Aha by ZS | Healthy options for the Central office crowds [CLOSED]
Even if you’re not familiar with ZS Hospitality Group, chances are you’ll have heard of some of their restaurants. Over the past two years, they’ve launched over half a dozen in short sequence from casual Cantonese eatery Lee Lo Mei on Lyndhurst to the newly one Michelin-starred Ying Jee Club on Des Voeux. Sadly, some of their restaurants launched and closed quickly including my personal favourite Home Eat to Live. In a city where health and environmentally conscious restaurants are hard to come by, Home offered a high quality, affordable option that I would have happily eaten at for a casual brunch, lunch or dinner. And I know I wasn’t alone in being shocked/surprised at its closure. (Link to Alicia’s foodie piece).
What does Aha stand for (literally and conceptually)?
Naturally, the restaurant that replaced Home will be compared to its predecessor. Especially when the layout is exactly the same. But while Home focused on a sustainable, environmentally conscious way of eating, Aha focuses on...general positivity?
Officially, the restaurant has five main missions:
a happy attitude,
a holistic approach,
a heartwarming atmosphere,
a healthy aura, and
a healing art.
Execution-wise though, it felt a bit confusing. I wasn’t exactly sure how the five missions would translate in terms of the food. We’d heard a registered dietitian helped put together the menu, so perhaps it was focused on nutrition. However, only some of the menu items had dietary information listed. And where there is information listed, it’s very basic. For example, dishes are shown to contain “whole grains” or “low sodium,” and such information is only listed for maybe half of the items on the menu.
While there are a good number of vegetarian and vegan options on the menu, we were disappointed that more effort wasn’t spent on promoting environmentally conscious living. For example, even though we dined in, some of the food we were served came in throwaway cardboard boxes. Straws and takeaway containers are the standard plastic.
But how was the food?
While the concept felt a bit confusing, the food itself is actually quite good and value-for-money. This is a casual dining restaurant, where you order at the counter and receive a buzzer that lights up to let you know when to collect your food.
The vegetable terrine ($88) is one of their most heavily promoted dishes. Probably because it’s extremely photogenic. That said, this is quite a tasty, refreshing dish; it would be a perfect summer starter. I especially liked the softened sweet onions and dill accents.
We opted to share the large salad ($70) between two, which allowed us four different choices (this was the dish served in a cardboard box). Each option was very fresh, though the sweet and sour beetroot and pumpkin was our favourite. A close second was the grilled veggies which managed to avoid being too salty or oily as can often be the case.
While the artichoke tart ($68) was a very creative dish, I found it to be too simple. It seemed like it was literally a halved artichoke topped with some marinated vegetables and vegan mayo. This combination isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but we felt the flavours weren’t pronounced enough and the overall taste was quite plain.
Because the majority of our meal was quite light, we opted for the pork loin ($128) as our hearty main course. This was a really tasty dish. The meat was firm yet flavourful, but it was the umaminess of the purple cabbage that stole our hearts. So much soft, rich, comforting bacon flavour.
For dessert, we tried two options and both were lovely. The passion fruit cereal milk panna cotta ($68) was awesome. Creamy, crunchy, sweet and sour all in one little pot. The garden berries tart ($78) was as beautiful as it was tasty, and offered a light, not-too-sweet end to our meal.
Give Aha a try if you’re looking for a value-for-money restaurant in Central that offers a good balance of healthy and hearty options. Don’t try and compare it to Home Eat to Live. And don’t skip dessert.
Nexxus Building, 77 Des Voeux Road Central, 2881 1811
*By invitation, for Foodie