January 22, 2021

Adopting a plant-based diet seems to be gaining steam these days. Whether it’s for the environment or for health reasons, people’s consumption habits are changing—prompting restaurants to spotlight vegetal dishes. Even the Michelin Guide has taken notice. A few days ago, ONA became the first vegan restaurant in France to receive a star. 

Although such an accolade signifies a shift in the culinary landscape, most mainstream restaurants are still predominantly meat or seafood-focused. Vegetables are the supporting actor, never the main—even if they are, there is one paltry dish on the menu that lacks variety. When it comes to dining out, vegetarians and vegans are second-class citizens.

Thankfully, Violet Oon Singapore has recognised this gap by launching an extensive array of gluten-free and plant-based offerings at Satay Bar & Grill, with a dedicated menu just to give greens more visibility. The tau hu goreng, which wasn’t the most visually arresting, delivered in taste. Cubes of fried beancurd were crowned gloriously with bean sprouts and bathed in a luscious sweet peanut sauce to ensure that each bite had enough sapidity.  

Made purely out of walnuts and cheese, instead of meat facsimiles, the meatless meatball rendang was surprisingly addictive. Dressing-wise, a faint hint of kaffir perfumed the sauce and the creamy coconut milk added a layer of richness. There was also a satisfying chew to its texture that hit all the pleasure points.

Despite not salivating over jagung bakar pedas manis (chargrilled corn), the eggplant goreng dip with emping crackers emerged as a runaway favourite—a delightful melange of smoky eggplant puree, coriander and lime. The cracker was equally a star that could hold its own. Kudos to Violet Oon Singapore for successfully creating an Asian version of guacamole and chips.

Any carb lover will find comfort in buah keluak fried rice, which was a clever use of the nut with a moreish factor that could rewire the need for chicken stew to go along with it. 

Pulut hitam is a fairly popular local dessert, and the restaurant took a sensible approach in pairing it with dairy-free coconut ice cream. The slight change did not compromise flavour, leaving the creaminess intact to do the job effectively. For those who prefer something less heavy, opt for the kueh beng kah to end the meal on a comforing note. 

Most restaurants in Singapore are still unwilling to evolve—not just for the consumer, but for the planet. I don’t know if it’s a lack of effort or creativity. Either way, Violet Oon Singapore has set a new benchmark for diners with preferences by offering 20 plant-based dishes that completely quell any meat cravings. Finally, for once, vegetarians and vegans don’t get picked last.