Reviews written by Vivek R

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I'm vegetarian
Registered on Jun 14 11
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Encuentro Cafe and Wine Bar in East Bay, California
Jan 7 13

rating star

Encuentro is one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in the Bay Area. But having been there 2-3 times, I must caution any first-timer that your experience will vary a lot depending on what you order. Everyone should order the small plate that has "Marinated mushrooms with smoked pecan pate, cornichon, house made prune chutney, mustard and crisp crostini". The combination of flavors is exquisite. The first time my wife and I tried it, we were rocking back and forth for several seconds with our eyes closed, making "Mmmm" noises.

The kale salad or mixed greens are very good, though not as sensational as the small plate described above. The entrees and desserts change over time, so I don't have any specific recommendations, and your luck with them may vary. For example, one time I tried their vegan chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and it was marvelous. The second time I tried it, or something that looked and sounded very similar, it had a somewhat chalky and dry taste.

If you're vegan, any of the dishes involving cheese can be made with macadamia- or cashew-based "cheese". The wines are pretty good too, but I didn't investigate whether they are vegan -- I assume most wines have animal products somewhere in their manufacturing process.

Nature's Express in East Bay, California
Jun 14 11

rating star

All organic, all vegan, and on the menus is a wonderful vegetable juice made from beets, carrots, kale, cucumber, apples, ginger, garlic, and lemon (can choose any combination thereof for a flat price of $4.95, so I said "No garlic, but give me everything else"). I was really thrilled with it, and haven't found anything comparable in other juice places. The rest of the menu looked really attractive too, but I was in between meals so I didn't get a chance to try anything. I'll be back for sure

Hugo's in Los Angeles, California
Dec 1 12

rating star

Although not entirely vegan, Hugo's has some of the best vegan food I've eaten, and I look forward to going back to L.A. just so I can try it again. We went there for dinner, and had their bruschetta for starters, topped with red pepper hummus, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, spinach, and pesto. It was more flavorful than most variants of bruschetta I've had over the years. My entree was the Earth Stew with butternut squash, mushrooms, greens, and assorted vegetables, hearty and rich in flavor. It is unfortunately not that common to find a vegan restaurant that does a great job of cooking vegetables (as opposed to imitation meat), but Hugo's is one of them.

Finally, the dessert is what will keep me coming back to Hugo's no matter what. I had a huge slice of the chocolate fudge brownie torte with the vegan chocolate frosting. I'm quite happy that I live in a city 400 miles away, because if I lived close enough to eat there regularly, I would do myself damage by indulging too heavily and too often.

The Vegan Joint in Los Angeles, California
Dec 1 12

rating star

My wife and I were pretty happy with the meal we had at The Vegan Joint, and wouldn't mind trying it again on a future visit to L.A. Be warned that most of the food is somewhat oily, so if you're concerned about the health aspect, you might need to make some special requests to reduce the fat content of your meal. The prices are very reasonable. The interior decor is fairly basic, but the staff is pleasant and friendly.

I had a Lentil Brown Rice burger on a whole wheat bun with the usual burger fixings and Vegenaise instead of mayo. It didn't blow me away, but it was quite satisfactory. I also liked their sweet potato fries (very generously sized basket) with tomato ketchup. A good dessert option if you're feeling self-indulgent would be to try the bite-sized vegan mini-cupcakes in their refrigerator section. They are not made onsite, but they taste great. We had the chocolate banana cupcakes and enjoyed them.

Dishdash in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Aug 5 11

rating star

In my opinion, Dishdash has the best Middle Eastern food in the Bay Area, by far. I've been dining there occasionally for over 7 years, and the food is consistently delicious. It's somewhat expensive, but well worth the price.

The Maza appetizer sampler for two is one of our standard orders, and can be made vegan by omitting feta cheese from the tomato-eggplant grill, and omitting yogurt from the cucumber salad. There are 6 vegetarian entrees, of which the M'shakeleh rice and eggplant dish is the best, and it is unique. It's served with a tomato-yogurt sauce, but vegans can ask them to omit it or use a plain tomato sauce. Finally, lacto-vegetarians will want to try the delectable M'halabieh rice and rosewater creamy pudding, reminiscent of the Indian/Afghan dessert Firni. The cocktail menu has some intriguing choices, and the wine selection is good.

The restaurant has grown out into neighboring store space and has plenty of seating, but is still always crowded, and reservations are highly recommended for dinner.

Falafel Stop in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Dec 22 12

rating star

Quite possibly the best falafel place in the Bay Area, earning rave reviews and generating long lines at mealtimes. It's a self-service establishment where you pay at the cash register inside, then stand in line and hand in your receipt at the window of the kitchen to get your food.

