Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Vegetarian in Singapore

Singapore is the melting pot of three different cultures, Chinese, Malay and Indian. There are distinct towns that celebrate all the cultures, Chinatown, Little Malay and Little India. One can experience the best of the each of these cultures - both the food, arts and shopping - in these areas. But we are suckers for a new concept - all-vegetarian fine-dining restaurants. And, we did find one that sets a very high bar for fine-dining with a Chinese milieu.
Ling Zhi (, at Orchard Road, Singapore, is on the 5th floor of a non-descript commercial building next to a shopping mall that includes a high-end Hermes store and such. This restaurant does not rely on the tried and tired idea of using wheat gluten and tofu in lieu of meat in all their dishes; instead, they use vegetables in their most natural form in creative dishes. The results are wonderful. This is one of the finest vegetarian restaurants that we have dined at.
Ambience: The restaurant has ample seating, with a takeaway counter that looks more low-end than the rest of the seating area. They definitely recommend reservations - as anyone who has eaten in Singapore, Hong Kong and China would have observed, dining out is a communal activity, and so, each table usually has 5+ people in the evenings.
Once seated, there are couple of interesting things to observe. They have a small plate with boiled peanuts, in addition to soy and chilli sauce for fine-tuning the taste for each palate. The waiters are extremely friendly - the lack of English-speaking skills compensated by their attitude. The menu catalog has some great eye candy photos of their dishes, which unfortunately their website does not reproduce.
We ordered fresh young cocunut water as our starter drink and it was really refreshing for a humid day. For the first course, we ordered the braised spinach soupe with the bamboo fungus. The presentation was outstanding in a real bamboo tumbler and the taste was very simple but delicious in a home-cooked meal kind of way. The waiter was very friendly and told me not to order more than 2 dishes since he said we will get "very full". That honesty really appealed to us. Since we are doing the "Eat for Health: diet, we had to beef up on the greens and this was an easy way to do it.
As you know by now, I am a die-hard fan of Kung Pao, and ordered it at every Chinese restaurant much to V's consternation. So, ofcourse, we got Kung Pao; and as the second entree, we got the Sautéed Monkey Head Mushrooms with Dried Chilli.
The Kung Pao was presented on bed of celery and deep-fried mushrooms - the chilis brought out some kick-ass flavor. I would probably venture to say that was better than the standard tofu Kung Pao that you have in other Chinese Vegetarian restaurants.
The rates were reasonable and well below the norm for fine-dining restaurants in the area. Once again, if you are in Singapore, please don't miss this gem. Well worth the experience. They have been in business since 1991 and we are hoping we can visit them during their 20th anniversary next year. More power to them and the kind of food they serve.

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