Hungry and looking for parking on Chapel street I quickly slotted myself into a spot that challenged my parallel parking abilities. Firmly wedged and out of harm's way I was ready to scour Chapel Street for something quick to wolf down before I needed to be at my next destination. I didn't have to walk far, perhaps 2 car lengths when I looked up and realised I was just a couple of doors away from Veg Out Time. Having not been there for a very long time I remembered they did beautiful vegetarian/vegan food that was oil free. I know, amazing right? I had asked the owner when I last went how it was that he didn't cook with oil. He simply replied it was the way his mother cooked and it's the food he was raised on.
That was in 2013. Fast forward to 9 days ago when I ate there and we have new owner Eric, originally from Beijing China, who assures me it's the exact same recipe he is using. I believe him because it tasted just as good, if not better, than I remembered. The taste was cleaner and the spices were perfect. He tells me he has to stick to the same style of cooking and recipes because he is frequented by customers who have a long history with Veg Out Time and has met some who have come from as far as Geelong and America to revisit their happy memory and great taste on the tip of their tongue at this little eatery.
I'm happy he chose to keep the menu the same as I was very happy with my meal. So happy in fact with my choices of satay tofu, yellow tofu mushroom curry and sweet potato and eggplant masala on a bed of rice was I, that I didn't even think of taking a picture of it, nor was the thought of writing this article on my radar at all. It was only after thoroughly enjoying my meal that I thought to myself, I have to write about it.
Eric, the new owner, has been in Melbourne for six years and aside from having been in the restaurant business in China as well, he has computing and warehouse management skills in his background. When he had the opportunity to buy this restaurant from his friend he grabbed it with both hands and is working hard at maintaining, if not improving, their popularity in making Veg Out Time an even bigger success.
He has rearranged the bain-marie area by streamlining it along the side of the wall, instead of it being at the end like it used to be, and has a new addition of pre-packed Japanese sushi, rice paper and nori rolls. A bit of music running softly through the place and a bit of 'tszujing up' (a phrase coined by Carson Kressley on the TV show Queer Eye) to keep it in line with all the trendy little spots on Chapel Street is all that is needed, I reckon.
However, don't let the no fuss decor detract you from the good food, good variety and great prices of this place, not to mention a healthy, vegan-friendly, plant-based menu. Apart from 'made to order' and 'house specials' as you can see in the picture, the bain-marie is filled with oil free choices of mixed bean dahl, peas potato korma, butter tofu, garlic veggies, yellow tofu mushroom curry, chickpea potato masala, red roasted pumpkin curry, satay tofu, green veggie curry, sweet potato and eggplant masala, Massaman roasted veggies and tofu curry and sweet potato and taro balls. There's also a selection of (has oil) samosas, curry puffs, spring rolls, fried dumplings, satay peanut roti, plain and garlic roti and a few other tasty morsels.
There is no MSG or artificial colours in the food and he also has very tiny containers of sauces like hot chilli, sweet chilli, peanut chilli, mango chutney, mixed pickle and tamarind on offer. There are also pictures of vegetarian steam dumplings, dumpling soup noodle, tom yum noodle soup and dumpling salad on the side for around $10.90 a meal, which is not on the menu board. It's a lot of variety for a small establishment and very tasty. Now that I have revisited and, having a son who lives in Prahran, I have no doubt in the famous words of Arnie, 'I'll be back'.