Many people crinkle their noses at salads in Hong Kong, but it’s not to say that Hong Kongers don’t like vegetables. The Chinese diet is typically vegetable-based – think steamed bok choy, choi sum, napa cabbage and the likes. No, what Hong Kongers don’t like eating are salads. S-A-L-A-D-S. Y’know, that raw bowl of lettuce that westerners eat? My Dad is one of these people. And it turned out my Dad actually really liked the salads from a vegetarian café called Fresca when I brought him to try it out.
Although the local interest in salads has grown recently, most would still pick something else on the menu. And if held at gunpoint to a choice of salads, I’d bet most Hong Kongers would go for the classic Caesar, the gateway salad. I know I did back when I hated salads back in high school (cue shocked gasps… Charmaine you hated salads?).
Greens suitable for raw consumption are typically not grown in Hong Kong – you really can’t just eat your wet market buys uncooked unless you want a hefty dose of pesticide with your meal – so if you want to #eatclean, you have to buy expensive imports. Why pay $100 for a bowl of vegetables when you can have a hearty meat-and-rice meal for $30?
Fresca erases the bad rep salads have and cooks fresh, healthy fares harvested from their own private farm. Their daily selection of greens changes with the seasons and are prepared with a creative East meets West concept.
I didn’t expect to love Fresca’s interior so much. My expectations were something along the lines of your typical organic café, akin to the rustic design of Be Tabula Rasa Studio. But set on busy Hollywood Road comes a contemporary minimalist design, classically white in colour, a beautiful impression of classic Scandinavian interiors.
If Fresca were a person, he’d be well-groomed, sleek and simple. The light walls of the café are paired with wooden shelves where rows of cookbooks and products are lined up. The deli counter is located on the lower floor, and if customers choose to eat in rather than grab a takeaway, they can head upstairs to a larger dining room. I’m surprised the owners managed to fit so much into a compact space and still end up with such an uncluttered outcome!
I avoided the lunch rush and visited Fresca later on in the afternoon. The dining area was empty save one other customer, and the team of chefs were busy preparing food for the dinner round.
Dad and I basically picked matching small salads. I’m ashamed to say he was super full after his meal, while I was not completely satisfied (oh, the woes of having a man-sized stomach). I was attracted to Fresca because they have a lot of daily offerings – ten different choices! It was difficult to pick, but between the two of us, Dad and I finally decided on a mixture of Sichuan Veggie Soy Chicken Mix, Korean Bean Paste Tofu, Carrot Apple Walnut Raisins and Broccoli Apple Candied Walnut.
Before heading to Fresca, I’d checked previous reviews and the food was praised for being light on the dressings. I found that not to be the case – maybe I eat too clean when I cook myself – but I felt the toppings were on the oily side. Dad, though, found it completely okay.
Other than that, the salad was delicious. Better than fried chicken. I loved the spiciness of the Sichuan Veggie Soy Mix balanced out with the sweetness of the Carrot Apple Walnut Raisins. Having said that, it was hard to taste the individual toppings because they spilled all over each other in the tiny box. Well, I’m not complaining. It tasted good all mixed together!
Dad says he’ll be back, I think that says it all. I honestly don’t know anyone who hates salads as much as he does. I’m happy I finally showed him that vegetables on a bed of greens can taste good too. The hike up to Fresca is nothing compared to the one up to Anything But Salads (another really good vegetarian spot) and if I’m around the Central area, I now have another lunch option. I’d already expected the food to be delicious, but it was unpredictably delightful to discover a beautiful, chic interior setting to eat in too.
G/F, Felicity Building, 54-58 Hollywood Road, Central, Hong Kong
+852 2770 2282
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