Tag Archive | Sophie’s

2 contrasting meals in one day

Last week, I inviegled AE to take me up to Woodlands to buy more smoked pork knuckles from Wang Foong. Die-die I must eat the stuff again — and AE the good soul not only agreed to drive but also brought along chiller bags with the necessary ice-packs too.

Natch to say, we went a bit crazy and then discovering that Fassler was next door, we loaded up on fresh mushrooms (half the prices charged by Cold Storage downtown or anywhere else for that matter!) plus some fish and sauces!

But that pre-prep food venture isn’t the main course of this post.

Rather, it was the organic vegetarian cafe called Sunny Choice at Rail Mall that AE introduced me to on our way back from Woodies that not only filled my stomach and thrilled my taste buds but also provided a cure for sore eyes. The plating and taste were far superior to my usual hangout Create Healthy Lifestyle at Fortune Centre but with superior prices too!

For example, the ABC juice at Sunny costs $6, compared to $4.50 at Create which I already thot expensive, when at Clementi Mall’s basement juicer, it comes in a larger helping — for all of $3.20.

Sunny’s sushi roll (the standard of most organic veggie joints) costs $6 too, whereas Create charges $3.50. Even at the hoity-toity Sophie’s (4th level, Fortune Centre), it’s only $3.80 — at least it was when I last ate there, mayb two years ago.

Guess the extra is for the sunny ambience of the cafe.

By contrast, the same night I joined my chair yoga mates from Kampung Glam Community Club for a spot of hot pot at House of Hot Pot in Tan Quee Lan Street. The Lim yoga gurus hosted, to celebrate their 20th semester of chair yoga teaching at Kg G.

It was again a meal guaranteed to give vegetarians a nightmare as the plates upon plates of free flow pork, chicken, beef and seafood were delivered to our table. True, there was also plentiful of veggie, seaweed and mushrooms of all variety and hue but as we let the meats and the rabbit food mix in the hot pot brew of tongue tingling tastes, it’s really very hard for even true blue vegetarians to resist.

But resist one young yoga classmate did as she is a full-time vegetarian — unlike me who is vegetarian part-time and erratic! It helped too that the gurus had specially brewed what they called “the soup of love” — a non-meat, non-seafood brew for her to cook the veggie, mushrooms et al in!

Now I can’t think of a day where I ate two meals that are as different as chalk from cheese ;)

most flavorful lei cha fan

tauhu goreng with pumpkin paste

pricey veggie sushi

Hot pot butcher's brew

when veggie meets meat

Good comes from bad experience

If not for the lousy experience I had received at Sophie’s, I would probably not have explored the other vegetarian food outlets at Fortune Centre unless forced to, such as going on a Monday to that part of the world with a longing to eat vegetarian but Sophie’s is closed!

But thank goodness I got pissed off with Sophie’s and so was forced to look for alternatives. And really, ended up enjoying a wider selection of vegetarian cuisine.

After discovering Pine Tree Cafe, I also got to eat at Creative Organic — again — as well as the cafe across the corridor from it whose name has undergone a transformation. The one and only time I visited it, it was called Piao Xiang Vegetarian Food. Now it’s metamorphosed to become Xiu Yuan Good Food Cafe.

Still by whatever name it calls itself, its offerings are probably the cheapest of the three veggie cafes on Fortune Centre’s 2nd floor. For the best vegetarian sushi, Creative Organic has it.

And Pine Tree Cafe is my favourite because I’ve grown to love its leica fan. Even Picky has become a fan, not of leica of cos but of the nasi lemak which looks good and tastes good.

Pity then nasi lemak is available only on Sundays and leica is often sold out! At least the green herbal soup that accompanies the rice.

When I suggested to the friendly lady owner she just served the rice la, she said: “Cannot. Must have the soup.”

I said, just the rice and condiments without the soup would be fine for me.

“Cannot. Leica must have leica.”

“Then don’t call it leica?”

“Cannot” was the final nswer.

So much for being entrepreneurial and flexible!

fan without leica

Healthy food good and cheap

After forswearing eating again at Sophie’s out of choice, I thought I would probably not find another decent vegetarian restaurant that serves healthy food with a modern twist.

