by Nguyễn Mỹ Hà
ONE OF A KIND: VeJo has teamed up with mushroom and vegetable suppliers to make its dishes distinctive.
A brand-new vegetarian restaurant has been added to the diverse culinary map of Hà Nội’s Old Quarter: VeJo, or Vege Journey.
Its opening is very much a bright spot in these dark and dangerous days of pandemic and uncertainty. With borders closed and flights more or less grounded worldwide, no tourists are coming to discover Việt Nam.
T-Art, the fine-food restaurant formerly occupying VeJo’s site, suffered from the downturn.
“I had been wanting to open a vegetarian restaurant, so when we had no customers at T-Art, it was a good time to close,” VeJo’s owner Thái Thanh Thủy told Việt Nam News.
Hà Nội is not exactly famed for its vegetarian offerings, unlike Huế, Đà Nẵng and HCM City, where on the first and 15th day of a lunar month most restaurants serving meat take the day off.
More vegetarian restaurants have opened in the capital in recent times, though, as people have become more conscious of healthy living and are eating less meat.
“I’m actually a meat-eater,” Thủy said at the Grand Opening of VeJo, “but I also want to have vegetarian food, and not for religious reasons. I want delicious vegetarian food, not dishes where vegetables simply take the place of meat.”
UNIQUE: Mushroom salad with freshly sliced figs is a refreshing yet familiar dish not found elsewhere.
We tried their fixed menu just prior to the Grand Opening -- a four-course meal plus a delicious dessert for VNĐ150,000. The food was tasty and we left feeling full and happy.
But we were keen to know where the dishes came from and to learn more about the chef.
Lê Kiên, 24, is behind the latest dishes and menus at VeJo.
“I used to only cook meat dishes until about five years ago,” he said. “I’ve been concerned that vegetarian dishes lack flavour, so I’ve always tried to add a new touch to what I make.”
The young and fresh take the chef brought to his dishes have been applauded by diners.
As we enjoyed our lunch, my friend met some of her friends, who had been to Vejo three times in the past week with different dining companions.
On its opening day, the restaurant introduced some of its key partners: mushroom and vegetable suppliers.
It has teamed up with Fargreen, a start-up in Thái Bình Province who uses rice straw to grow mushrooms.
“We sell boxes of mushrooms to VeJo, and its staff grow and harvest them daily, ensuring that ingredients are as fresh as possible,” said Trần Thị Khánh Trang from Fargreen. Its business motto is: "going far by going green".
The vegetable supplier is Skyline Garden, a start-up owned by Linh Bùi, a young entrepreneur who bought some barren hills in Sơn La Province, cleaned the soil, then started to grow organic vegetables under the shade of large trees that kept the soil from being washed away.
KEY INGREDIENT: Vegetarian dishes made primarily from mushrooms simply burst with flavour. VNS Photos Mỹ Hà
VeJo’s staff are young and also get to eat from its kitchen. If they want meat, they order from elsewhere, so the kitchen and all its equipment remain meat-free.
Another employee-friendly factor at VeJo is that it’s closed on Mondays.
“A lot of people call to book tables for Mondays, but we have to turn them down because it’s our staff’s day off,” Thủy said.
“People need to rest and recharge their energy and enthusiasm.”
VeJo is trialling set menus at VNĐ150,000 and VNĐ220,000, while à la carte dishes are from VNĐ58,000 to VNĐ128,000.
“I went to try Vejo because I like veggie foods that aren’t just imitations of meat dishes,” one netizen wrote on the restaurant’s fanpage.
Going vegetarian, at least for one meal a week to begin with and then gradually more, will not only improve your health and dining habits but also help build a sustainable future for everyone involved.
And if you still need convincing, foregoing meat in one meal won’t hurt you either physically or financially. VNS
VeJo, the Vege Journey
46B Bát Đàn, Hà Nội
Comment: Good veggie food for meat-eaters