Feast of freshness

With all the new options available, healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring.

Aqua in Tsim Sha Tsui emphasizes freshness. And it doesn’t get fresher than this: the chefs grow their own herbs.

The homegrown menu, available until the end of November, includes five dishes and one cocktail made from four unusual Italian and Japanese herbs grown on-site.

“I like every course on our menu, but the reasons for each are different,” said executive chef Jesus Alberto Hernandez Perez.

When the Spaniard is feeling homesick, a chilled beetroot, champagne jelly and summer fruit gazpacho with homegrown oxalis (HK$228) is his go-to comfort food.

The oxalis, a European herb with a sour and bittersweet tanginess, is blended into a pour-over gazpacho and served with black garlic, pickled cherries, strawberries and sweet champagne jelly.

Hernandez Perez also recommends the pan-fried Hokkaido scallops with homegrown sorrel pesto and creme fraiche (HK$278) – one of the restaurant’s most challenging dishes to prepare. A nut-free pesto alternative made from freshly picked sour Italian sorrel, garlic and chili tops each scallop, along with sorrel and sweet dill leaves. Another favorite is the salmon tiradito with celery, cucumber and green apple topped with homegrown sorrel (HK$368). The fish is livened up with fruit and vegetables.

Veggie lovers shouldn’t miss the lotus wood, avocado and fig sushi with homegrown mitsuba (HK$298). The peppery Japanese herb balances the sweet peach and mayonnaise sauce.

Also from Japan is the pakuchi, which acts as a palate cleanser for the grilled wagyu sirloin and sea urchin hoba misoyaki (HK$628). “Homegrown is a challenge because growing non-native herbs is difficult,” said Hernandez. “But I’m a person who likes new things and challenges, and I want to serve fresh and creative food.”

Roganic in Causeway Bay is also introducing a series of creative dishes that use ingredients from local farms. The venue presents a more affordable take on farm-to-table dining, offering a 10-course long taster (HK$980) or eight-course short taster (HK$680).

One of the signature dishes is the British sirloin dry aged in a bespoke aging room, accompanied by beetroot and chard sourced from local micro herb producer Common Farms on Cheung Chau.

Another highlight is the codfish with amaranth. The crispy fried cod is served on top of sweetcorn puree and garnished with kale, broccolini, chard and red amaranth leaves from Common Farms and New Territories-based New Age Organic Farm.

If you’re an avocado lover, you’ll enjoy the new Avobar in K11 Musea. Its signature vegan dish is the avo bun burger (HK$148). The sweet potato and red lentil patties are sandwiched between two avocados so you don’t have to worry about carbo-loading.

Also available is the avo bun lobster (HK$198). Slathered with a tropical mango, passionfruit and tabasco mayo, it is a treat to the tastebuds. But if you really must have meat, the special Hong Kong edition avo bun beef (HK$158) with pulled beef, tomato salsa, and salsa verde is now in store.

(This article was published at The Standard on November 18 2019: Wining & Dining Feast of freshness )

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