OK, there’s always Loving Hut but unlike J I’m not a particular fan of its menu, preferring Sophie’s style of cooking. But and there’s a terrible but .. and I shall not go into it again, as I don’t like to refry cold rice, to quote a Chinese saying.

So it looked like no more great vegetarian eating out, unless I settle for the buffet served at Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant at Quality Hotel: a venue that’s favoured by several members of my family whenever they decide to host a clan gathering.

Again, while I don’t mind being a guest there, I balk at paying its prices. In any case, it’s out of the way; not somewhere one can drop into on the spur of the moment.

However, last Thursday, I struck lucky. And also on Sunday too.

But Thursday first. After making one of my ad hoc visits to the Waterloo Street Kwan Im Hood Cho Temple, I felt rather hungry and since I won’t go back to Sophie’s, i was left with little choice but to head for Fu Lu Shou Complex where Yogi Hut once was.

I had visited its successor once but couldn’t remember what I ate, which suggests the food wasn’t terrific or terrible. I couldn’t even remember the cafe’s name!

great $7 harvest

Anyway, I made the revisit and saw ah hah, the successor’s name is Nature’s Harvest Cafe. I’m glad I made the revisit: the set lunch including a bean based soup was refreshing, clean tasting and devoid of oil. Exactly as I like it my food. And at $7, it suited Auntie Scrooge’s budget to a T.

I felt so rich after paying the bill that I even splurged on a bottle of black sesame oil and a pack of kidney beans that Nature’s Harvest also sold.

The only trouble with this cafe is that i can’t take mum there as there’s no way she could negotiate her way there from OG where I usually park my car.

So, come Sunday, and since I was still hankering after vegetarian, I was left with no choice but to go to Fortune Centre which is more friendly to elderly folks with wobbly knees. With Sophie’s on the 4th floor out of the question, I decided to try my luck on the 2nd floor where I remember there are also some veggie cafes.

Alas, the one I had tried be4 was closed while the other two looked as though they served traditional vegetarian food which i don’t particularly like. Still, since we were already there, we die-die must eat at one of them. But which would be the better choice?

Then as luck would have it, I saw Kalpana, the SPH property correspondent and a lifelong vegetarian eating outside Pine Tree Cafe and asked if the food was OK. She gave it the thumb’s up, so we ordered nasi lemak, “duck” rice and lei cha fan.

 The first two came with a small cup of soup each while the lei cha fan came with a very generous bowl of lei cha that was of just the right consistency and richness.

Even picky Siti enjoyed her choice of nasi lemak as did I my lei cha. Mum enjoyed her “duck” rice too but as has become her habit of late, she always has to give a minus point somewhere — so she complained about having to sit in the corridor to eat her meal!

Still, at $12.50 for all three of us, or 50% of what we would have to pay at Sophie’s, I find no reason not to go back to Pine Tree, especially when I contrast the friendly service we received as compared to what passes as service on the 4th floor!

My only regret is that we were so hungry when the food arrived, i quite forgot to capture any images for momentos.

But not to worry. Pix akan datang because with good food @ great prices served with  a smile, there’s no reason not to make a return visit asap. My only fear is the curse of second visits!

It’s Vesak once more

Like last year, I decided to go vegetarian for one meal this Vesak Day, tho unlike last year, I decided to stay home for the meal, for various reasons.

The first was we were out yesterday for a series of hospital visits for my mother, including a long visit to the National Skin Centre for advice on some skin complaints she’s been having.

Two days out in a row could be stressful, if not for my octogenarian then certainly for me, especially when I expect there would be full house at every vegetarian restaurant I know.

And besides crowds, I’ve gone off Sophie as stated previously while the last time I was at Loving Hut with J and Battyboo, I had a bad stomach afterwards: not sure if it was just me or the food. So I was disinclined to go back so soon. Lastly with our family’s celebration of our May babies only last Sunday, May 23, at Lotus, that place was out too. 

Our veggie lunch today was simple: steamed pumpkin cubes garnished with Japanese seaweed and fatt choy (or hair) lightly stir fried with zuchini strips, cabbage and special taugeh or bean sprouts — special because they are home sprouted, much more crunchy and fresh than what I get from Fairprice or Cold Storage.

Besides a veggie meal, I wanted to take two more steps to mark Vesak my way.

