00 + Co, East Village

00+Co Vegan Pizza, East Village

In early 2016, Chef Matthew Kenney opened New York City’s first all vegan pizzeria serving personal pizzas, small plates, and nut-based cheeses. Some of you might remember Chef Kenney as the opening chef of Pure Food & Wine (which is now permanently closed), and he currently has several plant-based restaurants and one coming soon to Bahrain.

Before leaving NYC, we visited 00 + Co for a late lunch. There was a little bit of mix up as I had placed a 2:30pm reservation through OpenTable, but they didn’t open until 3pm. No big deal, and we hung out in the neighborhood until it was time. Hope they’ve updated OpenTable to reflect their new hours since then.

00+Co Vegan Pizza, East Village

00 + Co feels very Los Angeles, and I say that someone who hasn’t been to LA in a few years. The heart of the restaurant is the wood burning brick oven tucked away in the back, but your eye immediately goes to the wall of vegan wines. The interior feels open and relaxed with light wood communal tables, but the outdoor seating is the way to go if you’re dining here in a good weather. I’m hesitant to call this place upscale because it feels laid back, but I have a feeling that upscale is how many will interpret it.

The name 00 + Co, which initially comes across as random to some folks, comes from the type of flour they use for their pizza dough. The menu does a nice job at explaining this: “00 flour is ideal for pizza dough for three reasons: one, it’s finely ground; two, it holds up to the high heat of our wood burning brick oven; and three, it has a lower gluten content than most flours.”

Farro Fennel Sausage, Almond Cream Vegan Pizza, 00+Co

If you haven’t figured it out by now, this isn’t your greasy 3am pizza after a night of drinking. Come here for plant-based pizzas that that are easy on the eyes, palate, and stomach. They’ll leave you satisfied, and you’ll feel good about what you ate. I would have liked to try the cheese plate and some dishes from the “Not Pizza” section of the menu too, but two personal pizzas was plenty for two people.

The farro-fennel sausage, tomato, cashew mozzarella pizza ($18) doesn’t have any vegan faux meat sausage. However, the farro offers a meaty texture and all the right seasonings to justify having the word “sausage” in the description. Simple, classic flavors that work well for a pizza and go nicely with a medium-bodied red.

Farro Fennel Sausage Vegan Pizza, 00+Co

The almond cream pizza ($16) with sliced potatoes, shiitake anchovies, oregano, and baby kale looked like a salad on top of a pizza. Subtle sweetness from the almond cream, added flavor from the purple potatoes, and savory, chewy shiitake pieces. Even John, who does not like mushrooms, enjoyed the shiitake anchovies. I’ve had some really bad low gluten and gluten free crusts in the past, but this is one of the good ones.

Almond Cream Vegan Pizza, 00+Co

Both pizzas were enjoyable, but I wasn’t blown away. Maybe all the hype surrounding this restaurant is to blame. Next time I visit NYC, you can expect to see a followup post on some of their other dishes. For now, I’ll leave you with this: 00 + Co is tasty enough, and a welcome addition to the NYC food scene. Of course, there are other vegan pizza options in the city, but this is the first sit down pizzeria where you can make an occasion of it.

00+Co Vegan Pizza, East Village

00 + Co 00 + Co Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Totem Tea, Portland

Totem Tea, Portland

Some people don’t realize this, but quality tea is just like fine wine. Every tea has a story to tell, and that story doesn’t begin in your teapot. It can be traced all the way back to the tea farm where the care and artistry of the farm’s workers, as well as the terroir of the farm influence the tea’s scent, taste, and texture. As you sip and savor tea through each infusion, it evolves in appearance and on the palate.

I recently met up with the owners of Totem Tea, Phillip Sauerbeck and Dan Pappas, who are both incredibly passionate and knowledgeable about tea. Sourced from small tea farms in Taiwan and China, Totem Tea’s products are extensively researched and carefully selected. Only one in at least twenty teas make the cut. Their next trip is in October, and they’ll be visiting Taiwan before an oolong immersion experience in Fujian and Guangdong provinces of China.

