Other than knowing it was a vegetarian restaurant, I didn’t know much about Joie when we made a lunch reservation for one of our regular Ordinary People meetings. It was suggested to us by Sarah’s husband who had been there for a business meeting with several meat-eating colleagues, a rather amusing thought at the time. So when, on arrival, I found it was at the roof top of Orchard Central, I had a feeling that this would be a little bit special (somehow, to me at least, a roof top setting always gives me that feeling).
The first thing I noticed when walking in was how the tables where set so few and far apart making the dining room seem a little empty, but perhaps this was intentional to create an air of exclusivity and added comfort. Black was the predominant colour choice for the decor, shiny tile, mirror, glass, velvet and flock wall paper completed the look. I think they where going for a sexy luxe vibe but this, for me, was oddly matched for a vegetarian restaurant (admittedly I don’t dine much at vegetarian restaurants so perhaps I’m letting my stereotypes come into play here, but for a vego place, something more wholesome comes to mind). I probably would have appreciated it more if I had attended in the evening with a hot date (no offence to my lovely co-founders, of course)!
The lunch menu at Joie consists of a set menu of six courses from which a selection can be made (there is an additional choice of a cold dish if dining there for dinner). We also received an amuse bouche at the start which was complimentary. With three of us dining together, we tried a good range of what was on offer. Read on for each of our own personal views and see which dishes made an impression.
The most memorable item for me at Joie was the carrot creation, part of the chefs trio of tasters brought to us at the start of the meal. It consisted of thinly set layers of carefully concocted seaweed and carrot jus, cut and rolled to visually resemble a rose bud made to mimic thinly sliced raw salmon. The taste and texture was that of raw fish, leaving the three of us confused as to whether we had been mistaken by the categorisation of Joie as a vegetarian restaurant. A knowledgable member of the wait staff was on hand to assure us that no sea creatures where hurt in the creation of our meal (though there are no actual vegetarians in our group so it would have been of no consequence).
Also part of the trio was a raspberry bomb which consisted of raspberry sauce encased in a bubble. Our lovely server also explained that we should eat it in one go to avoid the contents bursting out all over the place – a fun addition and I was thankful for the tip which I’m not entirely sure we would have received had we not asked about the “faux salmon rose”. The last item on the dish was a seaweed flavoured cracker, interesting to look at but didn’t taste of much and stuck to the top of my palate and teeth so definitely the least successful item for me here.
Although not one of the recommended desserts by our server, I opted for the pear poached in red wine and a lime sorbet for dessert. It sounded refreshing and a bit lighter compared to the other choices. This unfortunately did not work out for me. The pear was overly spiced and undercooked and the lime sorbet while pleasant was nothing to write home about. Sarah’s Liquid Chocolate dessert which I had a cheeky spoon of was, however, delightful.
Being married to The Vegetarian, I had a giggle that I was actually here without him. Quite used to vegetarian food gone wrong in settings like this, I was a little bit skeptical. If we do dine at an all vegetarian place, it is usually Chinese (Buddhist) vegetarian, Indian like MTR on Serangoon Road or more Asian inspired, like the vegan Loving Hut located on Joo Chiat Road. We haven’t actually been to many Western vegetarian restaurants so I was rather interested to see how this would go and if they would be able to break away from the usual grilled vegetable or pasta dish we are so used to when offered a Western vegetarian option.
There was a rather delightful shot of mocktail as an amuse bouche served to us at the start. That helped to whet the appetite for the 6 courses to come. Like Anna said, a real highlight was the trio with the “faux” raw salmon impressing me with flavour and texture (not sure if an actual vegetarian would appreciate the “fishiness” though). I next had the gratinated champignon covered in mozzeralla which, I believe, was supposed to mimic escargot with the chewy texture of the mushrooms. For a Vegetarian, mushrooms are usually a great meat substitute so this was a great way to serve it. The soup that come next was a smooth, silky and creamy pumpkin soup that I enjoyed thoroughly.
My main was their ravioli filled with pumpkin and spinach with a basil cream sauce. It was rather tasty but by that point, my co-founders and I had gotten into chatting away and I’m not quite able to describe it completely other than to say that it was really enjoyable and a well-made, home made ravioli too. I did sit up and take note of the warm chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream which was yummy . Their 6th course is actually a drink to finish (not sure why this constitutes as a whole course but the six course set is really reasonably priced at $38.80++ for lunch and a seven course $68.80++ for dinner). I was sad that the meal was coming to an end because I could have had an additional course which of course means that I’ll be back for dinner with The Vegetarian!
Great work by the staff who were knowledgeable about the menu and what was involved. That for me has to be commended because, while it isn’t easy to explain a vegetarian dish with all its substitutions, it is definately impressive when they know the cooking process used to create such a dish. Yes, I would recommend Joie to vegetarians and meat eaters alike. It’s bound to have a few surprises for all!
Apart from the carrot sushi which intrigued and delighted me, the most memorable dish for me was the Liquid Chocolate dessert. I’m a huge fan of dark chocolate and this was beautiful. The liquid chocolate actually had a deliciously rich, frozen crisp chocolate outside with gooey chocolate heaven on the inside. It melted pretty quickly and the amount served was the perfect; light and bursting with flavour. As with all the best dishes at Joie, I feel the time and effort they have taken with textures has paid off. My first exclusively vegetarian ‘fine dining’ restaurant experience impressed me.
For more information on Joie:
181 Orchard Road
#12-01 Orchard Central
Reservation Number: 6838 6966