1228 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98144
The lit-sign for the Vegan Garden beckons from the intersection of Jackson and Rainier at the east end of the International district. I notice it every time I pass by, but never fully believed that its promise would be true, and part of me even wondered whether there was even a restaurant associated with the sign. Found out this evening, and was delightfully surprised to turn into the parking lot sandwiched between two buildings, and find not only a real restaurant but some easy off street parking.
The feel inside the restaurant was large, open and clean. It looked like it tapered a bit towards the back, so there was possibly some cozier seating back there. We ordered our food to go, and the waiter was really friendly and offered water and tea while we waited.
The menu is huge, vegan, leans towards but not entirely to the Vietnamese end of the asian food spectrum, and includes all sorts of fake meats. I tend to shy away from most of the fake meats in these circumstances... not so much for reasons of principle as I just prefere the taste and texture of tofu. We ordered the Shredded tofu rolls and Mongolian Tofu. The Mongolian Tofu comes standard with deep fried tofu, but a substitution for soft tofu was no problem. There was the choice of white or brown rice.
The shredded tofu rolls were exceptionally tasty... full of thin tofu strip fried in some sort of delicious way so that they had a wonderful crunch and rich nuttyness, and a large bunch of dark green lettuce that poofed out one end like a fanciful tubeworm. They came with a sweet pineapple dipping sauce that had a bit of a smoky taste, as if some fake ham had been stewed in it. It was sweeter than what I generally like in a sauce like this, and I ended up just dipping the rolls into a little soy sauce, which was delicious.
The Mongolian tofu was unfortunatly a bit of a dissapointment. I know that anytime I request soft tofu in a dish that usually comes fried, I am sacrificeing some deliciousness and loosing some of the intent of the dish, so I should allow a little bit of softness in my assessment. Regardless, the tofu itself was actually my favorite kind... really soft and silky, almost the texture of firm jello (as opposed to the pourous, slightly spongy stuff you buy in the tub at the grocery store), so I appreciated that. In addition to the tofu were a few red bellpepper slices, and a bed of little whitish-clear fried noodles. The sauce was the unfortunate part... it fell into the sweet and oily category instead of my preference, the salty and spicy category. I initially look a dip into the sauce with my finger, and it came out with a coating of what tasted like pure canola oil. After I mixed it all together, I added some sriracha and a little bit of soy sauce (not the best of circumstances when the excessive sweetness begs excessive saltyness....), and it was edible, but not something I'd order again.
In retrospect, I probably should have ordered something different. I am a sucker for good soft tofu cooked in a spicy sauce, and often look past other intrigueing options to attempt to satisfy this. Some of the other menu options I look forward to ordering sometime are: lotus root salad, tofu congee, tofu curry, spicy tofu noodle soup, and the tofu pho.
While I was not thrilled with my main dish, I'm not ready to write this place off yet. Going to have to go back...