Totem Tea, Portland

Phil and Dan consider themselves tea connoisseurs, not tea merchants, who enjoy sharing tea and storytelling through tea. During my visit, we shared a flight of three teas with distinct flavor profiles. It’s almost like a 3-course meal with an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert. I realize that sipping hot tea in the middle of summer might not be appealing to everyone, but it was a very calming and zen experience.

For now, the teas are only available through their website, but fingers crossed… maybe a small tea shop with a tasting room will be in store for Totem Tea in the future!

White Jade Phoenix Green Tea, Totem Tea, Portland

We started our tea session with the anji bai cha 安吉白茶 brewed in a clay kyusu with a no fuss, easy to use handle. Delicate with floral aromas, this White Jade Phoenix Green Tea had a subtle, barely there quality on the first infusion, but began to reveal its cooling green tea flavor on the next two infusions.

White Jade Phoenix Green Tea, Totem Tea, Portland

It’s fascinating to watch the tea leaves slowly uncurl themselves over each infusion. After the second infusion, there was a scent that seemed very familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until Dan mentioned steamed spinach. Ah hah!

Totem Tea, Portland

Brewed in a pure silver teapot, the Gui Fei Oolong 貴妃烏龍 falls into a category of tea known as leaf-bitten oolong. No pesticides are used in the tea farms, and cicadas are encouraged to bite the leaves as the nibbling results in the plant releasing more sugar.  This trick to cultivating sweeter oolong was discovered by chance in 1999 after cicadas had overrun a tea farm while farmers had evacuated during an earthquake. Now the cicadas are an integral part of the tea production process.

Gui Fei Oolong, Totem Tea, Portland

This oolong is bold enough to pair with heavier foods, while its sweetness entices you to enjoy cup after cup. The first infusion was light compared to what comes to mind when I think of oolong, but the next few infusions offered a rosy, roasted mouth feel and sweet honey flavor. The lively smell reminded me of the Portland rose gardens.

Snow Honey Chrysanthemum, Totem Tea, Portland

Next up was a caffeine-free herbal tea, which is almost like a drinkable dessert. White and yellow chrysanthemum is most common, but this high altitude Snow Honey Chrysanthemum 雪菊花茶 is different. All the familiar chrysanthemum aromas and flavors are there, but this one is richer and bolder. Plus, there are earthy, peppery notes in mixed in too. Imagine pairing this tea with a summer berry tart!

Snow Honey Chrysanthemum, Totem Tea, Portland

Note: I was invited to meet with this business and received complimentary samples. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

Since moving to Portland, almost every beer I’ve enjoyed here was a locally made craft beer. That shouldn’t come as a surprise considering Oregon is known for being a happy place for beer lovers. Beeradise, beervana, whatever you choose to call it. If you’re in Portland during the last full weekend of July, the Oregon Brewers Festival is not to be missed and draws crowds from near and far.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

Five days, free admission, $7 for a tasting mug, $1 tasting tokens, and so many beers to choose from. We spent Friday and Saturday afternoon at the festival and barely made it through a quarter of the beers available. If you can, stop by on a weekday when it’s a little less crowded. I was afraid of spilling beer all over my Lumix so these iPhone snaps will have to do.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

It was hard to keep track of all the beers we tasted, but I will say that I didn’t have a single beer that I didn’t enjoy. I steered clear of dark beers as they seemed too heavy for such a hot, sweaty day. There was a strong showing of IPAs and lagers, but the most unique tastes I had were the Cucumber Berliner Weisse by Oakshire Brewing and the Lavender Ale by Oregon Trail.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

In addition to sampling beer, you can shop for anything beer related, from growlers to beer soap, at the festival. And of course, there was food! You guys know I like my carbs, and fries are always a winning food pairing for beer. If you’re lucky enough to grab a bench, you can catch some views of the Williamette River while you snack.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

You guys have seen me double fist giant vegan burgers, so here I am double fisting beer mugs and wearing a mini pretzel necklace. I don’t know why, but that eyebrow of mine has a life of its own whenever I get my picture taken. You should see what it does whenever I take selfies.

