The first thing you notice when you walk up to Loving hut is the line of photos across the restaurant’s window. Instead of the customary pictures of the ‘daily’ specials, that have remained unchanged for years the owners have chosen to celebrate a number of prominent vegetarians throughout history. This choice of advocates didn’t exactly fill us with confidence for the meal that awaited us. Take Gandhi for example, a great man and an even better vegetarian, don’t get us wrong, but a man who spent half his life on hunger strikes isn’t the first guy you’d go to for a good spring roll recommendation. If the endorsements of Gandhi and Mother Theresa didn’t fill us with confidence, the decidedly non-Asian restaurant owner certainly wasn’t going to. But as we made our way to our table and let the overwhelming scent of petula oil wash over us we seemed to reach a level of serenity and inner-peace or defeated resignation, whatever… we all just wanted to get in and get out so we could catch the 9:30 Gangster Squad and fill up on popcorn!
After the very real disappointment of our faux-meat ordering at the last vegetarian restaurant we decided that this time around we would keep it simple with veggie options and not go for mutton dressed as lamb or worse yet tofu dressed as mutton dressed as lamb. With that in mind we set about ordering two serves of veggies dumplings, one steamed & one fried, salt and pepper tofu and a whole suckling pig. Although the pig was immediately rebuked the other dishes arrived quickly. While the small squares of fried tofu seemed devoid of both salt and pepper the bottle of homemade chilli sauce gave the dish the extra punch it missed! The serves of dumplings, which turned up next, completely indistinguishable from one and other, turned out to be the surprise of the night, but not in a good way. Rather than delicate parcels of porky goodness that we’d come accustomed to these stodgy little mushroom packets were heavy and had an unnerving similarity to miniature Turkish pides that were completely out of place!
Aside from the chilli sauce it was fair to say that the meal was off to a pretty average start and with only a veggie fried rice, papaya salad and an eggplant hotpot to go our best case result was starting to look more like a breakeven than a break through! The rice and hotpot that arrived first finally provided a bit of veggie delight! The fried rice was simple yet chock full of fresh vegetables and the chilli hot pot with smoky eggplant and onions was bursting with flavour and perfectly balanced. On a high from our recent success and looking to keep the good times rolling we quickly added a serve of chips to the order, because lets be honest, when have chips ever detracted from a meal! These homemade, thick cut chips arrived alongside the fresh papaya salad and while they may not have been the best ‘taters’ in town they tasted like a masterpiece compared to the salad. While traditional Vietnamese papaya salads rely on a healthy dose of fish sauce for the requisite balance and pungency the constraints of vegetarianism ensured that this sauce be replaced by basic orange juice. The end result was a lacklustre fruit salad with a few cashew nuts that while ending the meal on a sweet note was far from what we had in mind!
After we had paid the bill and politely rejected the waitresses offer of joining a vegan mailing list we took one last look at the line up of famous vegetarians on the window but this time we better understood the soulless, emptiness in their eyes. With the options on offer Gandhi’s decision to constantly go without food started to make a whole lot more sense!
Service 2.5/5 (they forgot our serve of veggie delights… could’ve been a good thing though)
Value 4.5/5 ($66)
Gangster Squad 3.5/5 - With Yask already having seen it, Dizz constantly checking the cricket and tennis scores and Marge preoccupied with a stray fragment of choc top on his shirt the movie probably didn’t get the attention it deserved.