Their signature dish is a falafel sandwich with about 8 small falafel balls in a puffy white pita pocket along with chopped vegetables, parsley, tahini, and optional harissa (spicy red) sauce. The falafel balls usually go right out of the fryer into your sandwich, and the fresh flavor of the salads and chopped vegetables is quite distinctive. It's a full meal and delicious. The only minor complaint I have is that the falafels are exceptionally salty, so it's not the best place to eat for those with high blood pressure. That hasn't stopped me from picking up dinner there several times in one month.

With the exception of one dessert (Creme Bavaria) and the Sabich sandwich (has hard-boiled eggs), the menu is vegan. I've had the Sabich sandwich too, and the staff have no problem with omitting the eggs and replacing them with falafel balls.

Merit Vegetarian Restaurant in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Jun 30 11

rating star

Merit has delicious vegan food, and unlike many other Asian vegan places, there are many delicious options without fake meat (I'm not a fan of faux chicken/seafood/beef). In many cases, you can ask for them to leave out the imitation meat and the rest of the dish tastes just fine. My favorite is the Vietnamese Crepe made of garbanzo and rice flour, stuffed with bean sprouts and vegetables, served with a sweet sauce, fresh mint, and fresh lettuce. My wife's favorite is the Lotus Root salad, and she also likes the hot and sour soup served in a hot pot. They have many other excellent entrees. Their vegan German Chocolate Cake is outstanding if you like chocolate, and their vegan caramel flan is excellent too. And best of all, their service is fast, fast, fast, if you go there on a weekend when it's less crowded. I've been an ardent fan of the place for many years.

Monique's Chocolates in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Jan 22 13

rating star

My wife and I are frequent visitors to Monique's, and usually go there after lunch to have a cup of vegan hot chocolate. The quality and taste are very good, and we like the concept.

Olarn Thai in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Dec 22 12

rating star

My wife and I have dinner at Olarn Thai regularly and are very satisfied with the menu selection. The best entrees in our opinions are the Broccoli with Black Mushrooms, which includes tofu and vegetables, and the Yellow Curry Vegetables with carrots, potatoes, tofu, and assorted vegetables. We generally combine these with brown rice. Occasionally we have an appetizer of fried tofu with peanut sauce, Tofu Satay, vegetarian spring rolls, or tempura-fried sweet potatoes, all of which are very well made. The grated green papaya salad is also quite reliably tasty, with fresh flavors and a crunchy texture.

The staff are friendly and efficient, and the food arrives promptly.

Rojoz Wraps in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Jan 7 13

rating star

Very good value for money, and they have maintained their quality over the 15 years that I've been visiting this Rojoz location. The "Garden of Eatin'" salad and any of the vegan wraps at Rojoz are cheap, very tasty, and high up on the nutrition scale. My favorite is the Taj Mahal wrap which has Indian style curried potatoes along with assorted other vegetables in the filling.

Tigelleria Ristorante in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Oct 27 12

rating star

My wife and I just went to Tigelleria again for a special occasion and had an outstanding organic and vegan meal, as usual. The food there is not cheap, but it's unique and well worth it. I haven't seen such innovative vegetarian/vegan Italian cuisine anywhere else in the U.S.

We started with their flatbreads with gourmet spreads (arugula pesto, roasted red bell pepper dip, and green olive tapenade). I ordered a black cherry rose martini cocktail which was quite good, and then had a very tasty black kale salad with chopped mangoes and toasted pine nuts. My wife had a mushroom and pear salad that was ordinary. Both salads normally come with special cheeses, but the restaurant is happy to make them vegan. The menu has special icons next to dishes that can be made vegan even if the original has lacto-ovo content.

My entree was a vegan polenta casserole with fava bean puree, broccoli rabe, and porcini mushrooms, topped with a peperonata sauce of roasted red bell peppers, onions, and tomatoes. I thoroughly enjoyed this. My wife had a mushroom, rice, and butternut squash that had a bit too much oil for her taste, but I thought was pretty tasty. We closed with an awesome vegan soymilk dark chocolate mousse topped with an orange liqueur sauce.

All the vegetables and dairy items at this restaurant are organic. It's very popular and has only 14 tables that are always packed, so reservations are essential any day of the week.

The Veggie Grill in Peninsula and South Bay, California
Dec 1 12

rating star

My wife and I were very happy with the food at Veggie Grill, as evidenced by the fact that we went there for the first time yesterday for dinner, and went in again today for lunch. I don't have an opinion on their broad line of mock meat dishes, but was very happy with the dozen or so items that were based on vegetables and starches. At dinner we ordered the All Hail Kale salad, and a few appetizers like cauliflower mashed potatoes, steamed kale with ginger-miso dressing, sweet potato fries with chipotle aioli sauce, and quinoa pilaf with chopped carrots and celery. All the dishes were delicious and fulfill the promise of "comfort food", with the possible exception of the quinoa pilaf which tasted somewhat flat. The chocolate pudding parfait that we had for dessert was made from silken tofu, cocoa, and crushed chocolate cookies, topped with vegan cream. The cream topping was excessively salty, but the pudding itself was excellent. The restaurant was packed at 7:30pm on a Friday, with no seating left for some of the patrons who came in late. I recommend coming in at 6-6:30pm on a Friday unless you're getting takeout, and coming in around noon or earlier on weekends. Pretty good for a restaurant that's only been open for 3 weeks.

