image

Food & Drinks

Five Hong Kong restaurants serving high-end vegetarian dishes 

These outlets offer the growing ranks of vegetarians, vegans and everything in-between delicious, quirky and sustainable plant-based menus. Seasonal ingredients are prepared with love and attention to detail

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 7:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2018, 8:23am

High-end dining in Hong Kong has traditionally been a meaty affair featuring imported ingredients such as  Kobe beef, jamon Iberico or foie gras.

But times are changing at the top end of town as restaurants embrace a growing demand among customers for sustainable, plant-based dishes. If you want to impress a vegetarian friend on a special occasion, or a visiting business partner, these forward-thinking places won’t let you down.

Sevva

Strict vegetarians and flexitarians have plenty of choices on Sevva’s menu, which is adjusted to suit individual needs. According to founder Bonnae Gokson, the restaurant at the top floor of Central’s Landmark Prince’s caters to everyone on the vegetarian spectrum: from strict vegans to those who don’t mind their vegetables cooked in chicken stock. 

We kicked off with a drink called Green Yum Yum, a mixture of green apple, celery and mint served in a crystal glass, followed by Sevva’s signature spring rolls, which were delicate, yet packed with finely sliced carrots, wood ear fungus, cabbage and turnip.

Another option is crunchy, paper-thin Indian dosa filled with different types of fungi and spinach. Particularly enjoyable was the accompanying sauces – yogurt, refreshing mint, mango chutney and coconut with a spicy kick.

A quartet of soups followed, served in small cups – a creamy cauliflower vichyssoise, a rich tomato bisque, a healthy asparagus, broccolini and watercress concoction, and pumpkin with a hint of curry.

The vegetarian Shanghai wonton are a hearty treat, with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, bak choi and black fungus tucked inside a thin wrapper and served in a broth with a julienne of egg, spring onions and capsicum.

Finally, a generous portion of vegetarian risotto arrived  in a pumpkin shaped bowl. Mixed with the rice was diced pumpkin, artichoke, lily bulb, ginkgo  nuts, baby sweet peas, asparagus and pomegranate for a burst of colour and texture, plus shaved black truffle and arugula.

The five dishes ranged in price from HK$140 to HK$280. Guests can choose from the à la carte menu based on their dietary preferences.

25/F Landmark Prince’s, 10 Chater Rd, Central, tel: 2537 1388

Amber

This two-Michelin-star restaurant has always offered a vegetarian set and à la carte menu for lunch and dinner. Culinary director Richard Ekkebus says there are three reasons for this: there is a demand for it, it is a sustainable solution, and he and his team have fun working with vegetables.

The canapés are light bites – frozen Dutch seawater presented on oyster leaves (a plant that mimics the texture of oysters) for a sense of the sea. Another was lemon curd and mini tarts topped with fresh green peas.

On a recent set menu, one of the artistic-looking dishes was thinly sliced globe artichokes with wild mushrooms and hazelnuts on top, and dressed with black truffles.

Another was an organic parsnip roasted with a miso marinade and garnished with yuzu gel and amaranth leaves.

Dessert was a cluster of meringue leaves carefully constructed like a tree, around a refreshing coconut and kaffir lime sorbet with pineapple cream and pieces of poached pineapple.

Ekkebus says restaurants should communicate that vegetables are not an afterthought nor a garnish. “Vegetables are so diverse that there is more fun in working with vegetables than with protein.

“We should stop thinking that vegetables are cheap, the quality we settle for that is often grown natural or organic are very expensive, often more expensive than protein served in most fine restaurants of Hong Kong.” 

Most important for Ekkebus is that the vegetables are delicious and a sustainable solution.

Vegetarian degustation menu – HK$2,068 per person

7/F Landmark Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Rd Central, tel: 2132 0066

Sushi Tsubomi

At this Japanese fine dining restaurant, which opened last July, we tried an omakase dinner. For those unfamiliar with Japanese cuisine, that means the dishes are chosen by the chef. Plans are afoot at Sushi Tsubomi to roll out a set lunch at around HK$250 soon. Executive chef Michael Chan Chun-kit enjoys the challenge of thinking up vegetarian dishes. “It’s a good way to use seasonal vegetables and they are healthier. We should be eating more of them.”

Much like his regular omakase menus, Chan carefully considers the flavours of each vegetable, and decides how to combine them in a sequence from the beginning to the end of the meal.

He uses many vegetables from Kyoto, and tofu and yuba (bean curd skin) from the former Japanese capital.

