When cafe House@Dempsey spruced up its menu last month, it upped the green quotient by adding more vegetarian dishes, and including more greens in its meat dishes.
The eight-year-old eatery in Dempsey Hill offers 15 dishes - which make up 40 per cent of its menu - that do not contain meat. Some of them, however, contain eggs and dairy products such as butter.
Besides salads and soups, the vegetarian options include a gluten-free fusilli tossed with pesto, broccoli and asparagus as well as wild rice mushroom risotto.
SundayLife! found at least 10 non-vegetarian eateries, ranging from cafes to fine-dining restaurants, which have added vegetarian dishes to their menus.
While Italian restaurants such as Pasta Fresca and Modesto's have been doing so for more than 15 years, more eateries are progressing from having a handful of non-meat dishes to separate menus for vegetarians.
A spokesman for House@Dempsey says its menu revamp is "to move with the times" by accommodating a variety of dietary preferences.
"We are catering to the modern palate, with the trend of eating clean and consuming superfoods such as kale and quinoa."
She adds that instead of bland "diet food", there are more interesting ways to make fruit and vegetables taste like hearty comfort food. The restaurant has seen a 20 per cent increase in the number of diners opting for its vegetarian fare over the past year.
Health reasons aside, other eateries want to create an "equal dining experience" regardless of diet preferences.
French restaurant Saint Pierre in Quayside Isle on Sentosa incorporated its vegetarian menu into the main one in October last year to increase the visibility of the vegetarian dishes. It now offers at least 10 vegetarian dishes, which make up about half the menu.
Ms Edina Hong, marketing director of Saint Pierre, says: "We are thrilled that the response has been picking up steadily. We now have non-vegetarian diners trying and loving the vegetarian dishes."
She notes that vegetarian diners used to have poor dining experiences as the quality of vegetarian alternatives could not match that of the meat dishes.
The kitchen does not merely omit meat or use vegetable stock in place of meat ones in dishes. Some are original creations or riffs of classic dishes. An example is Oeuf En Meurette, a dish of smoked egg, fava bean puree with greens and Pinot Noir emulsion.
The limited dining-out options faced by her vegetarian friends drove Ms Joy Mahbubani, 47, owner of J's Restaurant in Purvis Street that serves Latin American food, to include vegetarian offerings.
She recalls that her friends would settle for baked potatoes and salads in steakhouses. Her halal eatery has seen a 10 per cent year-on-year increase in the demand for vegetarian dishes such as fajitas and enchiladas, which are served without meat and has rennet-free cheeses.
She adds that even non-vegetarians are avoiding meat, as more become aware of hormones being used in poultry and the environmental impact of grazing livestock.
At pasta chain Pasta Fresca, diners can customise their dishes with 12 types of pastas, including an egg-less fettuccine and eight sauces that cater to a spectrum of vegetarians, such as lacto vegetarians (those who consume dairy products). It has seen a 30 per cent increase in sales of its vegetarian pasta dishes in the past year.
The Alla Vegetariana, a pasta cooked with mixed vegetables in tomato stock, is most popular, with 300 servings sold monthly. A restaurant spokesman says about 40 per cent of its customer pool are Indians, who follow a vegetarian diet for religious reasons.
Vegetarians welcome the wider availability of non- meat-based options when dining out.
Dr George Jacobs, 62, president of the Vegetarian Society (Singapore), is impressed by how extensive vegetarian offerings have become over the past five years.
"Previously, I had to make special requests to remove ingredients such as eggs. Now, there are more places with dedicated menus and they use a wider variety of greens such as kale and arugula leaves, instead of tasteless iceberg lettuce."
Information technology manager Janice Tan, 32, a vegetarian, has noticed that more Chinese and Thai restaurants are jumping on the bandwagon. She says: "It is more convenient, especially when dining out with bosses and you don't have much say in the dining options."
But she feels that more can be done to educate the public on the benefits of eating greens. "One such way is to have a major movement such as Green Monday in Hong Kong, where a lot of eateries offer vegetarian food on Mondays."
Secretary Pauline Menezes, 46, notes that vegetarian fare in non-vegetarian restaurants are now more well-rounded in nutritional value. Beyond greens, more dishes contain proteins such as tofu, beans and nuts.
However, she thinks that offerings in hawker centres can be improved.
"It is quite dismal that vegetarian options there are unhealthy fried bee hoon and mock meats. I hope hawkers can offer less fried foods and more wholegrains and unprocessed foods."
Green options House@Dempsey
This eight-year-old restaurant's 15 vegetarian and vegan-friendly dishes include Wild Rice Mushroom Risotto with pomegranate arils, zucchini and carrots ($25) and a warm mushroom and tofu salad with wafu dressing ($17).
Where: 8D Dempsey Road
Open: Noon to 11pm, Monday to Thursday; noon to midnight, Friday; 11am to 4.30pm, 6pm to midnight, Saturday; 9am to 4.30pm, 6 to 11pm, Sunday
Info: Call 6475-7787 or go to www.dempsey house.com
The French fine-dining restaurant has been offering a vegetarian set menu with five or seven courses since 2012. Diners feast on seasonal vegetables sourced from France, Malaysia and the hotel's garden. Highlights include Zucchini "Trumbetta", served with sundried tomatoes and basil puree; and Spring Barley "Comme Un Risotto", with grilled avocado and lactose-free Brocciu cheese. Prices start at $158++ a person.
Where: Equinox Complex, Level 70, Swissotel The Stamford, 2 Stamford RoadOpen: Noon to 2.30pm, 7 to 10pm, Monday to Saturday; closed on Sunday
Info: Call 6837-3322 or go to www.jaan.com.sg
J's Restaurant This halal-certified restaurant's nine-dish vegetarian line-up is mostly meatless versions of its Tex-Mex dishes. Popular items are Fajitas ($28), a hotplate loaded with grilled vegetables perfumed with thyme and rosemary; and Enchiladas ($22), soft corn tortillas with vegetable ragout, cheese and cilantro rice.
Where: 01-01, 7 Purvis Street
Open: Noon to 2.30pm daily except Saturday; 6.30 to 10pm, Monday to Thursday; 6.30 to 10.30pm, Friday and Saturday; 6.30pm to 9.30pm, Sunday
Info: Call 6887-4787 or go to www.dineatjs.com
This French restaurant's vegetarian starters and main courses change four times a year. Favourites include the Tomate Douce ($34), which has caramelised tomatoes, sesame-flavoured bread and miso broth. It also has an eight- or 12-course vegetarian degustation menu (starts from $128++ a person).
Where:01-15 Quayside Isle, 31 Ocean Way
Open: 5.30pm to midnight, Monday to Friday; 11.30am to 3pm, 5.30pm to midnight, weekend
Info: Call 6438-0887 or go to www.saintpierre.com.sg
Serenity Spanish Bar & Restaurant
Besides its signature suckling pig and pork knuckles, this Spanish restaurant has been serving vegetarian dishes for the past seven years.
It now has about 14 vegetarian dishes, including Vegetarian Paella, which has portobello mushrooms on saffron-flavoured Bomba rice (from $48); and Tortilla Espanola (Spanish omelette with potatoes and onions, $10.80).
Where: 01-98/99 VivoCity, 1 Harbourfront Walk; and 05-32 Ngee Ann City, 391 Orchard RoadOpen: 11am to 11pm, Sunday to Tuesday; 11am to midnight, Wednesday to Saturday (VivoCity); 11.30am to 10pm (Ngee Ann City) Info: Call 6376-8185 (VivoCity) or 6235-9989 (Ngee Ann City) or go to serenity.com.sg
This article was first published on April 5, 2015.
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