Hinoki and The Bird (the subject of this week's restaurant review) came up as a possible option for a group dinner I was trying to organize a few weeks back. The group included one vegetarian. "I think this will be a great option for a vegetarian eater," I proposed, noting that the menu had a whole section of the menu dedicated to vegetables and grains.
"She says if we go there she's not coming," the reply came. "It's one of those menus that says vegetables and grains but then there's bacon on the vegetables and grains."
I was flummoxed. Yeah, the yam on the vegetables menu comes with lardon (though I'm pretty sure they'd leave it off if requested), but everything else -- steamed greens, grilled mushrooms, haricot vert, smoked pee wee potatoes -- is perfectly meat-free. And on other parts of the menu, incredibly cool vegetarian options exist: Escarole and watercress with roasted carrots and yoghurt, spinach with miso-cured cheese, the delicious and almost hearty pumpkin toast with miso jam and goat cheese. I'm sick to death of kale salads, and yet I loved Hinoki's version, a jumble of crispy and raw kale with curried almonds and pecorino.
It made me question my understanding of what a vegetarian-friendly menu actually looks like. If there's no grilled tofu entree, does that mean it's not veg-friendly? Are a heavy reliance on vegetables and a bunch of creative vegetable plates not enough? Does one tiny smattering of lardons ruin it all?
I don't think so. Hinoki and the Bird is a great restaurant for vegetarian dining. She didn't know what she was missing.
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