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

John took a turn wearing the pretzel necklace too and became the victim of this hilarious photobomb. I think the necklace looks better on him as the pink string complements his watermelon t-shirt.

Some folks got dressed up for the occasion, and we even saw one guy with a large goofy looking hat covered in pins from every year of the Oregon Brewers Festival. Now that’s dedication. If you’re lucky you might even catch the Portland unipiper at the festival. Hope he didn’t get any beer on his bagpipes. I’m marking my calendar for next year’s OBF and so should you!

2016 Oregon Brewers Festival, Portland

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District, Portland

I’m sure many of you are surprised to see me at a restaurant with the word “lobster” in the name. Despite the quirky crustacean name of this Pearl District restaurant, The Hairy Lobster offers plenty of vegetable-focused plates meant for sharing. I was recently invited to taste some of their vegetarian dishes, and as it turns out, The Hairy Lobster is right in my neighborhood. Howdy, neighbor!

Upon entering The Hairy Lobster, you’re greeted by a striking blue wall with an eclectic collection of metal knobs and fixtures. We briefly joked about how our neighbors might react if we changed our front door’s knocker to one of these unusual pieces before being whisked away to our table in the heart of the restaurant.

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District, Portland

At The Hairy Lobster, old meets new both in the ambiance and cuisine. I swooned over the medley of rustic wood, industrial accents, and mismatched vintage plates. We arrived for an early 5:30pm reservation and watched the energy in the open, airy space transform once dinner service was in full swing.

After many years of building impressive careers in the food industry, husband wife team David and Mellisa Root opened The Hairy Lobster together. The seasonal menu celebrates local and regional ingredients and is broken down into three sections: Water, Garden, Barn. I was here to sample some Garden dishes that the Roots had picked out in advance.

The Hairy Lobster, Pearl District, Portland

First up, the blistered padron peppers ($11) with lemon, pimenton, sea salt, and parmesan squash. Lovely char on these peppers, and if you happen to get one of the bigger peppers, there’s quite a kick of heat. Blistered peppers are not an uncommon menu item, but the tasty squash puree makes this one stand out.

Blistered Padron Peppers, The Hairy Lobster

You can always count on a rustic-chic American restaurant to have good cocktails ($11). With rose, elderflower, honey, peach bitters, grapefruit, and cava, the Tea Rose was crafted for hot summer days. The chili pepper in the Thai One On is hot, hot, hot, but the mixture of spiced coconut milk, vodka, and lime balances the heat.

Tea Rose, Thai One On Cocktails, The Hairy Lobster

When you say “vegetable bread”, the first thing that comes to mind are stories I’ve heard from friends who have tried to bake juicer pulp into bread and failed miserably. The Hairy Lobster’s vegetable bread ($6) is a perfect example of veggie bread done right. Fluffy, savory, and sweet with a touch of spice. And that vegetable ash butter!

Vegetable Bread, The Hairy Lobster

I’ve never seen anything like this before: carrot fritto misto with fennel, goat cheese, and pumpkin seeds ($11). The plating is stunning, the carrots are perfectly cooked, and the bed of goat cheese salad was enjoyable. However, I found myself craving a lighter, palate cleansing component that would cut through the fried and creamy textures.

Carrot Fritto Misto, The Hairy Lobster

Green beans are an American classic, so it was no surprise to see them here. In this salad ($10), cool and crunchy green beans meet a white soy and romesco dressing topped with shaved mushrooms. This was a refreshing take on green beans compared to the many mushy green bean dishes I’ve had in my life. This salad normally comes with anchovies, but the kitchen omitted them to make it vegetarian for us. Having an extra savory topping might bring it all together more.

