Clean eating

Alternative Approach: Prive

Prive might have opened its doors back in 2007 with a focus on Josper grilled meats, but the homegrown brand founded by Yuan Oeij has come a long way. Its new outfit in the residential neighbourhood of Tiong Bahru is the first of the group’s restaurants to turn the spotlight on vegan and plant-based cuisine. It’s helmed by chef Jack Allibone, formerly from the Michelin-starred Angler in London.

The English native abides by a single philosophy: fresh food, simple cooking. This means plenty of organic greens turned into creative brunch food – popular among expats – as well as a wider selection of plant-based dishes featuring whole foods and meat alternatives. Take Tracy’s Favourite Salad – named after Oeij’s wife who is a vegan. This serious superfoods contender is packed with purple cabbage, black beans, hummus, cashew nuts and pumpkin wedges. The vegetables are sourced locally and the hummus is made in-house. And, just in case you find it tough to get out of eating meat, Allibone has a couple of tricks up his sleeve.

At first glance, the Hainanese Chicken Rice, for instance, looks like an elevated take on the ubiquitous national dish. The slices of meat, tender and oh- so-flavourful, taste just like chicken done well. So good is the plant-based substitute Heura “chicken”, brought in by Barcelona-based company Foods for Tomorrow, that even Spain’s Roca brothers are putting it on their menu at the legendary El Cellar de Can Roca. At Prive Tiong Bahru, the trick is in slow-cooking the soya-based protein to extract maximum flavour and nutrients. It’s served with fragrant brown rice simmered in a light vegetable broth.

Chicken isn’t the only meat to be swopped out from the menu. The group also uses other meat substitutes such as Impossible and Beyond burger patties, and Gardein fishless fillets.

“The fact that they are meatless already removes the toxins that come with 99 per cent of the meat that humans eat – namely antibiotics, growth hormones and concentrated pesticides,” shares Oeij.

Prive at Tiong Bahru 57 Eng Hoon Street, #01-88, Tel: 6776-0777

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Comfort Zone: Kamoshita

While Keong Saik Road might be home to trendy bars and fancy nosh, head to the quieter Neil Road for the nights when comfort trumps cool. Just five doors from the top of the street is Kamoshita, which specialises in soul-warming oden, a traditional Japanese winter dish. On most nights, the 14-seater bar counter around the open kitchen is lined with Japanese businessmen, jackets shrugged off and ties loosened as they eagerly anticipate the individually-plated dishes with a single ingredient steeped in stock – free of soya sauce – that come out of the master pot before them.

Different from the oden in the southern region of Japan, where you are more likely to find beef tendons and fish cake in a dark, umami-rich soup, this is Kanto-style oden, where simple ingredients are cooked in a clear stock made from bonito flakes, kombu (kelp) and saba mackerel. Helming the kitchen is chef and managing director Koki Miyoshi, an Ehime native and a former chef at the Japanese embassy in London for over two years, who adds flavour to the broth with spices such as sansho pepper and Japanese mustard instead of dark soya sauce.

Says Miyoshi: “The history of oden goes as far back as the 14th century, when vegetarian cuisine was the main meal for many Japanese.”

At Kamoshita, favourites include daikon (radish), fish cake and prawn dumplings. The latter as well as Miyoshi’s healthier take on agedashi (deep-fried) tofu are not commonly found in restaurants. Freshly-made prawn paste is blended with minced lotus roots and egg yolk, steamed and served in the clear dashi with a sprinkle of sprouts and grated daikon.

Says Miyoshi: “Oden is really a simple and healthy dish as it doesn’t need much oil or sauce. Its deliciousness comes from the natural sweetness of the soup and the ingredients.”

Kamoshita, 5 Neil Road, Tel: 6221-3950


Natural Selection: Como Cuisine

Como Cuisine knows how to make a first impression. Pristine white walls and a plethora of verdant air plants mimic the lush greenery of the surrounding Dempsey neighbourhood, while floor-to-ceiling windows let in a subtle stream of natural light. Its picture-perfect ambience makes this a popular destination for yoga enthusiasts and ladies who lunch. But the restaurant isn’t just a pretty face. The menu takes its cue from Como hotels and resorts around the world, and follows the “Eat Well, Live Well” philosophy.

Heading the kitchen is executive chef Tshering Lhaden, whose decade of working in the kitchens of the group’s hotels and resorts means she is well attuned to the group’s philosophy. The Bhutanese native steers clear of brunch items such as poached eggs bathed in rich hollandaise, preferring lighter breakfast dishes that provide more fuel for the day. The Masala Dosa, for instance, is a Como Cocoa Island breakfast classic that promises an energy- boost without a midday crash. The crispy South Indian pancake is made from freshly-ground mung beans and served with potatoes sauteed in masala spices. On the side is a house- made coconut chutney mixed with vinegar and ginger to get those gastric juices flowing. In place of toast, another breakfast favourite, is chef Lhaden’s version with carrots, apples, pumpkin seeds and a pinch of garlic. Her healthy ‘loaves’ are dehydrated instead of baked to preserve the nutritional value of the vegetables.

For dinner, the restaurant transforms into a popular spot for those craving an alternative to a traditional lobster and steak dinner. Instead of a whole crustacean bathed in a sinful amount of butter, Lhaden chooses sustainably-farmed Canadian lobsters in an aromatic tomato masala sauce. The juicy chunks of meat are then folded into fluffy basmati rice infused with saffron, wrapped in a paper-thin naan and steamed to perfection.

