Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grassroots Pantry

I would like to write a few words on a sweet and cosy restaurant, a place completely different than the dai pai dong I described in my previous post.

I visited Grassroots Pantry (GP) about two months ago but suddenly realised I had not yet recorded my experience there. GP is the 3rd place I discovered via Table for Two - Hong Kong. I already wrote about my visit to Teakha ( - ) and Light (both introduced by TFT last August.)

I was not sure I was at the right place when I noticed at the far end right side of Fuk Sau Lane a small patio adorned with green plants. White garden tables and chairs were piled up on the side. I walked near the entrance and raised my head to check the restaurant’s name. Written on a white sign framed with green leaves I read: Grassroots Pantry 豆苗居. Finally, there it was, on a quiet little street of Sai Ying Pun, GP, a café-restaurant serving organic vegetarian food.

Fresh cut flowers and green plants
The wallpaper on the wall behind the banister immediately caught my attention. The purple birds on the green branches led my eyes to the upper floor where (I later discovered) exclusive dinners can be held in the private room.

Cut flowers and lovely salt & pepper shakers
The first time I visited GP it was mid-afternoon and I ordered the ginger rice porridge and a fresh coconut juice. Somehow it reminded me of my Mum’s “gâteau de riz” although the latter’s consistency was (of course) thicker. I liked the subtle ginger and honey flavours and the crunchy nuts sprinkled on top.

Ginger rice pudding
The 2nd time I went to GP I booked in advance as I had noticed that the place was small and heard that it was always busy.
We started with Dhal soup. The curried lentil soup was light in texture and not too spicy.

Dhal soup
Then we ordered Pan-fried Tofu with Chutney Sauce Sandwich with Greens. The bread sandwich was delicious. I was told that it was baked in the neighbourhood. I thought for a while of ordering another portion of tofu but chose not to so as to leave space for other dishes.

Afterwards we ordered a Middle-Eastern inspired dish (I forgot the name of this combo plate). It consisted of four spreads and chapatis (Indian flat bread). All the dips were homemade and prepared with fresh ingredients and dried pulses. My favourite of the four was the creamy hummus. GP’s freshly baked chapatis were soft and supple.

Middle-Eastern inspired dish
Then we tried one of GP’s signature dishes: Mushroom linguini with asparagus. The pasta, although a tad too creamy for my liking, was perfectly cooked and the mushrooms and parmigiano flavourful.  

Note: I was too busy chatting with my friends so there is no photo of the pan-fried tofu sandwich and mushroom linguini.

Although we were not really hungry it was nice to finish our meal on a sweet note. Before starting our meal we had already ordered the only one fig napoleon available on that day (due to a shortage of cashew). We were not disappointed. The pastry was light and crispy. The white figs, laid out on a bed of cashew purée, were juicy and sweet. The combination of local figs and cashew cream was amazing. Yeah, right, the fruit came straight from one of the organic farms in the New-Territories. The purée was neither too creamy nor sweet, and lighter than mashed chestnuts.

Fig Napoleon with cashew purée and crushed pistachio

Cut white figs on a bed of cashew purée

GP’s meat-free (vegetarian) dishes are, for the most part, made with local ingredients. As reported in Food&Wine section of SCMP (November 1, 2012) the owner and Chef Peggy Chan “has always loved the idea of supporting organic farming and sustainable food.” Her sweet and cosy restaurant is a refreshing place for us (customers) to enjoy healthy food. If GP wasn’t so far away from my home I would certainly visit it more often.

Fresh water with mint leaf
I started this post saying that GP was quite different than a dai pai dong. In fact these two types of restaurants are at the opposite ends of the service and style spectrum. But no matter how far they are apart I like both styles.

Different style for different occasion.”

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