Good Food in Hong Kong – Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant
After a wonderful morning at Tian Tan Buddha (also lovingly called Big Buddha), we were hungry. The climb up the 268 steps and back down, plus walking around and inside the inner halls surely worked up an appetite. We hunger for Good Food in Hong Kong!
Fortunately, the ticket we bought included a full course meal at the Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant.
We had read many good things about the restaurant and the food they served. And looked forward to experiencing it first-hand. We wanted to see if it really was as good as what netizens have claimed.
Below is the brief intro about Po Lin Monastery and the Summary of Ratings, followed by our experience tasting the food at vegetarian restaurant. Continue reading to join us for this gastronomical journey.
About Po Lin Monastery
Po Lin is a Buddhist monastery. It was founded in 1906 by three monks. And is located on Ngong Ping at Lantau Island of Hong Kong. The location is quite remote, in a setting that is amongst lush and serene mountains.
It is one of Hong Kong’s most important Buddhist sanctums. After Tian Tan Buddha was added, it became a very popular destination for locals and tourists.
There is a well known vegetarian restaurant that is famous for serving delicious vegetarian dishes. Around the monastery, and everywhere in Ngong Ping, there are beautiful flowers, lush greenery, and even wildlife and livestock.
This tree was at the hill slope, at the side of the 268 steps to Tian Tan Big Buddha.
Tip: When you are at Ngong Ping, do take time to notice the pretty flowers, plants and trees there.
There are ways to get there; such as by MTR to Tung Chung MTR station then by bus or cable car, or by ferry. More info below.
Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant – The Overview & Rankings
Name: Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant
Cuisine: Chinese, Vegetarian, Vegan Options, Gluten Free Options
Meals Served: Lunch, Dinner
Dining Choices: Dine In
Family Friendly: Yes
Food: 4.0 out of 5.0
Service: 3.0 out of 5.0
Value: 4.0 out of 5.0
Atmosphere: 3.0 out of 5.0
Prices: $$$ out of $$$$$
Asia Travel Gems Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
On the Way to Po Lin
After a wondrous time at the top of the hill, and being awestruck by the colossal Tian Tan Buddha, the inner halls of treasure and the breath-taking views of the mountains, we began to feel hungry.
Fortunately, the ticket we purchased earlier included a set meal at the Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant. To get there, we had to walk down the 268 steps. This time, it was not so tiring as going up.
As we reached the lower flights of steps, we noticed many people praying at a circular construct. We found out later that this is called the Pavilion.
It was nothing sensational. But it was nice to see and experience every part of this tourist attraction.
Entrance to Po Lin Monastery
Po Lin Monastery was just across the Tian Tan Buddha. After we reached the bottom of the 268 steps, and crossed the Pavilion, we saw the gateway to the monastery.
Vegetarian Deluxe Set Meal
Do not expect the usual window display of food or large neon signs to indicate where the restaurant is. This is a simple and unassuming eating place.
Look for the temple, and then walk to the left side of the front of the temple. Look for signs where one of them would indicate the restaurant, and the direction it is located.
Though it took a bit of time to find, it was actually easy to spot the restaurant. Here is where you have to be sure which room to enter. Earlier, we purchased the Deluxe Set Meal. A sign on the door of the restaurant informed us that the meal would be served in the VIP (Very Important Person) room.
Tip: Remember to Buy the Deluxe Set Meal when you purchase the ticket at Big Buddha. It is worth the money. The room is air-conditioned (great for a hot day), and the meals are served by wait staff. ==> Read Big Buddha post for info on How to Buy the Best Deal for visit to Big Buddha Museum & the Deluxe Set Meal <==
One of the wait staff greeted us as we entered the VIP room. She asked for our ticket, and we showed it, and informed her that there were four of us dining. Immediately, she allocated us a table.
After that, everything happened really fast and efficiently. There was nary a smile or pleasant conversation. It was not horrible either. Just very mechanical and quick.
The plates and utensils were placed, followed by bowls for washing hands or tea cups. Then the dishes arrived one after another.
Here is what you get for a Deluxe Meal for four (note: menu may change over time):
The first dish was the Deep Fried Bean Curd Sheets with Lemon Sauce. It was cooked in a sweet and sour style. We must admit that this is a great starter. The sweetness and sourness was not too heavy, and not too light. Just the right amount to make this a mouth watering combination that increased our already worked up appetites.
The Bean Curd Sheets were crispy yet full without being flaky. At some places, the bean curd sheets get soggy very quickly because of the sauce. They have managed to keep the sheets crispy even after we started on the other dishes that came soon after.
The next dish was the Black Mushrooms with Vegetables. This turned out to be the highlight of the meal.
