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Contemporary Vegetarian Restaurant ‘Soil to Soul’ Inspired by Korean Temple Food Opens at K11 MUSEA

August 10, 2020 Dining No Comments Email Email

Contemporary Korean vegetarian cuisine inspired by the country’s ancient ‘temple food’ debuts in Hong Kong today with the opening of Soil to Soul at K11 MUSEA in Tsim Sha Tsui East.

As a certified specialist in the eco-friendly, vegan food philosophy using naturally cultivated ingredients, internationally-experienced ‘World Master Chef’ Gu Jin Kwang introduces a contemporary interpretation of temple-style cuisine to Hong Kong at the helm of Soil to Soul.

In line with the healthy vegetarian trend, Soil to Soul features a modern twist on contemporary Korean vegetarian recipes using natural and plant-based ingredients with a wide variety of a la carte specialties, lunch sets and 6-8 course dinner tasting menus, alongside contemporary bar snacks and an exclusive ‘Temple Food Tasting Menu’.

“At Soil to Soul, all preparation steps are in line with nature,” Chef Gu explained.  “From growing and gathering to preparation of dishes, all or most ingredients are either farmed or foraged from nature.”

“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.”

Soil to Soul presents a contemporary and more liberal interpretation of strictest temple food which accords with three basic principles: clarity and sincerity of both chef and diner to ‘nourish the soul’, flexibility and harmony, and compliance with the Buddha-Dharma.  The culinary concept adheres to a righteous natural order with a ‘humble, grateful heart’ without polluting or harming nature, mindful that just as the body and mind, humans and nature are one.  Ultimate monastic adherence also avoids five pungent ingredients believed to distract minds with impure thoughts – garlic, green onion, leek, chive and onion.

With a broader concept for modern tastes, Soil to Soul’s philosophy still extends to such essential ingredients as salt, sugar, rice and soy sauce.

Salt, which notoriously raises blood pressure from indigestible impurities and toxins such as sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, chlorine and magnesium chloride, is substituted with purified salt crystal.  Chef Gu minimises sugar’s harmful effects with more readily absorbed sugar extract using green plum, a Korean tradition for more naturally sweet seasoning and layer of flavours.  Rice is exclusively from Icheon, famed for Korea’s finest grains with a legendary pedigree, gracing the monarch’s table during the Joseon Dynasty; and soy sauce is from a temple in Korea, fermented for 5 – 10 years for exceptional purity and clarity.

The purified essential ingredients are incorporated into Chef Gu’s specialty of fermenting and preserving seasonal vegetables and fruits from local Hong Kong organic farms – for pickles, traditional Korean staple kimchi and his own handcrafted Korean-style sauces.

The ancient wisdom is interpreted with a wide variety of a la carte specialties, lunch sets and 6-8 course dinner tasting menus, alongside contemporary bar snacks and an exclusive ‘Temple Food Tasting Menu’.

Dinner Tasting Menu of 6 – 8 courses (HK$598 – HK$788) features eclectic seasonal dishes including Perilla Seed with Taro Soup with Jang-Ajji Wrapped Rice and Burdock & Tofu with King Oyster Mushroom to Blessed Tofu Skin Pocket Stuffed with Sweet Potato Noodle, Napa Cabbage and Poached Pear with Red Dates, Cinnamon & Star Anise.

Along with various Korean-style noodles, fried rice, rice ball and rice cake, dinner a la carte specialties range from appetisers like Korean Ginseng Salad (HK$198) and Korean Turnip Dumpling (HK$138) to Mushroom Terrine served with Sweet & Spicy Sauce (HK$128), Chef Gu’s signature fusion of temple food with French terrine-style presentation.

Main course signatures include Pan Fried Tofu & Burdock (HK$228), Blessed Tofu Skin Pocket Stuffed with Sweet Potato Noodle (HK$188 / 4 pieces), Grilled King Oyster Mushroom (HK$218) with limited availability, Sweet & Sour Shiitake Mushroom with Assorted Vegetables (HK$228), and Sweet & Spicy Assorted Mushroom with Assorted Vegetables (HK$238), in a unique housemade spicy Korean sauce aged for 5-10 years.

A ‘Temple Food Tasting Menu’ of 8 – 10 courses following strictest disciplines of the philosophy will also be available in omakase-style for pre-ordering a day in advance from mid-August, priced HK$1,380 for dinner and HK$780 for lunch.  Boutique portions of the seasonal menu adhere to the ‘no waste’ philosophy.

Lunch sets are HK$218 for a main course with daily soup, fresh seasonal salad and dessert; or HK$258 with an additional mushroom or tofu specialty, and HK$288 with both; while lunch a la carte selections starting from HK$118 include Tri-colour Korean Pancake (Carrot, Potato, Zucchini)Sweet & Sour Shiitake MushroomFive Veggie Rice, BiBimBap and Korean Plant-based Meal Set.

Takeaways are also available during lunch time, including Korean vegetarian bento (HK$138) of specialties; and selected a la carte dishes, along with deliveries through Deliveroo.

Bar snacks priced HK$68 – HK$128 to pair with Soil to Soul’s wine list include Assorted Korean Crisps (HK$98), Steamed Mushroom Stuffed with Potatoes (HK$68 / 4 pieces), Pan-fried Yam with Citron Honey (HK$98 / 6pieces), Turnip Dumpling (HK$68 / 3 pieces), Sweet Purple Potatoes with Cashew & Almond (HK$98), and Daily Korean Mini Pancake (HK$68 / 3 pieces).

Drink specialties include biodynamic and organic wines, traditional soju and soju-inspired cocktails (HK$98-108) such as K BerryTesting No. 1Hwa-BeeYoo-HwaGarang-GarangK-Pop and Kimchi Bling Bling, and mocktails (HK$78) spotlighting STS ParadiseOnly OneEnjoy and TYT.

Seating 106, the 3,380 sq. ft. restaurant and bar incorporates elements of wood and earth inspired by the Chinese philosophy of “Wuxing” – the five phases of fire, water, wood, metal and earth.  Using wood flooring and seating as foundation, a spacious interior stimulates air circulation and glass enhances space, encouraging interaction between light and air, and an overall ‘soul to roots’ concept bringing peace of mind.

An oblong-shaped bar with spectacular harbour view is the key focus of the design, styled as a contemporary Korean oasis blending traditional and modern with a touch of theatrical intimacy.  Three VIP rooms, including one with harbour view, offer ultimate privacy and exclusivity.

Soil to Soul is located next to the Avenue of Stars at 704, 7/F, K11 MUSEA, Tsim Sha Tsui East, Hong Kong – operates daily from 12noon – 11pm with car parking at K11 MUSEA car park.

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