There’s a lot of organic too-ing and fro-ing these days. Farmers, supermarkets, chefs, consumers – it seems everyone has an opinion on whether organic is worth investing in as a crop, a product, an ingredient or a dish. For me it’s simple; when you eat organic, vegetables in particular, you realise that the regular stuff has been gradually losing its taste and texture over the years.
O Green, on Hillier, one of Sheung Wan’s restaurant streets, is a down-to-earth restaurant in both décor and dishes. Wooden tables sit below a high ceiling, chalk boards one side with specials, shelves holding up bottles of organic wines the other. Airy yet cosy. Meanwhile the steady stream of colourful dishes making their way out of the kitchen are full of organic veggies and meats evoking images of earthy farmland rather than supermarket shelves, gluten free deserts and pastas and more, all converting a growing crowd flocking in for the intensely fresh tastes.
Run by health and organic food executive chef and consultant Vivi Cheung, whose previous healthy food restaurants include Hot Dish in Kwun Tong, Organic Land in Wanchai and Duke’s Deli in TST, her passion for healthy food has built up a loyal following of diners who come not only for the dishes but also her dietary advice and genuinely warm friendliness.
I popped in for lunch recently – I just had to try their gluten free pasta. (Most GF pastas are vile. They disintegrate in sauce, they look mottled and they taste as bad as they look. Even when mixed with the best sauce and ingredients in the world it’s like eating half a dish.)
I arrived just before 12.30, very early for me, and was shown to the table that’s almost a chef’s table. By 12.40 the place was packed and turning customers away.
The set was a French beef stew with rice, following mushroom soup – a strange one to have on a blazingly hot July day, but although it sounded great I turned to the pasta dishes. From HK$68 to HK$128 – and add HK$18 for GF pasta – they’re not a snip for lunchtime. I chose the fish and spicy tomato sauce pasta, and was warned that it would be a wait of 10 mins. No problem. I considered ordering an organic juice while I waited until I heard they were HK$50. I do understand organic is more expensive, but that seemed prohibitive.
The dish arrived looking great – well worth the wait. And while the penne pasta was a little unevenly cooked, some undercooked and some perfectly al dente, it was, without a doubt, the best GF pasta I’d ever eaten; pale in colour and with a good, chewy texture. The dish’s highlight was the fish, sautéed to a crispness that was delicious. But it could have done with more sauce, which was delicious but barely coated the pasta. Scattered within the dish were a smattering of broccoli, carrot, asparagus, pepper, green beans, which were all cooked to perfection, bursts of flavour at every crunch.
Vivi describes her restaurant as 85 percent organic, simply because many of the suppliers she uses source food from countries like Vietnam and Indonesia where farmers may not have the money to get actual organic certification, even though their farming is. But she won’t dish up anything she hasn’t fallen in love with herself. “I’m very fussy about ingredients, quality and standards.” she says, “and I am on a mission to make gluten free much more tasty and enjoyable.”
Previous visits to O Green I had tried the chicken and avocado salad – one of their best sellers it really is fantastic with an incredibly more-ish dressing. Plus their GF chocolate brownie, with organic chocolate, organic walnuts, organic rice flour from Australia etc, which is a slice of gooey divineness. I planned to try their apple pie after my pasta, but the portion was so generous I didn’t have space. And that’s another thing; while the prices reflect the purity of the ingredients, the portions are decidedly generous.
The acid test – would I feel bloated and lethargic in the afternoon? Nope. Mission accomplished Vivi.
GF, 27 Hillier Street, Sheung Wan. 2850 6996. www.ogreencafe.com
(And she’s just finished consulting for nearby Green Darts Café & Bar www.greendartscafe.com where the cocktails are mixed with organic ingredients.)