Green Bean Salad, The Hairy Lobster

You guys know I absolutely adore gnocchi, and I think my heart beat a little faster when this beauty arrived at our table. Memo to self: pick up a couple serving bowls like this one.

Fresh Sage Gnocchi, The Hairy Lobster

The Hairy Lobster’s melt in your mouth gnocchi rests gently in a cream sauce with delicious notes of compressed lemon and crunchy fried sage. I learned that they puree turnips into the cream sauce so it’s rich without being overloaded with butter and cream. That and the bursts of lemon make such a difference. This is a must order item.

Fresh Sage Gnocchi, The Hairy Lobster

As if the gnocchi didn’t already take me to a happy place, our dessert was another gorgeous creation. Mellisa Root is a renowned pastry chef after all. Here is the razzleberry crisp ($11) with olive oil corn cake, stewed berries, rustic crumble, braised fennel, and brown sugar ice cream. Can we talk about how picture perfect this is?

Razzleberry Crisp, The Hairy Lobster

This summer dessert is layered, so you really need to dig in with a spoon. There may be a lot of elements here, but the flavors and textures are very complementary. When the brown sugar ice cream melts and flows everywhere, and the corn cake soaks up the berry juice, and you get that sweet crunch from the crumble… oh my!

Razzleberry Crisp, The Hairy Lobster

Note: I was invited as a guest to this establishment and received a complimentary meal. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

The Hairy Lobster The Hairy Lobster Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Champs Diner, East Williamsburg

Champ's Diner, East Williamsburg

Champs Diner is no ordinary diner. Champs is an all vegan diner in Brooklyn, serving up burgers, pancakes, shakes, and more. This is vegan comfort food heaven, and I was pleasantly surprised that I didn’t feel terrible after indulging in a rather large meal here. They also have bowls and salads if you’re looking for something lighter, but how could you pass on burgers with names like “The Gutbuster” and “Behemoth”?

When I think of meatless diners, Saturn Cafe immediately comes to mind. It’s one of my old favorites in Berkeley, but it wasn’t completely vegan and was very, VERY PINK. At Champs, they’ve got that classic black and white diner look going on with checkered floors, subway tile, comfy booths, and paneled mirrors.  It seems to be a vegan hipster hangout, but everyone is welcome at Champs (as long as you don’t sneak in some meat). If you’re craving pizza, check out another member of the Champs family: Screamer’s Pizzeria.

Champ's Diner, East Williamsburg

What did we eat at Champs? I’d like to point out that the food below was consumed in two visits… I’m greedy, but not that greedy. It’s a shame they don’t serve beer here, so you’ll have to settle for a draft soda or a shake to rinse down your burger and fries.

Champ's Diner, Vegan Diner, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn

This is the first time I’ve seen vegan mozzarella sticks ($10) on a menu. Nice crust, stretchy gooey cheese (which I assume is Daiya cheese) with marinara sauce for dipping. Not a bad way to start your diner dinner.

Vegan Mozzarella Sticks, Champ's Diner

The seitan asada fries ($9) are perfection. Tender, juicy slices of seitan, plenty of cheese and sour cream, plus a sprinkle of fresh chives. Underneath all that is a pile of fries. The seitan alone is pretty salty, but goes really well with the fries. Get an order for your table to share.

Vegan Seitan Asada Fries, Champ's Diner

Next up, vegan poutine ($9). I never expected to come across vegan cheese curds, but here we are! John introduced me to cheese curds a few years ago, and we were curious to see what a veganized version would be like. The cheese curds were pretty sticky and sadly, a miss for me, but the rosemary gravy was real tasty with the fries.

Vegan Poutine, Champ's Diner

We deliberated between burgers for a while before settling on The Gutbuster ($14). I have to say, I never expected to see such an attractive burger at a diner. But then again, Champs is not a normal diner. It looks like a lot of bread, but it’s soft with a good crust. Pretty meaty patty that’s real satisfying to bite into. Loaded with toppings: jalapeno, American cheese, avocado, chipotle mayo, lettuce, and tomato. This one makes it to my vegan burger favorites list.

