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Veganburg@Grand Stand
I found out recently that there’s a Veganburg outlet situated near my place at the newly refurbished Turf City aka Grand Stand. I’ve been wanting to visit Veganburg for the longest time ever since it was one of the first vegan eateries I’d learnt about. Its main outlet is in Jln Eunos I believe, which was way too far for even this enthusiastic vegan foodie to travel for.

I grabbed hold of my vegetarian sis C on her off day and both of us paid a visit to see what Veganburg was made of. Considering that most of their patrons are non-vegans (forgot where I learnt that from) and that 3 other outlets have sprung up since, I expected some standards in the taste department. They must be doing good business.

Ambience and Decor
On the Wednesday afternoon we were there, it seemed pretty empty, maybe about five tables taken. Surprisingly there seemed to be quite a lot of trash around, with trays and cutlery left on the used tables. We thought they must be desperately in need of service crew. Then we found out you were supposed to return your trays and dispose your trash at the return station. Unaccustomed to returning trays we Singaporeans are.

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The decor is whimsical, with vintagey cafe style armchairs on some of the tables which looked inviting enough to while away an afternoon. We really liked the old-school style tables, made of 100% recycled pallet, which were painted white and even had slots underneath them, like in primary and secondary school days of leaving books beneath the tables. I just had to sit on the faux grass carpeted bench. Just too cute and somehow made me feel like a cow. Check out the rustic flooring too, which I’m unsure if it was intentionally made that way or unintentionally left as it was. 

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If you’re a student, aim for a late lunch after 2pm as they have a 15% discount from 2-5pm. We ordered the Smoky BBQ and Satay Burger after a degree of pensive thought since all the burgers used the same soy patties except the BBQ. Didn’t seem like much of a choice save for the different sauces and flavorings. I have to agree with my friend J, their burger pictures look rather dry, and seem to play on browns and greens too much. A bit of a pity perhaps since touting a 100% plant-based menu is a great opportunity to play with the vibrant colors of a variety of vegetables.

When you place your order, you’re handed a waterproof coaster pager (it said so at the back!) that beeps when your order is ready. Then you collect it at the counter. Pretty smart when you consider this helps cut down on the labor required to run the place.IMG_5940

Our burgers arrived in these army-style cum camping school trip type metal food tins. I’m not sure why, to save on food grade paper wrappers? We had some trouble telling our burgers apart. The leafier one on the left is the Smoky BBQ, while the right was my Char-Grilled Satay burger.  IMG_5941Taking a peak at the contents within, it looked pretty average and self-explanatory. Burger buns, patty, satay sauce, lettuce leaf, fresh red onion rings.. The buns and the overall burger looked slightly flat I have to say.IMG_5943

Char-Grilled Satay
Chomp.

I’ve got to say I understand why this place is doing pretty well. Because they’re doing their food right.

The organic ciabatta burger buns are soft, fluffy and moist and more nutritious than the average burger bun with added sunflower seeds. It was definitely the mark of properly made bread with neither that doughy limpy texture of bog-standard loaves which can easily double up as plasticine when you mush them in your hand. Nor did it have that fake airy feel of your average fast food joint burger bun that makes you wonder if at least 50% of it comprises of air pockets.

The soy patty is, I gotta say, surprisingly moist, has a good consistency and tastes kind of real despite its faux-meat identity. This is because its not ground to uniform consistency, and tears away somewhat in shreds. I think it mimics chicken quite well and made my vegan taste buds wonder: chicken sausage?

Next, the satay sauce. It is kind of chunky, tastes properly peanutty and sweet. No complaints about this sauce. It complements the patty well and tastes exactly as advertised: satay sauce.

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The satay sauce complemented the juicy grilled soy patty and didn’t come off too strong or insipid. A taste that bodes well for the average mass consumer!

And of course, with all the awesomeness going on with the patty, sauce and burger buns, the other fillings – lettuce leaf and onions complete the package with their freshness. The onions were crisp (though could have been better prepped beforehand to get rid of the acridity and pungency) and the lettuce leaf was… pristine. I say this in recollection of when I still used to patronise fast food joints as a school kid, and when you opened up your burger looked like something strangely reminiscent of garbage disposal.IMG_5945While I watch C tackle her BBQ burger, I note her utter lack of skill or know-how at burger-eating. Somehow, I don’t know how, but apparently sauce oozes, squirts and drips from whichever burger she holds. I tell her she’s eating a burger, not strangling one.

