A vegetarian retreat in District 3 channels peace and comfort through tasty, health-pampering dishes. By Ruben Luong. Photos by Fred Wissink.
When entering … hum Vegetarian, you’ll wonder if you’re still on Vo Van Tan in District 3. Beyond the roar of motorbikes is a lush, tranquil courtyard that gives way to a three-tiered, Zen villa. The restaurant is pacified by mahogany tables, mountain-slate floors, jewel-toned curtains and wide brick walls decorated with Oriental paintings, vases and artifacts.
The restaurant, which derives its name from the Buddhist mantra “om mani padme hum” or “peace comes from within”, serves health-conscious fare by detailing the nutritious properties of ingredients like lotus, sesame, mushrooms, brown rice, homemade tofu and seaweed. Mostly Vietnamese and Thai-inspired, it features breakfast from VND 45,000 to VND 50,000, while salads, soups and main courses range from VND 45,000 to VND 80,000.
On a hot Saturday afternoon, after sipping on a citrus-like concoction of bitter gourd, pineapple and kumquat (VND 50,000), we started with a winged bean salad (VND 65,000). Noted on the menu for its high source of protein and calcium, the salad’s garden of verdant winged beans, crispy tofu, fried shallot, cashews and sliced boiled egg was light and crunchy, every bite drenched in a spicy and sour dressing.
The highlight of our meal was the exquisitely prepared brown rice wrapped in lotus leaf (VND 90,000), which the restaurant says is abundant in minerals that regulate blood sugar. The fresh medley of lotus seed, carrot, asparagus and shiitake mushroom steamed in a moist lotus leaf was pleasant with the wholesome brown rice.
We finished with a hearty serving of steamed mushrooms in coconut (VND 80,000). Lingzhi mushrooms fused with the juices of lemon leaves, eggs and chilli proved to be a rich, mouthwatering stew served piping hot inside a hollowed coconut. Natural sweet slabs of coconut flesh easily scraped off the inner shell and added to the concentrated creaminess of the lingzhi.
For dessert, we sampled martini glasses filled with cubed milky jelly mixed with mango, water chestnut coated in green pandan and passion fruit (VND 40,000), intended to equalize body temperature. Its tart syrup was a good chaser to our relaxing, nourishing meal. By the end, we wondered if there was a spa upstairs.