Chan’s creativity with flavours and presentation challenges perceptions about Japanese cuisine. 

One dish is deep-fried soba noodles on a bed of leaves, red onions and carrots, with umami jelly cubes made from the soba noodle sauce. Another is mashed potato combined with carrots, mushrooms and bamboo shoots that are wrapped in delicate bean curd sheets and deep-fried. 

Instead of using nori (dried seaweed), Chan uses yuba for a different look and texture for his mixed vegetable sushi, which is accompanied with pickled lotus root and turnip. 

Five of the best new Hong Kong omakase restaurants – highest quality assured

The last dish – before a sweet honeydew melon dessert – combines yuba in soy milk that is warm and sweet, a kind of comfort food.

The seven-course dinner is filling and satiating, and the portions are just right. Chan says there are many vegetarian restaurants in Japan that are reasonably priced, and Taiwan is not far behind.

Vegetarian omakase dinner – HK$750 per person.

22/F V Point, 2-22 Tang Lung St, Causeway Bay, tel: 2339 1899

Rhoda

Sai Ying Pun restaurant Rhoda’s menu delivers hit after hit of smoky, salty, umami-drenched vegetable dishes dreamed up by British chef Nate Green. This is a menu that values provenance and maximising the flavour of each individual component: vegetarian cooking by a chef whose background is in meat.

The first dish served up consists of smoked aubergine, Fourme d’Ambert cheese, walnut, salted pear and honeycomb. It’s a vibrant melee of flavours and textures piled high on the plate. 

British nose-to-tail chefs praise Hong Kong’s eat-it-all culture as they join Rhoda’s Nate Green to serve up a meat-lover’s dream

The aubergine, charred directly over coals before being marinated in balsamic vinegar, is intensely smoky with a sweetness beneath, while generously scattered chunks of honeycomb and blue cheese deliver an indulgent stickiness.

“This dish is all about trying to hit all the senses: sweet, bitter, sour, salt and umami,” Green says.

A plate of heirloom tomatoes is given a simple treatment to highlight their superior flavour. Juicy wedges of deep red, orange and yellow fruit are given a boost with a Minus 8 ice wine vinegar, sweetened soy sauce, parmesan and basil. 

The star of the show is arguably the cauliflower. Cooked in Brooklyn IPA, then roasted with a yeast and miso butter over almond wood to give the cream-coloured florets a bronze, slightly charred hue, the plant is served with a marmite and cauliflower purée and potent walnut pesto.

This doesn’t mean Green can’t do delicate: the meal ends with a petite strawberry sorbet, studded with thinly sliced, super-sweet Fukuoka strawberries, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt.

Three-course vegetarian menu (vegan options available) limited to certain days of the week – HK$248 per person. 

345 Des Voeux Rd West, Sai Ying Pun, tel: 2177 5050

Beet

Beet’s menu is a constant work in progress, shifting with the seasons and availability of ingredients. The consistent factors are freshness, high quality, creative presentation and playful flavours with a Nordic feel. 

Opened little more than a year ago, this small, self-assured restaurant makes the argument for high-end meatless dining, ensuring even reluctant veggies don’t feel cheated by the sight of their carnivorous colleague’s plates. For the long-term veggie, the menu is a welcome sign that plant-based gastronomy is being taken seriously by some of the region’s hottest culinary stars.

Rice growing in Hong Kong gets a fresh start in Lantau Island

Chef Barry Quek finds inspiration in local ingredients, visiting local producers such as Zen Farm in Fanling for organic vegetables and Common Farm in Cheung Chau for fresh herbs and flowers to create his shape-shifting vegetarian set, which as many as a fifth of diners opt for, according to Beet.

We enjoyed thick-cut, house-made sourdough bread with kefir butter, a starter so addictive that we took an extra box of bread and butter home.

The highlights were roasted, garlicky Brussels sprouts garnished with flaked almonds and a nutty carrot ravioli with maitake mushroom and buckwheat. 

Beet is known for its delightfully unconventional ice cream flavours – hay with basil and strawberries was on the menu when we visited, but the Post’s senior food editor, Susan Jung, praised her marigold ice cream; now, the current flavour is brown butter. 

The set finished with a financier – a jam-filled cuboid cake served with an earthenware cup of herbal tea.

HK$580 for the six-course vegetarian tasting menu. Contact [email protected] for the latest menu

Beet, 6 Kau U Fong, Central, tel: 2824 3898