I love going to a restaurant with absolutely no expectations and being very pleasantly surprised. This is not often the case with vegetarian restaurants (bar MANA! and Grassroots Pantry of course), and I was certainly not expecting big things from The Herbivores. However, I ended up quite wowed by the place, even if their food was lacking that all-important certain ingredient!
The Herbivores occupies a very small space on Staunton Street that seats just 26 diners. Apart from a cosy booth at the back of the room, the only table is a long wide wooden one that takes up most of the room, for all to share. This shared table, along with the simple décor of white-washed exposed brick walls, contrasted with black corners and hanging blackboards, gives off a relaxed and welcoming feel. To add a touch of colour and intrigue to the room, vegetarian ‘fun facts’ are scrawled onto the black part of the walls, such as “you might be better off kissing a vegetarian than a meat lover, as research has shown that vegetarians taste and smell better.” Hmm… really?!
The entire kitchen of four chefs were all previously at ROKA, which must account for a lot of the Japanese influences that have snuck in to the menu. Our meal began with one such dish: a “Japanese Crunch Salad”. This was a light refreshing medley of crunchy cabbage, soft abura age (a healthier version of deep-fried tofu) and rice noodle-esque konjac jelly, smothered in an incredibly addictive sesame dressing with black and white sesame seeds. You know how I feel about salads by now (suffice to say, I’m not a fan!), but this is one salad I could not refuse.
A cute bowl of crispy wedges followed, served with homemade cocktail sauce. These perfectly crispy wedges are deep-fried in super healthy Omega 9 Oil, making them almost guilt-free. Paired with the zingy and delicious sauce made with a blend of tomatoes, Parmesan, chilli powder and pepper, they were twice as tasty. Feeling greedy, we also asked if we could try the homemade truffle mayonnaise – and seriously, you MUST try this too!
Next came a very simple yet wonderfully tasty dish – Japanese plum pasta. Fresh linguini cooked al dente in vegetable stock was topped with a pile of shredded seaweed, dried basil and a single Japanese plum. Tossed together until the plum disintegrated, the beautifully contrasting flavours of sweet, salty and sour set off fireworks in my mouth.
The daily special, not on the regular menu, was another cute dish (I love The Herbivores’ crockery!) of baked rice with spinach cream. The fluffy rice was topped with a layer of mushrooms and tomatoes, followed by a layer of wilted spinach, finished with crumbled Parmesan before being baked to golden perfection. Despite the cream, this was a lovely delicate dish that wasn’t at all heavy.
The only disappointment of the evening was the NY cheesecake. Although it had a good flavour, it was a little too dense and there wasn’t enough of a distinction between the cheesecake and the base, which could have been a lot crunchier. Its redeeming factor, however, was the delicious mixed berry and red wine purée that provided a welcome and refreshing tanginess to the rather heavy dessert.
The mango yoyo, on the other hand (and a dish I would normally never order), was divine – yoghurt pudding topped with strips of fresh mango, mango purée and oatmeal crumble. It was delightfully smooth and creamy, whilst still remaining somehow light and refreshing, but the real star was most definitely the crunchy crumble.
As the restaurant is still in their soft-opening stage, it is still awaiting its alcohol license. There are, however a selection of delicious mocktails on the blackboard, including ‘The Herbivores’ (mint, lemongrass and honey), ‘Meditation’ (fresh lemon, fresh cucumber, white grape juice and cranberry juice) or, if you’re feeling like a celebration, a ‘Mock Champagne’ (ginger ale, white grape juice and pineapple juice) – it almost tastes like the real deal… almost!
Service comes with a smile. The small team are very personable and passionate about what they do, which is always refreshing to see in Hong Kong. Prices aren’t too unreasonable, with starters and salads around $60 and main courses between $100 and $200. The Herbivores is a lovely little place that serves delicious hearty food, despite the rather untrue ‘facts’ – I’m pretty sure that as a meat eater I smell and taste pretty wonderful, thanks!
The Herbivores G/F, 35 Staunton Street, SOHO, Central
2613 2909 www.facebook.com/TheHerbivoresHongKong
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!