It was serendipity that brought us to New Fut Kai Vegetarian Restaurant. Our intended destination was Honzen; we got as far as being seated, but were then put-off by the rather limited menu option (note singular: it’s SGD 28 per mouth for an 8-course meal or nothing – no wonder the place was empty), and so upped and left. We then tried the relatively new 7 Sensations on Jalan Besar, but it was packed full of berobed monks. Beckoning us from across the road, however, was the neon sign of New Fut Kai. A perilous dash across Jalan Besar and we were there. Like bees to honey.
Located along the bustling north-south thoroughfare of Jalan Besar, NFK has an unassuming and slightly tacky frontage that gives no hint of the old-school sophistication that lies within. The vibe is calm, sensible, and mature. Everything – from the decor, to the pricing, to the clientele, to the food itself – is practical and well-honed. Nothing flashy, nothing boastful, just a level of comfort that comes from knowing that you’re in good hands.
The menu is wide-ranging and divided into two: an affordable range of one-plate meals (and daily specials), and a wide selection of more expensive a la carte options. One thing that immediately struck me was how uncharacteristically large the tables are. Excellent for hosting a variety of plates, but they were covered in sheets of plastic which cheapened the experience a little. Very practical, what!
The first thing that struck me was how generous the serving of char siew was – I ended up having to ration the rice! The colour was bright and lively, and the flavours were strong and unique. The sauce was characteristically sweet, but a delicious smokiness added depth and complexity. There was also a residual taste of sesame oil, which added another layer of flavour. Every mouthful was a joy to masticate. Even MiKa liked it, and she hates char siew!
This dish emitted a beautifully aromatic smell that really ignited the ‘buds. The sauce tasted Christmassy, with the flavours of cinnamon and star anise being dominant. The mock meat was pork and the vegetables consisted mainly of bamboo shoots and mushrooms. The sauce was looser than that of the char siew, which explains why it was served in a strange sort of soup bowl.
Full marks again for smell – the delicious sweetness of the cereal gave a tantalising indication of how the dish would taste. The mock prawns tasted uncannily like the real deal, although the consistency was a little on the mushy side. It was, however, the cereal topping, intermixed with red chillies and fried curry leaves, that stole the show. Sweet and spicy, I was shovelling this stuff into my mouth long after the prawns had been finished.
New Fut Kai is one of the best Chinese vegetarian restaurants I have visited in Singapore. It provides restaurant quality food at hawker centre prices. It’s a serene place that can easily be reached by bus (23, 64, 65, 66, 67, 130, 139, 147, 857), train (Farrer Park or Lavender), or car. Just try and ignore the plastic tablecloths!