Saturday, January 26, 2008

Revisiting 2 Sundays Ago

January 13 was apparently big vegan Sunday. :) It all started with the perfect brunch chez Your Vegan Mom. She posted about it here and Foodeater of To Live and Eat in L.A. posted about it here. I fully intended to post about this within days of the event, but life got in the way. You know how it is.

YVM had a pretty basket of muffins ready when we arrived. I had the pleasure of feeding one to YVM's adorable son. She had set aside a few for him that were nut-free. Believe me, there is a lot of joy to be had in watching a baby relish his vegan muffin. I tried both varieties she provided, carrot and apple, and they were equally delicious. The perfect snack to have before rolling up my sleeves to help prepare the...

red grapefruit! This is the first time I've ever supremed a citrus fruit, but years of watching cooking shows gave me the knowledge I needed to feel like a pro. Foodeater and I worked on the grapefruit to which YVM later added agave nectar and mint. It was so good! Now, we all know that I eat about a red grapefruit a day and that I eat them like an orange, so the addition of sweetener and mint was a nice change for my palate. Unfortunately, it didn't convert the grapefruit dislikers in the brunch crowd that morning.

Here's my plate on my lap. Don't ask me how the potatoes came to touch the quiche; I'm sure I quickly moved them over after taking this shot. Notice how far away the grapefruit is from everything else. The two types of mini crustless quiche on my plate are swiss chard and sweet potato-poblano. Both were fabulous, but I was very partial to the smoky-sweet goodness of the sweet potato-poblano. I had at least one more of those. YVM adapted Fat Free Vegan's recipe for these beautiful little quiche. The potatoes were perfectly roasted and yummy.

Thank you for hosting us, YVM! I can't wait until next time. :)

We three vegan bloggers had dinner reservations later that night at the soon-to-be-open shojin, a Japanese vegetarian restaurant in the heart of L.A.'s Little Tokyo. Foodeater and I learned about this new restaurant at the Madeleine Bistro Vegan Meet-Up that I blogged about here. The owners were at the Meet-Up offering a FREE prix-fixe, four-course dinner on three specific dates to anyone who wanted to attend. All they asked in return was for our feedback. We quickly decided which evening we wanted to attend and Foodeater made the reservations. We weren't the only ones who took them up on their offer; there were three other tables of people from that Meet-Up at the restaurant when we were there.

We walked into the restaurant and were treated like royalty. There was even paparazzi (this became slightly disconcerting to me as I had to be aware of the photographer's position every time I opened my mouth to take a bite)! Our hosts were extremely gracious, seating us immediately even though we were quite early. As soon as we were seated, we were given an amazing "welcome" drink made of fresh-squeezed cane juice, fresh-squeezed ginger juice, and cayenne pepper. Oh, my goodness, this was so incredibly delicious. I drank two small glasses. I was especially happy with this healing drink, as I was in a fierce battle with my allergies at the time.

Although the menu was made up of four courses with the choice between two dishes per course, our hosts invited us to order each and every item on the menu if that was our desire. There was also a drink menu of multiple teas, juice, soy milk, and coffee.

I started with this wonderful cup of organic Matcha Genmaicha. It was a vibrant green and packed a lot of smoky flavor.

I also tried the organic iced green tea, also a beautiful green color. It's amazing how different (in a great way) shojin's teas are from the bagged tea I usually drink.

For the soup course, I chose the Sweet Kabocha Pumpkin Chowder. It was a pureed soup topped with dehydrated squash pieces and organic parsley. The soup had a light flavor and a creamy texture achieved by blending with soy milk. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but it was a very nice start to the meal.

I chose the Tempeh Bacon & Cashew Cheese Wrap for my appetizer. By far, this was my favorite dish of the meal. It was a whole wheat tortilla stuffed with grilled tempeh bacon, cashew cheese, potato salad, alfalfa sprouts, and mixed greens, served with a dipping sauce that I think was maybe a thinner version of their cashew cheese. On the side were dehydrated sweet potato chips. The flavors and textures within this wrap worked very well together; the smokiness of the tempeh, the slightly sweet creaminess of the cashew cheese, the bite of the potatoes and veggies. During the feedback portion of the evening, the only suggestion we had regarding this dish was to make it an entree as opposed to the appetizer. If you check out the menu on their site, you'll see that they did!

My entree was the Cha-Soba Pasta with Tomato Sauce. Essentially, this was soba noodles with puttanesca sauce and was quite tasty. You can see that I forgot to take a photo of this dish until I was finished eating. Oops!

For dessert, I chose the Fuji Apple Tarte with Kinako Custard. The presentation was gorgeous, but dessert was the only course that I felt needed serious improvement. The tart crust was undercooked and sticky and the custard lacked flavor and sweetness. It was just bland and, dare I say, tasted...healthy.

I also tried YVM's dessert, the Chocolate Cake with Pecans and Walnuts. Look at that gorgeous presentation! A cupcake-sized cake sitting upon a pool of sauce and surrounded by dollops of berry coulis and a meringue-textured whipped topping. However, the cake tasted more like a fruit-sweetened breakfast muffin. The whipped topping was incredible, though. We all marveled at the texture. I think we all know how delicious vegan desserts can be and I have full faith that shojin's will improve before they open, so don't be shy about ordering dessert there! We all gave our honest input and we're certain that they took our advice.

It was an amazing experience to be among the first to try shojin. I feel very honored and I hope to make it back there soon after they open. We all expected to have a nice time, but I don't think we could have ever imagined the generosity and kindness of our hosts, who spared no expense in making sure we were comfortable and satisfied. Instead of small tasting-menu portions, we were fed full-sized portions of everything. Our feedback was respected and taken to heart. Oh, and there were parting gifts! Our hosts gave us each a bag of three cookies and all the women were given a beautiful red rose. It was a night to remember. Thank you, shojin, and good luck!

P.S. You can read Foodeater's review here. I don't see YVM's post about shojin, so she may not have done so yet.


Foodeater said...

You know, I actually really liked those take-home cookies! Definitely "healthy" tasting, but in a good way. Can't wait to go back there!

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Wow I wish they'd open up such a restaurant here in Texas! Oh well, I guess I will just have to take a trip up to your neck of the woods sometime soon!

trina said...

That was a goooood day of eating. And now I can retire because I have an acronym. Does it count as an acronym if the initials don't spell anything? Crap, maybe I can't retire yet.

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Must. Plan. Trip. SOON!

Ruby Red Vegan said...

A FREE four-course vegan dinner?! I wish I could have come to Cali and joined you - that tempeh bacon & cashew cheese wrap sounds like it would have been worth the trip!

Vegan_Noodle said...

I remember reading about this on foodeater's blog! Looks delicious! (both the brunch and dinner)

Oh, and I actually did enjoy the movie Waitress... the sentence didn't quite read the way I wanted, so I changed it. :-)

Virgo Girl said...

I'm glad you enjoyed Candy Penny. Thank you for the Yoga retreat info!

VeggieGirl said...

you're so fortunate to not only get to have lunch-outings with fellow bloggers, but to dine in an abundance of vegan-friendly restaurants as well!! those desserts are definitely my favorite... the presentation!! gorgeous!!

Rural Vegan said...

How lucky you were to be a guest for what looks like an incredible dinner! Everything looks just fantastic.

Liz² said...

oh wow, what luck! can't say I'm not a little bit jealous, too! the food all looks wonderful, especially that tempeh taco thing.

Cookiemouse said...

That iced green tea looks amazing.

textual bulldog said...

wow, this place sounds so good! can't wait until they open, and lucky you for getting to try ti early!