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There are so many vegetarian/vegan Chinese and Vietnamese joints in the South Bay that they've become replicas of one another, serving the exact same ingredients in nearly identical preparations. Variations on a theme, I guess (the sole exception would be Garden Fresh in Palo Alto, which is unusual, fresh and innovative).

Royal Greens, sadly, is middling.

We started off with an order of Royal Greens' Special Rolls ($7) which were deep-fried tofu skins wrapped around taro and some mock chicken. While this sounded good in theory, in reality it was really tough, chewy and dry. The addition of vegetables to the inside would have improved the dryness, as would have a side dipping sauce.

For our main course we had a Three Flavors Tofu hotpot ($10), a Salt and Pepper Veggie Chicken ($10) and a Basil Eggplant ($9).

The Three Flavors tofu was just a sizzling hotpot filled with soft tofu, some bell peppers and mushrooms, and carrots. The sauce they cooked the dish in was too thick and corn starch-laden for my likes and, in the end, the dish felt like a really simple stir-fry you could have made at home.

The Salt and Pepper Chicken consisted of fried fake chicken doused with black pepper. This dish tasted a lot like chicken mcnuggets, in my opinion. The biggest issue was that the chicken took on a spongy texture, rather than a firm one, which didn't create a pleasant mouthfeel. I would not order this dish again.

Lastly, the Basil Eggplant was decent and consisted of stir-fried eggplant with some vegetables, basil and wheat gluten. It was a competent stir-fry; nothing more, nothing less.

I've been to 16 different fake meat Chinese or Vietnamese joints in the Bay Area alone and I'm pretty sick of them. None of them serve interesting food, for the most part, though a few do better than others. Garden Fresh in Palo Alto is by far the best, and I also think Greens Vegan in Milpitas, and Lang Chay in San Jose stand out from the pack. In many ways, it's great that vegans and vegetarians have so much choice in the Bay Area, particularly for East Asian and South Asian food; on the other hand, there's very little quality, and Royal Greens is emblematic of that.

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