The Gutbuster Vegan Burger, Champ's Diner

It’s easy to find a vegan burrito these days, but this one caught my eye because it has vegan fish. The Baja fish burrito ($12) is packed with crispy fish cutlets, cabbage, greens, sour cream, avocado, salsa, and chipotle dressing. Comes with a side salad. The fish reminded me of Gardein, and to be honest, it was more of a wrap than a burrito to me. All in all, it’s good, but nothing amazing or unusual.

Vegan Fish Burrito, Champ's Diner

Champs Diner Champs Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

2016 Oregon Berry Festival

Oregon Berry Festival, Portland

It’s no secret that the Pacific Northwest is berry country, and I was happy to discover that we had moved here in time for the annual Oregon Berry Festival. We strolled over to Ecotrust’s outdoor event space where the sun was shining, music was playing, dogs were frolicking, and the air was filled with the intoxicating sweet scent of fresh berries.

At the festival, paper cartons overflowed with every type of berry you could imagine, from strawberries, to blueberries, to marionberries. But that wasn’t all. This festival had something for every type of berry enthusiast: pies, juices, jams, honey, drinking vinegars, and liqueurs. I normally don’t enjoy vodka on its own, but when it’s infused with berries, I’m all for it. We picked up a few treats from the festival, including the very last mini marionberry pie from one vendor. Hope everyone is having a berry good summer so far!

Oregon Berry Festival, Portland
Oregon Berry Festival, Portland
Oregon Berry Festival, Portland
Oregon Berry Festival, Portland
Oregon Berry Festival, Portland
Oregon Berry Festival, Portland
Oregon Berry Festival, Portland

Forelle Raw Vegan Meal Delivery

Daikon Rainbow Carrot Pad Thai, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Greetings from Portland, Oregon! We (and the cats) have finally recovered from our week long cross country drive from the east coast. While we were still in the midst of unpacking, it was a lovely surprise when Forelle’s founder, Tim Gowen, reached out and invited me to try their raw vegan meal delivery. Talk about great timing as it’s not always easy to eat healthy while you’re in the middle of a move.

There are meal deliveries with vegan options, and then there’s Forelle, a Portland based meal delivery offering 100% raw plant-based meals. If you’re not familiar with raw food, it just means that no ingredients are heated above 115 F. This retains all the nutrients in the ingredients, making raw vegan food the best stuff you could fuel your body with. Raw food is great if you need to refresh and reboot, or if you’re looking to maintain a healthy, clean eating.

Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Forelle officially launched this Monday, and they deliver to doorsteps around the Portland area via zero emission vehicles seven days a week. Made of 100% post-consumer, recycled materials, Forelle’s packaging is thoughtful and well designed. Everything is handcrafted, from the handwritten labels to Chef Salimatu Amabebe’s made from scratch creations, before Tim personally delivers each box to customers. Depending on how many days and meals you order, it ranges from $12 – $18 per meal. Not bad considering it comes straight to your door and all you have to do is assemble each dish.

Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Let’s take a look inside, shall we? Each meal comes in its own container and sauces are kept separately so everything is at its freshest when you enjoy it. I’m no stranger to raw food, and I can honestly say that Forelle is among the best raw vegan that I’ve had. Over the years, I’ve had a number of raw vegan dishes that are too tart, but that’s not the case here. You feel fully satisfied after each meal, and each meal feels balanced and complete.

Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Breakfast: Strawberry Breakfast Bowl with Raw Peanut Butter Granola
What you don’t see in this photo is the layer of pink strawberry mousse underneath the mountain of granola, coconut, and fresh strawberries. The mousse had a creamy, yogurt-like consistency that contrasted the crunchy granola. I’m normally not a peanut butter gal, but this granola won me over. The only miss for me was the ratio of ingredients. It seemed like a lot of dry granola for the amount of strawberry mousse.

