GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Govinda server Jeanette Gailloux presents a full vegetarian plate of "Prasad," cauliflower, potatoes and a green pea curry at the Fort Street Mall eatery.
Govinda makes vegetarian choice easy
Paris Hilton has never seemed particularly smart, but, not being acquainted with her, I've always been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. The air-headed heiress bit could truly be an act, in which case, she'd also be a better actress than her role in "House of Wax" would suggest.
But all this courtesy has come to an end in light of her recent driving travails. I mean, how stupid can she be to be driving at all? If I had her money, the first thing I'd do is put a driver on the payroll, and my second hire would be a personal chef to cook delicious, healthful food morning, noon and night. The delicious part is easy enough for most home cooks to achieve on their own. It's the healthful element that always seems to take extra work just because we're so accustomed to fattening, salting and sweetening foods beyond recognition.
With no trust fund in sight, however, it helps to have a Plan B, and Govinda's Vegetarian Cuisine -- a Fort Street Mall satellite of the Hare Krishna-run Govinda's Vegetarian Buffet at 51 Coelho Way -- is quite capable of keeping an entire mass of bootstrapping babies healthy and happy. It does so with a rotating repertoire of vegetarian and vegan dishes, a rarity in Honolulu.
As much as national magazines seem to enjoy putting Honolulu on their lists of healthy cities, I don't believe it. A vegetarian friend recently asked where she could go to get vegetarian dishes that go beyond the typical salads or stir-fries. Alas, the last time we had a dressed-up, sit-down vegetarian restaurant was when Sherrie's Whiteflower Inn was in operation way back in the early '80s. We haven't progressed since then. Healthful eating has come to be relegated to the takeout arena or a select few dishes on a "normal" menu, but I think this town is ready for a change.
ON A BASIC level, Govinda's offers fresh and simple fare. Those weaned on aforementioned fat, salt and sugar will be struck by its purity. But don't mistake this for blandness. Red curry with coconut milk, zucchini and tofu is every bit as flavorful as its Thai counterpart, and even includes the bite of chili peppers. What isn't here is unnecessary salt and oil.
It's the same with nongreasy potato-and-pea-filled samosas ($2.65) that are baked rather than fried, and spanakopita (Greek spinach pie, $2.65) that isn't weighed down by butter-saturated layers of phyllo.
Food is made at the temple and brought in, with two entree choices available daily. It's possible to eat here for a month without repeating a dish. You will find a lot of curries, although the type of curry and ingredients will vary. Standard daily options include the samosas, spanakopita and a homemade brown-rice garden veggie burger ($3.75) with a nutty texture that's moist, rather than dry as with packaged versions.
Prices are right, at $4.50 for a miniplate that includes an entree (it's $7.15 for two choices) with brown rice, green salad and dessert of hallavas (75 cents a la carte). The hallavas is so good, you'd swear it's bad for you, but it's made of semolina flavored with different ingredients for variety's sake. One day it might be peanut butter. Another day it might be bananas or strawberries.
Finish with a refreshing drink of Lemon-Mint Ginger Rush $1.45 for 12 ounces and $1.75 for 20 ounces.
Dishes have so much flavor, that I never miss meat at all. And while I sometimes feel that I'm sabotaging my health by dining out so often, I never get that feeling here due to the combination of healthful foods in proper portions. Those who show up for lunch will leave feeling awake and ready to take on the world, rather than lethargic due to consuming heavier foods.
While much of what we do on a daily basis -- from getting ready to go to work to making food choices -- is rote, a simple thing like stepping in to Govinda's for a taste can open one's eyes to another way of nurturing one's body and elevating one's consciousness as to the purpose of eating. Once you've had a vegetarian enchilada, you might not feel as compelled to order kau yuk or tonkatsu the next time you see them on a menu. A small change in diet can be the tipping point for making changes in other areas of life as well, which might explain why the Krishna are in the food business.
"Govinda," another name for the Hindu deity Krishna, translates as "the protector of the cows, the land and/or one's senses." One of the aims of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is "to propagate spiritual knowledge ... and to educate all peoples in the techniques of spiritual life in order to check the imbalance of values in life and to achieve real unity and peace in the world."