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Type of Institution: Non-vegetarian (with vegetarian set menu)

Address: Velocity@Novena Square, #02-11/12, 238 Thomson Road, Singapore 307683
Tel: +65 6358 4466
Website: http://www.laobeijing.com.sg

Opening Hours: Lunch (weekdays) 11.30 am – 3pm (weekends) 11 am – 3pm, Daily High-tea 3 pm – 5pm, Daily Dinner 6 pm – 10 pm

Overall: 6.3/10

Lao Beijing
Yet another non-vegetarian restaurant catering for vegetarians is Lao Beijing, a fairly casual, traditional Chinese restaurant that’s part of the TungLok group (which I’m partial to). Their Vegetarian Set Menu, priced at $28 per person, seemed like a steal considering it featured 6 dishes (without rice). I would recommend getting a bowl of rice to balance the savoury side dishes, even though I would not eat white rice under most circumstances. The review below is based on their spacious outlet at Novena Square, but the same set menu can be found at their Orchard Central and Plaza Singapura outlets. Aside from the soup and dessert, the serving sizes as depicted in the pictures below were based on serving sizes for 3 people.

For my fellow vegans and vegans-to be, note that the vegetarian set menu was definitely egg-free and seemed to be dairy-free when I looked at the menu. But to be on the safe side, just tell the waiter or waitress that you want it to be dairy-free and he / she would notify the chef. Also note my point about the dessert, to follow.

Vegetarian Set Menu

Lao Beijing
The tasting menu began with the Cordyceps Flower and Bamboo Mushroom Soup, which was easily my favourite item on the menu. While it was a simple soup with few ingredients, the orange-golden cordyceps flowers and strips of net-like bamboo mushroom gave the soup a rich mushroom flavour and a pleasant chewy texture.

Lao Beijing
Next up, we had the Crispy-fried Mini Mushroom Coated with Spiced-Salt. These were bite-sized shitakes with a delightfully thin, crispy skin, but unfortunately they were fairly tasteless (even with the spiced salt) and could definitely use with a good marinade before frying.

Lao Beijing
The dishes that followed were much less interesting and seemed like they were inserted as a lacklustre effort to populate the menu. The Braised Beancurd in Claypot, with soft beancurd braised in vegetarian oyster sauce that was served on a bed of steamed Shanghai Green, was acceptable but generic.

Lao Beijing
The same could be said of the Sauteed Black Fungus with Lily Bulbs and Celery. The fungi and vegetables were stir-fried simply with little to no seasoning, but while I love letting the natural flavours of ingredients take centre-stage in a dish, the freshness, types and combination of these ingredients did not lend themselves well to such an approach. Aside from the mildly sweet and crunchy lily bulbs, this was a boring dish that was way too oily.

Lao Beijing
Following that, we had the Steamed Vegetable Dumplings, which had their thin skins stuffed with mixed green vegetables and just a bit of tofu.

Lao Beijing
Finally, the meal was rounded off with Chilled Mango Cream with Pomelo and Sago for dessert. The cold, sweet mango soup went well with the tangy pomelo, chewy sago pearls and mango cubes. I took a few bites of this before I found out the traditional recipe usually isn’t vegan-free and got sceptical about whether this one really was dairy-free as promised, so vegans would want to watch out for that.

($28 for the set menu, without rice)

Conclusion: The individual dishes in Lao Beijing’s Vegetarian Set Menu were largely of acceptable quality but not exceptional in their own right, making it mostly a case of quantity (or variety) over quality.

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Type of Institution: Vegetarian

Address: Velocity@Novena Square, #03-09/10, 238 Thomson Road
Tel: +65 6538 2992
Website:
 http://www.lingzhivegetarian.com

Overall: 7.5/10

Price of Buffet: $22.80++ (Monday – Thursday dinner, 6pm – 10pm)*

*The mushroom hotpot buffet is cheaper during Monday – Thursday lunch ($20.80++ between 11.30am and 2.30pm), the same price during Friday – Sunday and public holidays lunch ($22.80++ between 11.30am and 2.30pm) and more expensive during Friday – Sunday and public holidays diner ($24.80++ between 6pm – 10pm).

LingZhi Vegetarian Restaurant

LingZhi is well-known for its innovative and resourceful Chinese gourmet offerings, which are best sampled through its ala carte items (I intend to write a review in the future, but off the top of my head, you really should try the vegetarian satay and the spinach with bai ling mushrooms and truffle). In contrast, the Mushroom Hotpot Buffet, along with the cooked food it provided, did not have anything that was very impressive in terms of creative cooking.

However, the use of extremely fresh and organic ingredients in LingZhi’s Mushroom Hotpot Buffet won me over. Whenever I want to gorge myself in a buffet, I try to at least do it with some wholesome goodness so I will not get that pseudo-post-McDonald’s guilt and queasiness. My friend and I spent 2.5 hours in LingZhi in true Singaporean marathon eating fashion but I left feeling pretty good because the ingredients were so light and fresh. Moreover, I would recommend the buffet for weight-conscious, health-conscious boys and girls because mushrooms fill you up, are ridiculously low in calories (less than 30 calories/100 grams), virtually fat-free, protein-rich, and are excellent sources of minerals (e.g. magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, copper) and Vitamins B and D, etc. The two broths my friends and I chose tasted fresh, light and flavourful. I preferred the sour and spicy tom yam to the herbal soup (which you have to pay an additional $2 for and tastes like watercress soup).

Service has always been helpful and efficient at LingZhi. On this visit, I was quickly shown the non-vegan items in the buffet and I was happy to find out that the buffet was mostly vegan – only 3 items were not: the vegetable curry, custard roll, and “pork” pastry.

LingZhi Vegetarian Restaurant

All that being said, I was disappointed by the limited variety of mushrooms in a Mushroom Hotpot Buffet and the limited variety of food in general. If memory serves, they only had 4 types of mushrooms: drumstick mushroom, shitake mushroom, golden straw mushroom and black fungus. I loved the drumstick mushroom’s texture when cooked for a short period of time – slightly chewy and very fibrous. Among the other steamboat items on offer, I would recommend the vegetarian “fish” and mixed vegetable beancurd. The vegetarian “pork” was rather authentic and even imitated the fatty texture fringing the “meat”. The vegetarian ball felt like it was from another planet because it had a strange jelly-like texture. The other steamboat items included: seaweed, noodles, corn, baby corn, yam, lady’s fingers. The dipping sauces were average – the more notable ones were satay sauce, sweet chilli, and spicy sesame, with the last one being the best.

LingZhi Vegetarian Restaurant

Aside from the steamboat items, the Buffet had a dim sum cart at the side, with paus, siew mais, and interesting dumplings. My favourite was the siew mai, which had a very thin and soft wrapping and a great mushroom flavour. There were also about 5 trays of cooked food, the more notable one being the slightly sweet and slightly spicy rojak, which used fried tau pok in place of youtiao and had very fresh and sweet pineapples. Dessert was ordinary – custard rolls, longan jelly, green bean soup, etc.

Conclusion: I wouldn’t go back to LingZhi’s Mushroom Hotpot Buffet often because the variety was very limited, unlike e.g. Lotus. I’ve walked past LingZhi many times and the offerings of the Buffet seemed constant. However, I would go back again when I need a buffet fix because what they lack in quantity, they make up for in the quality of their fresh, organic ingredients and flavourful soup stocks.

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