SINGAPORE — My dining companion for today's lunch has bailed on me. She cites an overlooked meeting for this glaring absence (I still love you, girl. Muacks!), robbing me of an extra mouth, leaving me all by myself like a Céline Dion hit circa 1996. Never mind that Co-founder Aidah texted me a few hours prior reminding me to "come with an empty stomach". Still, I persevere.
Limaa is that rarefied place that serves exclusively healthy, your-body-is-your-temple kind of food that I believe anyone would enjoy eating, especially on a scorching hot day like today where taking food pictures outdoors is an exercise in patience, sunglasses, and lots of under the breath curses.
But that is if you can find it first. Lined up along a hodgepodge of shops that seems to sell everything lifestyle and Hygge-ish, Limaa is easy to miss if. Yet, the excitement of a treasure hunt lies in its search and eventual discovery. You know that feeling you get when you finally find what you've always been looking for? Was it life? Love? Longing? No, honey. It's just Limaa.
Limaa is the brainchild of Aidah and Zakiah (first names only and superstars like Madonna, Cher, Beyoncé, Bono), both mothers and cousins. Aidah's journey of clean eating came about when she had her second child and vowed not to have a repeat of the intense 16 hours delivery she had with her first. Cutting off processed sugar and all the nasty preservatives from her diet proved fruitful and resulted in a smooth one hour delivery of her newborn. Zakiah, on the other hand, used to be a nurse and a simulation executive which naturally lends itself to her passion for healthy and clean eating. Indeed there's no better example of an establishment created to fulfil the passion of a few while successfully influencing the needs of the many.
Stepping into Limaa is like stepping into a warm, cosy home—if you ignore the huge sugarcane machine perched at the corner and the manual juicer that doles out cups after cups of freshly pressed juices. I sat on one of their tiny wooden stools and was offered a glass of cold Coconut Water infused with citrus fruits and mint (S$7)—the very thing I needed in this 34°C weather from h*ll. A Pomegranate-Mango (S$7) juice is the colour of a sunset on a bright, cloudless day and brings the vibrancy and tartness of Mango and Pomegranate together in a loving embrace.
A plate of carb-free Zoodle Noodle (S$10.90) appears in a heap, punctuated by plump, bright red tomatoes, mushrooms, and parmesan cheese. Zoodles are one of the classic staples of the spiralising movement—referring to a vegetable extruded through the blade of a spiral vegetable slicer to mimic the appearance of pasta. It's a sated indulgence without any of the bloat or heaviness that comes from wheat consumption. Here, zucchini is spiralised and seasoned very lightly with salt, pepper, and slices of sweet garlic. Have it as is, sans protein or for an additional S$3, jazz it up with slices of smoked salmon. It's like a garden on a plate.
I struggle to refer to Limaa as a cafe, although it has all the trappings that make it one. Especially when they're this passionate about the food. Take, for example, Lamb It Up (S$22.90). Thick lamb ribs are seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and thyme, flash seared and finished in an oven. Unlike friends I know, I savour every bit of fatty trimmings on this lamb. The meat was très flavourful, although I'd have loved for it to be cooked rare (always). Have it with the refreshing white house-made yoghurt mint dip, and you too might start to wonder how a kitchen that small can create something this hearty.
From the picture-heavy menu ("I use pictures because some of my Korean and Japanese customers can't read English," Aidah explained), I chose the Teriyaki Sesame Tuna (S$22.90) to round up today's lunch selection. Thickly cut tuna slices, still pink in the centre, sat on a bed of light and fluffy couscous and bathed in a pool of tangy home-made Teriyaki Sauce the colour of coffee. Chunks of lightly seasoned shiitake sit on top of the tuna slices, topped with pieces of bright green, creamy avocado that is sprinkled with dukkah—an Egyptian nut, seed and spice blend. I worry it will be an avalanche of softness, but it's nothing of the sort. The Tuna is firm, cutting almost like a buttery steak and has a taste profile that cuts through the different elements rather vividly.
Instead of indulging in their sweet treats (sans white sugar) of cakes and muffins, I had a Spirulina Green Bowl (S$17) to round up today's visit. Spirulina is green algae that are usually consumed as a dietary supplement. Here it is blended with sweet mango and tart pomegranate to a consistency similar to that of a smoothie, and topped with a medley of healthy thingamajigs—banana, rolled oats, pears, pomegranate seeds, a whole passionfruit, dark chocolate shavings, and chia seeds. After consuming this, I suddenly feel healthier, lighter—a physical state I've always strived for but one that I can only dream.
Limaa is the sort of place that you patronise if you happen to be a local walking by, a tourist, or a rabid fan—which is most unfortunate. But on this visit, it warms my heart to see locals shuffling in from the offices nearby for lunch, fussing over which smoothie to try (that would be the Energizer (S$7)—almost a meal on its own) or which sides to share. From a hole in the wall two years ago, serving fantastic food worthy of their status as a cafe, to a full-fledged dining mecca of seared Tuna, lamb rack, and rosti, I can safely say that Limaa has grown too big for its own good—and for them, it really isn't that bad of a thing.
51 Haji Lane, Singapore 189244, +65 9362 0242
Mon-Thu: 0930-2000, Fri-Sun: 0930-2100