Pick of the Precinct || Orchard Central - Joie, Shi Li Fang, 以利泡泡

Whenever it comes to dining options in the Orchard area, my mind cognitively draws a blank. The maddening crowds and the lack of personal space driving me far away from the prospects of heading out to town on the weekday night, much less on a weekend.

However, on closer inspection, it becomes evident that the usual 70% F&B based occupancy in every shopping mall, straddling the strip would be able to feed the crowds. Now the real problem is identifying which are worth your while.

Orchard Central is home to several outstanding food establishments; though the life of a certain kind of restaurant, one is given to understand, can be nasty, brutish and short. Sumiya and Ootoya, some of my long time favorites have stood the test of time and gone on to expand their humble business concepts to other heartland malls. That aside, my knowledge in regards to the other existing tenants squirrelled away disparately among 12 floors of concrete was close to zilch. It was for that reason alone that, when recently approached to be led on a food tour of certain selected vendors in the building, I happily obliged.

We began our food centric quests at Joie by DOZO.

Housed amidst lush foliage and yet positioned so high above the ground. The singularity of Joie's location will keep you guessing about the its food themes. And as you peruse the menu in trepidation whilst sitting in a somewhat mash up of soothing yet alarmingly stark ambiance, you come to a realisation that the menu is entirely vegetarian.. sh** - not that I'm biased against vegetarian food or anything because as far as I'm concerned,  my love for the green species has grown exponentially since I placed my first broccoli floret in my mouth; so, the truth was, I was hungry for meat.

Still, I settled my tush in the velvety plush arm chairs in the glass caged private dining room and waited for the formalities to begin. Hoping that by some sort of miracle, the cravings would disappear. Soon, a very fancy contraception with several vessels hooked to its side was toted to the table. Mocktail of Love : a sweet-sour slushie of cranberry, orange and pineapple. One sip, and I was hooked.

The rest of the meal unravelled like clockwork. Owner, Mr Huang Yen Kun and his team of experienced chefs using the opportunity to showcase their newly revamped menu.

The gist of the restaurant was as transparent as the glass walls in which it was harboured in - vegetarian food in fine dining style. The new menu pushing the boundaries on creativity in textural play and engineered flavors to appease discerning epicurean desires.

When dining at Joie, you never know what to expect, the immaculate display of the dishes revealing no tell tale signs of its hidden components. In other words, it's a guessing game, all the way from the start to the finish, well after the food has danced across your lips and swim its way across the sensory lake of your tongue. Gratinated Champignon with Mozzarella - a play on garlic butter escargots; where button mushrooms are used instead, served with Tennessee heirloom potato puree and Belgian endive. The richness of the melted cheese bestowing the much needed saltiness to the mixture. Tartare platter au Naturel - pine nuts, Japanese seaweed, avocado, corn, tomato salsa, pomegranate, sea grapes and rice puffs - a riot of flavors and colors, deceptively tasty after all its healthy descendants are rounded up. But the Vegetable Sashimi served on ice with Quail Egg shooter glass is a particularly crafty bugger; if you squint a little, you'll notice that the usual grains of fish is absent, that's because it ain't no fish.. it's just vegetables, DUH. What makes this dish so brilliant is that the texture of sashimi is cleverly replicated with the use of konjac (usually found in konnyaku), vegetables and fruits, right down the hint of natural brine and buttery texture typically found in salmon sashimi. Mind blowing! The crispy Zucchini tower here is a dish of epic heights, it's technicolors and impeccable presentation such a joy to capture - zucchini stuffed with creme cheese, truffle mayo, medallion of puff pastry and spheres of beetroot help to build its foundation. 

