If you're looking for a dining experience that blends the healthful properties of plants with divine tastes, then Soil to Soul may be for you
It’s no surprise that Hong Kong is full of amazing Chinese restaurants serving an array of dishes. It’s also home to some top Italian, Japanese, and French hotspots. However, in recent years, the global love affair with Korea has put the cuisine of the nation on the map, and the most recent opening Soil to Soul goes well past BBQ and fried chicken. This vegetarian restaurant brings the history and healing powers of Korean temple food to our doors.
From Soil to Soul
Executive Chef Gu Jin Kwang has over 25 years of experience working in some of the world’s finest kitchens. Renowned for his traditional marinating and fermenting techniques, he spent the last six years going back to his roots and training in Korean Temple Food techniques and philosophy with Buddhist nun WooKwan. And at Soil to Soul, we get to sample the fruits of this labour.
Just a note here: I actually spent six years living in South Korea, and some of my fondest memories are of enjoying meals at the temples–havens for any vegetarian living in Korea. But Korean Temple Food is not just about the food; it’s far more holistic than that.
“Similar to the ‘Farm to Table’ process, retaining natural characteristics and flavour, temple food philosophy also encourages a minimalistic diet – eating only as much as you need, for minimal waste and environmental pollution,” Chef Kwang explains.
For anyone new to the cuisine, I’d describe the general flavour pattern as earthy. You’ll generally sample dishes made from ingredients such as walnuts, perilla, burdock and the like. These are paired with staples such as tofu, seasonal vegetables, and a selection of fermented offerings.
To say that I was excited to try the contemporary twist on one of my favourite types of cuisine would be an understatement. Arriving at the restaurant located inside K11 Musea, It was wonderful to see the selection of Korean ceramics on display. Inside the interior is bright and light with views of the harbour. The neutral colour palette is broken up with textures, including a gorgeous wall artwork that seamlessly blends into the surroundings.
What to eat at Soil to Soul
We tried the six-course lunch menu ($598), which left us feeling full but over stuffed (that’s what I love about this type of cuisine.) After a lentil jelly Amuse Bouche, The Perilla Seed with Taro Soup with Jang-Ajji Wrapped Rice kicked off our meal in that classic earthy way. Popular in both Korean and Chinese Traditional Medicine, Perilla is known for its anti-inflammatory and cardioprotective properties. The addition of the taro and woodear mushrooms made this a hearty and warm beginning to our feast.
A light Oriental Seasonal Vegetables Salad was next up and blended a selection of lettuce and radicchio with the likes of gingko nuts and fresh goji berries. This was followed by Braised Eggplant and Fresh Tomato, both of which were delicately presented and flavoured, allowing the vegetables themselves to do the talking.
Definitely one of the crowd favourites, the Sweet & Spicy Mushroom gave off vibes of sweet and sour pork, but the addition of the mushrooms was fantastic. While not something I’ve ever seen at a Korean Temple, the diversity on this menu will make sure that everyone will be satisfied.
Our final savoury dish was definitely my favourite of the lunch: Burdock & Tofu with King Oyster Mushroom. Beautifully fresh Korean tofu was topped with threads of delicious burdock that had been marinated to perfection. The Oyster Mushroom and Broccolini accompaniments gave both texture and additional flavour.
Dessert was Poached Pear with Red Dates, Cinnamon & Star Anise while the Petit Four with Korean Herbal Tea finished us off completely.
With an extensive a la carte offering and a range of bio dynamic wines, soju-inspired cocktails and mocktails, I will definitely be back soon to sample more from Soil to Soul.
Soil to Soul, 704, 7/F, K11 Musea, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong, p. 2389 9588