Whether you’ve never tasted meat in your life or you’re simply curious to try a different kind of tasting menu, 50 Best TasteHunter Cheryl Tiu rounds up 11 culinary experiences from across the world that are elevating vegetarian and plant-based dining to new levels
From Veganuary to Meatless Monday, the movement towards vegetable-centred cuisine has grown exponentially in recent years. Previously relegated as “restrictions”, vegetarian and plant-based meals have become preferences for many, for reasons ranging from ethical to nutritional, environmental to religious – and some of the world’s best chefs are taking these (and their own) criteria into consideration when crafting menus and dining experiences.
From Alain Passard announcing that his flagship Arpège in Paris would serve only vegetarian food back in 2001 (he has since re-introduced meat and fish, but in minimal quantities), to Fu He Hui in Shanghai opening in 2014 as a vegetarian restaurant celebrating Buddhist cuisine and being consistently voted as The Best Restaurant in Mainland China, the world’s best chefs have been – and are now, more than ever – creating high-level meat-and-fish-free courses that celebrate their and their restaurants’ ethos.
Here are 11 restaurants to add to your global bucket list for vegetarian and vegan dining.
Eleven Madison Park
11 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10010, United States
Photo credits: Evan Sung (left)
It was the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic that prompted Eleven Madison Park’s chef-owner Daniel Humm to rethink the role of food. Realising that there are numerous broken systems that need to be addressed, he re-opened his three-Michelin-starred dining institution – voted The World’s Best Restaurant 2017 – as a completely plant-based restaurant in 2021.
Today, its tasting menus (offered in six or 10 courses at its Art Deco-inspired main dining room, or five courses at the bar-lounge) continue to highlight what EMP does best: celebrating seasonality with high-level techniques. A picturesque sunflower course features the heart of the flower cooked in barigoule liquid, carefully placed over a summer bean salad and topped with sunflowers prepared three ways: as petals (fresh), petal kimchi (fermented) and chips (baked); while a tangy grilled squash is served with tomatillo-marinated seitan and poblano pepper wrapped in squash blossom.
2316 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati, Metro Manila, 1231, Philippines
Since opening in 2016, Toyo Eatery – which is run by husband-and-wife Jordy and May Navarra – has been staunchly championing Filipino culture and ingredients, working closely with local suppliers and producers. The winner of the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award for Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023 introduced a vegan tasting menu in 2020, honouring how “Filipino rural cooking is heavy on vegetables”.
In 2023, the restaurant underwent a renovation to provide more infrastructure for R&D, recycling and composting. The first seating now offers a kamayan experience, where guests are encouraged to eat family-style with their hands. The eight-course tasting menu is offered during the second seating, where a plant-based option – which might include a hearty vegetable broth, savoury bean curd topped with grilled mushrooms and sour fruits, and a palayok (clay pot) of short grain rice, garlic, water spinach and fresh sea grapes – can be requested at least two days in advance. A vegetarian version of the kamayan experience is also in the works.
Rua Barão de Capanema, 549, Jardins, São Paulo, Brazil
Photo credits: Ricardo D’Angelo (left) and Marcus Steinmeyer (right)
Brazilian chef Alex Atala has been credited for putting his country’s gastronomy on the global map with the opening of D.O.M. (which stands for ‘Deo Optimo Maximo’, or ‘To God, The Good, The Great’) in 1999. At the airy, high-ceilinged restaurant located in São Paulo’s upscale Jardins neighbourhood, the 12-course tasting menu spotlights ingredients from all over the country.
A vegetarian menu has been readily available since the restaurant’s inception, and today includes dishes like tucupí hollandaise, where the sour yellow juice extracted from cassava cuts through the richness of the yolk-based sauce; and king oyster mushrooms served with black rice pasta that is made from rice sourced from Paraíba Valley. Bonus: the wine programme features a number of stunning Brazilian wine producers, offered both by the glass and by the bottle.
Zweierstrasse 114, Zürich 8003, Switzerland
Photo credits: Erna Drion
Previously a software engineer, Spanish-Moroccan chef Zineb “Zizi” Hattab woke up one day and decided to pursue her passion for the culinary arts. After working with chefs Andreas Caminada, the Roca brothers and Daniela Soto-Innes (under whom she rose to executive sous chef at Cosme in New York), she decided to build a forward-thinking eatery that would address the current state of the environment and the broken systems of the food sector.
Kle was born in 2020 as a completely plant-based concept. The team works with local family farmers based on what they have available on any given day, so guests are only presented “surprises” of either three, four or five courses created on the day of their reservation. There may be iterations of pan-fried kohlrabi served with ancho aguachile, or a gun-powder custard with Swiss chocolate and raspberry fudge, combining Hattab’s multicultural heritage and experiences with the Swiss sense of place. The chef was also selected as part of the 50 Next Class of 2022, when she was named “the plant-based advocate helping destigmatise veganism”.
46/1 Sukhumvit 53, Klong Tan Nuea, Wattana, 10110, Bangkok, Thailand
The Mumbai-born Asia’s Best Female Chef 2019, Garima Arora, was the first Indian woman to receive a Michelin star for her restaurant Gaa in Bangkok, which relocated to a 60-year-old traditional Thai house in Bangkok’s Thonglor neighbourhood in 2020. Contemporary Indian cuisine remains front and centre, and a vegetarian menu is always available, alongside a vegan option that can be enjoyed with advance notice.