One, I bought some flowers for the altar although in previous years I had clung to my “go with the flow school” practice which meant that there could be flowers or no flowers, depending on whether Vesak co-incided with the days when there would be fresh flowers in the home.

Two, I would take mum to a temple, preferably Kong Meng San Phor Kark See off Upper Thomson Road since it’s the most accessible temple for her wobbly legs within my temple orbit.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at Kong Meng San after lunch, around 2.30pm, the temple was still choc a block with devotees and their cars. Some roads were closed; some normal entry points to the temple were also closed; traffic was re-directed. Ren san; ren hai!

Mum chickened out. I don’t blame her. The vast undulating grounds; the many flights of steps; the traffic and the crowds. She couldn’t handle it. She decided to go with the flow. I concurred. We clasped our palms from within the car and then left.

In any case, I had been there only on Tuesday after my Vicom visit.

Perhaps next year’s Vesak Day then. Or perhaps I will continue to go with the flow which means visiting when conditions are encouraging.

Sophie, enough, no more

’tis not so sweet as it was before.

As I write this, I nurse a slightly shocked right hand — after a nasty accident while lunching at Sophie’s aka as New Green Pasture Cafe today.

OK, it wasn’t Sophie or even the cafe’s staff’s fault that my right hand got splashed with piping hot lei cha insofar as it wasn’t they who bumped into me. And I can’t blame them for the fact that I was about to carry the bowl of soup to my table when a customer bumped into me.

I go to Sophie’s with my eyes open. It’s always choc a bloc with stuff and customers. Its order taking is disorganised or, if organised, then it’s the sort of organisation that only the order taker knows. And it’s self service.

But what got me supremely upset was the reaction of both Sophie and her side-kick Angela to my dropping the bowl of lei cha on the counter after that customer knocked into me when trying to squeeze past.

Some lei cha splashed onto my hand. It was hot and caused me to drop bowl on the counter I had just lifted it from, spilling some of the soup. I didn’t blister but my hand hurt. And it continued to feel tender for the rest of the day.

What did the two ladies who run the shop say other than: “Oh it’s very hot.” Each echoing the other. No attempt to help. No attempt to enquire whether I was OK.

It was the man who bumped into me who offered to take the bowl with what’s left of the lei cha to my table. He also stated the obvious when he lifted up the bowl. “It’s very hot.” It was he who instructed me to use the piece of tissue I had in my hand to mop up the spilt green liquid. I was too shocked by the accident to protest.

No offer at all from the proprietor or staff to top up the bowl or give me a fresh one. No attempt to ease my shock by saying they would clean the counter.

For all they cared, I was responsible for the accident and I had to cope or not cope.

With this sort of  “who cares” attitude, I’ve got to be a masochist to keep going back, even tho I like the food, especially the cold soba, the brown rice set and several others.

I’m always willing to overlook so-so food if the service is good as I had written about it before.

With Sophie’s, it’s the right opposite. I’ve overlooked it’s brand of service time and again because I like the food there so much.

But not after today.

Even a food stall hawker at a hawker centre would have expressed more concern than the two ladies in charge who saw what happened. Especially when the victim is someone who is a fairly regular customer.

And yes, they did grudgingly ask about my hand when I paid the bill.

“OK,” I said.

In my heart, I was saying, OK, never again will eat at your cafe, till you improve your service.

But then again, the place is so popular that i doubt my withdrawal of patronage would matter a jot to those who own it.

good bye brown rice

Yogi House revisited

Today, I made my return visit to Yogi House @ Fu Lu Shou Complex, not by design but by default because after visiting the Waterloo Street Temple, I suddenly felt very hungry.

Not wanting to go back to Sophie’s (New Green Pasture Cafe) where I had just been earlier this month, I decided to revisit Yogi House, as I had always intended to, after my first visit back in January.

Alas, the basil beehoon which had been on my mind all the while (I’m a basil and beehoon eating/loving monster) was off the menu. So was the “sushi”. As was the dessert of the day. Business very good, ah, I thought as I settled for what was available — sesame noodles.

It was only after I had paid for my food that I discovered it was a cold noodles, not temperature hot as I thought.

I might have been more worried had I discovered — more abt that latter — what i discovered when I was about to leave the cafe after I finished eating.

When the noodles arrived, my worries evaporated. A fresher and healthier looking dish I’ve seldom seen. Or tasted when I dug into my meal.

sesame noodles so good!

