I had some visitors in town this weekend, and we ended up eating at two different vegan restaurants. I had never been to either, and I really liked them both.
At Golden Era, we shared the following:
- Vietnamese crepe (banh xeo) - Aside from the lack of shrimp, this was a pretty typical rendition of this dish. The crepe was nice and crispy, and was filled with bits of chopped tofu, bean sprouts, and mushrooms. I thought it would have been fine w/ out the mushrooms, since they were a bit undercooked, but that was my only complaint. Served with lettuce for wrapping, and mint and cilantro and a sweet vinegar dipping sauce w/ carrots/daikon.
-Drumsticks - Fake chicken meat, deep fried. The "meat" was nice and stringy, and the "bone" was a piece of sugarcane. Served with a spicy ketchup which I disliked -- I used the leftover dipping sauce from the banh xeo which was much better. I posted a picture of this here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8567...
-Garden vermicelli - Also very similar to versions of this dish at any other Vietnamese restaurant, but with fake meat (soy chicken) instead of real meat. Vegetables were nice and fresh.
-Spicy Sweet Potato Curry - Similar to a Thai yellow curry, with pieces of fake chicken, chunks of sweet potato, and some other veggies. We ate this with brown rice. Nothing particularly special, but had a nice balance of flavor despite lack of any fish sauce.
-Okras' lover: The menu lists this as "soy protein, okras, cabbage, onion, lemongrass, and coconut milk." The soy protein was in little meatballs, and I thought they were really good. Also spicy, and the most meat-like thing we had in the whole meal. The pieces of okra weren't mushy, but had still absorbed a lot of the flavorful, lemongrassy sauce. A really interesting dish overall.
Various iced teas were good, service was fine, and I thought Golden Era was quite a nice vegan restaurant. Lots of variety on the menu, and our meal had lots of interesting flavors. All three of the omnivores at the table enjoyed it.
At Gracias Madres, I tried the following:
- Horchata - Not too sweet, and not overly cinnamony. Very good.
- Coconut ceviche - Uses young coconut in place of fish, and was served with tortilla chips. Pretty good, but the coconut didn't really add that much for me. It was similar to eating a very lime-flavored salsa. But serving was generous and it was very fresh.
- Sauteed greens w/ chili and garlic - tonight it was kale. It was fine and very fresh, but not that different from kale I make at home.
-Tacos: fried plantain tacos were excellent, with sweet plantains and smooth "cashew cream" Mushroom taco was fine. Black bean puree served with the tacos was excellent.
I also had bites of the escabeche, empanada, and tamal. All were good (thought I thought the tamal was a bit dry). I thought the service at Gracias Madre was excellent, and I liked the overall vibe. The food felt healthy and creative, with lots of good flavors. Again, all of the omnivores enjoyed the meal quite a bit!
I would happily return to either restaurant, and I think any vegetarians or vegans would be quite happy at both places!