First Look: Vegan Hills
A fresh, fun, new vegetarian option on Wai‘alae Avenue for breakfast and lunch.
Photos: Robbie Dingeman
Food-friendly Wai‘alae Avenue this month welcomed a new eatery with an eclectic approach to vegan dining that can appeal even to omnivores.
One standout: Coco Cove ($17): a big, steaming bowl of fragrant, spicy, Singapore-style coconut soup full of rice noodles, kale, bok choy and deep-fried tofu. It comes topped with two patties of baked organic oyster mushrooms with a tempura texture, which the server says play the role of vegan chicken. The spicy broth includes kaffir lime and makes it easy to crave this dish on a rainy day or when you feel a cold coming on.
Coco Cove ($17).
A bowl of tomato bisque also proved comforting, warm and bursting with fresh tomato flavor.
Tomato bisque ($6).
While the vegetarian at my table wished for more than six pieces of deep-fried tofu in the Coco Cove dish, we understand that a restrained approach is part of the restaurant’s philosophy. Owner Megumi Odin says the focus is on fresh, delicious, healthy, natural, non-GMO foods, with an emphasis on organic and local ingredients. By not serving animal-based foods, the restaurant aims to promote kindness, compassion and a Zen minimalist approach.
“Why Not Chos” ($14) is a platter of organic corn chips topped with a scattering of black beans, fresh tomatoes and jalapeño slices, a creamy cashew sauce in place of cheese, avocado, cilantro and a house-made tofu-lime substitute for sour cream, which was a standout. This nacholike dish is great to share with a group as a first course.
“Why Not Chos” ($14).
The restaurant décor echoes the minimalist approach to food: white walls, concrete floors, white plates and bowls, with spare tables of white with white-washed wood accents.
On March 6, the restaurant began serving breakfast and lunch daily with a mix of bowls and bread-based dishes as well as soup, salad and baked sweets. The previous week, the staff held a soft opening with friends, family and news media as guests.
Chef Odin was the founder and original owner of Peace Café on King Street, which she sold in 2013. Vegan Hills also offers vegan twists on local favorites including Crazy for Avo, a tofu-avocado version of a poke bowl ($15).
A rainbow Cobb salad ($17) comes full of tomatoes, carrots, purple cabbage, zucchini, beets, sunflower seeds, tofu ricotta and chunks of spicy tempeh. Early bread choices include sandwiches and toast. We tried an Avocado Tempeh Melt ($15) with grilled country bread, avocado, kale, tempeh bacon and vegan cheese, plus a side of country potatoes with rosemary. It’s a good lunch choice as long as you like tempeh, since that’s the flavor that dominates. We’re told the breads are baked by Ba-Le.
Avocado Tempeh Melt ($15).
Vegan Hills offers a fresh new option for vegan/vegetarian food with a higher price point that often comes with an organic and local focus. The variety and quality make it worthwhile.
Homemade desserts will be part of the mix, including cinnamon rolls, some days. The day we were there, we sampled a chocolate cake that was a bit crumbly, paired with a creamy coconut topping and fresh berries.
Chocolate cake with coconut cream.
The restaurant plans to remodel in a few months to redo the bathroom and expand the hours to dinner.
8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, 3585 Wai‘alae Ave., 735-3585, veganhills-hi.com