Tan Hsueh Yun Food Editor recommends

Vegetarian goodies at Blue Bistro, Gallery & Co's Nasi Lemaki and more

Nasi Lemaki at Gallery & Co.
Nasi Lemaki at Gallery & Co.PHOTOS: BLUE BISTRO, TAN HSUEH YUN, SINGAPORE COFFEE FESTIVAL

COMFORT FOOD WITH A TWIST

Now I admit, it has taken me a long time to check out Gallery & Co, a chic store-cum-cafe at the National Gallery. There are too many other tempting restaurants in the museum.

However, I might be going there a lot more often because there are some good things on the small menu of mostly comfort food.

Nasi Lemaki ($7.45), not a typo, is a mash-up of nasi lemak and Japanese maki. Coconut rice tinted green is rolled up with cucumber, egg and otah, all elements of nasi lemak. Pressed onto the outside of the roll are bits of ikan bilis. Instead of wasabi and shoyu, the Lemaki is served with a dollop of sambal on the side. Dab some on a piece of maki and that bite represents everything that makes nasi lemak such a great dish.

Of course, the Lemaki would be gimmicky if it did not also taste very good.

There is a bit of a twist to Beef Rice Bowl ($16.95) too. I love the tangy gherkins and pickled onions that go into the stir-fry - I wonder who thought that up. Best of all, the pepper sauce is not too fiery. Do not expect finely marbled wagyu for that price, but it is a good, filling bowl.

Otah Stack ($10.60) is a hefty sandwich stuffed with a thick slab of mackerel otah. The bread is well-buttered and with otah, it is a hard-to-beat combination.

WHERE: Gallery & Co, 1 St Andrew's Road, National Gallery (City Hall Wing), 01-05 MRT: City Hall TEL: 6385-6683 OPEN: 10am to 7pm (Sunday to Thursday), 10am to 10pm (Friday & Saturday) INFO: www.facebook.com/GalleryandCo



Blue Rice Set ($6), which includes basmati rice tinted blue from blue pea flowers.

VEGETARIAN GOODNESS

It is becoming ever more easy to go meatless. New restaurants serving vegetarian food have been springing up and together with the stalwarts, offer a range of cuisines, including Japanese and Thai, that tempt even the most dedicated meat eaters.

Recently, I checked out Blue Bistro at Burlington Square, newly opened and offering some really good dishes I would go back for. The name is a bit fancy for what is a very spartan cafe but if the food is good, why should the decor matter?

The place is run by a group of friends, who have been vegetarian for more than a decade.

A must-order is the Blue Rice Set ($6, photo), basmati rice tinted blue from blue pea flowers and accompaniments. These include pieces of air-fried mock fish, lady's fingers, cucumber, toasted shredded coconut, kaffir lime leaves, ginger flower and a dollop of sambal.

Mix it all together and savour spoonful after spoonful of nutty and aromatic herbed rice. I would exchange the pieces of mock fish for more coconut and herbs, but that is a small quibble.

Another good one is Nasi Lemak ($5). The "rendang" is made with meaty mushroom stems and other accompaniments include peanuts and chilli-ish mock ikan bilis. These provide enough sauciness for the rice, making it possible to ignore the watery sambal that comes with the dish.

Apart from meat, the kitchen also does not use garlic, onion, chives, shallots and leeks in the food. You will not miss them at all.

WHERE: Blue Bistro, Burlington Square, 175 Bencoolen Street, 01-49 MRT: Bugis TEL: 6238-8676 OPEN: 8.30am to 6pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 3pm (Saturday), closed on Sunday INFO: www.bluebistrosg.com



Mother Cluckers ($14). Each order comes with two chicken legs on mashed potatoes, yellow bell peppers and carrot, and salad on the side.

VALUE FOR MONEY

I go to Word, a halal bistro in Upper Thomson Road, in search of rainbow bagels, the latest food item to get the multi-colour treatment. Its version ($15), served as dessert with cream cheese, strawberry, cookie crumbs and ice cream, is made for Instagram, but the place also serves hearty food that I will go back for.

Ikea Made Us Do It ($12) is a pile of beef balls that recall the Swedish furniture giant's Kotbullar. While Ikea's has been tasting rather pasty of late, the ones at Word are fantastic.

The fairly coarsely ground meat is not packed too tightly and the meatballs are plenty juicy, with a lightly spicy tomato sauce that adds a lot of zing.

From the list of main courses, Mother Cluckers ($14, photo) is incredible value. Each order comes with two chicken legs on mashed potatoes, yellow bell peppers and carrot, and salad on the side.

The herby chicken is the sort of thing you would make at home if you could be bothered to cook - uncomplicated and delicious. I only wish the mashed potatoes were a little firmer and less liquid.

WHERE: Word, 906P Upper Thomson Road MRT: Khatib TEL: 9699-4829 OPEN: Noon to 10pm (Sunday to Thursday), noon to 10.30pm (Friday & Saturday) INFO: www.facebook.com/wordbistro



More than 100 exhibitors, including coffee purveyors, bean suppliers, equipment distributors and cafes, are participating in the inaugural Singapore Coffee Festival.

ALL ABOUT COFFEE

The inaugural Singapore Coffee Festival is open to the public today and over the weekend, and there is lots to do at the event, held at the F1 Pit Building.

More than 100 exhibitors, including coffee purveyors, bean suppliers, equipment distributors and cafes, are participating in the event. Visitors can look forward to workshops, barista challenge showcases and coffee tasting sessions.

The festival is organised by Sphere Exhibits, a subsidiary of Singapore Press Holdings, presented by DBS and hosted by The Straits Times.

Apart from coffee, there will also be live music, movie screenings and chances to chat with Straits Times journalists, who will be speaking on subjects ranging from sports to politics.

ST, Coffee & Company, the noshing session I am hosting on Saturday and Sunday, is sold out, but there is plenty more to do.

See you there.

WHERE: Singapore Coffee Festival, F1 Pit Building, 1 Republic Boulevard MRT: Promenade WHEN: Today to Sunday, 11am to 9pm ADMISSION: $18, $44 (group of four, same-day entry), $43 (VIP). Up to $5 off for DBS/POSB cardholders, $28 (three-day pass for DBS/POSB cardholders). Available from Sistic (go to www.sistic.com.sg or call 6348-5555) INFO: sgcoffeefestival.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Food Picks'. Print Edition | Subscribe