Fortune Centre is a slightly bizarre place at the best of times, more so around midday on a Sunday. The second floor – which plays host to the infamous Pine Tree Cafe – becomes eerily quiet and strangely smokey, although that’s most probably the Sunday blurriness speaking. The altogether calmer atmosphere is, dare I say it, fairly pleasant, not least because it encourages an unwavering focus on the food (rather than the peripheral goings on). Indeed, my latest foray into the Scandinavian-sounding world of PTC cemented in my mind the view that this place is one of the best vegetarian eateries in Fortune Centre. With strong and gutsy flavours, it takes the vegetarian bull by the horns and wrestles it onto the plate. Can’t ask for much more than that now, can you?
The Hakka lei cha rice (SGD 6.00) – also known as “thunder tea rice” – looked ominous, like the dark clouds of an impending storm. The green tea soup was much thicker and darker than usual, and looked a lot like sludge. I felt that if (just, if) I was to fall into it, I wouldn’t be able to escape. Not that I would have minded, as it tasted fantastic. Bitter and ballsy, it could easily have been a meal in itself. The roughly chopped ingredients (whole peanuts, pungent salted onions, large cubes of tau kwa, runner beans and other greens) all seemed natural and rustic and, impressively, held their forms and flavours against the blanketing dominance of the soup. Any dish with thunder in the name is a winner, but one that incorporates thunder into its flavours? Now we’re operating at an altogether higher level of gastronomic greatness. Very good.
The hot pot mushrooms and mock meat with brown rice (SGD 6.00) hissed its way to the table, begging to be eaten. It came with broccoli, cauliflower and shiitake mushrooms, and cubes of mock meat (pork?) that boasted a scarily real layer of gelatinous fat on top. The layer was completely unnecessary, but impressively creative at the same time. The taste of Chinese five spice dominated and, combined with the crackling fire under the pot, evoked wintery flavours and Christmassy feelings. Pine Tree Cafe’s attempt to live up to its name, no doubt!
Pine Tree Cafe
#02-09/13 Fortune Centre, 190 Middle Road
Open 10:00-21:00 daily