Afterglow by Anglow – Clean eating at Keong Saik Road

As a dietitian, I don’t promote raw food eating exclusively as there are many benefits to cooking foods. However, there are indeed nutrients that are retained better when raw, and I feel it is something that Singaporeans can try to incorporate more of in their diet (as it’s typically a somewhat Western concept that many Singaporeans are averse to).

With the clean eating movement, Afterglow by Anglow is a raw food vegetarian restaurant offering inventive dishes made from scratch with a farm-to-table concept. Afterglow’s founders Carmen Low and Lionel Ang, created the menu in consultation with Czech nutritionist and raw food advocate, Adela Stoulilova. All the dishes are heat-free, sugar-free (although of course there is still sugar found naturally in fruits etc), and apparently using pink Himalayan salt and bamboo salt to substitute table salt (however as I tell all my patients, all salt contains sodium! Luckily the dishes here are bursting with natural seasonings rather than saltiness). The Singaporean couple lived in Shanghai for four years and became proponents of vegetarian raw cuisine because of the endless food scandals in China. Read more about their story here. I also found a recipe from Carmen that looks amazingly good for a raw matcha cashew tart that they will apparently be rolling out soon.

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The woody interior of the place reflects its natural raw philosophy well and I liked the relaxed and unpretentious vibe. The candlelit tables lit up a nice glow (pun intended) to the restaurant Unfortunately the light was very dim on the night I visited, making for terrible photography!

The Raw Zucchini Linguine with Walnut ‘Meat’-balls ($20) is made with Spiralized Zucchini, Dehydrated Cherry Tomato Sauce, Almond Crumble Cheese and Walnut, Shitake & Dates ‘Meat’-Balls

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Other than the ingredients listed on the menu, I could see bites of woodear fungus as well as the shiitake mushroom marinated with hints of sesame oil. The tangy and umami tomato sauce infused throughout to coat the thin strands of juicy zucchini, while the walnut meatballs were well-seasoned enough to be able to conceal the astringent phytic acid taste and a close replication of real meatballs. It was a delight to eat and a unique experience from typical wheat pastas.

Our dessert was the Raw chocolate salted caramel fudge ($12.50), with Raw Avocado and Raw Cacao Fudge, Rich Tahini Layer, Vanilla and Medjool Dates Infused Walnut Crust

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This is the highlight of the meal: the fudge tasted amazingly good yet clean, with a fair bit less saturated fat than its original (yes, I think it is slightly healthier, although still a sugar bomb!) – you wouldn’t even be able to tell it was avocado inside, because the chocolate and date taste was so intense. Yet it provided the creaminess of typical fudges, without the heavy feeling in the stomach like regular cream mousses do. The tahini layer lent a rich tone to the dessert, while the crunchy walnut crust provided textural contrast to the silky goo fudge. This was not in the ingredients but I could taste some coconut oil inside as well which lent a beautiful fragrance. Big thumbs up from me! However for non sweet-tooths, this dessert may be on the sweet side (from the dates).

To keep things interesting, the waiter took the initiative to inform us that there were seasonal specials that are chalked on the board, including the crispy raw lasagna ($22++, which differed from the regular raw lasagna in that it has an additional crispy layer from dehydrated tomatoes and macadamia cream cheese) and the coffee cheesecake ($15++, made from cacao beans and coffee). There is a bar serving alcoholic drinks too.

One thing I adored about the place was its heavy focus on nuts: a very good source of protein that most Singaporeans miss out on. It was interesting when I heard the lady next to me complain to the waiter “Hmm well I don’t eat nuts, so there’s not much I can choose from!” (I saw her eating some salad afterwards). Sometimes I go to vegetarian restaurants here and wonder “how is this a balanced meal! There is no protein! Mushroom with salad is not protein!” but rest assured that most of Afterglow’s dishes seem to have that covered. Another thing is that, as it is a raw food eatery, expect food to be served cold!

Service was authentic, polite and not intrusive; the waiter topped up our glasses of water consistently throughout the whole dinner without any reminder.

I liked the concept of Afterglow by Anglow even before I stepped in, and after having tried it I can attest it’s a place with good whole foods that indeed leaves an afterglow to your memory. The prices are steep but if you’re feeling like a treat after indulging in processed foods, this may be an option to consider. I’m personally feeling inspired to re-create some of the dishes myself considering how none of them require cooking (I need to get a blender though!)!!

