VEDA: Veggie-Conscious, Indian-Inspired Plates at the Ovolo

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VEDA: Veggie-Conscious, Indian-Inspired Plates at the Ovolo

VEDA, Hong Kong’s first hotel vegetarian venue, operates under a steadfast commitment to satisfy fervent meat eaters with earthy and spicy Indian-inspired plates that forgo meat protein but not flavour.

Opening in January 2019 amidst a vegetarian revolution in Hong Kong’s F&B scene, the Soho venue represents a principle with Ovolo Hotel to spotlight ethical eating and conscious cuisine in meat-heavy Hong Kong.



Entering now its fourth year as Ovolo Hotel’s flagship restaurant, VEDA is the brainchild of founder and CEO of the boutique hotel brand, Girish Jhunjhunwala. Chef Raul Tronco Calahorra joined forces with the veteran hotelier in designing a menu that promises big flavours with Indian-inspired meat-free plates.

Venue

VEDA oozes coolness – in its challenging menu, cocktail offerings, ambience, and interior. Whilst not technically a measure of the venue’s primacy in a larger field of vegetarian and casual dining competitors, the eatery delivers a warm space for enjoying shared plates exposing the high limits of savoury and sweetness with the power of vegetables.

The ground floor only occupies six tables worth of customers but is hidden comfortably away from prying eyes and Soho noise, perfect for an intimate cocktail date. Upstairs is bright with cool beige, light brown, and turquoise colours illuminating the space. An off-brand portrait of the Queen greets diners as they enter upstairs, so too with the open-space cocktail bar - an invitation to delve into VEDA’s adventurous sipping menu.

Food and drink

Chef Raul’s involvement with the Rastafarian culinary tenets of eating vegetarian to sustain a spiritual connection with Mother Earth (forgoing meats, preservatives, and additives) whilst working in Jamaica affords VEDA the expertise and vision to drive a powerful menu in a kitchen that focuses on the “with” rather than “without”: dishes that do not need meat substitutes but harnessing texture, flavour, and creativity with the fruit of the ground.

In my foray with VEDA, I began a balanced tasting of their new a la carte and set menu with a sharing of The Trio Salad (HK$128), a daintily layered salad, beginning with a layer of beetroot carpaccio, red quinoa, followed by a bed of lemon dressed kale, and topped with a dukkha-coated half avocado.

This towering salad delivers Ovolo’s principle of healthy eating with ground-grown ingredients and plated well to highlight the raw colours. The beetroot boasts a sweet, vegetal flavour, which compliments the crunch and acidity of the kale. With every dish at VEDA, small spice and spices that penetrate the nose are required: the dukkha is delicate and teases the nose for smelling each dish later.

The south Indian origins of the Jhunjhunwala family comes to being in the Samosa Chaat (HK$118), a messy plate of crispy aloo samosa, stuffed in sweet potato and drenched in tamarind sauce, yoghurt and cilantro chutney, and dried noodles.

Chaat means “to lick” in Hindi, so at VEDA, pour your spoon in and lick. Each bite (or slurp) brings you an explosion of clashing flavours: the creamy sweetness of the yoghurt with an acidic kick, the cinnamon and ginger burst with the tamarind, umami in the potato, and the crispy texture of the samosa. It’s addictive. You have been warned.

Onto big plates and I threw my fork away with the Black Dhal (HK$148), dipping the two provided blue cheese kulcha (small Indian flatbread made with white flour) into the slow-cooked black lentil stew.

Like others, blue cheese scares me. However, when crumbled and sandwiched within a flatbread and dipped into a warm lentil strew, the cheese instead acts as a flavouring with notes of salt and garlic that raise the umami profile of the curry. Turmeric, coconut, paprika, and onion shine through in the dhal, which gives the plate a smoky and earthy flavour.

My favourite big plate on VEDA’s menu was the Panang “Dry” Tofu (HK$138) – incidentally everyone's favourite – tofu seared in a dry Panang curry rub, peanuts, string beans, and coriander.

This tofu steals the show at VEDA, albeit with four small tofu bites to appetize. The panang curry, zesty with heavy coconut and peanut butter, coats the lightly tough tofu skin, leaving a thin nutty and honey coating on one's tongue. With carameliszed onions garnished on top, the sweetness of the dish is elevated, with the juice of the tofu spreading this throughout one's mouth.

A final dish on my tasting is the Paneer Tikka “Escabeche” (HK$138), a part-Spanish (a vinegary makani curry coating the bottom) and part-Indian dish (paneer roasted with spices) that shares the sweetness of a butter chicken curry and the bitter savouriness of a roast eggplant.

This paneer dish plays with contrasts especially well. The sweet carrot-like curry, with notes of ginger and honey, balances out the charcoal film of the oven-roasted marinated paneer, satisfying my sweet and salty side.

Atmosphere

Hidden on the infamous Ce La Vi Centrium Steps above Lan Wai Fong, the caged metal framing of VEDA breaks the outside Hong Kong from a haven of fresh colours and warm surroundings. Designed by EM Bespoke, a Hong Kong-based design studio, the two-floor restaurant caters to every dining experience.

The sharp geometric patterns, rich teal walls, muted brown, orange, and off-white furniture and cutlery, and wooden interior makes an intimate date cosy, a shared brunch with friends vibrant, and a night out dinner electric.

Verdict

VEDA shines as a leading vegetarian restaurant in Hong Kong’s rapidly changing F&B space. It’s vibrant dishes, both in colour and flavour profiles, prove that vegetables have the power to create robust umami flavours in absence of meaty proteins.

With newly launched set-lunch and a la carte menus, VEDA revolutioniszes on its prime principle of delivering vegetable-focused and protein-heavy dishes without compromising on flavour.

Next time, we’re ordering the Silk Route Momos (HK$98), Samosa Chaat (HK$118), Black Dhal (HK$148), Khao Suey (HK$118), and Chai Masam Burnt Cheesecake (HK$95) to share with a trusted foodie companion.

This food review is based on a complimentary media tasting provided by Ovolo Hotel and VEDA in exchange for a truthful review and no compensation. The opinions expressed within represent the views of the author.

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