Its offering may be completely vegan, but Bodhi Restaurant and Bar has a full and exciting menu with something for every taste. Critically acclaimed and award winning, it has been looking after the special culinary needs of Sydneysiders since 1988.
Literally translating to ‘enlightenment’ or ‘awakening’, the name Bodhi relates to the legend of Prince Siddhartha, who gave up his position of royalty to discover the true nature of humanity. He sat and meditated under a fig tree to free himself from hate, greed and ego, and eventually became a Buddha. Considering Bodhi Restaurant and Bar is surrounded by Moreton Bay fig trees, and sits under the mantle of Sydney’s most famous cathedral, this name was the perfect moniker.
When it first opened, it was the only restaurant in the world to include a totally vegan Yum Cha dining experience. Since then, it has evolved and the menu has expanded to present a modern fusion approach, using Asian flavours with European influences.
With Yum Cha during the day and an a la carte menu at night, the community of talented and passionate chefs have their work cut out for them. Owner, Heaven Leigh, works closely with the staff to develop the dinner menu, while one of the two Head Chefs, Kitty Hong Xiao, has looked after the Yum Cha menu for over 15 years. Originally from Hong Kong, Kitty trained with a Master Shīfu dumpling chef for four years, before moving on to work at notable Yum Cha restaurants like Silver and Golden Dragon.
Bodhi’s strict Buddhist vegan approach means no animal product or by- products are used in the kitchen. They also exclude any herbs from the onion and garlic family – restrictions that push the chefs to constantly think outside the box. Bodhi’s mission is to accommodate for ethical, spiritual, allergenic and other health-related dietary requirements, while at the same time serving delicious and exciting wholesome food.
In following with this philosophy, most of the products used at Bodhi are ethically sourced or made from scratch. Tofu is sourced locally, as is the collection of Asian vegetables such as baby bok choi, kai lan, choi sum and ong choi. This approach also extends to the drink selection: all of the red, white and sparkling wines are either organic, vegan or biodynamic.
You can see these ingredients shine across both menus. The Yum Cha menu offers a fantastic selection of small plates, some of which are gluten free. Options include a large range of dumplings, like the emerald green tea and choy sum dumplings, and shiitake mushroom and asparagus dumplings, as well as spicy tom yum konnyaku noodles and pan-seared white radish cake.
For dinner, start with a tapas of fresh watermelon, red cabbage relish, marinated soy and crispy ginger, and move your way up to a main dish like the wok- tossed mushroom medley, with asparagus, soft tofu, cashew nuts, and a creamy coconut lemongrass sauce, all served in a pastry nest. Bodhi also offers a decadent selection of vegan desserts, as well as its own line of bespoke vegan and gluten-free cakes.
With the lights of the cathedral and city skyline peeking through the fig trees, Bodhi is an enlightening dining experience. A hidden gem in the CBD, it is guaranteed to change your idea of vegan dining forever. It may also be your awakening to become more conscious of what you choose to eat.