As an appreciator of good food, I am quite transparent in my expressions. It doesn't take a genius to figure me out. Savouring that perfect piece of siew yoke (roasted pork), I close my eyes and allow myself to enjoy that experience completely; a raise of the eyebrow signifies that I am astonished that food can taste so heavenly, the widening of my eyes follows the raised eyebrow (for the same reason, obviously), and finally....finally....reverent silence as my senses are enveloped in that one action of popping the siew yoke into my mouth. At the end, there is the last act of inhalation of breath as the aroma and taste intermingle.
And if I don't like what I eat? First, a feeling of uneasiness about why I am still mechanically putting the food into my mouth (because mum said I should never waste food, perhaps?). My face is contorted as I try to mask the pain that I endure as I shovel the food down my throat, and despite all that I do, I am unable to swallow the food. My mouth soon becomes filled with a mish-mash of different types of food, like a cow that constantly chews on grass, but digestion takes forever. My eyes water, as though pleading for the nightmare to stop, but no one is around to pinch me.
My lunch at Gopala Vegetarian Restaurant was somewhat like the final scenario. I was fully aware that the restaurant was a pure vegetarian restaurant, and so my expectations were tuned in to that radiowave. "No garlic and onion," I reminded myself. That was perhaps the most difficult thing for my brain and my tastebuds to reconcile. As I am not, and have never been, a vegetarian, it is hard for me to fully appreciate food that is not prepared with the two ingredients belonging to the allium family that are purportedly detrimental to health, meditation and devotion.
Having said that, my comment on the food at Gopala is more towards the variety and preparation as compared to the actual taste of the food, which I found overly intense in certain areas with one dominant flavour coming through as compared to the blending of several flavours. To put it briefly, the rasam (which is traditionally prepared with garlic as one of the main ingredients) was strangely very hot (as in spicy) but lacked the slightly sour taste which is normally associated with it, while certain vegetables tasted like the chef had a strong liking for chilli powder. It certainly appeared like the chef was attempting to compensate certain flavours by adding in others to a degree of intolerance (to me and my dining companion, at least), which consequently resulted in unpalatable dishes. Of course, I am fully aware that my tastebuds are different from others, and would be interested to know what you think of the food here.
Maybe I am a little upset about the taste of the food after all. :-)
As I was saying, I was more annoyed about the fact that there was a lack of variety. The vegetables, even though they were edible, appeared to be dishes that had been quickly prepared to meet the daily quota. There seemed to be a lack of thought about the combination of dishes for the day. My thali meal consisting of rice and several types of vegetables was very ordinary, to say the least.
We tried one of the mock meats - mock prawn sambal, which not only had the texture of overcooked prawns, but didn't taste very good either.
Sometimes, looks can be so deceiving.
For dessert, a bowl of payasam was included in the platter. The payasam was not milky at all; the gooey texture seemed to be contributed by the sago and possibly starch. It was also extremely sweet, and it was probably the only time that I was unable to finish my payasam.
And what was good? I liked the moru (diluted yoghurt drink) while the mango lassi was outstanding.
The basic thali meal, priced at RM5 per person was reasonable, but I got better value from the other vegetarian restaurant (although bear in mind that the other one isn't a pure vegetarian restaurant as they use alliums in their cooking). The prawn sambal was RM4.50 for a small serving.
The Gastronomic Diary
Gopala Vegetarian Restaurant
No. 59, Jalan Thambipillai, Brickfields, 50470 KL.
Tel: 03-2274 1959
Open 7 days. Business hours: 7.00am to 1.00am