Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thanh Vi

(Back in Seattle!)

Thanh Vi has a couple of locations around town, including one on the Ave in the U. District. I recently went to this location looking for a cheap, fresh and savory dinner, the usual desires that send me to a Vietnamese restaurant.

I was pleased to see that Thanh Vi has a large section of menu dedicated to Vegetarian items, including multiple vegan broth phos and a handful of vermicelli bowls. I chose my usual favorite, the lemongrass tofu vermicelli bowl, aka Bun Dao Hu Xao Xa (can't figure out all the accent marks to really make that right!).

The upsides of the dish were that it had WAY more veggies than usual... bell peppers, celery, carrots, cucumber, green onions, in addition to the regular lettuce and white onion. Down sides were that it was really light on herbs, not at all spicy, and I found the lemongrass paste to be a little mealy and bland. Another downside was that the bowl of sauce that came with it had fish sauce in it (always taste it first!). I was surprised about this because of how generally vegetarian (vegan) friendly their menu looked, and when I asked the waiter if they had a vegan version, he told me that there was already enough sauce on the dish without the bowl, and the bowl was just extra for dipping if I wanted. Hmm.

It's hard to complain about an inexpensive, huge bowl of fresh ingredients, but I can say that I have had much better versions of this dish elsewhere. (And the recent stellar version at King of Pho in Auburn might have seriously spoiled me!)

Thanh Vi (University Way) on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 23, 2011

Burma Superstar

I LOVE eating in San Francisco, and it's always a tough call determining which restaurants will make the cut on a short trip. This time I decided to try the extremely popular Burma Superstar. Burma Superstar doesn't take reservations, but they will call your cellphone when your table becomes available so it is possible (and recommended) to check in and then go have a beer elsewhere while you wait.

Once in to the busy, cozy restaurant, my dining companion and I drank white wine sangria with Asian pear, lychee and oranges.

We started with a traditional Burmese Tea Leaf Salad, which came to the table with compartmentalized ingredients: Romain lettuce, toasted peanuts, fried garlic, split yellow peas, toasted sunflower seeds, toasted sesame seeds, chopped tomato, fresh jalapeno, lemon, and a wet pile of fermented finely chopped tea leaves. If you don't order it vegetarian style, it also includes dried shrimp.

The waiter then mixed the salad at the table. It was spectacular. I don't think I've ever had a better salad than this... the mix of textures and savory and bright flavors was absolutely incredible. The fermented tea leaves reminded me a little bit of the salty briny flavor of capers, and added a really interesting dimension to the overall flavor. I would come to Burma Superstar for this salad alone!

In addition to a designated vegetarian portion of the menu, Burma Superstar indicates on their menu that many of their meat dishes can also be made vegetarian (which, I believe means vegan in this restaurant's vernacular). Awesome.

My meat eating dining companion kindly ordered vegetarian so that we could both try multiple dishes. We ordered the Shan Noodles, vegetarian style, described as rice noodles in a spicy tomato sauce with pickled radish, cilantro, peanuts and tofu. Similar in presentation to the salad, the Shan Noodles came to the table with compartmentalized garnishes that the waiter stirred in as we watched.
Shan Noodles Pre-stir

Shan Noodles Post-Stir

We also ordered a Tofu Vegetable Kebat, which consisted of tofu with onions, tomatoes, squash, carrots, green chilis and mint leaves. This was eaten over rice.

I'd never had Burmese food before this, and it really was different from any other culinary ethnicity I've ever eaten. All of the dishes tasted different from what I'd expected based upon how they looked. To best describe it, I'd say the dishes have the earthiness of Indian food, the fresh herb flavors of Vietnamese food, the sourness of Korean food, and the dry/fresh pepper heat and roasted flavors of Thai food.

With reasonable prices and friendly service, I'm not surprised this place is as ragingly popular as it is!

Burma Superstar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 19, 2011


In Santa Cruz now...
There were a few things that drew me to Buttery right off the bat: First off, the name sounds delectable. Second, rumors about the horrible service were all over the internet, and I am always interested in seeing what it's truly like in a place where people claim they turn around and leave because the couldn't get anybodies attention to take their orders.

I went at lunch time, and the amazing smelling cafe/bakery was bustling. That said, I had no problem at all standing in line and ordering my sandwich in the normal way. I got an avocado and jack sandwich on whole wheat bread.

The sandwich was tasty... it felt like something I'd make myself at home. I liked the little cornichons on the plate.

Sitting in the cafe smelling the bakery was a fantastic sort of torture, and after finishing the savory part of lunch I made a beeline for the pastry case. There was another option for the ordering process to go south... Buttery has a spool of numbered tickets in a wall dispenser and attempt to conduct business based on ticket number. That said, the minute I got close to the baked goods, just scoping out my options before I even had a ticket, an employee noticed me and asked if she could get me anything. There was nothing unfriendly or difficult about the process at all.

And the macaroon that I got (and unfortunately didn't take a picture of) was, hands down, the best macaroon I have ever eaten. It was perfectly moist and chewy with beautifully caramelized outer ridges. It was a real work of art!

