I felt virtuously healthful the moment I walked into Hum, one of the city’s premiere vegetarian eateries. My impression was that I’d stepped into an expensive spa; the soft splash of the fountain, the wall of plants behind the bar, the soft lighting playing over carved wooden screens and aged brick, the buzz of the juicer.
Normally, I linger over the menu, but arriving minutes before the kitchen took its last orders, I trusted to luck and my date’s past visits here. She flipped through the faux-rustic menu on unbleached paper and rattled off orders; I looked at the picture menu and pointed.
The most interesting section concerned Hum’s house cocktails, concoctions designed to magic booze into liquid salad. Along with their inventive juices and smoothies, the list made for a long read.
The Virtue of Eating Well
The grassy Martini (VND95,000) lit up my tongue; juiced herbs, veggies and vodka cunningly served in a legless martini glass nestled in a larger glass atop crushed ice. My date’s watermelon, salted lime and ginger juice (VND70,000) tasted like it could cure cancer, but the ginger settled out and the last sip scorched my mouth.
The deep-fried tofu appetizer (VND70,000) stunned me — creamy, crispy, delicate and filling, it was served with a piquant sauce that revealed more layers of flavour the more I chewed. I’d go back for those alone, probably the least healthy dish save the dessert.
Green curry (VND90,000) is usually not my favourite; not only did I eat the Thai eggplant and calabash, but I actually drank the sauce, savouring the zesty and creamy coconut curry. The three neat piles of rice vermicelli, however, didn’t add much.
The sole disappointment was the veggie omelet (VND80,000). A brassy, sweet and sour sauce overpowered the folded egg wrapping and wealth of vegetables. I’ve never chosen not to finish a dish before, but neither my date nor I wanted more than a bite or two.
Backed by fried rice a la Hum (VND90,000), we’d managed to select a well-presented, balanced meal, though I suspect creating an unbalanced one would be nearly impossible at Hum, unless one were to stick to the cocktails.
As always when you dine with someone else, compromise is important; in this case, we compromised by getting two desserts. I ate every delicious bite of mango and sticky rice (VND70,000). I also ‘compromised’ by finishing my date’s toddy palm and coconut milk (VND50,000), another (seemingly) Thai-touched offering.
A Food Spa
I’ll give the benefit of the doubt and ascribe the service to the late hour. The waitresses smiled, but alternately rushed and vanished. They managed to get the courses out at the appropriate times, so it all worked out.
As I indicated, Hum’s owners have taken great care in decorating their restaurant. The interior is beautiful, possessed of a soothing elegance that harmonizes many parts that rightly ought to clash. One feels massages and mudpacks ought to be on the menu, too.
Normally, vegetarian food leaves me unsatisfied. Perhaps not hungry, but lacking some vital element of a full meal. Not at Hum. Portion sizes were reasonable, but more than that, each dish owned a heft that I normally don’t associate with herbivorous fare.
So, will I go back? Yes, but at someone else’s invitation or request. Vegetarianism is wonderful to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.
Hum’s two locations are at 2 Thi Sach, Q1 and 32 Vo Van Tan, Q3. They are open from 10am to 10pm
Food, Decor and Service are each rated on a scale of 0 to 15.
13 — 15 extraordinary to perfection
10 — 12.5 very good to excellent
8 — 9.5 good to very good
5 — 7.5 fair to good
0 — 4.5 poor to fair
The Word reviews anonymously and pays for all meals