See Afterglow’s menu here.

(Prices not inclusive of service charge)

Afterglow by Anglow 
24 Keong Saik Road
Phone: 6224 8921
Operating hours are 12pm – 11pm (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday) , 5pm – 11pm (Tuesday) 12pm – 12am (Friday and Saturday)

Website: http://afterglow.sg

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Mook’s Thai Mookata BBQ at Bugis

Singapore has seen a growing trend of Mookata sprouting in even the smallest of coffee shops; it is one of the most popular get-together meals in Thailand and I can see why it’s getting popular in Singapore. I love Mookata, even more so than regular steamboat as the meat juices being grilled drips into the soup which adds to the richness, and the grilling beforehand enhances the meat’s natural sweetness. ‘Moo’ in Thai means pork, while ‘kata’ means skillet. Hence the pig imagery in so many Mookata restaurants, including Mook’s. Legend has it that the dome shaped hotpot came from a soldier in Chiang Mai who grilled meat using their helmet.

Opened on 7 April, 2015, Mook’s Thai Mookata BBQ is just opposite Bugis Junction near the ever popular Ah Chew Desserts. Mook’s has a down-to-earth interior with wallpaper in a brick design and plenty of space aligned between tables to facilitate comfortable groups. I believe I was lucky that there was no queue outside (because of all the Grouponers!), I have read that it could get quite nasty with the queuing but luckily I went at ~6pm sharp and there was still space available.

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When I first ate Mookata, I had no idea what the white pieces of chewiness were and was taken aback to discover it was lard! On first chew I thought it was squid but realised it was too chewy/greasy to be so. Luckily the waiter had been nice and helped place it on the skillet to grease it first. Eventually I took away the lard because the meats were already fatty enough, although I guess this may be one reason the surface of the grill became a bit browned due to slight sticking of the meat (I’ve heard that it happens regardless though unless a non-stick grill is used! So, no excuses not to healthify a meal!)! They use a gas stove and their hotpot doesn’t have any grill holes, allowing all the meat juices to roll into the narrow moat of broth. While this made the soup quite tasty, the tight moat made it difficult to scoop out the noodles or vegetables inside, and the tongs were quite difficult to manoeuvre as they were very tight!

There were a choice of two soups to be poured into the moat: chicken soup or tom yum (we chose tom yum, although we got a taste of the chicken soup when I requested a bit of plain soup when it started to evaporate out). The Thais traditionally use water but Singaporeans loving their strong-flavoured food of course opted for interesting soups instead. I thought the tom yum soup at Mook’s was quite nice, not too spicy. It was the tomato-based style one with less lemongrass inside; I felt it was not using the real ingredients itself but made from a paste, although I know many Thai restaurants also use a paste as the base. I personally prefer it to be more strong on the herbs/lemongrass though. The chicken soup was light and pleasant; it didn’t leave a strong MSG aftertaste in the mouth. Although they placed a whole metal jug of the soup on our table, the waiters were quite attentive and helped us pour in the soup every time they noticed the supply was evaporating too quickly or when the fire was out. I had adjusted the fire to try and get the lightest one possible as the heat was really blazing out intensely!

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The food itself came in platters of assorted meats: fatty pork collar and pork belly, garlic marinated chicken thigh, flower clams, fish ball and a few pieces of the lard (I requested for no hot dog and crab sticks because I prefer unprocessed foods more; they gave us more pork to substitute). On another basket was an array of cabbage, buk choy, enoki mushrooms, kang kong and tung hoon (bean thread vermicelli). It would have been nice if they had provided an egg to provide some dipping to smooth out the meat.

The food was fresh and decent with very tender meat, although I do prefer leaner pork. The wide variety of the vegetables was also a nice touch. I ordered an extra plate of tung hoon ($2) because it soaked up the yummy soup so nicely and also because the portion was too small for two hungry people. I’m not sure if it was really the two pax set meal or whether it was a slightly smaller version because I got the Groupon deal. Well I can’t say I’m unhappy considering I only paid $16.80 for the Groupon voucher ;). The original set meal is a reasonable $29.90 for two pax as well, not too bad considering the quality of the food but I do hope the portions would be bigger if paying full price.

