If you want to leave people in no doubt that your restaurant serves healthy food, you’ll call it Kale. The association with this leafy green, however, might scare many a kale-fearer away, so it’s important to note that cute little restaurant Kale, tucked away behind the cheongsams and I love Hong Kong t-shirts on Li Yuen Street West, does not serve only kale. It does not, in fact, serve solely vegetarian food either. What it does serve is wholesome, healthy and generous portions of really quite tasty food.
Kale actually describes itself as a “flexitarian” restaurant, as 80% of its menu is plant-based, whilst the remaining 20% is made up of recipes containing carefully sourced chicken and seafood.
The space is small and popular, so if you plan on eating your lunch there, it’s best to go early, to avoid having to wait for a perch. The menu is quite extensive for a quick health food joint, with a selection of salads (which can either be eaten solo or with chicken, tuna or crabmeat), a selection of hot dishes, vegan sliders and sides. The beauty of the menu is that the combos allow you to mix and match from pretty much each section of the menu.
On my first visit, I was intrigued by the vegan sliders, which could either be paired with fries or a small salad – naturally I had to try both! The FalaFit slider, consisting of a baked (not fried) chickpea patty with lentils, coriander, kale pesto and roasted tomatoes had a lovely flavour, but the sesame bun was very dry and therefore made the whole thing not all that pleasant to eat.
The BlackJack slider, however, made with lightly spiced BBQ pulled jackfruit, served on a charcoal bun, was delicious. The pulled jackfruit had the taste and consistency of pulled pork in a really quite surprising way, and the bun here was far from dry.
There are five choices of salads to accompany the sliders and you can actually have a little bit of all of them. I chose only three – the beetroot and orange (surprisingly delicious), the quinoa with dried cranberries and roasted pumpkin seeds (comforting and lovely), and the roasted vegetables (pumpkin, okra, aubergine and cherry tomatoes). All salad options are vegan and gluten-free.
The sweet potato fries are some of the best I have tasted, with a perfectly crispy exterior and fluffy, delicious interior. They didn’t seem greasy and heavy either. The only thing lacking was some kind of sauce or aioli in which to dip them. Of course there is ketchup, but I can’t stand the stuff!
We also tried the plantain fries, which are not something you find on a lot of menus in Hong Kong and were also excellent, a nice balance of sweet and savoury.
On a subsequent visit, I tried the Cajun chicken combo, which comes with quinoa salad and sweet potato fries. For $98, this was an incredibly generous portion that I couldn’t even finish. The chicken was lovely and lean, without being at all dry, and I loved the generous sprinkle of Cajun seasoning.
I was quite surprised to find there are no desserts on the menu and think this place would do well to add some healthy yet satisfying sweet treats. There are some shakes that could perhaps double up as a dessert, although I didn’t try one. What I did have on both visits, however, was a “flu shot”, a hot drink made with calamansi, cayenne pepper, jalapeño, ginger, thyme and Himalayan salt – the perfect drink for the crazy cold weather we have been having!
Depending on what you order, you can easily walk out of Kale with change from a $100 note, whilst bigger dishes are a little over. I am a big fan of Kale for a healthy yet wholesome meal and am confident it will become one of my go-to lunch spots in Central. Judging by the number of loyalty cards pinned to the wall, it’s clear I’m not alone!
26 Li Yuen Street West
Tel: +852 2511 1777
Open Mon-Sat from 8am-9pm