Smoky BBQ
Anyway, the BBQ burger which I managed to get one bite out of was also pretty good. I suppose as expected since anything with BBQ sauce slathered over, even if it is a vegan BBQ sauce, will make anything taste like crazy fantastic fireworks. Again, a taste that definitely scores in the mass market.

The patty which contains mushroom is again something of a rare exhibit to me, the faux-meat un-advocate. Somehow, it manages to distinguish itself from the ‘chicken sausauge’ soy patty of my Satay burger, and taste more like, dare I say, beef! Again, the textures are uncanny, these patties! I say a silent prayer of thanksgiving that this place says vegan in it, allaying any of my suspicions and doing away with the need to constantly double-check if these burgers indeed really are vegan.

Overall, we also liked how our burgers sat well in our tummies, without the feeling of heaviness some kinds of vegetarian food impart and that we didn’t feel the post-meal sleepy spells of aforementioned vegetarian food. C felt satiated from the BBQ burger whilst I definitely could’ve had something more. Perhaps it would’ve made sense to have had a soup/one of the sides/beverage with my burger.

Will I visit Veganburg again?

Though still somewhat of an annoyance to access – you have to hop on the free shuttle bus that comes once every hour to get into Grand Stand, considering the fact that this is the only fast food joint where I can order anything on the menu without double-checking if there’s meat/dairy/eggs in them plus having the confidence that the tastes of my non-veg friends would be satisfied if we ate here makes me feel good about this place. My impression of the Veganburg philosophy is one that actually attempts to achieve some level of environmental sustainability in the way the business is run which is commendable to say the least.

Veganburg is a place I would gladly support if only it were located in more easily accessible areas such as the city perhaps. If only they’d open one at Takashimaya I’m sure the health-oriented PURE yogis at level 18 would gladly patronise this place.

http://www.veganburg.com/
Veganburg Menu

/end of review

Exploring Grand Stand – Pasarbella
My first impressions of Grand Stand is that its in some kind of an identity crisis. I don’t know what tune they’re humming to because it’s a mess of eateries of jumbled ethnic identity from Japanese to Western to Indian to ???, plus a few gimmicky customise-your-own-food sorts. Generally the vibe of eateries here comes across as vaguely trying to appear atas sort of B-rank cuisine.

So much visual noise.

And what’s with a place like Pasarbella, trying to cut it with the rich, cultured, conscious crowd with a Giant supermarket for the not so rich, cultured or conscious crowd right next door? The tenant mix boggles my mind.

Anyway, we pop into Pasarbella to witness how places like these try to tug at the purse strings of those gullible enough take a look at what’s on offer.

As expected, artisanal cheeses, wines, coffee, teas, Japanese style ‘authentic’ seafood eateries, macarons and a posh supermarket touting all sorts of organic, eco-friendly foods, skincare and housecleaning products as well as some fresh produce.

I don’t bother remembering any of their names, but this supermarket catches my eye with their wares. I spied some vegan energy/granola bars costing about $4.50ish. Certainly reconceptualises the idea of vegan eye candy.IMG_5950

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Ethical Endangered Species chocolates and an array of Crofter’s jams.

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All manner of processed coconut products, the darling of the health conscious crowd, from coconut flour to coconut aminos.

A Maison Kayser at Grand Stand! Ah, Memories.

Yes, I am surprised to see Maison Kayser here.

Maison Kayser is a name I’ve been acquainted with various times. It started out with ridiculous Yakitate Japan parodies of the French bakery’s image in which their bakers were depicted with hypermobile fingers with superhuman-like dexterity. (I really ought to include an image here.)

Then I realised Maison Kayser was actually quite a reputable bakery in Japan, I suppose the extent and degree of parody justifies the extent of reputation. I had the Ekmek Cacao (however it’s spelt) at the Isetan, Shinjuku counter and although I was eating a very dark chocolate bread my mind kept registering I had a dark and very bold chocolate cake in my mouth. When I managed to get to Paris a few years after that Japan experience with my sister, we spent our dangerous last hour or so making a last minute pilgrimmage to Eric Kayser where we grabbed whatever breads we could before almost barging through the security personnel to make it on board the Eurostar.