The chilli sauce at Mook’s is apparently a specialty there, although I didn’t find it amazing… it tasted a bit like (according to RX who is quite the chilli expert) Yong Tau Fu sweet sauce, sesame and a bit of chilli. I found the meat was already very well-flavoured with the marinade (a bit too salty actually!) so I didn’t find any need to dip it into the sauce.

Other than the set meal, they have some a la carte finger food like pork nuggets ($5.90) and sotong balls ($5.90); or a customised DIY selection of different types of meat and veg to suit your tastes.

It was a fun experience and we enjoyed cooking the food together. The place was clean and neat, and importantly, air-conditioned (although not quite as strong as we wished as the stove’s heat was blazing outwards! I honestly don’t know how people manage to do it in hawker centres!) but there were no individual ventilation hoods for each table. Unfortunately, that means your clothes will stink after coming here!

Even without the coupon, Mook’s is a rather affordable and comfortable Mookata experience with good service and a good location, and with their late opening hours, I think they will become a popular dining spot with some fine-tuning of the recipes/equipment/portion sizes.

Mook’s – Thai Mookata BBQ
2 Liang Seah Street, Bugis, Singapore
Tel: 6334 6270
Website: https://www.facebook.com/mooksthaibbq
Mon – Sun: 3:00 pm – 11:00 pm

Closest MRT: Bugis

Relish by Wild Rocket at Cluny Court

Hello blogosphere!

My boyfriend has been encouraging me to get back into food blogging for a long time… and for some reason or another, I always find excuses not to. I guess it’s the intimidation of knowing that I will have to commit to this as a regular activity from now on, lest my food blog suffer the same fate that it did for the past few years…Since it’s the public holiday tomorrow (Selamat Hari Raya Aidil Fitri!), I have an excuse to stay up a bit later to complete a post. Tonight we had dinner at Relish by Wild Rocket, a cosy specialty burger restaurant with a sophisticated vibe at Cluny Court, a stone’s throw away from the Botanic Gardens MRT. There is another branch at Serangoon Gardens as well. Btw the Botanic Gardens just recently got named the first UNESCO Heritage Site in Singapore. Don’t be alarmed if you see hordes of people there from now on, rendering it not so much of a UNESCO site anymore haha :P.

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Being the cheapo (read: frugal person!) I am, I have been getting quite a few groupon deals lately, and Relish was one of them (you can get it before it ends on 2 August Aw it’s sold out!). When we arrived at ~7.45pm, the cafe still had plenty of spaces and I enjoyed the laidback atmosphere away from the crowded malls we had been frequenting! Opened by lawyer-turned chef Willin Low, if there is one main outstanding feature about Wild Rocket, it’s that it serves innovative Western style food with a Singaporean twist. Burgers there are quirky and range from the breakfast burger ($20.80, with a homemade apple pork sausage patty); soft shell chilli crab burger ($19.80, with a black squid ink bun and chilli crab sauce); to the soft bone pork charsiew open burger ($21.40); and the Ram-Lee burger ($21.90, inspired from the famous Malaysian Ramly burgers in pasar malams).

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The original classic burger: the Wild Rocket Beef Burger ($19.50) is the star item of what started Relish 8 years ago (according to their Facebook post), is a simple yet well-executed burger. It is made up of a generous 180g beef patty with rocket leaves (true to the joint’s name), Sarawak pepper cream and sun-dried tomato relish with a toasted sesame bun. I do get impressed when the burger joint puts in the extra effort to toast the bun; it really puts it up a notch. The patty was beefy, lean and juicy and well-seasoned with a nice twist. The waiter asked how I wanted the beef done; it is unheard of to have rare minced beef patties in Australia (thyrotoxicosis is one of the concerns!) but I know it is quite common in Singapore, so props to them for asking first.

The sauces were the highlight, and worked really well together with the tangy sundried tomato relish which provided a nice contrast to the creamy, woody notes of the Sarawak pepper sauce. The thick cut fries were crispy, the chilli sauce (the waiter asked us, and there was a choice of ketchup too) had a good spicy kick, and the salad greens were crisp and had a lovely smokey flavour to it; overall it was a nice meal. If there is one thing I can fault, it is that I wish that they were more generous with the fillings (e.g. cheese, other veggies), although I do admit the simplicity did make this dish enjoyable too. I noticed one of our neighbours was having their burger with sweet potato fries: the waiter said you can add extra $3 to upgrade your fries (a better deal than the extra $9.50 to order a separate sweet potato fries!).

