Monday, January 1, 2007

A New Vegetarian Blog is born

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

  1. The check came to around $35 without tips. They don't take plastic and also don't serve alcohol yet.
  2. 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.

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