Settle in for blitz round of soups, the crew digging deep to produce rich vegetable broths. The fact that it is founded by the fundamentals of vegetables alone is truly astounding. Stand-outs include the Pumpkin Veloute and the Infusion of Cepes and Truffle

You're probably going to want to order the Grilled Bai-Ling Steak on "Pu-Ye" Hot stone, the newest addition to the menu and an essential dish. It's wonderful, if a bit unconventional; big succulent Bai Ling mushroom parked on a searing hot granite stone and served with a smoky truffle dip to accentuate it's natural umami flavors. The bai ling mushroom's meaty texture a good runner-up to the conventional steak on hot stone methodology.

Wild Rice with Eggplant Terrine

Joie by DOZO
181 Orchard Road
Orchard Central
t: 68386966
w: www.joierestaurant.com.sg

Moving on to our next stop - The aroma of pork broth swirls through the air in careless fashion. I spy on huge platters of pork streaks at the corner of my eye. MEAT... okay, now we're talking. Shi Li Fang located on the 7th floor of Orchard Central is a Taiwanese steamboat restaurant that claims to serve natural, sustainable food with no MSG and no deep/pan/stir-fried dishes. Still skeptical, I chugged down 2 glasses of water fervently in preparation for the onslaught. 

With shifty eyes once again, I spotted the staff hard at work in the kitchen, pushing the hefty chunks of bone-in meats through the slicer in diligent tedious movements. Fresh meat sliced to order, CHECK. 

Once seated, you'll fumble on rickety swivel chairs gracing only one side of the length of elongated table, the beeping of the induction stoves below steaming cauldrons humming constantly. Yes, here at Shi Li Fang, the lonesome individual can dine alone in peace. A waitress ticks furiously through your affirmed order list and carries a small bowl of chicken broth over to your table, clanks it down in front of you and pushes down on a secret code of buttons. You will be handed baskets of leafy vegetables, tofu and the quintessential egg; platters of beef and pork belly making guest appearances at the table despite not witnessing anybody order them. Such is the hospitality of the kind folk at Shi Li Fang.

When the waitress asks: "Chicken?" Your job is to nod.

Apparently, queues are guaranteed at lunchtime where the restaurant pushes out an affordable $9.90++ set boasting a choice of meat/vegetarian set, 2 types of soup bases served in a "yuan-yang" pot, a drink, and a small portion of noodles/rice. What a steal!

Otherwise, come at dinner time for more liberty to select various meats of your choice. Not forgetting the condiments table that left me gaga for awhile. Pick out the creamy sesame dressing with a dash of sesame sauce and coriander if pork is your poison or the Sha Cha Jiang 沙茶酱 with copious amounts of chili oil for a good dash of heat.

Shi Li Fang
#07-10/11, Orchard Central,
181 Orchard Central Road
t: 6238 0800

Operating Hours:
Daily 10 30am - 10pm

Round off the night with some sweet treats by descending a few more levels till you reach YiLi Pao Pao Ice. Similar to our previous stop over, YiLi Pao Pao originates from Taiwan. Personally I'm not big on cold desserts but the unfailing combination of  peanut butter and oreo was screaming my name unabashedly. I listened, I homed in and I concurred to its sweet disposition.

In this artsy mountain pile of a dessert, milk and peanut butter congeals in a magical friendship, non like any i've tasted before. The mild mannered scoops of ice melting with little resistance, imparting sweet notions of peanut butter throughout the mouth whilst fading placidly into oblivion soon after. It was like having a peanut butter shake, sans the guilt factor!

Snag a spot at the seats on the outside of the shop, which offers people-watching to a very limited extent because of YiLi Pao Pao's very secluded location in the basement levels. That being said, this venue could be great for more intimate gatherings or private conversations.

YiLi Pao Pao Ice 以利泡泡冰新加坡站
Orchard Central

Operating Hours: 
Daily: 11am - 10pm

And there you have it... Orchard Central with some of its vendors unveiled. Do drop by should you be in the area and looking to placate your hunger pangs. Eat well and have a pleasant Sunday folks!

Major thanks to Alvinology and Orchard Central for hosting me!

No comments: