Last week I made a brief solo escape to Hobart. This city's vegetarian-targeted food is at its most accessible for weekday lunches, so I strategically booked my flights to fit in a couple of those. In fact, my commitment was such that I travelled directly from the airport to Chai Vegetarian Cuisine before checking into my hotel.
Chai is tucked down a city arcade and has the workday lunch look. Here you grab your own drink from the fridge, join the queue and peruse the display cabinets and menu boards, choosing amongst the ready-to-go wraps and hot dishes, and the pricier made-to-order options. Most of the menu features Chinese-style mock meats, though you can find some mock-free noodles, stir-fried veges and rice paper wraps amongst it all. I was most intrigued by the spicy and satay rolls ($5 each) - generous slabs of saucy mock meat and lettuce leaves bound together with a strip of turmeric pastry. But this would be my one visit, and I was greedy, so I turned my attention to the bain marie.
I started with a soya drumstick with a slick of sweet chilli and ginger sauce ($3.50). This was dense, grainy mock chicken with a thick batter coating - one for the most devoted mock meat connoisseurs.
Otherwise the rice plus two dishes ($11) seemed like a reliable measure of what Chai does. Although these dishes had clearly been on display a little while, the greens were still vibrant and toothsome. My double-meat dish (chicken and duck, perhaps?) was deeply caramelised, no doubt helped along with added sugar as well as heat and sweet spices.
This hefty meal had me satisfied for many hours as I sorted out my home base and began my less edible explorations (see photos below). In spite of its workday lunch ambience I felt comfortable and unrushed at Chai Vegetarian Cuisine, most likely put at ease by the smiling and helpful staff.
Chai Vegetarian Cuisine
16-18 Mathers Lane, Hobart
(03) 6231 5556
veg dishes $3.50-18.00
Accessibility: I remember the entry as flat but somewhat narrow. Food is ordered and paid for at a low counter; options are clearly displayed but there is a large pillar interfering with queue space. Tables are low and moderately crowded but easily rearranged (see above). I didn't see or visit a toilet, I suspect it would be outside the venue as part of the arcade.