Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Food Review: Vegelife Cafe, Taman Mayang Jaya, Petaling Jaya

Going vegetarian should never be a sacrifice. Vegetarian food should be as nutritious, satisfying and memorable as the best of non-vegetarian food. I am of the opinion that non-violence should not be the only objective and pleasure we can derive out of what is known in some circles as "compassionate eating" -- the meal itself should bring joy, inspire conversation and make us feel proud to introduce meatless meals to non-veg friends.

It is for good reason then that my favourite restaurant for the past 6 months or so is a cheery little establishment called Vegelife Cafe, located in my neighbourhood, SS26 Taman Mayang Jaya, Petaling Jaya.

The bold colour scheme, whimsical lighting and comfortable seating and dining arrangement is a refreshing change from the usual insipid interior of most Chinese vegetarian restaurants, where solitary Guan Yin calendars more often than not pass off as decor.

You can tell that cleanliness and ambience is a priority to those who manage and operate this outfit. You enter the restaurant cool, clean and crisp and exit cool, clean and crisp. Cooking is done in a separate area so that patrons are not subjected to the heat, grease and steam that define Chinese kitchens.

Service is quick and efficient, and the staff are friendly and good at remembering regular patrons' preferences (no garlic or onions for some; no dairy for Vegan Eugene, no plastic straws, paper napkins or anything disposable for certain inveterate treehuggers).

Vegelife's winning point, however, is the consistency in the quality of its food. Each visit convinces me that there is such a thing as affordable, tasty and healthy Chinese vegetarian food that isn't made up of gluten, starch and reconstituted-soy-whotsits.

An impromptu interview with the manager of the restaurant revealed that no monosodium glutamate or artificial flavour enhancers are used in their soup stocks. Instead, the restaurant makes its own soup stock using baby corn, cabbage hearts and other vegetables. The result? Soups and gravies that are naturally bursting with flavour.

My favourite comfort food, the VL Green Tea Lui Cha Rice, is more appetising than it looks. A rich green tea soup infused with mint, basil and pepper is served with brown rice, roast peanuts, salted vegetables, and diced tofu, spinach and long beans. I describe it as "spa for the stomach".

Their iced honey lemon drink is zesty and vitamin-packed.

Newbie vegetarians shouldn't have to miss out on their favourite foods. Eggless nasi lemak served with a soy-based cuttlefish sambal affords spicy satisfaction.

Pasteurised and carton-packed fruit beverages can never come close to tasting like freshly pureed watermelon juice like what is offered at Vegelife.

A sizable portion of fried yee mee with lots of vegetables provides a nutritious alternative to instant noodles and preservative-laden mock meat.

A taste of Southeast Asia -- Have a red bean dessert drink with a scoop of coconut milk and sago to round off your meal.

Thai green curry noodles with grilled eggplant, long beans and seaweed-covered vegetarian soy 'fish' offer a variety of flavours and textures -- all of them good!

Crispy bits of nori seaweed in the peppery and savoury seaweed fried rice makes this entree a definite crowd-pleaser.

My only complaint about this establishment is that the drinks are somewhat overpriced. Chinese tea is available, it's just that they don't put it on the menu because they hope that you will pick the RM4.50 smoothie or ice-blended concoction instead.

Most of the entrees on Vegelife Cafe's ala carte menu range from RM4.50 - RM 8.90 in price, which is rather more expensive than the average roadside vegetarian takeaway or chettinad mess hall, but the quality of the food to a certain extent justifies the higher cost. Perhaps it is just as well that glass bowls of colourful confectionary are placed on the counter and offered to patrons to sweeten the surprise of having to pay over RM10 for an individual vegetarian meal.

Still, if you want a different dining experience that is easier on your conscience and health than it is on your pocket, Vegelife Cafe will please even the most exacting of carnivorous and omnivorous palates.

Vegelife Cafe
Address: 2 Jalan SS26/6, Taman Mayang Jaya, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Malaysia
Contact: 016-3223377


Ellen Whyte said...

Oooh this looks good! Going to try it. Also calling you today. But will wait till 830AM to be "civilised".

Cat-from-Sydney said...

My Mama said would you take her there the next time she's in town? She likes the fact that it's not a typical Chinese vegan restaurant that's full of those mock meats. Unfortunately, we cats can't accompany you as we're true blue carnivores those we can definitely make you one of those mean smoothies or fruit juice. purrrr....meow!

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Wow, my review must be good, because I am being visited by cats, who are not known to be vegetarian! ;o)

Thank you dear Ellen, Au and Target! I would love to take you to this restaurant. Do call, I am on a slightly more flexible schedule today, we can meet up after I pick up this one kitty for spaying.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-In-Sydney,

Please tell your Mama I would love to play host to her and take her to all the good restaurants. As for you kitties, I will have to take you out for otak-otak. You eat while I watch!

Cat-from-Sydney said...

My Mama asks, again...., if they'll allow her to bring a bottle of achar in? That seaweed fried rice sure looks like it needs some help in the fiery department. Of course she'll share it with you...I think. purrrr...meow!

louis said...

A very appetizing post, CO'78.

That mug with the iced honey lemon drink..I only recently retired an identical one which I used for my beer for a very long time. It was no ordinary mug: it had been a promotional item distributed by a large fast food chain here in 1976 to commemorate the Bicentennial of this nation.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Kitties-In-Sydney,

If you purr and flick your tail and bat your eyelashes at the restaurant manager, I am pretty sure you can bring even a whole truckload of achar in. Shall we try that? You can swirl around her ankles too if you like. I brought Gypsy a.k.a. Estel to the restaurant once, in a carrier. We sat at the tables outside. The staff loved her and put a fan near her carrier so she wouldn't get too warm in there.

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Dear Louis,

Please do contact me prior to your next visit to Malaysia. I will take you to nice places to eat!

How did you retire a mug? You didn't break it, I hope? Those glass jar mugs have big carrying capacities but are difficult to drink from unless you use a straw. But they're fun to use and look macho, so I can understand its appeal to you. I remember my friends purchasing limited edition Coke glasses from McD's during the last Olympics.

Unknown said...

Liu cha suits me fine and we should have a meal together.My friend makes it as a treat for us and we just polish up her full of goodness dish:)) Eat as much as you want but don't turn into a HULK. OK??

~CovertOperations78~ said...

Thanks for stopping by, Keats! Lui Cha Rice is lovely. Turning into The Incredible Hulk doesn't sound too bad! At least then I can terrorise people who abuse animals or thrash the environment! "Don't make me angry! You won't like me when I'm angry!"

louis said...

Thanks for your kind offer, CO'78. You can be sure I'll take you up on iyif and when I visit KL.