If there was any restaurant that would encourage me to become vegetarian, it’s this one. Tucked away at the end of a small lane, among the maze of one way streets in Sai Ying Pun, is this unassuming gem that is Grassroots Pantry. Inside and out, it is decorated to look like a beautiful summertime garden – plants and pretty flowers are thoughtfully placed around the interior and on the tables, birds adorn the wallpaper, and everything is pretty, fresh, light and bright.
It’s run by Chef Peggy Chan, who is encouraging the slow food movement by offering healthy dishes jam-packed full of good things and made with seasonal and (whenever possible) local organic produce. For anyone who thought that to be vegetarian is to be limited and bored with food (like me), then you should come here and stand corrected.
Everything about this boutique cafe concept is as ‘green’ and socially responsible as can possibly be, from the individual (The menu changes according to seasonal produce so that everything that goes in your stomach is as fresh as possible) to the community (they hold workshops and cooking classes to educate the people), and even beyond (they are in partnership with Table for Two , and charity that provides meals to children in need).
And now to the food…
Amaranth greens or yin tsoi (苋菜) are a leafy spinach-type Asian vegetable that can be eaten raw or stir-fried. These are the vegetable that I encountered during a dinner in Shanghai last month, which exude a reddish purple juice when fried, and are high in vitamin A and C.
This is a great lentil dish, not too thick and almost like a soup, with a very moreish curry flavour that leaves you wanting, well, more.
These fries are very nicely baked with quite a bit of bite, although I do prefer the tofu mayonnaise at Life Cafe.
These were very, very good. Crispy on the outside and smooshy on the inside, with not a hint of tofu taste, and the ketchup was better than anything you could get in a bottle. If I had the recipe for this, I would throw out the Heinz immediately.
This soba dish was so refreshing, and the tahini dressing added a richness to the flavour. We asked the waitress what that “umami” taste was, there was this something, and we couldn’t figure out what. She very openly told us that the noodles had been tossed in ponzu sauce, and that we could buy it in CitySuper. That, and the concisely illustrated menu, really do confirm that Grassroots Pantry wants us to know what were eating.
This was the only dish on the menu that was cooked with cream and cheese. After emailing the Chef, I later found out that a vegan option is also available made with organic soya milk. Even though I’m not that way inclined, I’ll still try the vegan option when I go back, just to taste the difference.
And finally, for dessert, the Fig Napoleon (mille-feuille, for the Europeans) – a beautiful balance of crunchy pastry and sweet, local and organic figs. It was a special dessert for the day and I imagine it will only stick around as long as figs are in season.
In terms of beverages, they serve a variety of healthy juices and smoothies, a few wines by the glass, and a really awesome French apple cider – I had two!
Grassroots Pantry leaves me wanting more, and I look forward to visiting again next Sunday 23rd September, when they will be hosting a movie screening of the documentary film “Jiro Dreams of Sushi“. The ticket costs $100 and includes a snack buffet and flavoured iced tea! Contact them here to save your place!
12 Fuk Sau Lane, Sai Ying Pun
Tel: +852 2873 3353
Important note: It’s a little hard to find! Tell the taxi to take you to the corner of Western Street and Third Street. Walk down Third Street and the first right is a little lane – that is Fuk Sau Lane. Go right to the end and voilà!