Genius Central, Amoy Street: “Who said a pizza needs meat to succeed?”
‘Healthy food’ versus ‘unhealthy food’; while the latter brings to mind sinful pleasures along the lines of fried chicken and pizzas, the former manifests itself in the form of salads and grain bowls. I’m far from being an advocate for clean eating, so I would be lying if I said I didn’t approach Genius Central with the slightest scepticism toward its food.
Initially opened in January, the cafe, unfortunately, had to close its doors in April 2020 when the pandemic hit. Luckily, the business stayed afloat as it shifted toward the provision of healthy takeaway and delivery options. Talk about adaptive. With the reopening in July, the restaurant is back to serving up numerous guilt-free options in Far East Square.
From the outside, Genius Central is no doubt handsomely furnished. It’s chic bronze exterior and warm lighting is more than pleasant. If that’s not inviting enough, there’s one striking characteristic about the eatery—it’s space. Entering the 150-seater establishment is akin to visiting a cavernous department store, except here you are ushered to a table and served food.
What I tried
As I browse through the menu, inclusivity is what I draw from the restaurant’s many offerings. Vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options are all available, so you can accommodate that one friend. But don’t let that discount the variety of Genius Central’s dishes, because you can look forward to trying an array of pastas, breakfast items, as well as a number of Thai and Indian plates.
The Creamy Mushroom Pasta (S$17) is a cunning one, as one distinctive factor of this menu item is ironically, it’s lack of cream. That’s right, the dish shuns any use of dairy and instead features a house-made pasta sauce that cleverly incorporates cashew milk. Portobello and button mushrooms sit atop a bed of spaghetti, and the whole dish is further seasoned with a mix of thyme and rosemary.
While it is vegan and dairy-free, bland is one thing it is not. Each strand of pasta is packed with flavour and cooked al dente. There’s a nutty aroma that lends an added fragrance to the spaghetti, all thanks to the cashew sauce that is all kinds of addictive. The mushrooms are chock-full of umami and firm to the bite, which made for a great mix of textures in the dish. Needless to say, I was a fan from the first mouthful and found myself mindlessly attacking the plate throughout the meal.
Under Genius Central’s aptly named ‘Longevity Bowls’ section, the Happiness Bowl (S$17) is a colourful mix of ingredients that comes artfully arranged. A combination of mesclun salad, corn, pickled cucumber, and tomatoes would normally deter the inner carnivore in me, but I quite enjoyed the refreshing aspect of the dish. Each component is prepared with thought, so don’t expect a lazy mix of fruits and vegetables thrown onto a plate.
There’s no skimping on portions either, with black organic rice and sliced avocado ensuring you get your fair share of carbs. It’s a dish which brings me back to my mum cajoling me to eat my veggies, and definitely one for the yoga-centric, health-obsessed individual. Yes, mother, I have done you proud.
Perhaps straying further away from the healthy side of things, the Popcorn Chicken (S$9) consists of organic chicken meat that comes generously seasoned. Lightly spiced and fried till crispy, each morsel is moreish and savoury. The accompanying paprika mayo adds a delicate sweetness and tang to the meat—a pairing which is seriously irresistible. If you’re ordering it to share, proceed with caution as it is enough to make anyone greedy.
Another great sharing option is the Pumpkin Ricotta Pizza (S$20). This vegan pie won my heart over with ease, as the sweetness of the roasted butternut squash and caramelised onions contrasted perfectly to the saltiness of the cheese. It’s a medley of flavours that I drool for now even as I’m thinking back to it. Who said a pizza needs meat to succeed?
Maybe the biggest surprise of the night, the Khichdi (S$16) arrives at the table dressed with heaps of mint leaves and thyme. For the uninitiated, khichdi is a one-pot rice and lentil dish that is cooked with dhal to a thick, mushy texture.
Genius Central’s rendition is superb, employing fluffy basmati rice and sizeable portions of spinach, broccoli, and green beans. Plentifully seasoned, each spoonful is warm, comforting, and luscious. Served with a tub of plant-based raita, mix it in with the bowl for a bright tart finish. Incredibly hearty and scrumptious, you’ll leave with your tummy full and your heart fuller.
The restaurant also offers an assortment of fruity smoothies. In particular, the Green Goddess (S$8.50) left quite the lasting impression. Not overly sweet and oh-so-creamy, every sip blankets the tongue in a rich, thick concoction. Its fragrant blend of banana, avocado, cashew milk, and honey will fill you up and leave a smile on your face.
Genius Central markets itself along the premise of providing highly nutritious and guilt-free meals. Yet, this is not the biggest takeaway from the meal I had. At the end of the day, the restaurant serves up honest-to-goodness dishes that are prepared with utter care and finesse.
I sincerely liked dish after dish, a notion that was formed not from the supposed health benefits of the food, but simply for its remarkable taste. I definitely see myself making a return to the restaurant sometime soon, excited to try more of their thoughtfully prepared dishes.
Expected Damage: S$20 – S$25 per pax
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