Most of my favourite restaurant discoveries have been influenced, pushed and guided by one simple fact… aroma and hunger. So it isn’t surprising, when we stumbled upon this gem, on a Sunday evening. Tried from shopping, we were heading back home from ION Orchard Mall, when the aroma of Chinese food tickled our olfactory senses.
What we saw made us stop, turn back, and head straight into an extremely tastefully designed authentic Chinese restaurant Lu Gang Xiao Zhen by Asian Kitchen. The entire décor is designed in shades of bright red and black. The walls, the chairs, the tables, the lighting has a brilliant conventional look to it, making the place stand out, in an otherwise crowded mall! You just cannot miss the colours! What surprised us even more was how intelligently this place was designed. If you looked at it closely, what looked like exotic décor from the outside, was in fact a well camouflaged décor made out of inexpensive stuff. Impressed…
My husband’s a vegetarian, but he is not a fussy vegetarian. Give him greens, lentils, sprouts, mushrooms, bitter gourd, just about anything vegetarian and he will relish it… happily. So it usually irritates him to no end, when restaurants politely turn down his requests for making some decent authentic vegetarian Chinese. “Why is it so difficult? You just add veggies instead of meat! Aren’t lot of mainlander’s Buddhists… if so, at least some of them ought to be vegetarian…!” he cribs, each time he is disappointed. Not this time…
To our surprised delight, Lu Gang Xiao Zhen’s menu has an elaborate and quite delectable vegetarian menu! What’s more, the servers were more than ready to understand our no meat, no fish diet, without flinching! “I don’t really care about how good or bad this place is, anymore”, my husband said, “They are at least trying to cater to people like me! I should be happy with that!” All so often, I have seen him order mashed potatoes or plain rice and eat it with the chili and vinegar sauce, when I have been digging into some meaty delicacies. This time, I decided to give him a wider choice and we went in for an all veggie menu, despite the fact that the aromas of fish and pork had filled the air.
This is what we picked!
Spinach Soup: Very rarely have I tasted so flavourful spinach soup… the vegetarian broth in which the lightly sauted spinach leaves were presented was definitely freshly made, using variety of veggies. I could feel that in the taste itself. Quite often, the after taste of the soup is slightly bitter, but not here. I have had spinach soup a lot of times before, in different cuisines. What’s more, I even make it at home… but this is by far the best soup I have tasted!
Lugang Fried Rice: Usually, the first question anyone asks us when we order a vegetarian fried rice is, “Egg okay?” Actually egg is not really vegetarian and so it is not okay. But over the years, we have come to accept the fact that an all vegetarian fried rice is only available in the rarest of the rare occasions, and that too in what we like to call, ‘The-Indian-Chinese-food-version’. So when we tried the Lugang fried rice, there was no noticeable egg in it! The rice was actually great… in fact, it was good enough to be eaten by itself without any other accompaniment.
Broccoli Mushroom: This was my favourite dish of the evening. Evenly presented in a salty soy sauce, the broccoli was cooked, just enough, and the mushrooms were greasy and tasty! Just like the rice, I could have eaten the dish by itself!
Treasure Pot: Mixture of beans, carrots and tofu in an almost soupy gravy, the flavour was so light that it actually reminded me of the vegetarian broth gravy I make when I am looking for something really light. The treasure pot was a perfect companion for the fried rice.
If you are going over a weekend, it is highly recommended that you try and get a table reserved, else we saw a decently long queue, and there’s only limited seating.
How much will it cost me: The meal for two cost us just about S$ 42. So my take is, it should be in the S$ 40 to S$ 60 range… Great value for the buck, I say!
The Verdict: I have eaten at the Asian Kitchen before, and I personally felt, Lu Gang Xiao Zhen betters it. Of course, I didn’t get a chance to try out their signature pork and other non-veggie dishes… but if they could do a good job with the Chinese vegetarian food, I am quite hopeful that they can’t really go too wrong with the traditional stuff. Overall, a definite thumbs up to the new place, if you are looking for a low cost just-about-fine dining experience. You sure wouldn’t be too disappointed!