India’s quintessential street food flavours are highlighted in a dish featuring pomegranate, strawberry, sweet yoghurt, sev, betel leaf and mango. The kebab is fashioned from chayote, seasoned with garam masala and smoked tofu sauce. Durian – the popular Southeast Asian fruit which features prominently in Arora’s menus – is seasoned with chili and amchur (raw mango powder) and finished in the tandoori oven.
10 Arrowtown-Lake Hayes Road, Frankton, Queensland, 9371, New Zealand
A 30-minute drive from Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island is a 200-acre estate that’s home to Amisfield Restaurant and Cellar Door, situated on the edge of Lake Hayes with stunning mountain views. Helmed by executive chef Vaughan Mabee, who worked previously at Martin Berasategui and Noma, its 25-course tasting menu was crafted to showcase the country’s history and its surrounding lands, utilising hyper-seasonal produce and ingredients.
The vegan and vegetarian menus (advance notice required) may include “bones and marrow” crafted from roots filled with marrow made from grilled smoked vegetables and nuts, or wood-cooked fermented celeriac laced with wild onion weed jam and served with apples and fig leaf oil.
5th Floor, Speakers Corner, 37 Parliament Street, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa
Photo credits: Bruce Tuck
At Fyn, winner of the Flor de Caña Sustainable Restaurant Award for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023, chef and restaurateur Peter Tempelhoff marries South African produce with Japanese sensibilities in a kaiseki-inspired menu.
Located on a rooftop with floor-to-ceiling glass windows offering views of Table Mountain and Church Square, the restaurant offers a plant-based lunch menu which includes dishes such as tamagoyaki nigiri, kosho salsa and aged shoyu with rice and seaweed; wild mushrooms with pearl couscous and artichokes; and a dessert of robata-grilled pineapple spiced with shichimi and served with rice ice cream. Vegan and vegetarian menus are also available for Fyn’s dinner menu experience.
Canlis, 2576 Aurora Ave N, Seattle, Washington, 98109, USA
Photo credits: Vorasith Panichsusawadi (left) and Jeremy Beasley (right)
This landmark, family-owned fine dining institution made headlines in 2021 when it appointed Aisha Ibrahim as executive chef. The Filipino-American is the first woman to have taken the position in the restaurant’s 70-plus years of existence. Ibrahim, who worked previously with Eneko Atxa at Azurmendi before being appointed to open sister restaurant Aziamendi in Thailand as chef de cuisine, has brought a sense of community into the kitchen, while inflecting elements of her Asian heritage into the cuisine. It led to her being named by Food and Wine magazine as one of the Best New Chefs in America for 2023.
The tasting menu here, which is structured around the seasons, invites diners to pick three dishes, while letting the team surprise them with the rest. Asides from fish and meat offerings, Canlis readily offers both vegetarian and vegan options. A tribute to Ibrahim’s Filipino heritage, ‘Eggplant Zurita’ is a recreation of the popular fried eggplant dish tortang talong, named after her mother who frequently made it for her while she was growing up, served with a special single-origin rice from Japan called Tsuyahime.
Geranium, Per Henrik Lings Allé 4, 8 DK-2100, Copenhagen, Denmark
Photo credits: Claes Bech-Poulsen
Lifelong friends chef Rasmus Kofoed and wine director Søren Ledet opened Geranium in 2007 serving plates dexterously showcasing Scandinavian seasonality inspired by Kofoed’s memories and sentiments. In January 2022, Geranium stopped serving meat; it was the same year it was awarded The World’s Best Restaurant accolade. “I haven’t been eating meat for the last four years and Geranium wasn’t representing what I liked to eat myself,” Kofoed shared at the awards ceremony. “I used to do only a few meat dishes and honestly I felt uninspired.” He has since undertaken the challenge to create a new identity for Geranium as a completely meat-free eatery.
Today, Geranium’s 18-course menu consists of vegetarian, plant-based and seafood dishes, and can be made exclusively vegan or vegetarian, while changing with the seasons. Guests might be able to enjoy boiled beetroots Birkemosegård with dried blueberries and horseradish; new potatoes, fermented cabbage, lovage and mustard seeds; and sea buckthorn with carrot, pumpkin seeds and white chocolate.
Ha-Khalutzim St 8, Tel Aviv, 6652308, Israel
Photo credits: Aviv Shkury
Opa was founded by twin sisters Shirel and Sharona Berger, who respectively work back and front of house, serving a 10-course tasting menu where vegetables and fruits are the stars of each plate. While the menu changes seasonally, popular dishes such as Jerusalem artichoke in macadamia milk, and black kohlrabi served with its leaves, appear frequently. Shirel takes the concept one step further by using parts of the plant traditionally thrown out – peels, stalks, leaves and rinds – and converting the restaurant’s rooftop into an urban garden. The restaurant was the recipient of the One To Watch Award at Middle East & North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants 2023.
The Landmark at Mandarin Oriental, 15 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong
When Amber at The Landmark at Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong reopened in 2019 after a four-month renovation as Amber 2.0, it eschewed dairy, gluten, refined sugar and salt. It was a decision by Director of Culinary Operations Richard Ekkebus, who is motivated to create dishes that not only taste good, but also make diners feel good.
On their vegetarian menu available for both lunch and dinner – and which can be adapted to vegan upon request – diners can expect dishes like a soymilk “burrata” served with heirloom tomatoes and strawberries; and purple artichoke with cipollini onion and morel mushrooms.
For every vegetarian menu sold at Amber, part of the proceeds benefit local NGO The Green Earth’s plantation enrichment program, which focuses on restoring Hong Kong’s biodiversity. Fun fact: the hotel also practices ‘Green Mondays’ for its staff, when only vegetarian dishes are served at the canteen.
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