Green Queen Reviews Grassroots Pantry: The Sophomore Years – Chef Peggy Chan Takes On Hollywood (Road)
Given the cult status of Grassroots Pantry’s more intimate first residence on Fuk Sau Lane, there are some rather great expectations for chef Peggy Chan’s new iteration of Grassroots Pantry. No longer tucked away in an cul de sac in Sai Ying Pun, the sophomore version of her plant-based gourmet bistro is located at 108 Hollywood Road, with what in Hong Kong counts as veteran F&B neighbours like Classified and Blue Butcher- Grassroots Pantry is now playing the main stage. Fortunately, the Grassroots team, which appears to have double in size, is well up to the task and ready to share Chan’s veggie vision with the world in a move that heralds the city’s vegan movement’s entry into the mainstream.
Chef Peggy’s signature rustic-country-quirk aesthetic is instantly evident. The decor is a delicate balance of restrained and inventive, with various shades of muted browns and grays across the walls, floors and tables, and the combination of modern lines and vintage finds is everywhere. Simple, warm wooden tables are set with elegant brass cutlery and delicate glassware- equal parts refined and whimsical. As with her first restaurant, unusual and clever details maketh the place– there are wine decanters fashioned into light fixtures running above the bar and the dining chairs are a lovingly-curated mix and match affair. The focal point of the room is a wall decorated with rows of hanging ceramic spoons and wooden cutting boards (all handmade personally for Peggy by her local artist/designer friends, Julie and Jesse of Latitude 22N), topped with a row of beautiful pitcher plants.
As (honored) family and friends, we were treated to a specially created menu fixe the week before the restaurant’s official opening to the public, which meant we tried some new menu twists. That being said, many of the dishes we sampled will be part of Grassroots’ dinner offering. Our meal began with a trio of cold-pressed juices (AKA a juice flight, as it were), an A.M. Elixer with coconut water and chia seeds, a Liveraid green juice that included spinach and burdock root, and The Glow, a detoxifying beetroot, tumeric and and ginger blend. Served in cutesy mini-glasses, the juices were a refreshing and colorful start to a decadent plant-based dinner. On the table were baskets of freshly baked sourdough and dehydrated multi-seed crackers. Instead of the usual olive oil, we dunked our bread with the creamy, hand-ground cashew butter served alongside a mixture of seeds and spices reminiscent of dukkah. Next came the amuse bouche: a shot glass of raw gazpacho served with a crispy morsel of flatbread.
Our first starter was the Raw Spicy Sprouted Seed Handroll. A vegan twist on a a classic sushi mainstay, Chef Peggy’s version was frankly superb. We could have had 10 more! The handmade sriracha had just enough heat and the jicama-cauliflower rice worked perfectly with the creamy avocado and crunchy cucumber. Not to mention the incredibly fresh wasabi accompaniment- everyone at the table also commented on its quality. The second starter was the gorgeously plated Charred Yunnan Mushroom- multiple types of fungii, including termite mushrooms, chaga, and cordyceps, served over a delightful celeriac whip. We also sampled the Southeast Asian Platter, mostly in order to stuff our face with the hand-licking-good Pandan Hedgehog Mushrooms – every one of them the perfect balance of chewy and crispy. If anything epitomizes the culinary innovation that chef Peggy Chan has brought to the plant-based dining scene, it is her ingenious elevation of hedgehog mushrooms to new gastronomic heights, offerings vegans and vegetarians a non-processed, un-fake ingredient with an incredibly meat-like consistency.
Our fist main is the Raw Lebanese Kofta, a dehydrated take (eight-hours, no less) on the Middle Eastern dish packed with a plethora of spices and served on a bed of expertly prepared babaganoush along with a sweet pomegranate vinaigrette and a nutty cashew tzaziki. Risotto is gourmet comfort food at its best, and Grassroots’ Organic Sweet Corn Brown Rice Risotto version, which we have next, nails the warmth and creaminess of the Italian staple, albeit with a singular interpretation that results in an explosion of flavours and textures- sweet corn kernels are paired with goat’s cheese, Kaffir lime mousseline, toasted pine nuts and a crisped sunflower seed “parm” tuile. Wow. Just wow.
One thing Grassroots Pantry has always been famous for is the exquisite dessert selection (no thanks to chef Peggy’s many years of formal French patisserie training). We were not disappointed with the Raw Brownies & Passionfruit Mousse. The Michelin star level plating and presentation would make Joel Robuchon proud! The raw flax seed brownies are accompanied by a trio of superfoods including raw cacao sauce, coconut whip and baobab gel, the latter another home-run on the creative front. This dish is quite possibly the optimal interaction between health and decadence. We were so full, we were barely able to finish the second dessert, a Pistachio Sponge & Brown Rice Kheer served with a decadent saffron mylk cream, cinnamon-y rice puffs, almond raison biscotti and chai Happy Cow ice cream- another sweet-tooth winner. The meal ended with warming pots of Egyptian mint tea and raw artisanal petit fours. Once again, chef Peggy is off to conquer the vegan world. An absolute must visit for anyone who loves great food, period.
Grassroots Pantry: 108 Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan, Hong Kong. Open Monday through Sunday from 7.30am to 11pm for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner- as well as all day for hot and cold takeaway options except for Saturdays and Sundays when they open at 8am and also serve brunch. For reservations, call +852 2873 3353.