Our first visit to Richmond's Loving Hut was pleasant but not exciting and it was difficult to muster up enthusiasm to return. But every now and then another positive blog review would turn up, or friends of ours would mention new menu items or their favourite dish, and I knew Loving Hut deserved another go. Michael and I met there after work on a Monday night, armed with a mental list of dishes to try.
The menu, all vegan, has certainly expanded in the past year. There were the deep-fried entrees and mock meat mains that I remembered from our first visit, but also soups and salads, noodles, a dedicated Thai section and a reasonable proportion of mock-free meals including tofu in five different preparations. A tiny whiteboard on the wall listed dessert specials, many of them raw.
We started with the Royal Rendang ($14), thanks to Mel. The soy steak, potato and carrot chunks are hearty winter fare, more so when submerged in a pool of thick, aromatic and spicy gravy. We scooped it into bowls of brown rice ($2 each) for full sitck-to-the-ribs effect.
The salt and pepper tofu ($12) is K's Loving Hut fave. It's lightly battered with a perky spice mix and subtle crunch. Arriving without a sauce, I plucked my share straight from the plate without pausing for rice.
Michael would have happily stopped there, but all night he'd had his back to the specials board announcing "warm black forest cake with cherry cream $7.50". Meanwhile I'd been reading and re-reading and anticipating that cake. It isn't exactly authentic - I couldn't taste any cherries or kirsch, for starters - but the presentation is in the spirit of this ostentatious dessert. I was happy with the dense yet fluffy cake texture and the soy-free flavour, and rationed out the refreshing strawberry segments judiciously.
It was great to see Loving Hut in better form - while they did have a few hiccups on opening, a menu expansion and some tips from friends probably made the difference for us. Their prices are noticeably cheaper that Chinese mock stalwarts White Lotus and Enlightened Cuisine and if this Monday night is anything to go by, they're building a loyal following.
You can read about our first visit to Loving Hut here. Since then it's received positive write-ups on easy as (vegan) pie, Vegan Revolution and CHOMP and SLURP. ForkSake's account is more mixed, while funky_ass enjoyed the food but was put off by Supreme Master evangelism.
Shop 10, 242 Victoria St, Richmond
veg mains $10-18, rice $1.50-2pp, desserts $5-7.50
Accessibility: Loving Hut has a flat standard-width entry, with a difficult door and generously spaced tables. Ordering occurs at the table, payment at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.