Earth Day 2021: The Best Vegetarian and Vegan Tasting Menus in Hong Kong and Macau
Hong Kong is home to an increasing number of restaurants that specialise in plant-based fare targeting vegans, vegetarians and those looking to incorporate more vegetables into their everyday diets. But when dining with flesh-eating friends, or looking to splurge on a special gastronomic experience, a number of the city's finest restaurants actually offer full, multi-course tasting menus that are as innovative as they are exquisite and cater to those keen to eschew animal products. Some require advance notice, while others have their plant-based selections all set up and ready to go, but all offer diners considered culinary journeys through unusual and memorable vegetable-based preparations.
Culinary Director Richard Ekkebus reframed the focus of Amber long before he unveiled the restaurant’s new direction in 2019 to prioritise lighter, more refined flavours above the rich foods of yesteryear. Vegetables, to him, have always been more interesting, holding infinite potential and his decision to bring more into the fine dining sphere was not based on the direction of culinary trends, but “because it makes sense in our contribution to the environment.” At Amber, the tasting menu experience for vegetarians—and even vegans, by request—is by no means an afterthought, but a carefully considered journey that presents delicious surprises along the way in the form of intense nut oils, piquant berries and umami-packed mushrooms. His signature corn dish with salicornia, seawater and sudachi is, arguably, even more refined without the addition of caviar on the non-vegetarian menu. Other dishes such as XL white asparagus with morel, ratte potato, salted egg yolk, dill and extra virgin sunflower oil, offer a lesson in elegance.
Caviar, abalone and sea cucumber are just a few of the indulgent ingredients that often take centre stage in the stunning dishes at Vicky Cheng’s VEA restaurant, where the talented chef pairs Chinese ingredients with French techniques. But vegetarians, vegans and plant-based diners will be delighted to know that Cheng can create equally inspired and attractive dishes that cater to such dietary requirements, where the finest vegetables and other meat-free ingredients are designed to shine. Both his six and eight-course tasting menus can be adapted to diner preferences, while guests can still enjoy a spirit-free cocktail, cocktail, wine, Chinese wine or premium wine pairing alongside, each one carefully selected to complement the dish, whatever its focus.
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There are a number of vegetarian dishes that are always worth ordering at Arcane, whether you follow the diet or not. And the longevity of Arcane’s dedicated vegetarian a la carte is testimony to their popularity. The sauteed potato gnocchi with shiitake ragout, spinach, pine nuts and black truffle has become something of a signature, while the Japanese fruit tomato with burrata, black olive, salsa verde and focaccia crisps appetizer always hits the spot for its combination of both textures and flavours. These dishes, and more, often feature on chef Shane Osborn’s five-course vegetarian tasting menu (a vegan tasting menu can also be prepared), available at lunch and dinner. Importantly, as in Arcane’s regular tasting menu, the vegetarian version also closes with Osborn’s unmissable yuzu and lemon posset––the perfect way to end any experience at Arcane.
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While the Cantonese culinary canon is built on dishes celebrating fresh seafood, poultry and pork, many often forget that vegetables play a crucial role. At three-Michelin-starred Forum, chef Adam Wong’s seven-course vegetarian tasting menu is a celebration of delicate flavours and contrasting textures from ingredients ranging from bamboo fungus (a soft, porous mushroom that soaks up flavour) to prized cordyceps braised with mushroom. Exquisite Chinese desserts such as double-boiled papaya sweetened with rock sugar and served with wispy white fungus, or osmanthus and dried longan jelly, complete the meal.
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Fine French cuisine is the order of the day at L’Envol, but it’s refreshing to note that the restaurant is also “vegetarian friendly”, which means that diners can enjoy vegetarian versions of both the five-course Decouverte tasting menu and the eight-course Signature set menu on request. These change according to the availability of ingredients, but the former might include such delights as a truffle salad, and a mushroom fregola risotto, while the latter may feature L’Envol’s signature chilled le tamarillo soup with basil sorbet. Both tasting menus also dedicate a course to what is a highlight for any diner at L’Envol, vegetarian or not: selections from the restaurant’s impressive cheese trolley.
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Chef Hung Chi-Kwong specialises in traditional Cantonese cuisine, with his signature barbecued Iberico pork among the highlights at Rùn, but diners can also enjoy his vegetarian set menus (which are usually vegan, too, as dairy rarely appears in Cantonese cuisine). A six-course vegetarian lunch and a seven-course vegetarian dinner menu can be prepared, providing the chef is given advanced notice from diners. A mini dim-sum selection kicks off the lunch menu, followed by matsutake mushroom soup with bamboo fungus and Chinese cabbage, and also includes a wok-fried vegetable dish, a bean curd-focused plate and a rice, while dinner sees a different selection of appetisers followed by a range of wok-fried and braised vegetable and noodle dishes whose fresh, seasonal flavours are bound to impress.
