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Located on the fifth floor of the anonymous Liat Towers, the setting of this restaurant could be enhanced. The interiors are a hodgepodge of influences and design sensibilities, from the brick arches and columns that belong in an Italian restaurant, to the ubiquitous doors with hexagonal glass panel, to the walls covered in mosaic tiles. The lighting, rows of small spotlights, is functional rather than mood-setting.
A vegetarian restaurant that positions itself at the fine-dining end of the spectrum, LingZhi serves well-crafted, nicely balanced dishes that while never divine, are pretty, appetising, and, most importantly for staunch carnivores that shy away from vegetarian food, filling. The menu, with flavours that are predominately Chinese, doesn’t try to remake classics into meat-alternative facsimiles, but it intelligently riffs on tastes and combination of ingredients to create dishes that are at the same time familiar and unexpected. Take the braised spinach soup with bamboo fungus, served in what resembles a small bamboo tumbler. The broth, not clear but pureed to a vivid green reminiscent of a lush Balinese rice paddy, has a body that makes it taste almost meaty and like the earth itself. Roast duck comes in layers of thin, crackly, beancurd skin; while the sautéed broccoflower and fungus with chef’s special sauce pits the spongy, nutty tasting broccoflower with a creamy base of fermented beancurd. Vegetarian shark’s fin melon with vegetarian crab roe presents little baskets of silky, soft, pleasingly sour tofu, figleaf gourd, and walnuts sitting in a crispy nest that provides a satisfyingly crunchy contrast. The dish that can be improved is the vegetarian satay, but this is also perhaps the most thought-provoking—skewers of beancurd, mushroom, green pepper, fried flour, water chestnut, bathed in peanut sauce, that offer an intriguing sequence of textures. Skip the satay signature dish for the deep-fried lotus roots with golden mushroom rolls (fine crunchy, breaded exterior) and the excellent sautéed monkey head mushroom with dried chilli (both chewy and crispy, giving it an exquisite mouth-feel). Be sure to order the aloe vera jelly dessert, slivers of cooling aiyu jelly with pieces of aloe vera and a base of lime juice, that’s like a chilled towel at the end of a hot day.
Wine drinkers will find no choices here as Ling Zhi does not serve wine. Drinkers can order Tiger or Nippon Beer; otherwise stick to the tea, juices, and fizzy drinks.
The efficient, amiable staff are attentive and constantly on the go, refilling tea cups, clearing empty dishes, rearranging plates to make space for new dishes, and have a sound grasp of what’s in each dish that’s most apparent if you can converse with them in Mandarin or Cantonese.
A filling lunch for four, including dessert, will come in around $200.