Since the beginning of the decade, the global trend of clean eating has been in higher demand, and this trend has inevitably made its way to the region. Because of this, vegetables have made a comeback in both presentation and taste, and this is showcased at Kuwait’s hottest new eatery, OVO.
Situated in a dreamy corner of the beautiful mazelike Al Massaleh East Complex in Bneid Al-Qar is the trendy OVO, a delicious dine-in café that specializes in vegan, vegetarian, and “flexitarian” dishes. It is truly one of a kind in Kuwait, and there is no other place quite like it. It’s the ideal place to grab a guilt-free yet indulgent meal, a organic coffee, organic tea or cold juice with a friend, and is comfortable enough in ambiance and décor to make you want to lounge there all day while listening to smooth blues tunes and vintage vibes of Billie Holiday and Edith Piaf.
The name OVO derives from ovo-vegetarianism, a class of the dietary lifestyle that permits eggs, as opposed to veganism, which restricts the ingestion or use of any product that could have come from an animal. The flexitarians are the friends of vegetarians and vegans who complain about having to eat “rabbit food” with their friends whose dietary lifestyle choices are more restrictive and vegetable dependent than their own. OVO offers meals that cater to all three dietary practice’s needs, ensuring that diners with different preferences in food will never leave hungry.
OVO’s menu is carefully curated by co-owner Ms. Chahine herself, and she had a vision as she was doing so: “This concept has allowed me to explore using different ingredients to create dishes that will take you around the world. I believe in enjoying your food and experiencing it.” And the food is an experience! Even by looking at the salads on display at the front of the restaurant, you can automatically spot the international theme, from classic American to Middle Eastern, Italian, European and Asian influences, all seven continents are covered.
We started off with drinks. The mint and cucumber-infused coconut water arrived as a refreshing spritzer with a twist. Fellow diners sampled the Passion Fruit juice, which was as delightful as its fruity origin, and a show stopping Mango Mint Lemonade concoction, which tasted exactly how it sounds. That’s the beauty of OVO – through their drinks alone, we could tell that their complex ingredients were in fact simplistic, and there was no mystery behind what was put into each drink or dish. Based on the cleansing bliss we’d experienced upon taking our first sips, we knew that we were in for a treat.
The Beetroot Carpaccio, with its thinly sliced pieces of both red and golden beetroot, is topped with a red tahini sauce that produces a more organic, earthier taste than the regular sesame paste we are more used to. We also sampled a goat cheese trio, made of an assortment of goat cheese balls stuffed with a surprise: one including a cherry tomato, another including a grape, and the final infused with green olives. Served with a shot of fresh, unadulterated cucumber juice to cleanse your palate before eating each ball in one bite, this appetizer was truly pleasing. Our favorite appetizer was the Chickpea Fries – big enough to share, but memorable enough to want your own plate. This crispy alternative to the beloved potato-based side was breaded and cooked to perfection, in long strips that are ideal to cut into smaller pieces so that everyone could get their faire share of the goodness. Coupled with OVO’s signature “cashewnnaise”, a vegan mayonnaise made of cashews, and another pot of homemade “raw ketchup”, which is better than any off-the-shelf ketchup you will EVER try (trust us on this), OVO had us dreaming about their chickpea fries even long after the attentive servers had to pry the empty plate away from our table.
Needless to say, we were ecstatic to get started on our mains. We were served a lovely selection of three dishes: one vegan, another vegetarian, and a flexitarian choice to experience all three sides of this accommodating eatery. The vegan Sweet and Spicy Tofu dish took us to the Far East, with a brilliantly spiced, Indonesian sauce ladled over gorgeously cooked tofu, and accompanied with a lightly mixed veggie and quinoa pilaf. Though the dish was reminiscent of fish, and fellow diners couldn’t believe it when we insisted it was 100% vegan, its flavor compensated for the lack of white meat – the dish sang in spite of it’s vegan attributes.
The flexitarian dish was their famous Panko Chicken, flash fried, panko chicken strips that offered a crispy texture and succulent crunch that only panko breading could ever achieve. Accompanied with beautifully spiced potatoes, this dish is an award-winning option that’s sure to keep eye-rolling, meat eating friends and family members of vegans and vegetarians satisfied.
As for the vegetarian dish, we were lucky enough to sample the extremely talked about, already infamous, Open Face Lasagna – a dish that is so special, that upon its mere mention we’re considering driving to Bneid Al-Qar to pick up one of those bad boys. Made with fresh, homemade lasagna noodles, brown butter, sautéed seasonal mushrooms, garlic, and generously sprinkled parmesan cheese, this was hands down our favorite main on the menu.
What’s so wonderful about OVO is the lightly-full-after feeling, because of their health-conscious cooking, still manages to leave room for dessert. Their innovative desserts are all made fresh and organic, with both vegetarian and vegan options, and are strongly recommended with their excellent organic coffee and homemade almond milk, which makes the perfect cafe latte. Editor’s tip: be sure to try the Organic Cocoa Marble cake – you won’t regret its decadence.
Photography by Muneera AlKhulaifi