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Nutritious and affordable meals you will love

A former cook at a hip Bukit Timah café now dishes out healthy plates at a Bishan kopitiam, while an ex-L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon chef serves wholesome atas ‘cai png’ in a food court

The Wholefood Kitchen
The Wholefood Kitchen
27 Apr 2016

The Wholefood Kitchen

2/F BISHAN CAFETERIA, 514 BISHAN ST 13, S570514. TEL: 8666-9740 . Open daily except Mon & Sun. Noon-8pm Tue-Fri, 11am-7pm Sat. Last orders at closing. www.facebook.com/TheWholefoodKitchenSG

Amid the hawker stalls at the somewhat shabby kopitiam above Bishan bus interchange is this chic, homey joint dishing out healthy mod western plates. Bubbly chef-owner Sanye Lam, 33, used to be a cook at the wholesome and raw food eatery The Living Café in Bukit Timah, where she first attended its cooking classes before joining the kitchen full-time. After working there for two years, she decided to open her own place, offering similar cuisine. But instead of swanky Bukit Timah, Sanye set up shop in this humble heartland neighbourhood. The Wholefood Kitchen is “flexitarian”, meaning plenty of veg and just a bit of meat (no red), like healthier chicken breast and salmon, among vegetarian and vegan options. “Vegetarianism is good, but it’s easier to encourage people to try it out by slowly cutting meat out of their diet, instead of completely removing it,” says Sanye, who’s been flexitarian for many years now, and is passionate about changing people’s minds about “plant-based cuisine” and raw food. Sixty-five per cent of the food here is cooked, and the rest is served raw. Being staunch carnivores, we are sceptical, but we sit down to a meal and are pleasantly surprised.

THE LOOK: The coffeeshop on the second floor overlooking the bus interchange is humid and not the most glamorous spot for soba and salad. During our visit, many aunties gawked curiously at the stall, which almost looks like a mini standalone café.

ON THE MENU: A little sign here notes that the food is free of dairy, refined and processed products, red meat, preservatives and as far as possible, made from scratch. You choose one of four “fillings” ranging from tofu to salmon, and pair it with one of four “dishes”, like brown rice, salad or a wrap to make it a meal. Also available are weekly specials and desserts.

The Wholefood Kitchen: The food
The Wholefood Kitchen: The food
27 Apr 2016

The Wholefood Kitchen: The food

(Left) Lemongrass Tofu with Curried Cashew ($8)
We have this served with mushy brown rice. But the pan-fried tofu is robustly flavourful and pleasantly firm. It’s pressed overnight then marinated with lemongrass, ginger and lime. The subtly curried roasted cashews provide a nice, sweet crunch, and there’s a fresh salsa of tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers dressed with cayenne pepper, chilli and lime. Apart from the blah rice, it’s a colourful and tasty plate that happens to be good for you.

(Right) Citrus Tofu Seaweed Salad with Cooling Shiitake Soba Noodles ($12)
This was the weekly special when we visited. The pan-fried tofu is marinated in orange juice and liquid amino (a salty amino acid-rich liquid made from soy beans and often used as a gluten-free replacement for soy sauce), which sounds weird, but lends the tofu an intriguing savouriness. Heaped with raw carrots, cashews, cucumbers, sliced seaweed and mushrooms on a bed of chewy buckwheat soba tossed in a citrusy dressing. Refreshing, with a nice hit of umami.

The Wholefood Kitchen: The food
The Wholefood Kitchen: The food
27 Apr 2016

The Wholefood Kitchen: The food

(Left) Cuban Mojo Chicken ($9)
Flavourful chunks of chicken breast marinated in orange juice, lime and oregano before being lightly pan-fried. Served in a toasted wholewheat wrap rolled up with grated carrots, lettuce, and a piquant cumin and paprika-spiked guacamole. Spicy, tangy, tasty and also gluten-free, if that matters to you.

(Right) Cakes ($5 each)
There’s a selection of egg-, gluten- and dairy-free raw cakes made by blitzing nuts, oil and other ingredients in a blender, then set in the fridge. Skip the Pandan and White Chocolate (middle in pic), with pandan juice, cocoa butter and cashew nut butter. It has an unpleasant icy crunchiness and only the barest whiff of pandan. Instead, order the Lemon Pistachio (bottom in pic), which has a bright citrusy flavour and smooth texture. It’s made with lemon juice, coconut oil (which Sanye says gives it its silkiness), a touch of turmeric and cashew nut butter on a ‘crust’ of pistachios, almonds and dates.

BOTTOM LINE: Good-for-you grub that’s filling, quite yummy and attractively plated (but perhaps skip the desserts here). Yes, it’s a little bit expensive for a sweaty kopitiam experience, but a similar meal at a healthy hipster café will cost you almost double.

Super Simple
Super Simple
27 Apr 2016

Super Simple

#01-04, 51 CHINA SQUARE FOOD CENTRE, TELOK AYER ST, S048441. TEL: 9631-0288. Open daily except weekends. 11am-2.30pm; 5.30pm-8pm. Last orders at closing. www.facebook.com/supersimple.sg

“We did NS together and became friends there, and swore that one day we would go into business together. So, many years later, we finally did it!” laughs 30-year-old chef and co-owner Jasper Jek (left), pointing to his biz partner, former property agent, Irvine Goh, 30, who helps run the store at this “clean eating” kiosk at China Square Food Centre. Super Simple serves what’s essentially atas mod European “economical rice”.

