It’s a drizzly Tuesday night and the air outside is sticky and hot but Wyndham Street is alive with people electrified with laughter and happy hour. Above Lan Kwai Fong, the elevator doors part open on the seventh floor of Winsome House and I step inside Lot 88 Art Gallery. I am at the monthly private kitchen event hosted by Tina Barrat, head chef of Maya Café. Barrat is committed to curated innovative, design-forward raw vegan dining experiences. I am here to try the five-course raw food menu paired with organic and biodynamics vegan wines and I am excited.
As I sit along the long rectangular table and listen to the chatter around me, it’s clear that former fashion designer Barrat is well-loved by the community. Many of the guests are frequent patrons of her monthly events. And rightly so. Every detail has been thought out from conception to execution and the menus are whimsical and inspired. This month’s theme, titled “Red Passion: An Italian Affair,” pays homage to the vibrant hue and the country where a tomato is not just a tomato.
Our meal begins with a chilled Velouté Of Smoked Bell Peppers & Tomatoes, served with a sprinkle of green pistachios, dotted with rosemary essential, and accompanied by raw almond bread topped with tomato confit. Paolo Gemma of The Vineyard talks us through a ruby red Nero d’Avola IGP Terre Siciliane Pachìus Oìnos. Structured and balanced with a natural freshness, this was our favorite wine of evening. Salute!
Next up was a fun take on beef carpaccio. Tomato Beef Carpaccio, that is! Glazed with fresh herbs, the thick, sweet slices are paired with a macadamia nut cheese. Soft, buttery and slightly tangy, the vegan cheese worked well with the meaty beef tomatoes and was a treat with the Rosso di Montepulciano DOC from Tuscany.
Barrat is a creative chef and throughout the meal, she delights us in all things red…but the highlight for me is the Fish-Free Tartar (lead image). Visually stunning and a dead ringer for the real thing, the watermelon-based ‘tuna’ dish is savory and refreshing. The inspiration for the dish came a few week backs when Barrat mistook the fruit for tuna in a photograph. Here she infuses it with miso, herbs and lime essential oil for a sashimi-like flavor profile. Paired with a fresh and zesty Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi DOC Riserva Pievalta, it is an unforgettable dish!
Following the tartar, I taste my way through the Vegan Cheese Platter. A perfect introduction to the world of nut and other plant-based dairy-free ‘cheeses’ for a noob like me, Barrat’s beautiful spread involves cheeses infused with sun-dried tomatoes, chili, smoked paprika that are served alongside raw bread made of sunflower seeds, celery and carrots. A Passito di Nero d’avila IGP Terre Siciliane compliments this last savoury course.
I get a proper Italian send off: dessert is a slice of vegan-friendly, gluten- and guilt-free Raspberry Chocolate Tiramisu topped with freeze-dried raspberries. Boldly flavored, rich, and creamy, Barrat’s take on this traditional classic was a definite crowd pleaser. Along with a glass of the dessert wine Passito di Noto DOC Onto Prim’Amore, the evening ends on the sweetest of notes. I walk out of Lot 88 with new friends, a new list of wine faves, and a new appreciation on how dynamic and sublime raw vegan can be.
UPDATE 2018: Maya Cafe is now closed permanently but Chef Tina Barrat continues to host raw vegan dinner events and offers lunch deliveries, catering and more. For a full schedule of upcoming events, menus and for booking, please email Chef Tina Barrat at TinaBarrat.firstname.lastname@example.org or Whatsapp +852 9746 8299.
Images courtesy of Green Queen and Maya Café