A Month of Vegetarian Cuisine
Vegivore Month: Three high-end restaurants take vegetarian cuisine from earthy to ethereal.
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Hirabayashi picked up a knack for cooking curry at the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. Thus, his penultimate course was mild coconut milk curry with fingerling potatoes, baby carrots, eggplant, cipollini onions.
It wasn’t part of my dinner, but there was something else I could eat. My wife and daughter had ordered a side of mashed potatoes whipped with goat cheese.
I wouldn’t have thought the combination would work, but it works both ways. The smooth potatoes soothe the bite of the goat cheese, muting its salt and fatty acids. The goat cheese, in turn, relieves the potatoes of their bland homogeneity.
Try the potatoes, whether you are vegetarian or not. They won’t work if you’re vegan and eat no animal byproducts at all, but such is the price of virtue.
Hirabayashi dropped by the table on his way back to his other kitchen. “I’ve got to get back,” he said. “All the desserts are vegetarian anyway.”
I ended dinner with a red-currant tart, an adult play between the sour edge of the fruit and the sweetness of the meringue topping.
A tasting menu like this is $80, though if you bring your carnivorous family along, expect the check to be higher.
Halekulani, 2199 Kalia Road, (808) 923-2311, Dinner nightly 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., Validated valet parking, major credit cards.
A vegan friend, Sylvia Thompson, tipped me off that La Mer “always has a vegetarian degustation.” Really?
I called the Halekulani’s executive chef, Vikram Garg, to check. Unbeknownst to me, the hotel had been after him to revise La Mer’s vegetarian menu. It had been in place for five years and everyone was tired of it. Garg decided to seize the opportunity and come up with seven new courses.
“You two can be my guinea pigs,” he said when I arrived with a friend. “This menu didn’t exist at 11 this morning.”
Six courses, and, this being La Mer, the option of six wines chosen by sommelier Kevin Toyama. For a menu whipped up in an afternoon from the hotel’s larder and the local produce section of Whole Foods, it was a near brilliant performance, back dropped by the sun setting over the ocean through La Mer’s windows.
Course No. 1, simply titled, Melon.