Newly opened Vanimal in Kennedy Town – hearty vegetarian fare in industrial setting

Menu is varied if a little short and there are a few surprises and mystery dishes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 6:03pm
UPDATED : Monday, 15 February, 2016, 10:42pm

The restaurant scene in Kennedy Town is expanding, and Vanimal stands out from the others because it’s vegetarian and has a yellow dinosaur-like creature as its logo.

Inside, the industrial-looking space has lots of concrete, a long, winding ramp to get to the dining area, and a colourful statement wall behind the bar. The only indication that it’s a vegetarian restaurant are the displays of fresh vegetables next to its sleek black refrigerators.

The restaurant is still in the soft-opening stage. The dishes cover a one-page menu, while the cocktail and drinks list is much more extensive, which makes us wonder if the place is more of a bar, with the food as an afterthought.

We started with mixed beans croquettes (HK$98), six small pieces that didn’t have much flavour or texture, served on a bed of bland turnip powder that looked like icing sugar.

The fried potato dual (HK$88)was delicious – purple and orange potatoes seasoned with a smoky paprika aioli. The table next to us enjoyed theirs so much they ordered another one.

Another good dish was the slow-cooked Japanese egg with cepe and shiitake beurre blanc and Jerusalem artichoke chips (HK$128). We were encouraged to mix everything together, and it had a nice mix of soft and crunchy textures, although we had to eat it quickly so the chips didn’t get soggy.

For a “meaty” dish, the grilled French horn mushroom with herbs and butter soy sauce (HK$88) fit the bill. The mushroom was tender and juicy with a meaty heartiness.

The Vanimal pickles (HK$88) –a colourful presentation with a variety of vegetables including turnip, carrot, bitter melon, cucumber, cabbage and lotus root marinated in a pink brine – helped whet our appetite for the Vanimal paella (HK$368). This was made with Taiwanese pearl rice and topped with turnips, fennel, lily bulbs, carrots, shallots and deep-fried lotus root, and served with a soft egg in the middle. We enjoyed the flavourful rice,but its grey shade wasn’t too appetising. The rest of the ingredients were mostly white, a few more colourful ones would have made it more visually interesting.

The paella was not properly described on the menu, only asking diners to identify all the ingredients, which is not helpful for people who avoid certain foods. The same could be said for the desserts, with descriptions such as “Sunshine Within” (HK$88, a caramel bread pudding that was on the dense side), and “Chocolate 5572” (HK$108). This turned out to be chocolate mousse that had the consistency of a sauce, covering brownie cubes, macadamia nuts and hazelnuts in a martini glass. It was garnished with a flaky brown pastry that had a surprising but enjoyable hint of spiciness.

Vanimal Cadogan, 150 Belcher’s Street, Kennedy Town, tel: 2872 8550