They mushroom were firm and chewy. Notice some places served mushrooms that just tasted like nothing? Not here. At Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant, there was a light yet distinct mushroom taste on our tongues! It was just the right amount of flavor too!
The green vegetables were no lightweight, too. The ingredients were so fresh and full of taste of each type of vegetable that we suspected they might have been grown in the fertile lands of Ngong Ping. Maybe even organic?
Every Chinese meal should have soup. Or at least that is a Cantonese way of having meals. Sadly, the Mixed Mushroom Soup was disappointing. We did not think much of it.
It was a thick soup with bean noodles, black fungus, strands of bean curd skin and assorted mushrooms. While nice to have and drink after an exhausting walk up and down the steps to Big Buddha, the taste was bland and nothing special to speak of.
We thought it was going downhill after the soup. Thankfully, things bounced back. The Spring Rolls were served next.
I love Spring Rolls! And the ones from Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant were really good! They were well fried such that the skin was light and crispy. The filling was tasty with light sweet and peppery flavors. Again, we could tell how fresh the ingredients were.
After the Spring Rolls, we were hopeful for the rest of the meal to be even better. We were rght!
The Asparagus with Mixed Mushrooms and Cashews was a delightful dish. Besides the asparagus, mushrooms and cashews, there were also celery, red & yellow peppers, and snap peas. We could savor each and every individual vegetable’s flavor. Plus, the combination of the vegetables made this a crunchy and scrumptious combo.
The Fresh Lotus with Potato Paste surprised us. At a glance, we thought this was a dish of yams. I do not particularly like yams. But my friends revealed to me that they were actually fresh lotus and very palatable. I gave it a try, and it was really good! We changed our minds. This might be the best dish of the entire meal.
Tip: Save your appetite for delicious desserts from the deli next to the vegetarian kitchen. See the next part to read more about it.
After lunch, we patronized the Deli that was next to the vegetarian kitchen (from the VIP room, turn left). Here, there was an assortment of snacks and desserts such as steamed cakes, noodles, bean curd, glutinous rice dumplings, and more.
The Bean Curd is renowned and highly praised by many. It is fresh because it is home-made by the monastery daily.
We tried the Bean Curd, Mango Pudding and Glutinous Rice Dumplings with Peanut and Green Bean Paste fillings. The bean curd was as good as its reputation; fragrant, soft and silky. The dumplings were a surprise. They were so soft and flavorful.
You must try all these when you are here!
Tip: The stock at the Deli is limited. Some favourite items, like the bean curd, are made in small quantities. You should buy them when you see that they are available. A good idea would be visit the Deli first, buy what you wish to try, and bring in to the VIP Room to enjoy with your Deluxe Meal.
Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant – Asia Travel Gems Final Word
From our experience, most of our friends are reluctant to have vegetarian meals. When we have lunches and dinners together, rarely they would agree to it. Unless, of course, they are vegetarians.
Over the years, we do find that more and more of our friends are all right with vegetarian food. It might not be their first choice. But if suggested, they are open to it. Though, sometimes with hesitation.
We dare say that if they tried the food at Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant, they would change their mindset about vegetarian food.
Asia Travel Gems Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0
The restaurant did not get full 5.0 rating only because of the ambience, and service. Sure, we understand that they are not really a commercial establishment.
But then again, people paid money for this. So, it would have been nice to sit in a better decorated restaurant. And nicer when the wait staff are a little friendlier. We do not expect too much. Just a smile now and then. And some greeting perhaps?
Aside from the little bit of down side, the food is really worth enjoying. That is why, although service was not good and environment was not ideal, the rating is not low. The food raised it to a 4.0.
Anyway, you will most probably spend the day at Tian Tan Buddha. Why not have good food?
Where is Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Restaurant?
Po Lin Monastery, Ngong Ping, Lantau Island
Operating Hours at Po Lin Monastery: Monday to Sunday (including public holidays), 8am to 6pm
Operating Hours at Po Lin Monastery Vegetarian Kitchen:
Monday to Friday (except public holidays), 11.30 am to 4.30 pm
Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays, 11.30 am to 7.00 pm
How to Get There?
Go to MTR Tung Chung Station. Take Exit B. Then take the Ngong Ping Cable Car. This will take around 25 minutes. Another 10 minutes’ walk to the monastery.
Or from the same Tung Chung Station, take New Lantao Bus 23. This will take about 45 minutes, then 8 minutes’ walk to the monastery.
Another way to get there is by Ferry, which you have to board at Central Pier 6. Take the ferry to Mui Po, then take New Lantao Bus 2 to Ngong Ping Village. All this may take around 40 minutes, minus wait time.
If you have ANY questions about this review, ANY at all, please submit your questions as comments below. I will be happy to help you out.
Wishing you and your loved ones safe and happy travels,