Top of the Crops
Prestige Hong Kong|May 2017

It’s been a long time coming, but the health-food movement has finally hit Hong Kong’s fine-dining scene.

Christina Ko

IF YOU QUIZZED the Prestige team a few years ago on our favourite lunch hangout, it would have been The Diner. Greasy, tasty burgers oozing fat juice, dressed in petticoats of cheese underneath fat and fluffy buns. French fries dusted in herbs. Coleslaw that’s more mayo than vegetable. And only a minute’s jaunt from the office!

But it’s 2017, and now we’re more often found lining up for a takeaway salad box at Fresca on Wyndham Street, or loitering outside Mana! Fast Slow Food, our beady eyes set intently on the buzzer that indicates our Nirvana wraps are ready.

That food group – icky vegetables – that was once a glutton’s kryptonite is now more than ever precious stuff. And if it’s organic, too? Shots for everyone! (Wheatgrass, not vodka, of course.)

Salad bars mushroomed in the city a few years ago, and the juice-cleanse heyday came and went with all its proponents and antagonists. Farmers’ markets and organic-produce shops aren’t as scarce as they once were, and you can’t swing a corner in Central without hitting some promo poster for a healthy lunch set. The holdout sector has always been haute cuisine, with its unethically delicious foie gras, artfully dryaged imported meats and fresh-caught seafood. It’s understandable: in a game that’s all about margins, you can mark up a hunk of panda or a kakapo wing that’s travelled by plane to the SAR, or even a cup of coffee that’s come to you via a civet cat’s digestive system, but how do you justify a hefty price tag for a handful of kale that’s been picked from the garden out on the balcony? Damn that locavore trend!

Yet things are a-changin’. While seated at a corner table at Alain Passard’s L’Arpège late last year, which is known for its exemplary vegetarian tasting menu, a Texan gentleman and his wife exclaimed in delight when the chef appeared in the restaurant during the lunch rush (or as rushed as you can get when everyone is having the same 14-course degustation). The Texan proclaimed he’d watched the Chef’s Table: France documentary about Passard so many times he’d lost count. He proceeded to accost various members of the waitstaffwith his voracious mirth, to their enjoyment and chagrin (we are, after all, in Paris, where it’s always more chic to stay silent). When Texans are going nuts about leafy produce instead of monumental cuts of meat, you know the invasion of the vegetable movement is unstoppable; L’Arpège, which has served an animal-free tasting menu since 2001, placed 12th on this year’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, announced last month.

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