After a couple of hours trying to shop like grown-ups, we were still in Richmond and feeling much more like over-tired children. Only the promise of trying out a vegetarian restaurant for lunch had us suppressing tantrums and trying our best to be good.
That restaurant, Loving Hut, is part of a world-wide chain of eateries associated with the Supreme Master and they've got Supreme Master's own TV channel blaring in the background, spreading the word. It no doubt dominates the ambience when the restaurant is anything less than fully occupied.
There's a decent range of juices, smoothies, and tea on offer although the menu cautions that "availability depends on Mother Earth's mood & changing seasons". Mother Earth allowed Michael a coconut juice ($5) sans pulp while I sampled the zesty green lime ($5.50), an unusual not-too-sweet and lightly carbonated drink.
Michael generously urged me to order for both of us. The menu's quite heavy on the tofu and also includes mock meats; fresher vegetables are offered more sparsely. It took a little time to choose what I hoped might be contrasting dishes.
The lemongrass tofu ($12) was a pretty good pick - pan-fried 'til golden, slathered in a spicy lemongrass paste and served with shredded lettuce and carrot (quite similar to my Au Lac main, minus all that god-forsaken onion!).
The 5-spice flavoured Taro Delight ($18) was more of a gamble. These enormous fritters consist of generous chunks of taro, wrapped in yuba and seaweed, battered and fried. They're crazy-starchy and quite tasty, though I'd not be inclined to eat more than one in a sitting again. Veg-errific capsicum strips aside, the sauce didn't really appeal to me - it contained seaweed of the rubbery kind, and the liquid had a slimey way about it.
The staff at Loving Hut were friendly and attentive, if a little reserved. I'd eat there again - I've read good things about the entrées and the rendang - but this restaurant might struggle to lure me back so long as Thanh Nga Nine offers such great veg options in the same neighbourhood.
Loving Hut's trajectory thus far has been blogged by vegos words@random, In The Mood For Noodles, Veg in the west and Veganise This!, then unexpectedly by the high-end omni eaters at 1001 Dinners: 1001 Nights.
Shop 10, 242 Victoria St, Richmond
veg mains $8-18, rice $1.50pp
Accessibility: Loving Hut has a flat standard-width entry and generously spaced tables. Ordering occurs at the table, payment at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.