the vegan fork: San Francisco

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

San Francisco

I went to San Francisco and ate a lot. Here are some highlights.

Medicine Eat Station is a restaurant serving Japanese "Zen Buddhist" food. It was big with long tables (which their website informs me are made from sustainably harvested mahogany).

All of their cocktails are made with sake, and I was a bit too adventurous and ordered something called an ume-tini, which was sake with an umeboshi plum in wasn't very good, but I managed to finish it.

Continuing the pattern of being too adventurous, we had an appetizer called "jade nuggets." It's tempura natto...I had never had natto before, and having seen it before on the Iron Chef, I wanted to try it. I think the menu warned that natto is an "acquired taste." When asked about it, the server mentioned that some people think it tastes like cheese, and I thought that since it's deep fried and might taste like cheese, it couldn't be that bad.

I was wrong. It was gross. I ate very little of it, and I think we all squeezed every last drop of the accompanying lemon wedge onto the nuggets to make them more palatable (with no success).

A second more successful appetizer was a bowl of vegetables in broth. It was good, but aside from some sort of delicious mushroom, I don't think it was anything special.

For entrees we ordered the "fried" (tempura vegetables), "steamed" (pockets of tofu containing vegetables), and "simmered" (vegetables rolled up in bundles with something -- yuba? -- in broth).

This picture shows the tempura on the left and the simmered bundles on the right. That big bowl of brown liquid is a yummy dipping sauce for the bundles. The tempura was great, as it's hard to go wrong with something fried (notable exception of natto above). The bundles were also really good, especially with the dipping sauce.

This picture is of the steamed tofu pockets with some grilled lettuce behind it (yum!) and some pickled vegetables next to it. There were other accompaniments including miso soup, rice, and blocks of fresh cold tofu, which were delicious. The tofu pockets were good, although I think they were my least favorite of the three entrees. The tofu was very spongy, and it was a little sweet, which I didn't like as much as the blocks of fresh tofu.

We also had two desserts. One was a chilled coconut cup, which has a thick sweet coconut liquid, like melted coconut ice cream, with some toasted buckwheat floating on it, some cubes of something clear and solid (made of agar maybe?), and, I'm not joking, some sort of mushroom. The mushroom was actually really good and it had absorbed the flavor of the coconut liquid. The other dessert consisted of berries marinated in wine and some fried goyza. Both desserts were really good.

Medicine Eat Station was fun, but the next night I went to Millenium. I've been going over it in my head, and I'm pretty sure that it was the best meal I've ever eaten.

I had two cocktails made with organic alcohol. I can't remember what the first one was, but I think it was something with rum. The second was just a screwdriver, but it was made with fresh squeezed orange juice, and it was really wonderful. Their cocktail list was very fun, and I had trouble deciding on which to order.

The bread came with some really delicious tofu spread...the kind of tofu spread where you eat it and say things like "this can't be tofu!"

This was our appetizer. It's a black bean torte. It was like a quesadilla with black beans and plantains. It had some sort of yummy creamy sauce made of cashews.

My entree was this stuffed pablano pepper. It was stuffed with a tofu chorizo. It had some sauteed greens and that strawberry jicama salad. And several sauces, which I couldn't identify but were delicious.

This is what my sister had. On top are some fried abalone mushrooms, which had an amazing meat-like texture. They're on top of risotto. I don't know what else is down there, but whatever I tasted was really delicious.

For dessert we had the Chocolate Almond Midnight. The bottom layer is dark chocolate creamy mousse-like substance, and on top the same texture but with white chocolate. It was so incredibly good. As we ate it, we kept speculating as to how they had made it. In fact, we looked up the recipe in the Millennium Cookbook, where they list not much more than tofu and chocolate chips as the mousse ingredients...but obviously there had to be other ingredients in it, because I've made tofu/chocolate mixtures before, and this was exponentially better. I suspect that making this requires some mastery of science that the average person doesn't have, too.

It's hard to think about anything past Millennium, but some other culinary highlights of San Francisco included a seitan sandwich at Herbivore, some Maggie Mudd "ice cream," and some delicious vegan turnovers from Rainbow Grocery.

[Note on the Maggie Mudd: we went to the store, and I was so excited about the idea of walking into an ice cream shop and getting a vegan "ice cream" cone. However, apparently the people at Maggie Mudd don't think the anyone would want ice cream before 3 PM on a Friday, so they were closed. To get the ice cream, we had to go to a store and buy a pint. It was delicious, but on the carton of "Flyin Hawaiian," it promised coconut flavored ice cream with chocolate macadamia nut clusters....but there were only THREE clusters in the whole carton! I'm willing to give Maggie Mudd a second chance, but they're sure making it hard...]

BTW, I'm slowly catching up with posting this stuff. If you've eaten with me lately, you know that I have some more pictures on my camera. I'll get around to posting them soon.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fried Nato...ewww. Comparing natto to cheese is like comparing moldy grapes to wine.

that stuffed pepper from Millenium looks amazing though.

Aug 17, 2006, 3:25:00 PM  

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