A small mount of crispy salad comprising finely shredded cucucumber, pea shoots and something crackly and crunchy (which I couldn’t name) covered the noodles. A delicious brown sesami sauce that had just the right amount of sweetness sat at the bottom of the dish with the noodles.

I couldn’t toss the ingredients properly because they were served in a small dish while the amount of ingredients was enormous, to put it mildly.

So I cleared the top of the heap first by eating it up. Which to its credit was so good that it wasn’t in need of any sauce to improve its taste. Still, a bigger plate would have allowed for all the ingredients to be well tossed which no doubt would have made the whole dish taste better, instead of eating the dish in two parts: the salad kosong and the noodles with the sauce.

The salad and noodles came with a tasty seaweed soup. All for $6 — a price which I noted in my previous post on Jan 7 gives Sophie’s at Fortune Centre a run for her money.

Before I left, I decided to pick up some organic groceries that the Yogi cafe sold. At the cashier’s, I inquired whether there would be any discount. She asked whether I was a “member”. I said “no” and inquired about how to become one.

Then she dropped the bombshell.

“I can’t tell you now because there will be a new owner. He takes over tomorrow…” indicating with a nod at a man whom I had thought was just another customer.

That explained why most of the food was gone by the time I got there, which was barely after 1pm.

I guess vegetarian food business, especially when it is touted as organic vegetarian, isn’t a gold mine. And Sophie’s staying power probably is due to her daring to be pricey, instead of simply serving great food!

Starbucks vs Sophie’s

I ate at Fortune Centre’s New Green Pasture Cafe (aka Sophie’s after the owner’s name) yesterday with mum and her maid and I ate alone (grabbed a bite literally) at Starbucks at Great World City today, as I have to load up the fridge for home, because I’m going away for a few days from tomorrow.

There’s no big deal about Sophie’s: its service is erratic to sucky and every time I’ve been there, I’m left to wonder why I’m back. But go back I do, because the food is really good, as there are several dishes which catch my fancy. It’s one of those few places where my taste buds light up when I think about the food.

When I first wrote about Sophie’s back in June 2008, I thought the food was OK but not great and its prices not cheap. But since then, I got converted. I like the food hugely and the prices are no worse than what’s charged at some of the more upmarket food courts.

It’s one and only drawback is that it’s certainly no thru train trying to get service. You place your order at the counter, as others also try to do while yet others are going through the book containing the menu with colour photos illutsrating the mouth-watering dishes. Up to half a dozen of us are congregating at the counter most times.

Meanwhile, the order taker, Angela, is erratically noting down the orders, while answering queries about the food, the prices of the dry goods which the cafe also stocks and accepting payment.

It’s an exercise in supreme patience most times, because after my order has been scribbled into a list that only Angela can decipher, it could be a long wait be4 the food comes, sometimes all at once, but more often than not, in dribs and drabs.

It was no different yesterday but somehow I still go back. And the cafe had no lack of customers, of all ages, races, nationalities and I dare say educational backgrounds.

Perhaps we are all willing to accept some sacrifice in service standards for a palate pleasing meal?

tasty n healthy udon

I’m not sure I can say the same of Starbucks. I have never been enamoured of the chain but as usual, I’m a sucker for “freebies” even tho I know the “freebie” is already embedded into the price.

Hence, I allowed myself to be induced to subscribe for two years’ worth of Business Times online, in return for two $10 Starbuck vouchers that SPH offered as a lure.

And as the weeks rolled by, I got worried that I might never use up the vouchers be4 they expire. This was because despite popping by several Strabucks outlets from Raffles City to Tan Tock Seng Hospital to recce, I found none of the offerings appetising.

Prepacked sandwiches? Over-priced muffins that looked hard?

But today, because I just needed a bite rather than a good meal, I decided to bite the bullet. Spent one of my $10 vouchers + $1.20 top up. Had a tuna sandwich with caramelised appel and two honey waffle biscuits. Worth the money? No, but the sandwich  and biscuits were passable.

Not something to drool about

Will do same with the remaining voucher. But swear, will not ever want Starbucks vouchers, whatever the promotion.

Which leads me to wonder how Starbucks ever managed to make it this big anywhere, let alone worldwide!