ASIA Restaurant at Aker Brygge might not strike you as the place to go when you want vegan food. You're met with pictures of fish when entering the home page, and the menu consists of dishes made of land and sea animals like most restaurants.
We were therefore taken by surprise when we received an invitation from Christel Heimdal Jensen, their head of web and social media, to come and taste some vegan food.
I met Christel and the executive chef Karl MacEwan upstairs in the restaurant where we sat down in a corner with a nice view of Aker Brygge. Karl used to run a raw, organic and vegan restaurant in the UK, and now he’s doing his best to introduce vegan food in Norwegian restaurants. He calls himself a 98% vegan and a food activist. He’s an enthusiastic vegan by heart, but is pragmatic enough to work at a restaurant serving non-vegan food as well. This gives him a chance to introduce vegan food to people who might not know much about it in the first place.
ASIA is planning to release a new separate menu containing vegetarian and vegan dishes on the 7th of October. The current set of dishes on the menu is actually easy to veganize, because they are vegan from the ground up, with fish or meat added afterwards to reach a wider audience. If you go to the restaurant today you will be able to order vegan versions of many of their dishes. Just tell the waiter, and they will help you.
Karl spent most of the time in the kitchen making food for me and Christel, but sat down in between cooking to talk about the food he made. His concept revolves around varied little asian inspired dishes served in small bowls for sharing. It was so delicious! This is the full list of food he prepared:
ASIA Raw Salad - with tomatoes, pomegranate, pumpkin seeds, sprouts, carrot, kale and chili. On the current menu.
Seaweed, Carrot and Ginger Salad - with sesame seeds and ginger dressing. On the current menu.
Vegan Pad Thai - with shredded vegetables, kohlrabi and carrot noodles, sprouts, cashew- and spicy soy dressing. On the current menu, but ask for it without scampi.
Vegan Green Curry - with vegetables in season, mushrooms, coriander, lime, and Thai basil. On the current menu, but ask for it without fish.
Pearl Barley Risotto - with mushrooms. Not on the menu, but maybe on the vegan menu.
Vegetable Satay Stir Fry - with Thai greens. On the current menu, but ask for it without beef.
Crushed Potatoes and Rice - with chili mayonnaise, coriander and dill. On the current menu.
Fig Dessert - with apple, and coconut ice cream. Not on the menu.
It all looked incredible! Maybe it's his experience from working at a Michelin star restaurant that has given him such an eye for detail. Every dish is well thought out. The ingredients are both fresh and nutritious. He tries to use sustainable, preferably organic ingredients, and lots of spices and exciting flavors. Karl and the others in the kitchen will do their best to serve everyone an enjoyable meal, even if you have allergies or special requests.
Karl wants to experiment and rotate with what's on the menu, to see what works and what doesn't, and challenge himself to come up with something new and exciting. He mentioned ramen as something that might appear. There’s currently no official vegan desserts coming to the new menu, but Karl is working on it, and is happy to make something on request, like the fantastic fig dessert I got.
I was really impressed with everything I got to taste! From the spicy Pad Thai and green curry, to the incredibly fresh seaweed and carrot salad, to the sweet fig dessert, and everything in between. After an evening of such great food; I can’t wait to return!
Christel mentioned that ASIA wanted to become more involved in the vegan community, and we welcome them with open arms and hope to see more of them in the future.