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We ordered a brunch item (note: this place offers all-day brunch for those who crave breakfast during dinner!), the Pandan French Toast ($17.80), which is basically pandan chiffon cake dipped in egg batter, grilled, topped with gula melaka syrup served with a few rashers of crispy bacon and cream cheese. Good quality pandan chiffon was used (I’m not sure if it’s baked in-house, but we were secretly wondering whether it may have been the famous Bengawan Solo pandan chiffon – which hey, even if they were, I’m not complaining because it tastes awesome!); the egg batter made the cake so fluffy and luscious while the caramelised brown exterior was a delight (although it became a bit soggier under the aircon). I requested for gula melaka on the side, which was good not only because I could control the sweetness level, but secondly I had heard others say they couldn’t really taste it when it was drizzled on top. While it’s a winning combination (clever spin on Canadian bacon and maple syrup), I did feel like I was left wanting for more, perhaps because the dish was a bit too simple and a tad pricey for what it was.

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There are other interesting dishes if you’re not into burgers: onion rings with curry mayo, and linguine with shredded crabmeat (you can find more of their menu here)

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Reprise for our second visit on 21 July 2015

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The Soft Shell Chilli Crab Burger ($19.80) comprises of a squid ink bun, deep-fried soft shell crab, cabbage, tomato and chilli crab sauce. I thought it was a charcoal bun but turns out it’s squid ink (I couldn’t really tell). It was a nice sweet and crispy bun, but the soft shell crab was a bit disappointing, having too much batter. The chilli crab sauce also lacked egg and a chilli kick. It is a nice concept that would taste good if more fine-tuned.

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The Polenta with Onsen Egg ($18.60) is a rich and creamy polenta topped with a soft boiled egg surrounded by grilled mushroom, spinach and pancetta, drizzled with truffle oil. It did have a slight truffle taste, the spinach was flavoured well and a good green contrast, and the pancetta and mushroom lent a salty kick. But I wasn’t particularly fond of the cornmeal though; it was a bit like a corny porridge cooked in a mushroom soup with lots of parmesan cheese; RX commented it tasted like cheetos perhaps because of this mix. I just thought it was a bit bland, not creamy enough and too strong in parmesan taste. Perhaps those who love parmesan or cheetos would have more affinity for this dish. The egg was excellent though, being soft and oozy.

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The Deconstructed Strawberry Cheesecake ($9.80) here is amazing. For the love of God, get its signature dessert if you are at Relish!!! I am very tempted to re-create it myself, as one other blogger did. I think it tastes so good because they added minimal cream to the cheesecake mix, making it very thick, sticky, gooey and rich in the tangy cream cheese taste. The aesthetics is disappointing, but by golly, looks are deceiving because it tasted fantastic. It came with a thick strawberry compote and melded with the crunchy, buttery biscuit base that is found on the bottom of all cheesecakes, but more crunchy than usual because it was baked separately. Deconstructed sounds like a pretentious dessert but trust me it is so good. But I do wish they had been more generous in giving a bigger portion of the sticky cheesecake goo though.

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I was happy with the service here; the waiters were mostly thoughtful, and although I didn’t realise it, the Groupon was not valid on a public holiday eve, yet the cashier endeavoured to redeem it. It’s always nice to have people who value your patronage and are willing to bend the red tape to provide better service. While not cheap, the quaint ambience, the interesting fusion cuisine, their pleasant service, one of the best burgers I’ve had in Singapore (if you choose the right one!), and an amazing signature dessert, I would be happy to visit a second third time for a quiet evening meal.

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Relish by Wild Rocket
501 Bukit Timah Road, #02-01 Cluny Court
Tel: 6763 1547
Opening hours: Mon: closed; Tues – Sun: 9am – 10pm (Last order: 9pm)
Website: www.wildrocket.com.sg
Closest MRT: Botanic Gardens

Prices do not include prevailing government tax and service charges.