This week I had a veggie friend in town and after exhausting a few of the obvious options (Mana, Home, ABS, Grassroots pantry to name a few), I wanted to introduce something new and exciting. Vanimal graced Kennedy Town this year with its take on funky, fresh and creative vegetarian food that is not necessarily healthy.
The chef hails from the Four seasons restaurant and really does enjoy being ‘on display’ with the open kitchen area where you can take a sneak peak at the action.
Walking in you feel as if you are in the wilderness, with wooden blocks holding up the communal glass table as the restaurant’s centerpiece, the dinosaur shaped table at the entrance, plant pots dotted around and a chiller cabinet displaying beautiful veggies and their selection of craft brews. My friend aptly described it as a food safari!
The waitress promptly greeted us and we decided to make the most of their happy hour with 50% off drinks (5-8pm weekdays). We chose a few cocktails; the rum and tea, the abstract and the rabbit’s sip (without the egg white).
The abstract was the sweetest of the three because of the white wine and summer fruits, a very summery drink. The rum and tea had a spicy and sour taste to it, quite warming with a sprig of rosemary. I have to say I LOVED my rabbit’s sip cocktail, cheekily poking fun that veggies eat rabbit food, it was refreshing with a generous amount of thyme infused gin.
The menu is quite extensive with food from all over the world ranging from Japanese to Thai curry so there is definitely something for everyone. We quickly noticed that the paella takes 40 minutes to make so we ordered it immediately. It is meant for 4 people, so we only ordered 2 vakitori alongside it.
First came the flavoured watermelon vakitori. I was so pleased it came first as many nutritionists would tell you to eat fruit before your meal and not after. The warm clove flavours were not overpowering and perfectly complemented the slight sweetness of the fruit.
Next, came THE BEST TOFU I HAVE EVER HAD!!! The dried tofu vakitori with miso had a slight sweetness but the grated ginger gave it a subtle kick. My friend who has been on a mainly tofu diet for years could not get enough of it. Melt in the mouth and beautiful!
We could not wait for our paella to arrive and when it did we were not disappointed. The colours looked gorgeous on the pan and the sous chef eagerly came over to explain some of the 10 vegetables in the dish- beetroot, lily, lily root, carrots, radish, asparagus to name a few. The rice was almost a purple colour which he explained is from the bean and vegetable stock they use.
Once the waitress mixed the dish, including the runny egg on top we could see the soccarat (brown, crusty layer of rice) at the bottom which is vital for a paella. The dish was not at all overpowered by paprika or any other spices so the vegetable flavours could really shine. The crunchiness of the rice and the veggies made this truly a pleasant eating experience. We almost licked the pan clean.
Saving some room for dessert, we ordered the chocolate foam, brownie and chocolate with black pepper crisps. This was an absolutely delectable dessert and surprisingly not too heavy as the foam and crisps were the main feature. Personally, I would have preferred mousse instead of foam, perhaps using avocado instead of egg would have made this a bit more interesting.
Verdict: At 400 HKD per person including our cocktails, we were pleasantly surprised how creative you can be with vegetables and how full too! With their extensive menu, I can see myself bringing veggie friends here for an enjoyable meal with stellar service. Check out their Happy Hour deal of 2 craft beers and 2 vakitori for 98 HKD (5-8pm weekdays)
Shop 1, G/F, 150 Belcher’s Street, Kennedy Town Ph: 852 2872 8880 http://www.vanimal.com#!