Strawberry Breakfast Bowl, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Lunch: Bok Choy Mango Slaw with Lemon Cilantro Dressing
You can always count on a raw vegan salad to be photogenic. Beautiful mixture of colors and textures. It never occurred to me to make a slaw out of bok choy (one of my favorites to saute), and the fresh mango was especially tasty. The bright, zesty lemon dressing brightens everything up. Even as devoted veggie eater, I sometimes have a hard time getting excited about salads, but this is one of the good ones.

Bok Choi Mango Slaw, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Dinner: Daikon Rainbow Carrot Raw Pad Thai
In this raw vegan interpretation of pad thai, daikon and rainbow carrot noodles in various shapes and sizes make this noodle bowl a delight to eat. I don’t know about you, but I really enjoy twirling colorful veggie noodles on a fork. The noodles had released some water in the container (typical of veggie noodles), but they didn’t get soggy. You’ve got some classic toppings: bean sprouts, scallions, peanuts (there’s a peanut theme going on here), and limes. All the individual components of this dish are great, but it’s the sauce that brings this dish to life. Don’t be shy, drizzle on that sauce and enjoy!

Daikon Rainbow Carrot Pad Thai, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

If breakfast, lunch, and dinner aren’t enough to fill you up, you can also add on a snack for a $5. My second delivery from Forelle included jicama fries with sundried tomato ketchup. The dehydrated jicama fries were chewy and spicy, while the ketchup had a creamy, cooling effect. Some of the other snacks include kale chips, trail mix, hummus and veggies, and dried fruit.

Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Breakfast: Banana Walnut Chia Pudding
Chia pudding is one of my favorite ways to start the day, especially when it’s topped with some of the biggest blueberries I’ve ever seen. The banana slices tasted fine, but weren’t looking their best as they came pre-sliced. This wasn’t that different from chia pudding that I make myself, but the addition of maple in the pudding was a clever and tasty move.

Banana Walnut Chia Pudding, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Lunch: Red Cabbage Slaw with Creamy Dressing
Salads are definitely one of Forelle’s strong suits. Hope you’re ready to do lots of chewing! Crunchy shreds of cabbage and carrot topped with a light ranch-like cashew (?) dressing. Every once in a while, you’ll get a bite with shred of Thai basil in there. Those were my favorite bites. There are golden raisins, coconut flakes, and black sesame seeds in there too.

Red Cabbage Slaw with Creamy Dressing, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Dinner: Raw Taco Salad
Tacos and nachos might be my favorite type of raw vegan dish. Why? Because raw vegan nut and seed meats are the best. Forelle’s spicy maple walnut chorizo really nails that taco flavor and texture. Like most nut and seed meats, it fills you up. The rest of the ingredients are fresh, but pretty standard for a taco salad. It all mixes together into a tasty salad, but I can’t help but wish there were a cashew based sour cream thrown in there too.

Raw Taco Salad, Forelle Raw Vegan Plant-Based Meal Delivery, Portland

Note: I received complimentary meal deliveries from Forelle. This was not in exchange for a positive review and all opinions expressed here are my own.

Buddha Bodai, Mott Street, Chinatown

Buddha Bodai Vegan Dim Sum, Chinatown

If you grew up in Asia, you know that dim sum is serious business. Dim sum is basically the Chinese version of brunch, and for many families, a sacred weekend ritual. Traditional dim sum is far from vegan-friendly (eek, chicken feet!), but thanks to places like Buddha Bodai, you can get your vegan, kosher dim sum on.

This review is about the Buddha Bodai at 5 Mott St. There is another unaffiliated Buddha Bodai at 77 Mulberry St, but in my opinion, the food at the Mott St location is better. (To avoid confusion, someone needs to change their name!) Everything we ordered was $3 to $5 each. Six dishes plus dessert was plenty for two very hungry people. Some of their dishes contain egg, so look out for that on the menu if you want vegan only dishes.

