Vegetarian Palate is located at 258 Flatbush Avenue
"All 'meat', 'poultry', and 'seafood' menu items are made from soy protein, wheat gluten, and vegetable products."
My first trip there was two weeks ago, during their grand opening. They were giving away complementary lunches. Being poor, I had to go try some out. I wanted to order something a little obscure, because it's my experience with places that serve pho meats, i.e. vege paradise II, etc. that the weirder the type of meat that is trying to be mocked, the more interesting and creative the plate. I ordered the Sugar Cane Drumsticks, described as "Breaded soy protein and fresh herbs wrapped around raw sugarcane, served with thai sauce." I expected something similar to the shrimp paste wrapped around sugarcane you get at some vietnamese restaurants. What came out was amazing. It was like chicken salad, pressed and shake and baked dark brown, balled up half-fist-sized around sugar cane. There were five on the plate. Several of the people I was eating with split one of them and were satisfied and also amazed. I got a soup for a main course, the Buddha's Noodle Soup. Described as "A traditional combination of chinese gourmet vegetables and mushrooms". That was a mistake. Someone I was eating with ordered the Miso Soup. It had carrots and celery in it. Kindof strange, but come on- if you are going to get miso at a chinese restaurant, no matter how unconventionally chinese the place is, can you really expect to get traditional japanese miso soup? Nah. So she kindof got what she deserved. In my opinion, stay away from the soups- stick with the pho meats. She ordered vegetarian spring rolls, "vegan rolls filled with cabbage, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots and soy protein." They looked good. The outsides were flakey and the insides were varied, not just a bunch of cabbage and mushrooms, but alot of things inside. One of the people I was eating with ordered sesame chicken, which I don't see on the menu right now, but she was expecting crispy chicken coated in a sesame seed candied crunch batter, in a sticky sauce. I've seen the dish she was expecting at americanised chinese restaurants before, but what she got was different. It looked more like a pan saute, so the crunchiness wasn't there. I think the problem with the dish was her expectation of what it was going to be, but that didn't stop her from giving it the thumbs down. My other friend got vegetarian beef with broccoli, "premium vegetarian soy beef sauteed with broccoli in brown sauce". It's hard to please this guy. He loved it. I did too.
I decided to go back last night with my girlfriend. We split the vegetable roast duck appetizer. "made with pressed bean curd". The portion was large. A forearmed oblong dish filled with the stuff, a little tomato garnish, and plenty of that sweet soy duck dipping sauce that I can't get enough of. No suprises here, but it was right on nonetheless. (I can't wait to go back to east corner wonton for real duck sometime soon. Eating that last night really made me crave that place.) We ate the entire plate of pressed bean curd. Yummish. For our main course we split the crispy eel. That's under house specials, people. A little secret? You can't get the house specials off of the take out menu. You have to be there. It's totally worth it though. Shitake mushrooms seemed to be dehydrated, rehydrated, pulled, lightly battered, crispy fried, and then candied- topped with a little cilantro- WOW. Good stuff. I can't wait to go back to hit some more of those house specials.
Just as a saucey side note, Corn Starch is a major player here. Their dipping sauce for the spring rolls was duck sauce. The thai sauce I got for the sugar cane drumsticks was ducksauce-like in consistancy, although the sweetness wasn't there, with killer chinese red pepper oil. I loved it so much I asked for red pepper oil on side, and the guy who ordered the beef with brocolli slathered it on. He said it made his dish.
Other perks were an extensive juice menu, some smoothies too. They don't sit you down with chopsticks, but if you ask for them you won't get disposable ones. They give you nice ones like you would expect in someone's home. Nice touch. They have several different types of teas for you to choose from, but it's not assumed that you will have tea. They were very interested in our opionions of everything, and asked if we would make any changes to any of the dishes, so we gave them feedback which they really appreciated. That's a good sign.
However, the service was a little slow. It didn't bother me though, because everyone was so nice and genuinely seemed like they wanted to help and be attentive. I think they got in a little over their heads though. This place is going to blow up soon- do they know it? Are they ready for the can of worms they've opened? I think service is only going to get more spotty as people hear about this place.
Some of the things I haven't tried but might on the menu, other than the house specials are their weirder things, such as the vegetarian goose, vegetarian whole fish, vegetarian turkey(with all the fixins), Crispy Soul Chicken, "soy chicken breaded with panko breakcrumbs, rosemary, basil and oregano. Served with a hickory smoke mustard sauce." woah. what could that be like?
As far as decor, there are 'window boxes' built onto the wall with plastic 'stained glass'. It kindof reminds me of Arby's.
As far as the croud, the first time I was there the place was empty. The second time, you could see that the word had started to get out. Pretty soon, there's going to be a line out the door. I have to admit, I'm usually the person that sits in the corner and sneers and glares at people who are loud at restaurants. If someone isn't considerate of others, it really effects my meal. I am a member of the park slope food coop, so I am very familiar with the type of croud a health consious place can attract in Park Slope. As this place gains in popularity, which it will, I imagine that I will have to start bringing ear plugs and blinders to function. I know - I'm crazy. Thank goodness this place is open until midnight most nights so I can avoid the unmannered leigons without unleashing my incredible 'use your inside voice' tantrum of fury. Okay, I'll stop now.
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