Green Gourmet Kitchen, 538 Pacific Highway, St Leonards NSW

While I’ve been familiar with this part of Sydney since I was a boy, the appearance of an East Asian restaurant that is entirely vegan just up the highway from St Leonards station  is a sign of developments that no-one would have envisaged in those days. I’ve been there a few times in recent years, and a happy occasion that led to six of us sitting down together provided a chance to try a wider variety of dishes than would normally be the case. Guided by a Chinese friend (thank you, David!), as the meal progressed we worked our way through Vietnamese salad with plenty of fresh green mint, some interesting snow pea and chia seed dumplings, diamond (i.e. triangular) curry puffs with a proper chilli dip, tofu cream corn soup (one of my favourites, the pieces of corn having gone some way towards dissolving and turning into background texture), a substantial braised mushroom steak with ginger and snowpea, hot and spicy mushroom steak with black peppercorn, salt and pepper tofu with pieces of chilli, and a claypot with strands of tofu and the eggplant that goes so well with it. Alongside the dishes was a bowl of five-grain brown rice.

The humble exterior of this restaurant belies the excellence of the food that it serves. We sampled something from just about every part of the menu other than that headed ‘Better Than Real Meat’; while opinions are divided on this matter, I avoid eating vegetarian ingredients that have been got up to resemble meat. But I enjoy an occasional taste of something that tries to look like dairy food, and while the rose (that is, rosewater) and vanilla ice cream struck me as too sweet, the mixed berry is excellent! There are almost a hundred dishes on the menu, and our festal meal merely scratched its surface. While there was much to be grateful for in the Australia in which I grew up, I rejoice in the coming of ‘vegan’ and ‘East Asian’ to the lower North Shore.

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