Botak Jasper may still look like a recruit, but he recently completed a year-long cooking stint in Norway at one Michelin-starred mod European fine-diner Renaa Restauranter. Prior to that, he was junior sous chef at L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon at Resorts World Sentosa for almost three years. Impressive credentials behind this takeaway joint. It may seem like a far cry from the French dishes he cooked at Robuchon, but Jasper says that all the restaurants he’s worked at have had a strong focus on bringing out the best in simple ingredients, especially vegetables. He wanted to bring that approach to a humble food court to cater to picky CBD eaters looking for wallet-friendly yet healthy grub. They guys plan to offer delivery service soon, and also hope to open a few more outlets over the next two years.

THE LOOK: Super Simple is sandwiched between a Korean and Thai food joint in a food court that doesn’t look like much, but actually has a lot of fun options, like Yong Tau Foo and Ban Mian stalls rubbing shoulders with an onigiri shop. This outfit stands out, though, for its sleek storefront with wooden touches and colourful food display.

ON THE MENU: The concept here is similar to The Daily Cut, with its focus on pairing healthy proteins with complex carbs. With its trendy cai png concept, it’s also kinda like Grain Traders, though the menu here is smaller, and with more gourmet flourishes, like pickled mustard seeds, confit onions and house-infused chive oil. To keep things healthy and as oil-free as possible, there's also lots of slow cooking in the oven, such as mi-cuit (French for semi-cooked) salmon. You order by ticking boxes on a slightly fussy-looking form that lets you choose between three different sizes. The bigger the size, the more ingredients you get. To assemble a meal, pick proteins like chicken (breast or thigh), steak or salmon, a complex carb like brown rice, wholewheat pasta or sweet potato, and a bunch of supplements like vegetables, sous vide eggs and freshly-shaved parmesan cheese. If you can’t be bothered to choose, just get one of their four “No Fuss Sets” where everything’s assembled for you. Because we’re lazy, we zoom in on the following. 

Super Simple: The food
Super Simple: The food
27 Apr 2016

Super Simple: The food

Chicken Set ($9.90)
Chicken breast, served on brown rice with grilled corn, edamame beans, and a dressing of orange-plum sauce. The bird is juicy and divine. It’s brined then baked in the oven at a low temperature over a long time (chef refuses to reveal details) till just lightly done. So moist it tastes almost as if it were sous vide. Surprisingly, we prefer this to the other chook option of grilled chicken thigh. Meanwhile, the accompanying grilled corn has a nice crunch and smokiness and the edamame sweet and al dente. Also, the silky sous vide egg and pleasantly bittersweet dressing help perk up the boring brown rice.
 

Super Simple: The food
Super Simple: The food
27 Apr 2016

Super Simple: The food

Steak Set ($9.90)
New Zealand rib-eye, each portion about five thick slices, pan-seared then finished in the oven with a touch of butter, thyme and garlic until it’s pink and medium-rare. Sadly, it’s a bit dry, although it’s still fatty and perfumed with a fragrant roast beef flavour. Comes with a salad of romaine lettuce, slightly tart confit onions, pickled mustard seeds, tomatoes and a simple honey mustard dressing. It makes a decent meal and, at $9.90, is quite a steal.
    

Super Simple: The food
Super Simple: The food
27 Apr 2016

Super Simple: The food

Salmon Set ($10.90)
Farmed Norwegian salmon fillet gently seasoned with salt and cooked slowly at low heat in the oven until very tender. Served with sweet potato, grilled fennel, raw baby radish and lashings of chive-infused oil. The fish has a clean flavour and wonderfully creamy texture. Delicious paired with the rather gourmet veggies and comforting sweet potato.

BOTTOM LINE: Indeed super simple but well-made and somewhat refined clean eats perfect for brightening up dreary office lunches. Moreover, while the food here is lovely eaten hot, it’s still yummy at room temperature when we cracked open our leftovers an hour later.
 

Gastro Fujiyama
Gastro Fujiyama
27 Apr 2016

Gastro Fujiyama

#01-08/18, CHINA SQUARE FOOD CENTRE, 51 TELOK AYER ST, S048441. Open daily except weekends. Mon-Fri 11am-7pm. Last orders at closing. www.facebook.com/testkitchen.com.sg

A stone’s throw from Super Simple within the same food court is another healthy lunch option. The Test Kitchen @ Singapore stall space that hosts different Japanese eateries for pop-up stints is currently occupied by Gastro Fujiyama, a new concept by casual Japanese restaurant, Sakanadonya Kunimaru, at Boon Tat Street, which is run by a seafood distributor. The fish at this pop-up stall is directly imported from Okinawa. Apparently, the island is one of Japan’s biggest sources of bluefin, yellowfin and albacore tuna.

Gastro Fujiyama: The food
Gastro Fujiyama: The food
27 Apr 2016

Gastro Fujiyama: The food

The highlight here? Chirashi bowls. We order the signature Mixed Kaisen Don ($14) that comes with seasonal fish. On our visit, there was albacore tuna, caught during springtime. It's buttery soft, with a milder, less irony flavour than the more premium bluefin. There was also fairly generously-sliced swordfish, squid and salmon on lightly vinegary rice. The fabulously fresh seafood comes unadorned with any sauce (just dip it into a saucer of soy on the side, like sashimi). Good value. 

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