The next day we came in for lunch and I tried the Urban Plate with grilled tempeh and portobello served with guacamole and steamed kale. It was pretty good, though I'm not that fond of tempeh so I wouldn't order this dish often on my (many) future visits. My wife had the Papa Portobello sandwich and was quite happy with it. For dessert we had carrot cake, which was delicious, and they handed us free samples of the chocolate pudding. The place was quite busy again, though not as packed as on Friday night, and did a brisk takeout business throughout our stay.

The staff is friendly and accommodating, and the interior is clean and inviting. I recommend this restaurant very highly, and expect to visit frequently.

Saha in San Francisco, California
Jun 30 11

rating star

Although not a vegan restaurant, Saha has outstanding gourmet vegan food. I have trouble deciding whether it's as good as Millennium or better, and I've been to both places many times. Their Lebanese-Californian fusion cuisine is unique. My wife and I have tried the Wild Mushroom Pate, the Vegan Knaffe (baked puff pastry stuffed with vegan cheese and mushrooms), Vegetarian Bastilla, Saha Red Curry (butternut squash, tofu, mushroom), Maklouba (rice pilaf) and Yemeni Okra. Everything we've tried there has been delicious, and the vegan Bisbousa dessert with icecream was wonderful.

Cafe Pesto in Big Island, Hawaii
Jun 26 11

rating star

Cafe Pesto is a gem. I ate one of the best pizzas I've ever had, the Oriental Al Pesto and went back another day to savor it again. They also have some delectable salads made from locally grown and/or organic vegetables.

Wild Greens Salad: An eclectic blend of locally grown organic baby lettuces, cucumbers, julienne carrots, sweet local onions, kalamata olives, and vine-ripened organic tomatoes

Volcano Mist: Delicate organic greens, sweet organic Waimea tomatoes, smoky mozzarella, drizzled with a citrus balsamic vinaigrette, garnished with Madam Pele crisped local onion rings

Oriental al Pesto Pizza: Fresh basil pesto, roasted garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and Japanese eggplant

Hukilau Lanai in Kaua'i, Hawaii
Jul 10 11

rating star

The restaurant is in a nice location with a patio overlooking the garden. Service was friendly and the waiter answered all the questions my wife and I had about ingredients in the food. The restaurant emphasizes fresh and locally grown foods, mostly meat and seafood, but they also have a separate vegetarian (though not vegan) tasting menu. The waiter worked with the chef to slightly customize the courses according to our preferences, and we were very pleased with the outcome.

The 5 mini-courses were a gourmet treat, comparable with much more expensive vegetarian tasting menus we've had at highly rated San Francisco restaurants. The courses were: Okinawan sweet potato ravioli with feta cheese and cream sauce (we scraped off as much of the high-fat sauce as we could to get at the ravioli with its delectable purple filling); arugula with beets, cherry tomato and corn off the cob; Swiss chard, mushroom, and tomato tart in a shortbread crust with balsamic reduction; mixed vegetables and mushroom ragu with polenta; stir-fried mixed vegetables with zucchini, mushrooms, and carrots. Desserts were: molten chocolate cake with whipped cream; vanilla bean icecream. The entire meal cost us $102, including taxes and tip. Quite a bargain!

The menu varies seasonally, so it would be best to contact the restaurant ahead of time to find out what vegetarian items they currently offer. We are definitely going back there on our next Kaua'i trip.

Olympic Cafe in Kaua'i, Hawaii
Jun 18 11

rating star

Olympic Cafe is a fine option for vegetarians in Kaua'i, reasonably priced, and with a wide selection of vegetarian items (some can be made vegan) on the menu. I gravitate toward their very large salads on each visit, in particular the Tropical Salad ($12.50), asking them to leave out the chicken. The salad is big enough for an entire meal even for a hungry diner, has healthy whole food ingredients, and is quite delicious -- organic mixed greens, avocado, cucumbers, tomatoes, papaya, macadamia nuts, and a papaya seed vinaigrette. Any of their 7 burger options can be made with a Gardenburger patty, and there are vegetarian options for sandwiches, burritos, pasta, and omelets. The open air balcony view overlooking Kapa'a main street is an added attraction.

