I have always thought that Rangoon Road sounds a lot more exotic – a lot more interesting, perhaps – than it really is. It conjures images of an outpost, of empire, of a nexus of both time and space. But in Singapore it’s just another road located in a faintly suburban, somewhat barren part of the island. It’s marketed by the real estate community as “city fringe”, and it certainly feels like it. It’s a place on the cusp of something – or somewhere – a lot more interesting. It’s populated by grey, newly built, low-rise condominiums; immaculate, trendy cafe’s; and some relics of Chinese industry. On the ground floor of one such condominium – across the road from two trendy cafe’s – is LivinGreens, a vegan restaurant that focusses on healthy eating. An unsurprising association that many people fail to grasp.
LivinGreens is the sort of place that flies under the radar. It closes early, and looks perpetually like it has just opened. It’s littered with unopened boxes, blank walls, shiny new fittings, and an endearing sense of uncertainty. It’s the kind of place where you have to keep asking for things – water, more cutlery, more plates, more time, napkins, and so on. But what it lacks in service slickness it more than makes up for in culinary competence. The menu is original and innovative – I wanted to try everything. And as you can see from the pictures below, the presentation of the food was nothing less than stunning. Really, it was supermodel-calibre stuff.
The fried laksa spaghetti (SGD 8.90) looked wild and smelt delicious. The shredded radish (or was it cucumber? I honestly couldn’t tell) looked like a mop of unruly hair, whilst the laksa spaghetti (made with semolina, apparently) smelt like a wonderful blend of coconut and citrus. Just as laksa should. My mouth was watering before I had even put anything inside it. I almost wish I hadn’t, as the taste shattered the illusion of perfection. There was nothing wrong with the taste, the only problem was that it was completely dominated by the spice of the chilli. Chilli, chilli, chilli, spice, spice, spice – that’s about all there was to it. A tad disappointing overall.
Next up, the mushroom burger (SGD 10.50) looked equally stunning. Like the mad professor of the burger world, with alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, cherry tomatoes and mustard dressing bursting out from underneath a wholemeal pita bun (freshly made, I think). I thought the burger contained a big shiitake, M. thought it was a small portobello. Either way it was too small and got lost within the madness of the burger. Accompanying the burger was a ridiculously colourful salad of shredded beetroot, carrot and radish, red cabbage and pea shoots doused with a citrussy vinaigrette. It was a visual riot on top of a soothing green plate. Everything was very tasteful – and very tasty – but, for almost eleven dollars, it was also daylight robbery.
Finally, the tahini wasabi buckwheat noodle (SGD 8.90) caught my attention from the outset, and was the first thing I ordered. Again, visually untouchable – love it. The flavours were also very interesting – the tahini-wasabi pairing was unique as it was effective, as the nutty creaminess of the tahini helped to coddle the wasabi, making the flavours stretch and expand. Very clever. Intermixed with the buckwheat noodles was the usual array of veggies, although the promise that “fresh mint leaves give this dish the winning touch” seemed to be a bit of an unnecessary afterthought. As good as this dish looked, it was a nightmare to eat with a fork and spoon. Any semblance of elegance or panache – or even just good table-manners – soon evaporated as I ungainly chomped my way through the mass of stringy stuff. Oh well, at least my mother wasn’t present.
LivinGreens is a quality-oriented place that serves very innovative food at a relatively high price. The food looks and tastes absolutely delicious, but something about it isn’t quite right. It could have been because everything was shredded, but I felt a lot like I was eating flavoured air. I left feeling hungry and, whilst my mind and mouth were sated, my stomach and wallet felt ever-so slightly cheated by the experience. But then again, I guess that’s Rangoon Road for you.