Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thai Recipe

Thai Recipe is located in the dingy stripmall at McClellen and Rainier alongside Schucks, Nail Studio 206 and a Dominos Pizza. I'd long heard rumors that it was actually a good place for Thai food, and recently gave it a shot with dinner to go.

When I entered the restaurant, I found it to be a respite of calm and cleanliness. The staff were friendly, the ambiance pleasant, and the food smelled great.

I ordered phad kee mao, and my dining companion ordered a ginger dish. The waitress understood veganism and alerted me that their chili paste has shrimp in it, but that they could indeed proceed with a vegan version of my dish as long as I didn't mind it possibly little different tasting from a standard phad kee mao. No problem!

And for a dish that is by nature stripped of some of its key components (egg, fish sauce, shrimp paste), it was dang tasty! It wasn't just an oily glob like vegan phad kee mao often is.

The ginger tofu dish was good too.

It is nice to discover another good south end Thai option, and this one had good things going for it:

1. I think you could go in as a vegan and describe an approximate dish you'd like (Noodles or rice? Fried or fresh tofu? Spicy or not? Veggies?) and they would make something to fit your needs.
2. They understand that shrimp paste and fish sauce are not vegetarian
3. The tofu dishes are in the $7-8 range instead of in the $10-11 "fancy" Thai range

The only downside was that we both ordered our dishes 4/4 stars, and they were still relatively mild (for spice lovers anyhow). If you actually want it spicy, you might have to ask them to turn it up to 11.

Thai Recipe on Urbanspoon

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Olive Garden

Once again: I had an excessive and somewhat irrational excitement about visiting the Olive Garden. I almost always have it before going to a big chain restaurant, even though I am simultaneously totally disgusted at all of the obvious things to be disgusted over. Maybe it is the marketing that leads me to believe that I will have a fun, lighthearted, hilarious, delicious time while dining there. Maybe it is the promise of copious quantities of salty fatty junky food that is outside what I usually eat but that I, a mere mortal, enjoy. Maybe it the idea of free all you can eat ____ that appeals to some past life depression survival. Who knows.

Anyhow, tonight, after driving around lost in a suburban mallhole neighborhood of Lynwood for much too long, I landed at the Olive Garden for a birthday party. The parking lot was packed.

This I knew: The Olive Garden is famous for all you can eat bread sticks and salad. They craftily started us off with the bread sticks, warm, soft, dipped in some addicting lubricant and sprinkled with salty garlic flavored crack. After everybody was nearly bursting with bread, they brought on the salad.
Slide on in big boy

It consisted of all you can eat iceburg with carrots, olives, pepperoncinies, red onions, croutons, Parmesan cheese and a sharp vinegary dressing surely calculated to reduce the amount of salad that patrons can shovel in. Luckily I have an almost addicted hankering for vinegar and ate and ate long after the salad excitement had ebbed from the table.

There are plenty of things for a vegetarian to order (probably not so for a vegan... salad? spaghetti with marinara?). After a moment of curious temptation, I bypassed the deep fried lasagna bits (no joke) and ordered baked ziti. Another vegetarian ordered portobello ravioli with smoked cheese and sun dried tomato sauce.

Good crust on the baked ziti

Food came and I must admit appealed to the part of me evolved for a simpler time. Plenty of salt. Plenty of starch. Plenty of fat. And with the addition of red pepper flakes (special request), plenty of spice. It wasn't exactly complex or healthful or inexpensive, but I wasn't expecting it to be.

Lots of good smoky flavor in the ravioli sauce.

At the end of the meal, the birthday girl (Sweet 16!) ordered a massive chocolate gelato that arrived with a chorus of Lynwood's finest apron-ed beefcakes singing her a birthday tune.

Happy Birthday A!

Olive Garden on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Flying Squirrel

I finally made it to the much loved Flying Squirrel Pizza down here in Lakewood (also often identified as Mt. Baker, Columbia City, or Seward Park), and I am pleased to say that I finally agree with some pizza hype.

We started our meal with an Arugula Salad, which was a big pile of spicy arugula with toasted pine nuts and snowy fresh shaved Parmesan in a light lemon dressing. I liked it.

We split our pizza between Roy's BBQ (made with Roy's smoked chicken and BBQ sauce, his side), and half Mamma Lil's spicy peppers, fresh basil and fresh garlic (my side).

Everything you've heard about this pizza is true: the ingredients are fresh and local when possible and plentifully distributed (hey "Napoli" style pizzerias, take note!) the crust is chewy AND crisp, not too thin, not too thick, the sauce is flavorful without being overpowering... it's good.

The ambiance is a little bit "cooler" than anything else we've got down here (save for Georgetown), but I can't imagine it feeling dauntingly so to any demographic. Potential downsides: it can be crowded and is on the expensive side, however, even with the coolness and the crowds, the parking is always easy. Come south!

Flying Squirrel Pizza Co. on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ruffage Natural Foods

After a brisk early morning hike up Koko Crater (AKA Kohelepelepe, said to be the imprint left by the vagina of Pele's sister Kapo), an Oah'u friend and I chased down a restaurant that I had read about: Ruffage Natural Foods on Kuhio in Waikiki in Honolulu.

The place is part health food store, part juice bar, part restaurant, and I was stoked to see many concerted vegetarian and vegan choices (there were meat options as well) on the menu. He ordered a vegetarian burrito that came full of beans and avocado and smothered in vegan chili.

I ordered the vegetarian chili dog, which came on a soft bun with pickled jalapenos, vegan chili and cheddar cheese.
The food was a little bit pricey for the quantity, but I am always happy to find a healthy, vegan/vegetarian refuge. Thanks K for showing me around!

Ruffage Natural Foods on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Gyoza No Ohsho

I also spent a couple of days in Waikiki on Oahu at the tail end of my trip to Hawaii. Much of the food available in Waikiki is either expensive and seafood/steak related (lots of fancy sushi), or a chain (California Pizza Kitchen, Cheesecake Factory, Subway etc), or simply not vegetarian friendly ("authentic" Asian, mostly Korean, Japanese or Chinese, hole-in-the-wall type places). And so it was with great pleasure that I discovered "Mapo Tofu Ramen" on the menu at the Japanese restaurant Gyoza No Ohsho in the bizarre but somewhat pleasing King's Village.

I asked the waitress if it could be made vegetarian, and after telling me that it beat the whole point, (I gently persisted with the greatest politeness and kindness, what other option is there for a vegetarian in a meat world?), she conceded that they could indeed make it vegan (water instead of chicken stock, no pork). Excellent!

I love a good bowl of tofu noodle soup, and this was not disappointing. The tofu was in a glossy, spicy tasty sauce and the noodles were hearty and perfectly cooked. I added some spiced oil, some nanami togarashi (mixed ground chili peppers), and some white pepper from the condiment tray and I was in heaven. The bowl cost a little under $9 without tip or tax.

My friends and saviors

I think I've found my Waikiki mainstay!

Gyoza No Ohsho on Urbanspoon