I had high hopes for Encuentro as, quite frankly, I find the vegan food in the Bay Area to be woefully mediocre. Millennium is at best competent, Gracias Madre is a dud, Gather is lame, and I'm sick of all the repetitive mockmeat Asian joints (which comprise probably 50% of the vegan food in the Bay).
Sadly, Encuentro basically failed me. The menu is mostly vegan but there are some cheese dishes. Most of the tapas options seemed to basic to warrant my interest (olive plates and the like), so I went straight for an entree.
For my main course I got a sundried tomato pastry with navy beans (~$15). The dish took a while to prepare and had numerous flaws. The dish is presented as the phyllo pastry sitting atop a bowl of navy beans. Problem #1: the taste of the navy beans (which were seasoned with lemon) did not mix at all with the blandness of the pastry. Problem #2: the navy beans were overly acidic; they must have dumped a whole lemon's worth of juice into this tiny bowl, because that stuff was excessively tart. Problem #3: the pastry itself was bland and unmemorable. Where were the seasonings? The dish tasted more like a thin egg roll wrapper stuffed with unseasoned tomatoes and tofu ricotta.
For dessert I got a piece of the tiramisu ($7). You don't seen vegan tiramisu often and so I order it whenever I can. What they presented me was not tiramisu. It was more like a chocolate chip blondie bar with layers.
Don't get me wrong: the dessert tasted great. But it didn't even bother to try to replicate the look and feel of tiramisu. No ladyfingers. No cocoa powder (instead they used actual chocolate chips---what a mistake).
Worst yet, the dish was sloppily presented. For an upscale restaurant, Encuentro seemed negligent and imprecise by serving me a dish that had already slid into a big mush on the plate by the time it arrived at my table. Shame on you, Encuentro.
These types of mistakes---sloppy presentation, imbalanced flavors, disregard for tradition---are precisely the type of things that make omnivores dismiss vegan and vegetarian food. As such, I think Encuentro is doing a disservice to not only the veg. community, but anyone who loves food in general.
I'm giving them two stars because I liked the friendly service and the interesting concept (vegetarian tapas). But, on a whole, Encuentro did nothing to shake my opinion that the Bay Area falls short on quality vegan food; all it did was reinforce my opinion.