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Self-styled modern Australian fine dining restaurant Hue offers a vegetarian menu that changes with the seasons and can be adjusted for vegan palates too. Beginning the meal is house-made sourdough with smoked butter, followed by light starters such as charred gem lettuce with almond cream, and chawanmushi with mushrooms and green onion oil. Mains encompass buffalo ricotta dumplings, grilled cauliflower or potato terrine, while desserts don’t skip on the decadence—think the likes of brown butter cherry cake, pavlova and mille-feuille. Available in two- or three-course options, Hue’s vegetarian menu is perfect for those looking for a concise meal that still ticks all the boxes.
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PIIN Wine Restaurant
Wine-centric Chinese restaurants are few in Hong Kong, and at Piin, the MSG-free vegetarian tasting menu can be paired with a sommelier’s selection designed to bring out the best of each dish. Originals such as wok-fried winter melon with potatoes in honey black pepper sauce sit alongside familiar classics made into vegetarian-friendly creations such as the black vinegar-glazed deep-fried seasonal mushrooms, which normally would be made with fresh river eel. Elegant double boiled soup using seasonal vegetables cleanses the palate before heavier dishes such a sweet-and-sour shiitake mushrooms, and the menu completes with a rich sweet pumpkin sago with coconut cream.
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Roganic / Aulis
Espousing a farm-to-table philosophy, Roganic and private chef’s counter Aulis are the obvious choice for vegetarians with a taste for fine dining. Organic vegetables sourced locally from the New Territories are the star ingredients here, alongside microgreens grown within the restaurant. While diners will have to call ahead to book the vegetarian tasting experience, some dishes to expect are truffle pudding with birch sap and Lincolnshire poacher custard, the signature soda bread and cultured brown butter, and marjoram-brined cabbage with soy and miso-glazed shimeji mushrooms. For those who want to go all the way health-wise, a juice pairing can also be had for a meal that is both meat and alcohol-free.
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Tate Dining Room
Vegetarians or those simply looking to incorporate more plant-forward dishes into their diets while dining at some of the city’s finest restaurants, are in luck this Spring as Tate launches Ode to Earth, a six-course vegetarian lunch menu with tea pairing. Known for her delicate French-Chinese cuisine and seasonally changing menus, Tate’s chef-patron Vicky Lau highlights humble vegetables in this homage to Mother Earth by making the most of the bounty of spring. A combination of unusual and everyday vegetables make themselves known in elevated, inventive creations. Only available on Fridays and Saturdays, the Ode to Earth lunch, which like every experience at Tate is guaranteed to be beautifully executed, is not to be missed.
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Despite not being entirely vegetarian, two-Michelin-starred Écriture’s new Vegetal menu makes an alluring option for flexitarians and the “vege-curious” to explore the restaurant’s much-lauded cuisine. Chefs Maxime Gilbert and Heloise Fischbach flip the focus from meat to vegetables over the course of eight dishes, cooking up such creations as white asparagus butter souffle with brioche and finger limes, a trio of charred, stuffed and citrus-braised cabbages, and a hybrid mochi-gnocchi with 50-year-old balsamic vinegar and white beetroot consommé. With this menu of vegetable-forward haute cuisine, Écriture is taking tentative steps into vegetarian fine dining—we hope to see them fully make the leap in the future.
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Indian cooking and vegetarianism make for easy bedfellows given the diet’s deep roots in the country’s predominant religion of Hinduism. As such, Chaat at Rosewood easily caters to vegetarian diets with advance notice, although the tasting menu already offers a glimpse of what vegetarians can expect. There’s the dal panchmel, a curry prepared using five types of lentils with spices; kaichumber raita, a whisked yoghurt with vegetables; and palak paneer, consisting of cottage cheese in a thick paste of pureed spinach. Tastefully conceived by head chef Manav Tuli, expect bold, punchy flavours that pull out all the stops.
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Set within the futuristic, tessellated cathedral that is Morpheus Macau, Yí offers innovative Chinese cuisine above all else. Their vegetarian tasting menu is as progressive as their standard menu, spanning an ambitious 12 courses that incorporates everything from gluten puff tartelette with seaweed caviar, to bird’s nest with white fungus and bamboo pith, and roasted eggplant with yellow bean paste. By touching upon China’s rich heritage of regional cuisines, chefs Angelo Wong and Wilson Fam have created a vegetarian menu that, rather than being a substitute for meat-based cooking, is in itself a substantial exploration of the future of vegetarian cuisine.
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