At a recent dinner out, the conversation turned to vegetarian restaurants in Hong Kong. There are many casual Chinese vegetarian restaurants, but what about places for those evenings when you want a trendier place to enjoy cocktails and wine alongside creative vegetarian dishes – and at reasonable prices? We all sort of sat there thinking, with few places coming to mind.
There are many stylish vegetarian and vegetable-forward restaurants in Hong Kong, but they are often quite expensive for fairly basic food. That said, none of us dining that day are vegetarians. Rather, we’re all quite indulgent food lovers! But being health-conscious over gluttonous is a consideration these days, and I’m on the lookout for more options in this category.
Then I went to VEDA, located at Ovolo Central. It’s located right up the stairs next to dragon-i on Wyndham Street and has a super-stylish exterior; a quick search on its Instagram geotag shows many people posing in front of the restaurant. The reason for my visit was to try the new spring menu, which focuses on Indian-inspired dishes by Executive Chef Raul Tronco Calahorra.
First a note that VEDA’s focus on vegetarian food isn’t a gimmick. Ovolo Group have an ongoing pledge to ethical eating and have committed to vegetarian-only offerings across all of their hotel restaurants for the second year. This follows on from their “Year of the Veg” campaign, launched in October 2020, when their venues transitioned to vegetarian-only offerings for one year.
We started with the heirloom salad ($118; gluten free) with labneh, pickled pearl onion and dill. This is a well-balanced salad, with the tangy labneh, grassy dill and sweet-and-sour onion complementing the purity of the juicy tomato.
I order samosa chaat ($118) almost every time I see it on the menu. VEDA’s version has a potato samosa base and is topped with tamarind chutney, yoghurt and pomegranate. It’s quite good, though the crust of the samosa is a bit tough to break through, and some might be left wanting more sauce (I would have liked exactly 30% more!).
The paneer tikka “escabeche” ($138; gluten free) is a standout. I could have easily eaten the whole dish, and it might have been our table favourite. A chunk of paneer is marinated in a smoked paprika escabeche marinade and then grilled before being topped with a buttery makhani curry. Grilling the paneer before saucing it makes a huge difference to the flavour.
Another hit was the panang “dry” tofu ($138), where seared tofu is topped with a sticky-sweet sauce, peanut, shallot and coriander. This is quite a simple dish, sounding more complicated than it tastes. It’s not very spicy or unusual but is indeed satisfying.
The black dhal ($148) is served with blue cheese kulcha. Never had I ever had blue cheese with Indian food, but my eyes have been opened… to having it with VEDA’s black dhal, at least. The strong, pungent cheese enhances the creamy, sweet notes of the dhal. Be warned – this is not a light dish, but it’s one that’s worth the indulgence.
How beautiful is this white asparagus ($198; vegan)? The stems have a slight vinegary note and are served on a bed of smoky, spicy eggplant bharta with corn roti. There are a lot of different flavours going on in this dish, and I think it’s interesting enough – and hearty enough, given the roti – to be a solid main for one.
We ended the meal with g’jam cake ($95). The team have turned the classic Indian confectionery of gulab jamun into a cake (we hear it’s the founder’s family recipe), soaking it in a saffron-sugar syrup before serving it with a milk-caramel-like rabri sauce and topping it with pistachio and almond. Wonderful.
In addition to the food, our group tried a number of cocktails. I stuck with Prosecco ($90/glass), but others enjoyed their creative cocktails such as the hefty Testarossa ($130), made with Amaro Montenegro, Fernet-Branca, Borghetti espresso liqueur, Carpano Classico vermouth and Aperol, and classic cocktails like Bee’s Knees ($100), shaken with gin, honey and lemon juice.
I really enjoyed my first visit to VEDA and will definitely be back soon. The food is delicious, the prices are very fair, the space is charming and the service is solid – ticking all the boxes.
Ovolo Central, 2 Arbuthnot Road, Central, 3755 3067
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.