Opening Hours: Mon – Fri 11am – 3pm, 5.30pm – 9pm;
Sat – Sun and PH 11am – 9pm 3.30pm (Happy Hour from 4pm – 6pm)
Loving Hut is pretty much a household name among vegetarians and vegans alike. As an international vegan chain with more than 200 outlets all over the world, you’re likely to be able to find at least one Loving Hut eatery in any city you find yourself in. Each outlet has a different set-up and menu, and the quality of the food really depends on the particularities of that specific outlet, but one commonality is that all the outlets are run by followers of “Supreme Master Ching Hai” (who happens to be a fairly controversial spiritual leader and business entrepreneur – makes for an interesting read if you have some time to spare).
In Singapore, Loving Hut used to have cafes in Suntec City and International Plaza serving simple Asian and Western dishes, but these have since closed down. Their image was revamped with the opening of a new café in Joo Chiat in January last year. I was kindly invited to the opening launch of the new café but I’ve not had a chance to visit again to write a review until I moved to the East and the café became within nearly walking distance.
Loving Hut @ Joo Chiat is a cute, cosy café that would be a good place for a casual lunch (there are also weekday lunch specials from 11am to 2.30pm). The menu wasn’t overwhelmingly long but its range of items was fairly impressive and would warrant a second visit – there were a few enticing options for each of the soups, salads, pastas/lasagne and Asian favourites like nyonya rendang and pho noodle soup, but the freshly prepared savoury vegan crepes were the most interesting of the lot. Unfortunately I couldn’t carve out any more space for crepes (or dessert, for that matter) so that would have to wait till the next visit.
Bali Bliss Soba Salad
The soba salad may not have won any points for presentation, but it was superior to the other dishes in terms of taste and texture. Sweet, crunchy slivers of grated beetroot, carrot and white radish provided a refreshing contrast to juicy marinated tempeh pieces and rich, creamy avocado slices, all served on a bed of soba noodles seasoned with an Asian sesame vinaigrette dressing. ($9.90)
Banana Leaf Nasi Campur
Nasi campur has always been my favourite Indonesian dish despite (or perhaps because of) its simplicity in concept – just a mound of steamed white rice surrounded by small portions of various side dishes. Loving Hut’s version came recommended by the menu but unfortunately fell short of expectations. The spicy eggplant and the fruit achar (made with pickled prunes) were flavourful accompaninents to the steamed organic brown rice, but the scrambled turmeric tofu was bland, the spinach lacked freshness and the crackers and rendang were unmemorable. ($10.90)
Three-cup Chickin Organic Brown Rice Set
Tender vegan “chickin” (soy) pieces and thin slices of king mushroom soaked up Loving Hut’s interpretation of the popular Taiwanese “Three Cups” recipe, originally comprising of 1 portion each of soy sauce, sesame oil and rice wine, together with generous helpings of basil and ginger. While the sauce was slightly inconsistent or too salty in parts, and the addition of green and red capsicum to the traditional recipe ingredients felt out of place, the savoury Three Cups sauce was nevertheless enjoyable. A welcome contrast was also provided by a simple, clear Chinese soup, naturally sweetened with carrot and white radish. While not critical, the dish could be improved if more attention is paid to the texture of the organic brown rice and the quality of the steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrot served on the side. ($9.90)
Surprisingly, easily the best item I tried at Loving Hut was the Avocado Smoothie, made with a winning combination of avocado, coconut water and coconut meat. The smoothie was creamy and satisfying without being overwhelmingly heavy, with a hint of natural sweetness from the coconut water. Nonetheless, all the fat from the avocado and coconut meat make it pretty filling so you would probably want to share the smoothie with another person if you either have a small appetite or want to make space for other items on the menu. ($7.90)
Conclusion: Loving Hut’s a cute vegan café with a great range of options at reasonable prices. Food-wise, there’s room for improvement but looks promising enough to warrant a return visit.