Vegan Fried Turnip Cake, Buddha Bodai

As a kid, my go to dim sum dish was turnip cake. I guess I never grew up because this was still the first thing I ordered. I was never a fan of the fatty Chinese sausage in turnip cake, so this vegan version is basically my childhood dream come true. Real tasty with the dipping sauce, but a little more pan frying for a crisper exterior would be nice.

The mock meat ribs in black bean sauce was one of John’s picks. The ribs were juicy and tender with the right amount of chewiness. You can’t go wrong with these.

Vegan Ribs with Black Bean Sauce, Buddha Bodai

Steamed BBQ pork buns are another must order item when you’re doing dim sum, but I always found the pork to be too fatty. Are you picking up on a pattern here? Buddha Bodai’s veganized pork buns are light, fluffy, and filled with mock pork. There’s plenty of BBQ sauce in there too.

Vegan meat buns, Buddha Bodai

Buddha Bodai’s shark fin dumplings are filled with vegan imitation shark fin (bean noodles, I think) and veggies, nicely packaged up in a thin, yellow wrapper. Each dumpling is pretty big. Juicy, not mushy, but they’re a little bland so you dip ‘me in some soy sauce.

Vegan Shark Fin Dumplings, Buddha Bodai

Typically, bean curd rolls are filled with chicken or pork in addition to veggies. Here, the steamed rolls are filled with an assortment of vegetables, think veggie dumpling filling. Overall, it feels pretty meaty, but the filling was somewhat mushy. Good texture from the yuba sheets though.

Vegan Bean Curd Rolls, Buddha Bodai

I always get sticky rice when I have dim sum, and I like there’s a fried option here instead of the usual bamboo leaf wrapped version. Looks like a pudding of some sort. Tasty, not too sticky, and I enjoyed the mock meat in there.

Vegan fried sticky rice, Buddha Bodai

Coconut pudding is always a good finale to dim sum and good for sharing. Light and refreshing with some sago pearls in there for texture.

Vegan Coconut Pudding, Buddha Bodai

Buddha Bodai Buddha Bodai One Vegetarian Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Quintessence, East Village

Green Juice, Raw Vegan Seaweed Salad, Quintessence

Since I recently revisited Rockin’ Raw, it seemed fitting to revisit Quintessence too before I leave NYC. The former is in Greenwich Village, while the latter is in East Village. They’re both cute, cozy restaurants serving raw vegan food, but their flavors and atmosphere are pretty different. Quintessence is more of a spa-food, zen-like oasis escape.

I met up with plant-based blogger Food Marshall for lunch at Quintessence on the first real summer day of the year. I foolishly wore jeans that day, which made the walk from the subway not so enjoyable. However, a raw vegan lunch complete with fresh green juice was the perfect way to cool down and refuel. Here’s what we had:

Raw Vegan Chipotle Roll, Quintessence

The chipotle cheese roll ($7) is one of their specialties. There’s a smoky southern spiciness to it, but you’ve got the cucumber, peppers, avocado and lettuce to cool things down. Nice creaminess from the cashew cream cheese. Nicely presented, but it doesn’t hold together that well. It got pretty messy and had to be eaten with a fork.

Raw Vegan Seaweed Salad, Quintessence

My favorite of the three dishes we ordered was the seaweed salad special. A giant mountain of seaweed topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, sesame seeds, and a creamy (tahini?) dressing. In the past, I’ve felt that some of Quintessence’s dishes are too heavy on the sauce. Not the case with this salad though. It looks like a lot of dressing, but it’s perfect with the seaweed and veggies. Refreshing and satisfying.

The tostada ($7) comes with a chili sauce, but it wasn’t necessary as the pickled jalapeños were plenty spicy for me. The walnut and coconut based “meat” offered nice texture and was the best part of this dish. The crunchy golden flax tortilla shell was good with the toppings, but wasn’t as appealing as other raw crackers I’ve had.

Raw Vegan Tostada, Quintessence

Quintessence Quintessence Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato