, including the Konjac Salmon Sashimi and Maki options that are on the menu. Not having had Monkey Head Mushroom before, this was a main that I found to be especially satisfying — prepared upon order, the Yangnyeom Monkey Head Mushroom Don essentially features nuggets of fried mushrooms tossed in a Korean sweet sauce, served atop a bed of short-grain rice with greens on the side. Absolutely loved how well-sized the morsels of mushrooms were sized; gave enough bite and carried a bouncy texture, whilst crisp on the exterior with the batter not being too thick nor thin — the Yangnyeom sauce being aptly sweet without being in any way spicy though came with a slight tang that kept things refreshing and made the whole bowl pretty easy to have. Coupled with the pearly short grain rice, the leafy greens helped to strike a balance and kept the bowl hearty. The entire package was something I felt pretty easy to accept, and is definitely something I would not mind having again if I ever cross paths with Monkey Head Mushroom dishes some day.

Lucky Cat do also serve up a pretty wide variety of beverages often found in specialty cafes — think bottled Cold Brew and even special concoctions such as Espresso Lemon Tonic and Cereal Coffee Cream; a spot worth checking out if you are a caffeine junkie especially even for those who are not too much into having vegan/vegetarian fare.

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Guess one think good about being relatively near Fortune Centre is the fact about having a myriad of vegetarian establishments to visit for lunch, given the abundance of such options in the area.

Infinite Happiness is one of the slightly newer options in the area, having opened their doors not too long ago at Level 1 of Fortune Centre right across from Killiney Kopitiam. The hole-in-the-wall is probably best known for their vegetarian fried chicken that looks almost like it is being served from a fast food establishment but the said dish was a special run which had since been out of the menu.

Found myself going for the Cha Siu Rice — takes a while given it’s a one-man operation but one could totally tell how he is simply passionate about the craft; so much there is actually two options of “doneness” for it, being “original” and “crispy”, which he recommends the latter. Going for the “crispy”, I could see why this is easily preferred; while usual vegetarian char siew lacks a variance of texture, I quite enjoy how the variant here comes with a slight char around the crisp edges — provides a bit more bite than the usual vegetarian char siew we are used to. Liked how he is also so generous with the cucumbers and the sauce; pretty sure there are actual roast meat specialty stalls that are more stingy with the sauce around — the sauce here comes with just a very mellow sweetness that strangely only runs at the back of the tongue; nothing too overwhelming though still clearly more of vegetarian dish and is different from the usual punchy savoury notes of the sauce in the variant that features actual meat served everywhere else. There again, he also mentions that he does not use white sugar and MSG in the preparation of this dish — definitely sounds like something healthier. The chili on the side is pretty much the same that is served with Hainanese chicken rice — that same zippy concoction that provides a spicy kick that tingles the tastebuds; those with lower tolerance to spiciness are warned!

A dish that surprises for those who are open to trying a vegetarian variant of a dish with zero expectations from the usual meat-based item.

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Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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