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Meat-free Munchies— Maya Cafe
A vibrant blue-yellow-orange sign welcomes you in. White walls, stark, clean interiors, Turkish chandeliers and cosy seating arrangements— Maya Cafe, Hong Kong, definitely doesn’t believe in excesses (except when it comes to their exhaustive menu!). They also have a small alfresco terrace, a lovely spot to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, over Mediterranean mezze, healthy raw foods and organic wine.
Chef Tina Barrat (known for her stunning jewellery creations) teamed up with Mina Mahtani, to create this quaint little space (it seats around 35 people) to address the lack of ‘yummy’ and healthy food options in the city. Bringing in her French Moroccan background, Barrat has created a organic and vegetarian (both cooked and raw) Mediterranean menu with influences from the cuisines of Greece, Southern France, Italy, Spain and the Middle East.
As we sat studying the menu, unable to decide what to order, Mahtani came to our rescue, highlighting the goodness (read: healthiness) of each dish. The set menus were quite interesting—a three course menu including three to four options under each, appetizer, main course and dessert—priced at HK$128 for lunch, HK$188 for dinner and HK$218 for brunch (along with 10% service charge). The set also includes a drink—fresh juice or wine. Moreover, the menu in Maya Cafe changes on a seasonal basis, reflecting fresh ingredients.
We decided to go a la carte. With Mina’s help, we settled on a few signature dishes and seasonal delights—both hot and cold. As for drinks, we picked a healthy juice—Pick Me Up—a rejuvenating mix of carrot, apple, and ginger; and one of their smoothies, Wellness made of apricot, coconut milk, banana and cinnamon.
Our first appetizer was their delectable Andalusian Gazpacho—a tomato-based raw and cold soup. Heavily embellished with spices, the soup was flavourful and refreshing. Our second appetizer was Sun-dried Tomato Dip with Crunchy Vegetables, another raw choice. The richness of the cashew nuts balanced the tanginess of the sun-dried tomatoes, while basil essential oil infused a striking flavour. The choice of crunchy vegetables—carrots, and celery, was perfect. We couldn’t stop relishing the dip! Another must try is their Mezze Platter with hummous, babaganoush, Lebanese salad, cheese, olives and multigrain bread.
The starters aptly whet our appetites for the main act. Their Baked Ratatouille with Goat’s Cheese was wholesome with hearty flavours. The simple dish with crumbled goat’s cheese melted into fresh vegetables (eggplant, zucchini, bell pepper and tomatoes), and accompanied with gluten-free multigrain bread created the perfect comfort food. I particularly liked the seasoning of Mediterranean spices—it was well balanced and evenly flavoured. Next we sampled their Meatless Balls in Rich Tomato Sauce. The unique ‘meatless’ balls were made with mushrooms, oatmeal and Parmesan. Served with rich (and tangy) tomato sauce, and laid out on a bed of brown organic rice, the preparation was quite unique and interestingly delightful.
An advocate of ‘raw’ foods, Barret, has kept up to 40 percent of the menu raw, and is constantly experimenting with new dishes. Her Raw Fettuccini in different sauces—Alfredo Truffle, Pesto or Puttanesca—comes recommended. Given the growing trend of raw foods, Barret’s inspired concoctions are quite a welcome change from the usual fare available in the city.
Since the portions aren’t too large, we were left with some space to squeeze in desserts. The raw and vegan offerings sounded exciting—we peeked at the lovely ‘purple’ Chia Seed Pudding that the girl on the next table (an arm’s length away!) was devouring! However, a true chocolate enthusiast, I opted for their popular Chocolate Mousse (HK$30). Made from coconut cream, raw chocolate and coconut nectar, the velvety mousse was the best I have tasted!
The café gives you the feeling of ‘dining at home’ especially given the open kitchen, just across the table, where Chef Barrat and her tiny team of food enthusiasts are a work, whipping up rich, yummy and healthy dishes. Both, Barret and Mahtani take out time to come over the talk to diners, assisting them in making choices, and overall generating a ‘homey’ ambience. You are sure to leave fully satiated, yet feeling healthy and light.
For those looking at organising ‘a vegetarian and vegan’ soirée, Maya Cafe offers corporate and home food deliveries. Whether its custom-made recipes, catering for a party or just a call in for two, they make sure to deliver freshly made foods, with environmentally friendly packaging and cutlery.
Maya Cafe | 5 Moon Street, Wanchai, Hong Kong. | Tel: (+852) 25293319