Bite me: Chi Vegan is a meat-eater’s favourite restaurant

Though I am a meat-eater, I am most of all a food-lover, which has no culinary bounds. Chi is not simply a good vegan restaurant, it is a good restaurant. This makes sense knowing that Chi was not originally vegan; it previously defined itself as a “modern Vietnamese” restaurant, before almost completely transforming its menu in 2020.

Upon walking in, you’ll be greeted with a chic and welcoming environment. A shelf carrying a variety of wines sits on the right, and framed on the wall to the left is a Master Chef apron. The restaurant’s owner is Chi Le, the runner-up on Master Chef Vietnam’s second season. Le can almost always be found at her restaurant, waiting tables or making conversation with guests.

At the end of my first meal there, I curiously asked my waitress who the apron belonged to. She pointed to the lady who had patiently taken my order and given recommendations as I indecisively tried to choose . I was mildly surprised. Though she was clearly knowledgeable about the restaurant’s food, she had been so humble and conversational that I had assumed she was the manager, not the owner. Many visits with friends and family later, I have had the privilege to speak with Le a few times. She is always eager to answer questions, and talk about food and culture— when she has the time for it!

Chi’s menu typically changes every three months, with fresher dishes served during the summer and heartier dishes reserved for the winter. However, they make sure to always keep their most popular dishes, such as their spicy truffle wontons (a personal favourite of mine) and Massaman curry.

Chi’s concept is that all dishes — whether a main or an appetizer — can be shared. It’s a good way for a group to try out as many of the dishes as possible.

Diners will not leave feeling hungry from the lack of meat. The restaurant's dishes include a variety of imitation proteins, including impossible meat, seitan, tofu, soy, mushrooms and even jackfruit — a tropical fruit which has a taste and texture similar to pineapple when ripe, but is generally cooked underripe, leading to a more neutral taste that allows it to absorb the flavours of the dish.

When Chi transitioned to plant-based in 2020 for environmental reasons, the menu change went beyond removing meat. Le also made the decision to move past only serving Vietnamese food by introducing other Asian fusion dishes, such as this season’s mushroom and jackfruit adobo, which is inspired by Filipino cuisine.

The last time I was there, Le told me that a lot of her culinary inspiration comes from her extensive travels, where she was able to explore the cuisine of many different cultures. Le aims to use this opportunity to introduce her diners to delicious dishes they would not have otherwise known about. For example, she told me that during the summer, one of their seasonal appetizers was a Persian snack called sabzi that consists of mint, radish, walnuts and feta cheese— inspired from a trip to Iran. Though the dish is quite simple, she told me that much to her disappointment, not a lot of people ordered it, because it was unfamiliar to them. As of right now, this dish is still the header on their website.

Whether alcoholic or spirit-free, their drinks are incredible! Just like their food menu, their drink menu changes seasonally. They take great pride in their unique selection of wine, and their cocktails are very tasty and fun, particularly if you’re someone like me who enjoys candy-sweet drinks. Their non-alcoholic selection also has an exciting variety of options, with this season’s drinks ranging from spiced Thai iced tea to yuzu soda.

Located on W 4th, Chi is open for dinner every day, except Monday. Lunch (which has a slightly different menu) is available for takeout Tuesday to Sunday, and for dine-in on weekends.