Greetings fellow chowhounds, following is an excerpt of a review i posted on my blog about Golden Era, my favorite veg. restaurant in the city. For the full story with pics go to www.sfcityeats.blogspot.com.
Golden Era specializes in Vegetarian Vietnamese/Chinese cuisine, with an emphasis on meat analogs that will have you taking scraps home to conduct kitchen-sink experiments to make sure its not really meat.
The portions are large and the prices are very reasonable, some might say cheap. The menu is extensive and includes a variety of soups, noodle dishes, favorite fake meat entrees, vegetable items for purists, appetizers, desserts and beverages (non alcoholic). Get the Spicy Gourmet Chicken (9.95), it rocks. Amazingly textured soy chunks are fried up nice and crispy on the outside, juicy and chicken-like on the inside, and covered in a sweet and spicy sauce with lots of ginger and lemongrass. It comes served with florets of broccoli crispy-steamed and vibrantly green.
Another item not to be missed is the Pho (5.50). The menu describes it as a famous Vietnamese savory beef flavor rice noodle soup w/ tofu, gluten, soy protein & bean sprouts. As a vegetarian it is almost impossible to get any pho much less a good pho. Or rather a good faux pho. This one is superior. The broth is flavorful without being overpoweringly spiced. A generous portion of thin rice noodles float (okay, they clump initially) in the bottom and slices of fake ham, gluten, and fried tofu add substance to the dish. The ham is terrifying in its pinkness and haminess. It is also excellent. With each bite I can almost hear a squeal. The pho is served with the requisite bean sprouts, sliced jalapeno peppers, wedges of lime and basil leaves.
We also sampled the Ginger Fish (7.50). It was amazing. It looked like a fish (granted a bottom-feeding one). Its texture was very fish-like. It tasted of fish. It wasnt fish. It came on a platter, filet style but with an incredibly realistic looking seaweed skin wrapped around it. The texture of the skin was a little bit rubbery and taste was very strongly of the ocean. A very intense seaweed flavor. Inside, the meat was white and almost flaky. The flavor was slightly fishy inside, less so than the skin. This was served with a ginger dipping sauce that I would recommend using. It was an amazing rendition of the real thing. I wont get it again.
Appetizers are varied and for the most part good. We had the Tay-Ho rolls (5.95), described as scrumptious steamed rolls stuffed with tofu, carrot, mushroom, steamed bean sprouts & lettuce. I would describe it as cigar-shaped shu mai in a slightly rubbery and gelatinous wrapper filled with lots of tasty stuff and covered in a pile of vegetables and fried onion bits that simulated fried shrimp. The sauce that came with it was excellent. Slightly sweet. Slightly tangy. Although they rolls had a steamed texture, they were a little greasy.
The summer rolls (4.75) Non-fried rice paper rolls w/ lettuce, vermicelli, marinated tofu, soy protein, mint leaves, cilantro. Served w/ peanut sauce were pretty standard. If you like summer rolls, youll like these. I particularly like the peanut sauce that is served along with it.
My favorite appetizer at the moment is the steamed buddah bun (2.25), Steamed dough filled w/ tofu, soy protein, carrot, water chestnuts and bean thread. It is a big doughy soft white mountain of tastiness filled with minced bits of veggies and soy stuff the flavor is excellent both in the dough and in the filling, and there is a nice play of textures.
For desert we had the vegan chocolate mocha cake (3.50). Dark, dense, chocolate-y with a mocha frosting youll actually want to eat instead of scrape off into a sad little reject mound. What more could you ask for? Well, I guess you could as for vegan ice cream (2.50). Not the greatest, not the worst, the ice cream is at its best once its had a little time to melt some of its ice crystals. They also have regular ice cream , vegan and regular caramel flan, and a vegan carrot cupcake.
Highly recommended, and dont forget to pick up some literature on your way out.