Situated in the very hipster Sai Ying Pun, the rebranded American diner, Awakening Cafe, now offers up a fresh, healthy menu that loosely follows the Paleo diet. The Awakening is tucked along a street that has a lovely community vibe, and is a small resto with funky decor (think cheeky posters!) and a laid-back atmosphere. We stopped by for lunch and I was surprised at the number of people there considering it’s a little further out of the way from the main offices and working districts… a good sign!
Expect a simple choice of drinks with Jax Coco on offer, bottomless ice tea, hot tea and “carbonated things loaded with man made things” – aka, fizzy drinks! There are also some craft beers and red and white wine if you decided to go down the less healthy route with your beverages.
The Awakening provides self-proclaimed ‘healthy lifestyle cuisine’, with all dishes being gluten-free and sugar-free. The ‘Paleo Plus’ menu, which is essentially a Paleo diet with grains and legumes, is full of filling, nutritious dishes that are flavoured with natural herbs and spices. We were looking forward to seeing if the health focused menu would still be able to deliver on flavour…
We began with the simple Carrot Salad ($88), a basic mix of shredded carrot and red cabbage with a sprinkling of raisins and slices of tomato. The dressing is what made this salad really different though – think red onion, lemon vinaigrette, chilli, cumin, mustard seeds and turmeric. These spices gave the salad a real lift, creating an unusual, fresh citrusy flavour that I was happily munching on throughout the meal.
Up next was what I thought would be a ‘light’ soup – but how wrong I was! The Lentil & Pumpkin Stew ($108) with cashews, apricots and raisins was very thick and paste-like, and reminded me more of a curry or dal. While this dish doesn’t look particularly appetising, it smells fantastic and the warmth and creaminess of the dish makes it ideal on a chilly day. The generous portion means that you’ll finish this feeling surprisingly full and satisfied, which might be why it’s one of the most popular lunchtime dishes.
We went on to try the ‘Grilled Cheese Sandwich’ ($110) – two layers of gluten-free bread from Choice Healthy, stuffed with halloumi cheese, capsicum, courgette and balsamic vinaigrette. Although it was simple, this was definitely one of our favourite dishes. The thick slice of halloumi combined with the roasted veggies was a match made in heaven, reminiscent of Mediterranean flavours. The bread is of such a high-quality that you wouldn’t have any idea it was gluten-free, being soft and light toasted. A great lunchtime sandwich which is sure to please!
We were feeling surprisingly full at this point, which just goes to show the benefits of using healthy, nutritious ingredients, but we still had two desserts to come! The apple, cranberry and nut ‘Crumble’ ($45) smelled deliciously homey, and although it didn’t have quite the same sumptuous, buttery texture of normal crumble. The warmed spiced apple was still comforting and delicious.
The Chocolate Mousse ($30) made from hazelnut, banana and coconut was interesting – at first I thought it was a chocolate ice-cream from the way it was served! The flavour was subtly sweet, with a hit of banana running through, but the texture of the mousse just wasn’t the same as the creaminess of a chocolate mousse… that being said, the guilt-free factor definitely helps and I would certainly recommend these desserts if you’re craving something naughty but don’t want to indulge.
As the restaurant isn’t that big, it’s pretty easy for the staff to be on top of all the orders. Mike, the chef, is clearly very passionate about what he does and was able to tell us a bit more about each dish, the ingredients and his ideas. The Awakening definitely has relaxed, cafe-vibe that puts you at ease and the staff seem friendly and willing to answer any questions you may have. It’s the perfect lunch-time destination or casual dinner spot, and they also host ‘Tuesday TED talks‘ if you’re looking for a more enlightening evening!
Overall, The Awakening definitely brings something different to the HK dining scene and I’m sure it will be a go-to destination for all health-conscious hipsters and the clean-eating community. But don’t expect one or two pathetic lettuce leaves if you order a salad… just because The Awakening uses the fresh, nutritious ingredients doesn’t mean that the dishes aren’t substantial. The portions are a good size and very filling, and although the food is a touch pricey in my opinion ($98-$238 for ‘Things from the ground and garden’ and ‘Things that walk and swim’ and around $40 for sides and desserts), you’ve got to remember that you are paying for high quality ingredients that are actually good for you! Some of the flavour combinations and textures are unusual, but if you’re looking for a guilt-free, healthy lunch or dinner then this won’t disappoint. I definitely commend them on their creativity and I’m looking forward to returning for that ‘Grilled Cheese Sandwich’ and to see what seasonal specials they’ve cooked up!
SPECIAL SASSY OFFER
Want to check out The Awakening? Head on over to Sai Ying Pun for either lunch or dinner and get a FREE dessert with your meal! Choose from four options on the menu, all of which are gluten free and sugar free for a yummy treat. Three people will get one dessert so make sure you bring a buddy!
The Awakening, G/F, 1-6 Ying Wa Terrace, Sai Ying Pun, 2858 0005, www.theawakeninghk.com
*Please note that this restaurant is now closed.