Como Cuisine , Block 18A Dempsey Road, Tel: 1800-304-6688

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Going for Gold: Six Senses Duxton

Six Senses Duxton might be in the heart of Chinatown, but it remains one of the few places to go to for modern, elevated Chinese cuisine. The colour gold takes centre stage in Yellow Pot, the hotel’s restaurant designed by British designer Anouska Hempel, whose works include the homes of English royalty.

The interior follows a chinoiserie theme, accentuated with mustard and black that lend a timeless elegance to the space. And the value-for-money business lunches attract sharp-suited executives from the surrounding Tanjong Pagar offices. Here, you can be sure the lunch set won’t leave you feeling drowsy afterwards. Local chef Sebastian Goh, who brings with him nearly two decades of experience, turns out delicious fare rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine beliefs – but free of medicinal smells you either love or hate.

At Yellow Pot, chef Goh keeps his herbs in the kitchen, choosing to introduce them in delicious, nourishing dishes. His modern-day apothecary has premium Chinese herbs such as dang gui (female ginseng) and dang shen (codonopsis roots) – known to give immunity systems a boost – that he uses in double-boiled soups and stocks. Standout dishes are the Herbal Black Chicken Soup, left to simmer for hours with a selection of herbs, and the Steamed Kuhlbarra Barramundi. The latter is drizzled with a scallion-ginger pesto and sesame oil, then steamed with tian ma (rhizome gastrodiae), a rare Chinese herb said to help regulate the blood pressure and relieve fatigue as well as headaches.

Also, in place of regular soya sauce, chef Goh makes his own with the base soup stock, enhancing the natural sweetness of the fish while keeping its nutritional value.

Yellow Pot, Six Senses Duxton, 88 Duxton Road, Tel: 6914-1420

Gluten-free Delights: The Butcher’s Wife

The name might be a bit of a misnomer, but The Butcher’s Wife is where you go to for a gluten-free meal instead of a slab of steak. New chef Mariana Campos D’Almeida thrives on creating healthy, innovative and super tasty, gluten-free dishes, and is a wizard at wild fermentation (kombucha, kefir, yogurt and cheeses). The goat cheese with heirloom tomatoes, for instance, is a hit with the brunch-loving crowd. The Brazilian chef uses fresh goats’ milk from a local farm, which she ferments with kefir for two weeks. The resulting creamy cheese is chock-full of probiotics to help soothe inflamed guts, while tangy purple basil and sweet heirloom tomatoes cut through the delicate richness.

At night, the earthy tones of the restaurant transform the space into a homely dining spot.The plush velvet seats are for sinking into after a long day at work, while the counter seats surrounding the bustling open kitchen are saved for those who enjoy a bit of a spectacle while they eat.

Pasta is indubitably the star of the show and made from a variety of gluten-free flours that turn out unique combinations. Take the gnocchi, a typically dense pasta made from potatoes and whole wheat flour. Here, purple sweet potatoes – less starchy and rich in antioxidants – replace potato starch, while buckwheat flour is used in place of regular wheat. The gluten-free buckwheat is easier to digest, and imparts a nutty flavour. The resulting soft purple pillows are then pan-fried to yield a crisp exterior and finished with a simple sauce of rosemary butter and local mushrooms packed with vitamins and anti-inflammatory benefits. Many order a glass of natural wine to go with this.

The Butcher’s Wife, 19 Yong Siak Street, Tel: 6221-9307

(Related: Why restaurants in Singapore are jumping on the healthful eating bandwagon)


No mistake, it’s a plant: Origin Grill

Imagine a vegan tucking into dinner, and then complaining that he’d been served fish. Of course, it would have been a PR nightmare if that were true.

Chef Damian Piedrahita’s Banana Blossoms “Fish and Chips” appears to have that effect on many diners eating the dish for the first time. Beautifully battered and lightly deep-fried to achieve that crisp golden skin, the fleshy banana blossoms has Piedrahita easily convincing diners that they’re well-cooked pieces of fish. Even if you didn’t fall for it, dragging a forkful through the accompanying small dish of vegan (naturally) tartar sauce would probably seal the deal.

Chef Piedrahita is Shangri-La Hotel Singapore’s answer to introducing more plant-based dishes in its restaurants, an initiative it launched early last year. The Uruguay native started his career in the film industry before becoming a chef over 10 years ago. He is currently the consulting chef for the hotel’s restaurants, lending his expertise in vegan and plant-based cuisine to the different head chefs.

You know things are serious when even the steakhouse – renowned for its snow-aged wagyu – gets in on the action. The Four-Hands Dinner by Piedrahita and Origin Grill’s head chef Heidi Flanagan shows a clever play on earthy root vegetables such as celeriac and – Piedrahita’s personal favourite – artichokes. Known for lowering blood sugar levels, the latter has a delicate yet complex flavour that makes it a versatile ingredient.

At Origin Grill, artichokes are turned into a sweet, nutty confit as well as a sauce that is drizzled over fluffy pillows of green pea gnocchi. The steakhouse might have made its name with prime cuts of beef, but it’s also clear that the vegetables on the menu are not afterthoughts. Says Piedrahita: “To cook is to communicate, and the language of the plant-based world is limitless.”

Shangri-La Hotel Singapore, Lobby Level, 22 Orange Grove Road, Tel: 6213-4595

(Related: Ease into a plant-based lifestyle at this resort on Sumba Island)