Tutu's Soup Hale in Kaua'i, Hawaii
Jul 10 11

rating star

The specialty appetizer here is the cashewnut basil pate served with toasted foccaccia triangles. Don't miss it! When my wife and I visited we had the pate, a salad of mixed greens with cranberries and walnuts, and a black bean chipotle soy protein burger. The burger wasn't that great, but the pate made up for it.

I also tried the Kava drink, which has a muddy flavor and is clearly an acquired taste. The owner explains carefully how to drink it the traditional way, and I won't go into that, but I'll say that it has a pleasant warming and mellowing effect.

Carrots, The Healthy Kitchen & Store in Bengaluru, India
May 4 13

rating star

Always on the look out for good vegan food, when I took a trip Bangalore (from California) in February, I made it a point to head over to 'Carrots', the recently opened 100% vegetarian and vegan, multi-cuisine restaurant in Koramangala.

My reward was a fabulous vegan meal, both delicious and super healthy, which is a rare combination. The potato leek soup was creamy and delicious. The roasted zucchini stuffed with finely diced carrots, bell peppers and vegetables was a gourmet appetizer, followed by a vegetable salad with finely balanced sweet and tangy flavors in the dressing. The main course of vegetables and tofu in coconut milk was very satisfying. The dessert was a "laddoo" type combination of dates and roasted peanuts, and while it was tasty, it was not as exceptional as the rest of the meal. We also had some coconut milk icecream as a bonus and were quite happy with it. Overall quite an overwhelming experience and I can't wait to eat at Carrots on my next trip.

I was delighted to find that Carrots is more than just vegan - they actually practice the genuinely healthier food principles I value myself, using largely whole foods, mostly organic and unprocessed ingredients. They have lots of salads and fresh fruit options including juices and smoothies. Being dairy-free, they've whipped up creative, delicious alternatives.

If you need your food to be not just vegan but extra-healthy, you'll be happy to know that at Carrots there's no frying (!) and their cooking methods aim to maximize nutrient retention, minimize sugar, and emphasize whole grains. They love to use fresh herbs and their sauces & dips are all house-made fresh preparations. This is the kind of vegan cuisine that can reverse heart disease and diabetes, for people familiar with the work of Dr. Esselstyn, Dr. McDougall, and Dr. Barnard.

I've been tracking their Facebook page since then, and see that there are increasingly, many more interesting vegan platters on offer. I get secondhand reports from Carrots regulars that a more recent sampling of the "laddu" type confection was a markedly different experience - just bursting with heady taste..... not to be missed! They serve a range of these raw/semi-raw desserts that are not only super tasty but very nutritious as well. I can't wait to try it all!

Incidentally, Carrots has expanded its offerings with a lunch/brunch buffet. Their menu seems to be veering towards even being gluten-free, for those with sensitivities.

Il Margutta Vegetariano in Rome, Italy
Jul 1 11

rating star

Margutta has a full vegetarian lunch buffet, with unforgettable and unique Italian and Mediterranean dishes that I've never tasted before or since. I ate there twice on a 5-day visit to Rome, and wished I could have gone again.

Mint Indian Bistro in Las Vegas, Nevada
Jul 1 11

rating star

Every time I visit Las Vegas I must without fail eat at Mint Indian Bistro (formerly known as Himalayan Cuisine), because I believe it's one of the best Indian restaurants in the country. I say this after having sampled the vegetarian food selection at over a hundred Indian restaurants in about a dozen major cities over the past two decades. The diversity, freshness, and flavor of the Nepali/Indian vegetarian food at Mint is unmatched.

I usually order the Lumbini Platter, which is vegan. This is not cheap at $28 and others may simply wish to try the lunch buffet instead. But for those willing to try the vegan platter, let me say that it's health food that tastes like gourmet food. The meal comes with rice, whole wheat roti, a mixed lentil daal with a tantalizing smoky flavor, a few different vegetable combinations each with their own unique flavor, and a carrot pudding for dessert. On my last visit Chris, the owner, who has become a friend of mine, recommended I try the soy mango lassi afterward, and being in an adventurous mood I tried it and was very happy with the result.

What makes the food at Mint so different is that the flavors of all the ingredients come out in a delightful blend and dance on your palate, because unlike most Indian restaurants, the chef here is sparing with the chili powder, uses oil in carefully controlled amounts, and uses different spice combinations in each dish. As a result you eat to your heart's content, enjoy every bite, remember the delicious curries Mom cooked at home (if you're from India), and end up feeling like you've done your body a favor with all that nutrition.

Spice Market Buffet in Las Vegas, Nevada
Jul 1 11

rating star

For vegetarians or vegans, this is by far the best buffet in Vegas. There is simply no comparison. Other buffets are piled high with seafood and meat, and Spice Market has its share of animal products. But there is a delightful selection of vegetarian Middle Eastern, Italian, American, and Chinese cuisine, of which many, many dishes are vegan. My main complaint about Spice Market is that I can barely walk after I've finished a meal there.

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