Succeeding Kan Kee as the Worst Restaurant of the Month is Su Xi Cafe. This is the story of their non-vegetarianism and cynical attempt at deception.
To state the starting point once again; the fundamental tenet behind a business that bills itself as vegetarian must be this:-
- The onus is on that business to ensure everything they sell is vegetarian
This is no different for example from the way a kosher business is philosophically required to ensure everything they sell is kosher. And the way a halal business is philosophically required to ensure everything they sell is halal.
Around a month ago I visited Su Xi Cafe and asked to speak with the person in charge. I spoke with a lady named Mandy. This was to ask the sort of questions we usually ask to find out how serious a restaurant is in their vegetarianism. The usual starting points we ask about are cheese (often manufactured with slaughtered animal rennet), booze (often manufactured with stuff like fish extract, cow or pig gelatin) and ice cream (sometimes manufactured with ingredients such as gelatin or cow tallow). The responses we were given at that point by Mandy at Su Xi were:-
- We use lacto cheese but this is just regular cheese. We don’t verify it’s vegetarian
- We use white wine in cooking but this is just regular white wine. We don’t verify it’s vegetarian
- We sometimes sell ice cream but it’s just regular ice cream. We don’t verify it’s vegetarian
A thoroughly unimpressive start. Mandy then passed us over to another lady in her team who gave us the same response. That person then gave us this comment; “We’re not really a vegetarian restaurant. We are a health food restaurant”.
Where to start in response to such a nonsensical statement? We could go on at length about how there’s nothing healthy for people in eating animal products. Of course it’s even less healthy for the animals. Let’s though be consistent with the usual theme behind this monthly award; restaurant misrepresentation and false advertising.
- This is from the Su Xi facebook page:-
In at least two separate places in clear English they bill Su Xi as vegetarian.
2. This is a promo flier they have available at the door:-
Regrettably my abilities in reading traditional Chinese are still very poor. However, one of the best things about living in Hong Kong is there’s millions of people who excel in that rich, sophisticated language. So from tapping into that deep reservoir of Chinese culture I am reliably informed that on that flier:-
- The first sentence states, “Healthy vegetarian cuisine”
- The second sentence states, “Vegetarian dishes can also be hearty and nutritious”
3. The name of the cafe in Chinese is 素喜館. Again tapping into the wonderful Chinese knowledge available in Hong Kong:-
- “素” is the first word of this cafe’s name in Chinese
- The Chinese character “素” (Su) – in the significant majority but not all of its usage means “vegetarian”
- The advertising material of this establishment repeatedly uses vegetarian as the key principle of the restaurant
- Thus the word “素” in the restaurant name has been used knowing full well it can be interpreted as meaning vegetarian by at least some people (and probably lots of people)
And a person at Su Xi tried to justify not caring about selling dead animal parts by claiming they are not a vegetarian restaurant? Based on the starting tenet near the top of this article I agree that they aren’t a vegetarian restaurant. The marketing of this establishment as a vegetarian cafe though is false advertising on their part. The verbal comment of, “We’re not a vegetarian restaurant”, seems a particularly cynical attempt to deceive.
On revisiting Su Xi yesterday Mandy said:-
- They still use lacto cheese that they haven’t verified as vegetarian
- They still use white wine that they haven’t verified as vegetarian
- They don’t sell any ice cream (so this doesn’t currently appear to be an issue)
As said when assigning this award each month, it’s attention to detail that matters. If restaurant management are prepared to cut corners with these ingredients they sell customers, with what else are they misleading people in selling that is non-vegetarian?
It thus gives me no joy (vegetarian or otherwise) to say that Su Xi Cafe is the latest HK veg worst restaurant of the month since:-
- They take short cuts rather than ensure that everything they sell is vegetarian
- They are happy to try to deceive people with the information they communicate verbally and in their marketing material