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Charred broccoli, carrot slivers, and cauliflower florets topped with pea shoots and flower petals and served on a bed of vegan “Ranch” dressing.

This colourful combination may look like rabbit food, but it tastes surprisingly different than what you might expect from a dish made almost entirely from fresh produce.  The delicate texture of the veggies makes them seem as though they have been battered and deep-fried, and combined with the incredible sauce you have a healthy dish that tastes as good as a basket of hand-cut fries dipped in mayo. You really have to taste it to believe it.

Chef Homaro Cantu’s family was homeless for much of his childhood, and the majority of his diet consisted of “leftover junk food” served at shelters. Cantu developed a taste for junk food and noticed that the rest of America seemed to share a passion for unhealthy foods high in things like sugar and fat.  When he opened iNG Restaurant in 2010, his aim was to try to recreate some of his favourite bad-for-you foods using only the healthiest ingredients.

The 10-course meal I had was based entirely on favourite childhood foods, most of which were apparently dreamed up by Cantu’s 7-year-old daughter and all of which were made solely from vegetables and other healthy ingredients.  Some dishes were not so successful (even the help of the Miracle Berry did not endear me to the broccoli ice cream or the Space Invader-shaped litchi-beet gelatin).  But others were plate-licking good, including the Alphabet Soup, The Three Little Pigs, the Duck Waffles, and – my favourite by far – the Hidden Valley ranch-charred broccoli-carrot.  And it was definitely the most fun I’ve had eating any meal in a very long time.

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