Another new signing on Shanghai’s vegetarian restaurant roster, Veg Inn opened in late January down an alleyway on busy, construction-ridden Huashan Lu. It’s so tucked away, you may miss it the first time past.
Opened by one quirky Mr Lu, a tea connoisseur, the restaurant has the atmosphere of a maze-like rabbit den. On the upstairs level, patrons taller than 180cm can't even stand up straight. The decor consists of walls painted garish green and orange paired with bare wooden seats. During your meal, the friendly owner may sit a few metres away from your table, on the floor in a window nook watching movies on his laptop, providing for a distinctly odd dining experience.
The complimentary seasoned seaweed and potato strings are a positive intro to the high quality of the food. Veg Inn’s version of mapo doufu (20RMB) uses Sichuan peppercorn powder instead of whole peppercorns, evenly infusing the tender tofu with a soft tingle. Chinese celery and xingbaogu mushrooms (32RMB), on the other hand, are cooked with the whole green peppercorns lending a sharper numbing bite to the mushrooms which have a hearty chicken-like texture. A pickled vegetable noodle soup (12RMB) is a big portion of delectably piquant broth with the noodles cooked just right.
A welcome break from meat and carb-heavy winter meals, Veg Inn is a filling, healthful alternative. However, with its odd atmosphere and tucked away location, only determined vegetarians are likely to become frequent customers.