Friday, 26 April 2013

Veggie Kitchen (Intention of Love) - Northcote

The last time I heard the use of the phrase "intention of love" was as a kid when it was as an excuse by a dear one for rolling me up in a sleeping bag and stuffing me into a Salvation Army charity bin.

Okay, so that may have been a dream and never actually happened, but I'm sure we can all agree it was perfectly reasonable for me to be apprehensive about visiting a restaurant with said phrase in its title. Never-the-less, after months and months of hyped up recommendations from amigos, I was pleased to find my initial fears were unfounded. So, why the hype? Because at Veggie Kitchen, there really is a lot of care put into the dishes - indeed, the whole concept is to provide healthy "food therapy" according to traditional Chinese principles - and it really does come across. The interior of the restaurant is fairly stripped down and plain, but there is something comforting about the feel of the place.

Possibly the biggest issue is that, with a completely vegetarian Chinese menu, there is simply too much choice for someone not accustomed to so many options at a Chinese restaurant - if you're into your tofu, you'll be completely overwhelmed. The philosophy here is to share a few dishes, which works well to quell any such over-stimulation. On this occasion we elected to get a mix of the obvious, and the more innovative.

We'll start with the obvious, and one of the in-house proclaimed most popular items on the menu: the dumplings. No doubt about it, dumplings have been all the rage about town for many a year, and those at the Veggie Kitchen sit right up there with the best of them. Stuffed with raw cabbage, radish and bean curd, they seem to have less of a homogenised taste as opposed as to some of the 'fast food' dumplings at various places in the city, and didn't have that gluggy consistency or leave me with a touch of a feeling of self-loathing after eating them. Alongside the dumplings were a serving of the Cheese
balls: a filling of soft wasabi flavoured cheese that readily explodes out of its chewy konjak casing. I'm not sure that I am fan of the texture of konjak, but I am of wasabi, which makes these worth the effort - and not overly hot either, so don't let the wasabi terrify you. We also tried the seaweed roll. A nori roll where the rice is replaced with alfalfa, and with a filling of apple, carrot, cucumber, and soy ham - I was not aware of this last ingredient until they arrived, however it just tasted like tofu to me, albeit inexplicably pink tofu. Ah Gei - described on the menu as a famous Danshui local delight - is very much worth the effort. It is a stuffed tofu pocket. Who would've thought it possible! A silky skin encasing innards of bean noodles, slivers of black fungus and stewing in tofu paste, creates a delicate and slightly odd looking structure. First time I have come across this dish, and I have to say, I am a fan.

For the larger dishes, the visit is not complete without an order of the Five Elements Veggie Pot. This is the signature dish, the name derived from the 5 elements of Chinese medicine and food therapy, with each element providing nutrition for different organs in the body. Served as a soup, it consists of various vegetables, crispy bean curd rolls, and goji berries - often termed as a "superfruit"due to their health properties. With a stewed cabbage-y base, take away the bean curd rolls and goji berries and it is almost reminiscent of an Eastern European stew. It's interesting having the Bean Curd rolls in the pot, an item clearly taken from another part of the menu, but the dish as a whole just makes you feel good about yourself. And in the end, isn't that all that mother ever wanted for us?

All in all, very satisfied with this place. The staff are very willing to cater to any extra dietary requirements should they be necessary, and with barely a table free despite its modest location on St Georges Road, it clearly has developed quite a neat little following. Hot tip: if you're a vinegar fiend like me, try one of the traditional Taiwanese vinegar drinks. Sweet and tangy and something you're unlikely to find in too many other places around town. All in all, I walked away from the Veggie Kitchen knowing that I would be returning, and not just because I left my hat behind.



  1. Vinegar drinks?! That is one part of the menu I must have skimmed over. Love the food, though, as you say it is really made with care.

  2. Hi Cindy,

    Yep, three flavours: pineapple, plum, and mulberry. Apparently plum is the most popular. Not sure it tasted all that much like plum, but I quite enjoyed it.