Fresh, healthy and tasty grub's not impossible
100 Neo Tiew Road
Opening hours: Wed to Fri: 9.30am to 6.30pm; Sat, Sun and public holidays: 8am to 6.30pm
HEDRICK Kwan is more than just a plant expert. He is a culinary horticulturist as well. By this, he means that he experiments making food with his knowledge of plants.
Mr Kwan owns Plant Visionz, a gardening business where he teaches people how to grow their own vegetables. He also conducts cooking classes at Bollywood Veggies.
Now, he is onto the next step of his culinary journey - cooking private lunches at Bollywood Veggies.
"Growing a wide range of edible plants in this garden means there is always some exciting produce that comes into season every few months," he says. "This is a great place to experience the freshest of produce."
He does six dishes over a four-course meal for a minimum of 10 people, at $65 per head. The lunch is held in Bhanchha, Bollywood Veggies' show kitchen.
Some of the creations on the menu for a recent lunch included smoked pumpkin salad, tomato eggplant ganoush with tabbouleh and falafel, and mixed grain olive fried rice.
Many of the ingredients that he uses are grown in Bollywood Veggies, and the menu is suitable for vegans too. "My aim is to make vegetables not taste like vegetarian food," he says.
He makes everything from scratch, without relying on preservatives or processed foods, and throws in tips such as mixing minced beancurd with chick peas, "so that the falafel retains its shape", and using betel leaves to create the smoky flavour in his pumpkin salad.
At the end of lunch, Mr Kwan is happy to take diners on a quick tour of Bollywood Veggies to point out the plants and vegetables that he has used, such as the four-angled bean and sweet potato leaves for the salad.
"Food is the common denominator between plants and people. Cooking lunches like these allow me to share my plant knowledge, while diners get to eat clean," he says.
Bookings for private lunches have to be made at least three weeks in advance. To book, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
111 King George's Avenue
Opening hours: Tues to Sun, 10am to 10pm
The newly opened a.e.i.o.u cafe sounds like a pre-school for toddlers to learn their first vowels, but it is not.
Founder Dennis Lau makes sure that his food is "colourful and Instagrammable", but forget about giving this joint the hipster tag. Sure, there is amazingly good coffee on the menu, but there's no Eggs Benedict, truffle fries, or ice cream and waffles.
Mr Lau - a fashion designer - teamed up with his friend and fellow designer Joanna Fong to venture into the food-and-beverage (F&B) business. "But with so many new F&B places popping up, we knew we had to be different," he says. With this in mind, the two decided to take the clean-food route. Mr Lau says the menu is based on keywords such as light, refreshing, green, healthy, honest, and with surprise elements.
Chef at Work's director and culinary consultant Edwin Phua, who has worked at 3 Hat Restaurant, Salt and Les Amis, created the menu for the cafe.
Most of the dishes tend to be light, and nearly half the menu is suitable for vegetarians. To make the dishes less heavy, Mr Phua cuts back on the cream, and uses garlic-infused olive oil in place of butter. "I wouldn't declare that we serve organic food, but we serve healthier options," says Mr Lau. For example, in place of French fries, he offers healthier alternatives made from carrots and sweet potatoes.
The garden salad ($14.90) is big enough for two or three people to share. Apart from salad greens, there are beets thrown in together with edible flowers, making it a colourful dish. It comes dressed in homemade raspberry vinaigrette.
Mr Lau adds that some of the greens in the salad are grown locally. The culinary team works with a local farmer to grow sunflower sprouts, Swiss chard, red kale, red romano and red mustard. Other options include the smoked salmon salad ($16.90), pan-seared seabass with tomatoes ($21.90) and the substantial beef cheek pasta ($24.90). The tagliatelle comes with chunky but tender beef cubes, which are braised for over eight hours in balsamic vinegar reduction, giving it a slight tangy taste.
"The pasta is heavier, which male diners will like," he says. The other dishes, such as the mushroom soup, made from shiitake and white button mushrooms with very little cream, are lighter, filling the tummy but not overloading it.
THE BUSINESS TIMES