1. Kitchen By Food Rebel

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Nestled between Cecil Street and Telok Ayer Street, this understated cafe-bistro is easy to miss. But walk in, and you’ll be rewarded with a plethora of appetising choices.

Priding itself on using ingredients that are organic, hormone-free, sustainable and locally produced, Kitchen by Food Rebel manages to make every dish a foodie highlight on its own. The Vegan Sweet Potato & Chickpea Bowl ($19), though meatless, is screaming protein and good fats, satisfying even the veggie-haters. We can’t get enough of the lip-smackingly tasty beetroot-flavoured hummus, the moreish tofu-avocado mash, and how all the ingredients – including quinoa – when combined together, result in an interesting texture.

Another bowl not to be missed: Thai-Inspired Quinoa ($16). It may be classified under the salad section, but it’s a far cry from the cold, raw-tasting salad you might expect. Boasting hues of purple, red, yellow and green, this is a delightful combination of beetroot-flavoured quinoa, tomatoes, bell peppers, purple cabbage and mixed leaves, infused with lemongrass and lime leaves for an unsurpassably aromatic treat to the taste buds.

There are plenty of vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and nut-free options, as indicated on the menu. With its smart selection and combination of ingredients, this is one of the best places to take skeptical foodies who do not believe that healthy and tasty food can coexist.

28 Stanley Street

2. Ninja Bowl

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The brain child of The Astronauts Group – which also owns Babette Restaurant & Bar – Ninja Bowl took over the Duxton Road space where Department of Caffeine used to sit.

The name is also a nod to the Japanese-inspired menu where their donburi-style “Ninja Bowls” take centrestage. The names follow the theme, with dishes like Tsukiji ($16) – pan-seared tuna tataki with cruncy asparagus and edamame, topped with a wobbly onsen egg – and Buta ($14), which is layered with thick slices of house-cured and charred pork belly, ume-pickled apples, roasted pumpkin, and that all-enhancing onsen egg.

Our favourites were the Noka ($14), which means “The Farmer” in Japanese, and the Genki ($16). The former is every bit as hearty as it sounds, laden with fork-tender chunks of 24 hour-braised beef cheeck, and triply umami with baby corn in red-and-white miso dressing as well as sun-dried tomatoes. You’ve also roasted pine nuts for crunch, and that all-enhancing onsen egg.

Genki is lighter on the palate with pickled beansprouts and pickled beets for a zippy tang, and a slab of silky, caramelly grilled eel. And yep, there’s an egg!

Do note that these rice bowls are carb-free by default, but you can add on quinoa for $3. Alternatively, top up $2 for your choice of orzo pasta (they look very similar to rice, with a more al dente texture), Ninja rice (a seaweed-flaked mixture of vinegared Japanese rice and brown rice), or garden greens.

15 Duxton Road

3. Grain Traders

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CBD: Page 3 of 4

Most importantly, they taste as good as they look!

GRAIN TRADERS

(www.grain-traders.com)

#01-03 100Am Mall, 100 Tras Street. Open Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm; Sat & Sun, 11am-8pm. Also at #01-01 Capitagreen, 138 Market Street. Open Mon-Fri, 8am-8pm.

Touting themselves as the place for ang moh chap chye peng (economy rice), Grain Traders has set the bar high for grain bowl concepts with their first outlet at the Capitagreen building. Think large, light-filled spaces that are roomy enough to give every diner his or her personal room, while still keeping lunch catch-ups cosy and intimate. And the food looks like it’s right out of a Kinfolk spread: Everything is fresh, vibrant, healthful and appetite-rousing.

You can go the DIY route just like you would at a chap chye peng.  For $16, you get to pick one grain, one protein, one hot veg, two cold veggies, one topping, and one sauce; better yet, pay $2 more for a drink and a snack.

Under the Grains segment, there’s bulghur wheat, quinoa, brown rice, soba, Japanese rice and a mix of greens. And their options for proteins is simply mouth-watering: sous-vide and char-grilled salmon, slow-roasted pork, and vegetarian-friendly lentil patty just to name a few. The charred furikake corn is wicked, and we’re also really partial to the tangy apple kimchi and their mixed bean pico de gallo. Then you have toppings like furikake, toasted crushed rice, crispy garlic and shallots; and lip-smacking sauces such as beetroot-feta-yogurt, miso caramel, coconut curry, and tamarind chipotle vinaigrette.

But to be honest, the wide selection and the I-want-everything syndrome often leaves us gobsmacked and staggering under the weight of decision-making. We find it much easier to leave the task of flavour combination magic to the experts and trust in their Hero Bowls. There are six of these signature bowls on the regular menu, and occasionally one or two more specials.

Our top vote goes to Upstream ($16): gorgeous, char-grilled salmon with a perfect pink, zingy pickled cucumbers, and caramelised cubes of roasted butternut squash and sweet potatoes over a green bed of kale and spinach.

#01-03 100Am Mall, 100 Tras Street and #01-01 Capitagreen, 138 Market Street

4. Sprout Salad Bar 

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This hideaway salad shop on the other end of Duxton Road may have leapt to fame on founder @pooburr‘s social media clout, but it’s definitely come to its own on the merit of its salad and grain bowl offerings.

The minimalist nook’s differentiating factor is that a lot of their items are designed to meet one or more specific diets: vegetarian, gluten-free, and/or dairy-free. The menu is a concise selection of ten signature salads and grain bowls, but don’t for one minute, be mistaken that they’re left with dismal, dainty and bland choices.

It’s a concise menu precisely because they’ve put in a lot of thought to be sumptuous.

Take for instance, the dairy-free Beef & Broccoli Bowl ($18.90). It’s loaded with quinoa, steamed broccoli and carrots in a simple ginger-garlic sauce, tender strips of seared sirloin, and a soft-cooked egg for good measure. Granted, the number of ingredients is a bit fewer than say, Grain Traders, but you wouldn’t actually notice that once you tuck in, thanks to the the generous portion and colourful flavours.

If you’d rather DIY, prices start at $16 for a Basic bowl – a base of leafy greens and your choice of four toppings.

41 Duxton Road

5. The Daily Cut

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Easily one of the CBD’s most famed salad shops, The Daily cut offers a regular salad featuring a protein, a complex carb, three supplements and dressing starting at $12.

Choices of protein include delicious choices like ribeye steak, turkey breast, chicken thigh and a salmon fillet. Portion sizes are reasaonable.

#B1-31, One Raffles Place

Text: Mia Chenyze and Estelle Low/Shape