Went to Roxanne's last night for a pre-Valentine's Day meal. The restaurant is a very interesting concept, but not one worth a second visit.
For those of you who don't know the place, Larkspur-based Roxanne's is a high-end vegan restaurant, where nothing is ever heated to a temperature above 110 degrees. Apparently, anything above that point results in enzymes being destroyed. I can't claim to fully understand the significance of destroying a few enzymes, but this is concept, nonetheless.
Roxanne's creates vegan replicas of familar dishes -- pad thai, lasagna, tortilla soup, etc. The key ingredients are apparently almond milk and young coconuts, which seem to be ubquitous on the menu.
The end result is food that is more novel than it is satisfying. The pad thai (which I understand is the most popular item) is the one dish that can lay claim to being equal parts inventive, tasty, and filling. For those of you wondering..no, there are no cooked noodles in the pad thai at Roxannes. The chef, instead, uses young coconut meat, which (amazingly enough) does a fair job of replicating the texture of a genuine noodle.
However, aside from the Pad Thai, most dishes fall flat either b/c of insufficient quantity or insufficient temperature. Let's face it, soup is best served hot and steamy. The flavors of the tortilla soup were just fine, but tepid soup leaves one feeling quite unfulfilled. This is an example of where slavish devotion to a philosophy (don't heat food above 110 degrees) results in a clearly inferior product. Just heat the soup! It can still be perfectly vegan AND it will taste good.
My tamales should have been re-christened Tamal-LESS. There was nothing on the plate beside two little ovals, no bigger than a toddler's thumbs. Again, the taste was fine, but there was nothing on the plate to eat. At that point, I was seriously considering a stop at Taqueria (Sir Francis Drake and College) on the way home.
Service was quite friendly. We really liked out waitress. Also, the prices aren't horrible for a nice restaurant.
Bottom line is that Roxanne's is a very unique experience. I doubt there's another restaurant like it in the country. However, I can't see anyone going back a second time. It's fun to experience something this unique, but ultimately a restaurant has to deliver a more satisfying meal experience to earn repeat business.
I would only recommend a vist if you are the sort who has eaten out everywhere and is kind of bored with the same old thing. If, on the other hand, you're the kind who only gets out occcasionally (due to kids, budget concerns, whatever) then you're better off going someplace where you'll enjoy the food, not just giggle appreciatively at the concept, like at Roxanne's.
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