Date of review: February 25, 2016 | Reviewed by: Wilson Fok
Located near the end tip of dining options in Kennedy Town, Vanimal offers meat-free cuisine with cocktails and boutique wines to match. The narrow entrance opens up to a colourful space inspired by artworks of Jean-Michel Basquiat. The abundant use of wood, including a curved sculpture at the entrance. Mixed colours clash with plush textures bring energy to the dining space, seating thirty with evenly-spaced tables set along the bar. We prefer the tables on the window side, as they are more spacious and offer a better view of the well-designed dining space.
Vanimal opens with a mini-menu showcasing home-made dishes that rely on best quality vegetables. Former private kitchen chef Paul Hui takes the helm of the small kitchen, preparing veg-friendly courses that are good for sharing. Mixed vegetables and roasted spongy gluten curry is aromatic with saffron and lime, with warm flat bread to mop up the sauce. Grilled French horn mushroom is tender. The butter and soy sauce was a little bland though.
Fried potato dual with smoky paprika aioli is a wonderful combination featuring potato and sweet potato wedges, crisp on the outside and garlicky sharp with the paprika aioli. The Vanimal paella is perfect – thin layer of rice cooked with a crust, while a melange of fresh vegetables scattered across the top. The sweet crunches of lily bulbs, tender roasted yellow carrots and artichokes are our favourite among the ten types of vegetables in the dish.
Guests can choose desserts between two options. The sunshine within was a stunning surprise, where Chinese jujube dates are baked clafoutis-style served with a Sichuan peppercorn-infused caramel and a perfect quenelle of creamy mascarpone.
The wine list at Vanimal offers useful information such as detailed tasting notes for guests to consider between by the glass or bottle option. Look out for rare boutique wines and bubbly options, as well as craft beers and a few sakes. Cocktails are creative and well-executed with complex flavour profiles. Notable varieties include a vegetable-filled Leeches Blood made with vodka, beet juice and fresh pomegranates. The other outstanding cocktail is After A Fight, one fusing jalapeno and rosemary into blanc tequila, lightened with kaffir lime leaf, lime juice and grapefruit juice for a refreshing citrus twist.
While service at Vanimal is friendly, getting their attention may vary depending on where you are seated. The restaurant staff are well-informed of the establishment’s philosophy as they describe menu offerings with meticulous details. The bar manager is knowledgeable and will offer explanations and descriptions from inspiration to flavour profiles.
A dinner for two amounts to HK$1,020 including one drink each. The quality of food is impressive with creative execution. Vanimal is a dining hot spot worthy of returns for a quick meat-free meal option in the popular neighbourhood of Kennedy Town.