I am almost certain one of the staff caught sight of my protruding baguette and silently pronounced us absolutely bananas. But I feel absolutely no remorse for my shameful behaviour. I’m sure I would do it again, anything in the name of the Kayser.

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IMG_5952My memories of Maison Kayser come from my pre-vegan days. I’m not sure if they have much to offer vegans but here’s a tip: any self-respecting French bakery should be able to guaruntee their ‘baguette traditionelle’ vegan-friendly. According to French law at least, baguettes labeled as such should consist of nothing more that flour, salt and water.

Sweet Deja Vu – The Living Cafe
I had to introduce my sis to this place. Anyone who has even considered the importance of their health and who appreciates quality healthy food will likely take to this place.

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The front, which in my enthusiasm forgot to take a photo of the last time.

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Potted herbs outside give an image of ”I’m just gonna pop by my herb garden for some fresh herbs for the menu.”

We had the Digestiv (digestive tea) and Raw Mint Mocha Slice.

Digestiv

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We get horrified when we pay five dollars for tea and what arrives is a measly pot of tea-bag tea. But pay five dollars and get a big pot with a generous amount of loose leaves and herbs steeping inside and it is impossible to make any qualms about the price.

We can’t tell for sure what the blend of herbs were but it definitely tastes familiar and remiscent of herb teas of the stomach-soothing sort. We discerned two quintessential digestive ingredients – peppermint and fennel seed in the taste. We are both drinkers of herb tea so I can’t speak for a non-herb tea drinker, but I didn’t find this overpowering. The size of this pot makes it one to share with a friend and while you can also perhaps go solo, be prepared to invest the next hour or so in a state of zen carefree bliss as you slowly sip this and watch the world go by.

Raw Mocha Mint Slice

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Garnished with cacao nibs!

IMG_5956Two words: After Eights! But I am being reductionist. This was everything promised in its name and more.

Unsurprising from my experience of their raw cheesecakes, the layers cut smoothly and lusciously melt away in your mouth as you savor the dance of flavors each ingredient brings. Let’s start with the top layer.

The green layer is as per its looks, mint-flavored and forgive my primitive description tastes like a proper smooth version of the filling inside After Eight mints. The middle mocha layer definitely had a bold coffee bean taste (not coffee essence taste) and makes me wonder if some of the beans which they get from Papa Pahleta made their way into this. This gave the mocha layer and the overall slice that bit of character with its bitter taste.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the base which was slightly crunchy and tasted of sweet citrus. My guess is that it contains dried figs (the seeds producing the crunch) and orange essence used to pair with the chocolate flavored crust. Again, forgive my primitive descriptions but my mind perceives through analogy, because this reminded me of eating Jaffa cakes thus arriving at the conclusion it must have had orange and chocolate in it.

Picking at the layers alone, one already enjoys how each flavor unravels itself on the palette, so much so that it is almost a pity they get mixed up in one careless vertical swipe of the fork. Taken all together, one mouthful is almost too decadent ensuring maximum enjoyment of this as you take itsy bitsy geisha-esque bites.

Will I visit TLC again?

What I appreciate about eating at TLC is the fact that it is almost impossible to rush through your food when you’re there. I don’t know whether its the sheer nutrient density that causes you to slow down in order that your digestive system has time to process what’s going into it or whether its all the love that went into preparing the desserts that leaves you feeling you’ve satisfied more than just your physical hunger. Both times I was here, I definitely felt a noticeable shift in my mood. Despite my typical highly-strung Vata inclinations, I felt more grounded, more secure, more positive, more focused on the present and with a heightened sense of motivation as I left the place.

On a more practical note note, my sis C agreed that we definitely want to come back for their raw desserts, preferably with Mom in tow the next time. I don’t know if I can afford to blow $10 on tea and dessert as often as I wished but this is one place where price seems secondary compared to the health benefits and calming zen effect you leave with.

Besides the desserts, some of the healthfood smoothies as well as their soy/hazelnut milk coffees have caught our attention so perhaps we will make another visit to try some of those the next time.

The Living Cafe
The Living Cafe Menu (desserts not shown)

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