One of the shared passions that brought V and me together is our love for good vegetarian food. I floated the idea of writing a blog on our vegetarian culinary experiences and he jumped in with gusto.. and it has come to pass.
V treated me to a great time in the Mission district in San Francisco to ring in 2007! No, we did not party into the night at "Amnesia" or indulge in a fancy six-course New Year's eve dinner at one of the high-end establishments.
Instead, like everything else in our life so far, it was by complete serendipity that V spotted Cha-Ya, a Japanese vegan restaurant on Valencia at 18th. We have a special place in our hearts for Japanese vegetarian food since one of our early dates was at the Cha-Ya in Berkeley.
Dinner was exceptionally good. We ordered "Goma-ae (Sesame greens)", "Dengaku (Eggplant and Tofu)", and "Gyoza (Pot stickers)" as sides and the Vege-Tofu Curry noodles as the main dish. Other than the Gyoza, which we made a mental note not to order again, everything else was top-notch.
- Goma-ae, my all-time favorite Japanese appetizer usually comes in a fish-sauce dressing which means I have to fore-go it. The Goma-ae at Cha-Ya had beautiful deep green spinach and broccolini with a sesame-based sweet dressing to die for.
- Our favorite new experience however was the Dengaku. Wikipedia says that Dengaku is a Japanese harvest festival, but a little more internet surfing revealed that Dengaku refers to vegetables grilled with a miso dressing. Artistically arranged on our plate at Cha-Ya, there was peeled broiled soft greenish eggplant, tofu and portobello mushroom, all coated with a golden-brown miso glaze.
- And finally the kare-noodles was made of soba noodles and a variety of vegetables in a curry broth. In Tokyo, one can find any number of kare-raisu lunch joints. Possibly India's lone culinary influence, Japanese curry sauce is sweeter and is quite easy to prepare with the ready-made roux available in most grocery stores.
- When we saw that the tea being served was "dip tea", V canceled the green tea that we had ordered.
V adds the following bullets to my list:
- The check came to around $35 without tips. They don't take plastic and also don't serve alcohol yet.
- We didn't try the dessert in this packed veggie mart as we had yearning for the Bombay Ice Cream factory near 16th and Valencia. More on the experience on a later post.
Oh, V's new year gift to me is "Samayal", a South-Indian Vegetarian cookbook by Viji Varadarajan. More on that later.