Gokul occupies a hallowed position in Singapore’s vegesphere. It is revered by food bloggers, and has achieved a seemingly untouchable rating of 88% on HungryGoWhere. Gokul’s reputation most definitely precedes it, and, if you believe what you read, it would appear to be the mecca of vegetarian eateries in Singapore. The adulation cannot be ignored; my expectations were as high as the sky.
Gokul is housed in a colourful shophouse in the pulsating heart of Little India. Whilst the exterior is unquestionably grand, the interior is much more utilitarian. What immediately struck me was how poor the acoustics are – metal chair legs scratched against the tiled floor and the echoed shrieks of children provided a rather uncomfortable din. The prices were also quite steep (SGD 6.50 for two pieces of prata and some curry? Really?), serving to edge the expectations up another notch. Into the stratosphere.
The menu is, quite frankly, ridiculous. It reads like a book, showcasing 530 food, drink and snack options that represent the gamut of Indian, Malay, Chinese and some Western dishes. Posters boast that this is “the largest menu in Singapore”. I imagine this is meant to scream “choice”, but for me it screams “focus”, followed by a large question mark. There is always a trade-off between the range of options and the quality of the dishes served: as one goes up, the other goes down. Offering 530 dishes may warrant Gokul a Guinness World Record, but it also caused me to question whether or not this place may be stretching itself a little too thin…
As the plate touched down on the table, my nose was greeted with wafts of aromatic ginger rice, whilst my eyes were temporarily blinded by the toxic-looking chilli sauce (which was swiftly dispatched to one side). The rice was indeed delicious – the taste of the gingery “chicken” stock shone through. Unfortunately it was downhill thereafter. The soup had a mildly pleasant radish taste but, for some unfathomable reason, contained what looked like a sheep’s testicle. The mock chicken was foul – it looked repugnant, and was so dry it seemed to scratch the inside of my mouth. The shredded lettuce was limp and tasteless, and seemed to have been strewn over the rice as a careless afterthought. Overall this was a difficult meal to enjoy – one that contained both very good and very bad elements on one plate.
Rather run of the mill, the naan was thin and chewy (which is good), but lacked flavour. In particular, the sweetness from the wheat – a decisive factor in any naan taste test – was completely lacking. Taking the price into consideration, these things were painfully mediocre.
An expensive dish that looked a lot better than it tasted. It was rich and creamy to the extent that the creaminess smothered all the other flavours. There was, however, some residual sourness, which I enjoyed. The cubes of paneer were small, and the uniform texture (both outside and in) suggested they hadn’t been grilled or roasted properly before being mixed in with the gravy. For some reason the curry contained large chunks of green chilli – a first for me. Overall the dish lacked oomph – the flavours were mild and pleasant and disappointing.
Over-rated and over-priced, the impression I got was that Gokul has become as bloated as its menu. Given the price, quality and quantity of food that is served, I expect much, much more. Having established itself as a brand-name vegetarian restaurant in Singapore, Gokul now seems to be cashing in. Many laud this place; I cannot understand why.