In Hong Kong, private dining experiences, and the private kitchens that host them, have long held a notoriously clandestine feel; more than on the down-low, these ‘speakeasy’ style affairs are seriously covert. This much you know. But what you probably don’t realize is how many truly spectacular plant-based private dining experiences exist. With adventurous chefs who will literally follow their dreams (!), culinary artists who have stayed true to their homegrown foodie passions, and still others who seek the tutelage of renowned vegan chefs (and nuns!), all the chefs we list below have poured their hearts and creativity in each dish. Here is Green Queen’s roundup of the best vegetarian and vegan private dining experiences in Hong Kong.
Maya Café: Themed Raw Vegan Private Dinners
Chef Tina Barrat, the foodie talent behind Maya Cafe, has always hosted small-scale private dinners until a culinary trip last April ignited a flame: “I came back with so many creative ideas that I suggested a monthly menu to express my creativity,” recalls the former fashion & jewelry designer. “Our first dinner was such a hit, I had to add another seating!” Since then, Maya Café hosts private dinners two to three times a month. The menus are 100% vegan and mostly gluten-free, and Barrat pairs her French/Mediterranean style with the raw food approach, along with unique monthly themes. One fun tidbit: most of Barrat’s inspiration comes from her dreams or her meditation sessions. Fans of Maya Café private dinners have experienced By The Seaside, Mont Olympus, 1001 Nights Arabian Fantasy, Indian Style Rawfood, Eat The Rainbow, and the latest ColoRAWma!, a seven-course South American-themed extravaganza. Up next is Red Passion: An Italian Affair, a five-course tasting menu with wine pairing at Lot88 Gallery in Central.
Most of the dinners are held at Maya Cafe @ G/F, 173 Des Voeux Road, Nan Fung Place, Sheung Wan. Call +852 2111 4553 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure to like Maya Cafe’s Facebook page for event updates and news.
July 2017 Update: Maya Cafe has closed but Chef Tina Barrat still hosts monthly private dinners and cooking classes.
Olive Leaf: Israeli Weekend Brunches To Dream About
In addition to vegetarian cooking lessons, Israeli Chef Ayelet Idan offers Middle Eastern and Israeli pop-up brunches to bring people together. “Food is kind of an icebreaker,” says Idan of her monthly Lamma Island gathering, hosted in her lush outdoor terrace and garden. “I wanted to share my experiences of eating together and give exposure of vegetarian foods to new and different people.” The Olive Leaf origins grew organically from friends began asking for cooking tips and lessons to learn from Idan’s homegrown culinary prowess. Crediting Plate Culture, an online platform that allows home chefs to showcase private dining experiences, for giving her the courage to take the leap forward and host her first private dinner almost two years ago, the former schoolteacher’s regular social dining experience has been met with wide fanfare among Hong Kongers. Not least of which is due to the menu: an exuberant celebration of vegetarian Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flavors, textures and colors. Though there are a few dairy and egg dishes on the menu, most of the Idan’s family-style entrees are predominantly vegan. “I don’t tell them or advertise it because when people hear vegan food, they think it’s dry and not tasty but most of my Israeli recipes are vegan-based,” Idan divulges. Up next is an Israeli brunch popup taking place on May 1st.
Most of Olive Leaf brunches take place in Pak Kok Tsuen on Lamma Island. For bookings, call +852 9723 0459 or email email@example.com. Make sure to like Olive Leaf’s Facebook page for event updates and news.
Sook by Mina Park: A Journey Into Korean Temple Cuisine
Mina Park’s affinity for cooking and hosting dinner parties led her to create Sook four years ago with a bit of prodding. “It was my friends who pushed me to do public cooking events,” says the seven-year Hong Kong resident. “Bless them! Though I was scared out of my mind at first!” Led by strong female mentors such as her late mother, aunt Yeoran Park, and Korean Buddhist nun, Jeong Kwan (yes, that chef from Netflix series Chef’s Table), the former corporate lawyer invigorates Korean food traditions. Lately she is pushing our culinary boundaries further with her new series: vegan dinners inspired by Korean Buddhist Temple Cuisine. Park’s innovative and modern cooking trademark that has captivated Hong Kong’s private dining scene to widespread acclaim. With monthly private kitchen events and pop-ups all over the world, Park has collaborated with big names in the food industry. “I like working with people who are innovators with a lot of energy and who are bringing something new to their community,” relishes Sook of the partnerships. Pop-ups in Lisbon and London are up next. Be on the lookout for more cooking classes (with a family-style lunch afterwards!) and expect to see her vegan temple dinners happening every 2 months.
Masalas & Olives: Fusion Raw Food For The Soul
Burnt out by her demanding fashion career in London, Kanchan Panjabi did a career-switch and became a health coach working in Hong Kong’s burgeoning wellness industry a little over six years ago. Her studies led her to experiment with different types of healing and different styles of food. During this testing phase, the Hong Kong native realized she had a knack for life in the kitchen. Inspired to finesse her skills, she enrolled in Matthew Kenney Culinary, a plant-based chef-training program developed by the namesake chef, aka the top classically-trained, celebrity vegan chef and two-time James Beard Award nominee. Post-graduation, Panjabi launched Masalas & Olives in Hong Kong 2015. Focused on Asian & Mediterranean-inspired fusion raw vegan cuisine, Masalas & Olives currently hosts private dining experiences, though she is also set up for event catering. The next scheduled event is a raw vegan cheese and organic/biodynamic wine tasting in Central.
Want more? Check out Sow Vegan‘s private dining experiences at their Kwun Tong studio (book for lunch OR dinner) and book POG Kitchen for unique, gourmet-tastic raw vegan dinners- ideal for special occasions.
Images courtesy of Masalas & Olives, Maya Café, Olive Leaf, and Sook by Mina Park.