Buttery on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pizza my Heart

I was in Santa Cruz maybe a decade ago when I first came across Pizza my Heart. I remember it then as being a cool, independant pizza shop with awesome pizza. For this reason, I was especially excited to find out that there was now an outpost in Monterey, near where I was staying.

Turns out Pizza my Heart is now a small chain, and the interior of the restaurant had a small chain feel, which was sort of a detractor for me. That said, they had a vegetarian pizza that was right up my alley: The Linda Mar, made with broccoli, artichoke hearts, fresh tomatoes, spinach, fresh garlic and black olives. YUM. This pizza was very vegetable heavy, which I completely enjoyed.

Pizza my Heart now has custom made hot sauce too... habenero, jalapeno and chipotle.

Another thing Pizza my Heart has going for it is some serious condiments. In addition to their 3 custom made hot sauces, they have this awesome little rack full of herbs and spices and delicious things to sprinkle on your pizza as you desire.

I guess the world keeps changing, and it's a good thing that these guys are doing so well!

Pizza My Heart on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 13, 2011

Big Sur Bakery

The Tofu Hunter just spent some time in California, so the next few posts are going to reflect my eating adventures while down in the sunshine.

We began in the gorgeous Big Sur area. It's always tricky to determine when to splurge on local delicacies when traveling, and the upscale yet back-to-the earth combination of Big Sur lead me to believe that a nice meal here would be a good idea. My dining companion and I chose the much revered Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant for what I had hoped would be a artfully and exquisitly prepared feast. I had also assumed that, in what felt like a sort of a fancy neo-hippy establishement (they have a rustic outbuilding bathroom, for example), I would be in a haven of vegetarian delights. It wasn't exactly the case.

Turns out the Big Sur Bakery isn't really set up for vegetarians. They have a small and pricey menu with wood fired pizzas, meat dishes and vegetables dishes to go alongside. The waitress told me that (depending upon how hungry I was), the vegetable dishes could indeed serve as a full meal, so I gave it a shot. My dining companion and I both ordered off of the (~$13 each) vegetable side dish portion of the menu.

I ordered the roasted vegetables, which were exactly true to the description: some tiny beets, a little carrots, some fennel slices and some bok choi. Not bad (hard to go wrong with roasted veggies), but pretty meager in quantity.

My dining companion ordered the risotto, which came with fava beans, asparagus and peas with basil oil. It was extremely savory and delicious, and together we promptly polished off the teeny tiny serving. I had assumed that it was vegetarian, but found out later that all that savoryness was actually coming from a rich chicken stock. Ah.

I think that if I ate meat, and had come here with the lavish intent of ordering a $15 appetizer, $30 meat dish, and a $13 vegetable side, I might have had a very different impression of my meal. As it was, my attempt to have a fancy, local vegetarian meal by way of an overpriced veggie side dish was sort of pathetic.

Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Pub at Third Place

I was recently at the Pub at Third Place for a big ol' gathering of friends. The menu had a Greek/Middle East style bend to it and had all sorts of delicious looking options, and I made a classic mistake that is typical of me: I ordered lamely.

Instead of ordering a big fresh falafal sandwich with piping hot pub fries, I ordered a plate of roasted garbanzo beans and a plate of beets. The garbanzo beans were billed as Spicy Chickpeas with aleppo, cayenne, ancho & ghost chilis. Sounded awesome. The reality was more a drinkin' snack than a meal... they were very salty, very greasy, and very much not at all spicy. Between the aleppo, the cayenne, the ancho and the (for god sake!) ghost chili, I would have anticipated a little tongue warming and was disappointed when it wasn't there.

The second thing I ordered was a beet salad. I love beets, and this dish was advertised as roasted beets with parsley and cumin in walnut oil. Sounded Delicious. Unfortunately, the reality was mealy beets absolutely overwhelmed with a cumin paste so strong I couldn't eat the dish. Dang!

I should have ordered any of the number of other delicious sounding things on the menu... salads, braised greens, butternut squash soup, the afore mentioned falaful and fries, hummus, green olive tapenade, the list goes on. I am pretty sure the problem was, overall, my ordering choices. So it goes!

Pub at Third Place on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 2, 2011

Open Water Swimming

Alright, all you awesome, healthy vegetarian readers... who wants to go swimming this summer? Seattle Open Water has classes ranging from 1 session to 5 weeks and specialize in folks (many of whom are doing triathlons) who are just becoming acquainted with lake swimming.
Check out for course listings!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Belltown Pizza

So... I had had a long week at work, but maintained the noble intent to go home and cook up some dinner from the odds and ends already in the kitchen. As I dragged arse walking my tired self through Belltown with my dining companion, he busted past me and followed his nose right into the front door of Belltown Pizza, where the intoxicating aroma of fresh pizza pulled him off the street. By time I followed behind him, he had already ordered us each a couple of slices of this vegetarian delight and the idea of going home and cooking dinner was merrily on its way.

I hardly cared what else was on there... I was easy to please and 100% sold at the Jalapeno slices alone. Turns out the pizza was pretty darn good... thin crust, good sauce, etc. I guess I don't spend much time eating in Belltown, otherwise this might be a mainstay, especially because they sell by the slice. Pepped me back up!

Belltown Pizza on Urbanspoon