Words and photos by Kari Lau
Recently, I visited the newly opened Vegan Hills, located in a hub of restaurants on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki. Vegan Hills offers vegan cuisine with an Asian and Western influence. Utilizing local, organic ingredients, they are able to whip up healthy, hearty meals for customers everyday from 8:00 a.m to 3:00 p.m.
Upon entering the restaurant, I was overwhelmed with the minimalistic visuals the place had to offer. Being an avid minimalist enthusiast, I was excited to see the simple color scheme in such harmony. The shades of whites, browns, and hints of blues (from the few paintings they owned) danced together creating a visual delight.
Aside from that, the white walls of the restaurant contrasted with the wooden benches that were pressed against it. Accompanying those features, there were also white tables that were placed in front of the benches and other spots alongside wooden chairs. The simplicity of Vegan Hills emulated a soothing atmosphere, that allowed me to escape from the stress of school and sink into the dining experience.
In contrast, to the peaceful interior design, the food seemed to be an overwhelming party. I ordered the Coco Cove, which consisted of a Singaporean coconut curry base accompanied by rice noodles, organic vegetables, fried tofu, and baked organic oyster mushroom. The dish had more dynamics than the simplistic ornamentation of Vegan Hills.
The cost of the Coco Cove was $17. Although the dish leaves quite a void in your wallet, the flavor and portion of the meal will compensate for it. Trust me.
The enormous size of the Coco Cove was overwhelming for me. The curry base seemed to swamp the noodles, vegetables, tofu, and mushroom. Beforehand, the waitress warned me that the servings was huge, but I took her word with a grain of salt. Needless to say, I should have listened better because I was not prepared at the sight of the Coco Cove.
The flavor was a game changer for my expectation on vegan cuisine. Who knew a band of vegetables could create such a satisfying meal? At the first taste, I was delighted with the blend of ingredients creating a harmonious symphony for me to devour. The curry base was the conductor and it seemed to influence the other ingredients with the coconut, creamy flavor that it possessed. However, the greens were not overshadowed by the coconut curry, but instead stood side by side with it. The vegetables acted as a reliever from the amount of flavor the dish possessed — a break that I found satisfying.
Despite my overall enjoyment of the Coco Cove, I only have one complaint, which was the baked organic oyster mushroom. As I took a bite of the mushroom, I found the breading to be a bit too much for my liking. The membrane seemed to overtake the mushroom inside, as I recall the path to the mushroom took quite a while. Besides that, I also found the outer shell to be a bit too soft, but that’s only because I prefer a crunch. However, for those who are soft textured enthusiasts, I bet you’ll find it pleasing. It was nice that the breading of the mushroom was subtle, but I found the bland taste to be a bit too much of a break. That’s only because there was too much of the bread.
I wasn’t too satisfied with the breading, but once I reached the mushroom I found the ingredient to be a wonderful side actor for the curry and noodles. The subtle taste and chewy texture was a nice escape from the symphony of coconut curry and noodles.
All in all, I can say that eating the Coco Cove was quite the experience.
So, I’d like to give my cheers to Vegan Hills because they did a wonderful job of appeasing my appetite and shattering my warped view on the vegan cuisine. For all foodies out there, I suggest you give the newest addition of Waialae Avenue a shot, because you’ll have a memory that’ll be life changing.
3585 Waialae Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96816
Open: Everyday – 8 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Last call: 2:15 p.m.)