Chinese New Year feasting always starts early for me, in the weeks ahead of the festive season, when I try, stock up on and take stealthy bites of snacks.
This year though, the post-New Year detox began early for me too, after a friend found Good Food Heals, a weeks-old cafe that puts together gorgeous bentos (from $7.90, right): boxes packed with neat patchworks of vibrant colours and healthy ingredients from fermented, plum-tinged cherry tomatoes and beetroot apple slaw to sweet potato noodles and quinoa.
The cafe had me at quinoa, a fluffy, high-protein grain I love but don't often find on menus.
One of its best bentos is Kyoto Glow, a quinoa-based lunch that looks simple and tastes complex. Toppings such as fermented tomatoes, fermented cabbage and smoked salmon are laid in vertical stripes on quinoa and lettuce. In the mouth, the ingredients add up to a little fireworks display, going off in pops of piquant sweetness, spicy creaminess and salty richness.
In general, the bentos are thoughtful, though not always full of flavour. Quinoa doesn't have much taste and might need every drop of the cafe's dressings (choose sesame). Also, it digests quickly and I am hungry by teatime. Then again, after a festive eating binge, I embrace hunger like I would a long-lost friend.
The cafe's better bentos feature sharp-tasting toppings from its range of cultured foods (from $11.90), which include guava pineapple relish and kimchi.
Besides Kyoto Glow, Mexi Loco is also outstanding. The dish comprises guava pineapple relish, beetroot apple slaw and smoked salmon on Mexican green rice (rice flavoured with spinach, cilantro and garlic). It is a delight from start to finish.
This article was first published on March 8 2015.
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