Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fresh Bowl (Gastown)


Fresh Bowl is a Southeast Asian cafe with a bright trendy seating area as well as delivery service within central downtown. The decor utilizes vibrant colours like yellow and orange, and also bits of green from small plants. There are large menu boards above the walk-up counter featuring snacks, rice bowls, noodle bowls, salad bowls, desserts and drinks.


For larger groups, there's a long table near the entrance with a view of the street.


There are 2 self-serve water pitchers and one of them has cucumber slices inside. We all went for the cucumber water which was very refreshing and tasted slightly alkaline.


I ordered a calamansi shaken iced tea ($2.50) which is black tea with juices from calamansi, a Filipino hybrid fruit. I got it without ice and it was slightly tart, very refreshing and not too sweet.


The spicy sambal ($11 chicken or prawn, $10 tofu or veggie) was the only item listed as spicy on the menu, and for good reason too. I had half a spoonful of rice with the thick red chili sauce and started coughing from the spices invading my throat. Talking about rice, there's a choice of 2 different types of rice for the rice bowls: jambori rice (mix of jasmine, basmati and wild red rice) or organic long grain brown rice. I liked the jambori rice more since the jasmine and basmati balanced out the chewy red rice, while the brown rice was a bit too hard and grainy. The spicy sambal in the picture below is tofu with jambori rice.


The penang red curry ($11 chicken or prawn, $10 tofu or veggie) was slightly spicy as well, but the spiciness was hardly noticeable after tasting the spicy sambal. This curry is tomato-based and made without coconut milk, so it might be a good choice for people watching their cholesterol or fat intake. We ordered it with chicken and brown rice. There were about 4-5 pieces of not-too-tender chicken along with mixed veggies. The carrots were a bit hard, and so was the brown rice as mentioned earlier. The curry was really strong and fragrant though, so that made up for it.


The Singapore laksa ($11 chicken or prawn, $10 tofu or veggie) didn't seem very authentic, as the taste of coconut milk was overbearingly strong. I decided to get prawns which turned out to be a very good decision. The prawns were fresh, juicy and bouncy with the slightest hint of sweetness. The noodles were nice and soft while the vegetables were fresh and crunchy. But I would have enjoyed the laksa a lot more if the coconut flavour were not so rich.


We ordered 2 roti canai to share ($4 for 1, $7 for 2), but it didn't taste like the real thing at all. Although it was closer in texture to the real thing than the one at The Flying Tiger, it was not soft and fluffy enough. The pancake was rather dry and crispy to the point that it was a bit tough. The yellow curry dip was very watery and didn't taste very rich. Overall it was a disappointing dish and we left more than half unfinished. We just ripped out the outer edges that were slightly softer and left the hard and tough centres.


After trying 2 different rice bowls, 1 noodle bowl and a snack, my conclusion is that the food here is not authentic at all. That doesn't necessarily mean the food is bad, but there's definitely a Western twist on everything which kind of explains the visually pleasing food presentation. I thought the curry and chili sauce were rich and fragrant and the jambori rice was delicious, so if I ever come here again I would definitely order a rice bowl. The noodle bowl was not bad, but I could not stand the overwhelming coconut milk in the soup. I'm not sure when my next visit would be though since the place is a bit pricey for a cafe style restaurant and the food isn't super impressive.

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