Monday, 29 March 2010

Hemma Hos Greken, Lund

We made a short trip to Sweden and Denmark at the end of March, so we are going to write about a few of the places that we went to.

Hemma Hos Greken

We were after something to eat after walking around Lund and looking at the cathedral and bits of the famous university. We settled on Hemma Hos Greken, a basement Greek restaurant with a name that translates as 'Home of the Greeks'.

Fitting with the surroundings, this definitely has the appearance of a student hangout - basic but not unwelcoming despite the slightly stern staff. It is not your normal Greek restaurant, but more homely traditional Greek dishes were ladled up from a counter, with most being vegetarian.

I got some of their famous lentil soup with garlic:

Lentil soup

The presentation and roll were nothing special, but the soup was tasty, warm and filling, perfect for a cold day.

ihascupcake got the hearty vegetable stew:

Lentil soup

The stew didn't seem particularly 'Greek', or at least our normal perception of Greek food. However, it was quite filling and lovely, felt like a nice home cooked meal.

This for the remarkably cheap price of 45 krona each, or £4, and we were even offered free refills.

The restaurant is only opened on Monday through Friday, from 11am to 4pm. Not a bad place for a quick cheap lunch when in Lund, especially in the winter!

Hemma Hos Greken
Sandgatan 10
Lund, Sweden
Tel: 046 -32 44 33

Monday, 17 August 2009

Cha-Ya, San Francisco

A second San Francisco post. Also a second place called Chaya (after this one in Shinjuku), in this case a Japanese vegan restaurant. Please be aware that there is another restaurant in San Francisco called Chaya Brasserie by the waterfront, which serves Japanese/French fusion cuisine and probably will hurt your wallet a bit more than the more humble Cha-ya in the trendier/shabbier area on Valencia Street (cue thrift shops, dive bars, coffeehouses, interesting shops) in Inner Mission. Cha-ya offers Japanese vegan food that is inspired by Zen cooking. See the menu here. It had a very impressive variety of options which meant it took a long time to decide what to order - not an issue that we are used to as vegetarians!

As we weren't particularly hungry after a big lunch earlier in the day, got a selection of relatively small dishes between three of us - two normal plates of sushi rolls, the intriguing sounding soba suhsi, 'hangetsu' (fried mushroom) and a bowl of mushroom udon.

Avocado hosomaki 'reverse rolls' (the rice is outside the seaweed) and, below, spinach and mushroom ones.

Avocado rolls
Spinach and mushroom rolls

These were good sushi, in particular the big chunks of soft avocado.

The soba sushi were a bigger and much more expensive plate ($10.50) and were something which we had never seen before - sushi with buckwheat noodles in place of the rice.

Soba sushi
Unfortunately they were definitely the most disappointing item. They were a bit full of different vegetables and tofu to get much in the way of taste from the noodles when biting in, and as the noodles don't allow sauce to soak in like rice (in this case a soba sauce rather than soy sauce was provided) you don't get much flavour from that route either. Good to see some experimentation but it didn't turn out so well in this case!

On the other hand...

Fried mushrooms

The fried portobello mushrooms (layered with tofu and light batter and deep-fried and served with kiwi fruit sauce) were delicious. They were lightly battered to keep the mushroom taste and texture, but with an additional great combination of tastes from the batter and the sweet kiwi fruit sauce. Definitely recommended.

Finally, the mushroom udon.

Mushroom udon

The noodles were actually more brown than is usually the case for udon, which I was happy with. It was a rather mild flavoured dish, but it has a nice homely taste.

The whole lot came to $40 - not that really cheap but with good ingredients and presentation and some interesting ideas, we were quite happy with our dinning experience. There is also another branch of Cha-ya in Berkeley across the Bay, so it's worth checking out if you are in the Bay Area.

762 Valencia St
(between 18th St & 19th St)
San Francisco, CA 94110, USA
(415) 252-7825

Monday, 10 August 2009

Little Fire Pot, San Francisco

We spent some time in San Francisco in the summer and thought that we should at least post about a couple of the more interesting/vegetarian places.

First up is Little Fire Pot, a restaurant specialising in hot pot cuisine, also known as Chinese fondue or steamboat, something similar to 'shabu shabu' - basically cooking your food in a simmering hot pot of broth at the table. It is popular in East Asian countries with local variations on the ingredients and the soup base. Traditionally, a big hot pot is shared amongst everyone on the table, so it is a sort of group cooking and eating activity. However, at Little Fire Pot, they serve the personal 'mini' hot pots that are popular in Taiwan, where each person gets his/her own pot. Having your own pot might eliminate some of the 'fun' of communal cooking, but then you get the freedom to choose your own soup base according to your taste (there is a variety of spicy, non-spicy, meat, non-meat soup base to choose from at Little Fire Pot), which can please both vegetarian and non-veg diners in the party.

This restaurant seemed to be a popular spot for families, at least based on the number of young children there at the same time as we were! There were 6 of us in our group, and 3 of us were vegetarians.

Our full selection of food prior to cooking

Between three veggies, we decided to get two of the 'Deluxe vegetarian hot pot' ($18.99 each) and an additional mushroom platter (with enoki, shitake and oyster mushrooms). As was not an uncommon experience in the US, it turned out it was really rather a lot of food! Each set meal came with a pot of mushroom broth, a huge bowl of vegetables (see photo above) which consisted of corn, tomatoes, cauliflower, taro, tree fungus (also known as wood ear or cloud ear), spinach, yam, tofu, a few different types of mushroom and more!

Mushroom platter

We probably would have been ok without the extra mushroom platter! The 'veg meat' platter, which was part of the set, came with some imitation/mock meat that is common in Chinese vegetarian cooking. It was basically an assortment of veggie meat balls, mutton and meat chunks, which tend to be a bit chewy and taste like meat a bit in texture. The 'balls' tend to have a kind of hard but crisp and smooth texture, which is similar to typical Asian meat/fish balls, significantly different from the Western meat balls - according to IF, that could be an acquired taste for those who are not used to this texture.

Vegetarian meat platter

Each set also came with a choice of side/starch, which were udon, yam vermiceilli, bean vermiceilli, egg noodle, sliced ricecake (Shanghainese nian gao), or rice! We decided to give the udon and yam vermicelli a try. We also ordered the vegan satay sauce for dipping the cooked food.

Hot pot in action

It was still quite a social way of eating even though we had our personal pots - since the dining process was quite long as we all had to cook, well or boil, our own food at the table, definitely great for chatting and catching up with friends you haven't seen for a while! It is also quite fun, maybe it is a bit like a lucky dip, you just put the hot pot spoon/ladle in the soup and see what would pick up! We vegetarians didn't have to worry about the danger of under cooking things; actually it was probably best to pace yourself since you probably don't have to over cook some of the stuff too much as you probably can't eat things very quickly (cos they would be piping hot!).

In case you weren't too full after all this hot potting, there was an okay selection of 'free' dessert - taro sago/tapioca dessert 'soup', coconut pudding and fruits.

Overall, our experience at Little Fire Pot was pretty good. It was probably a combination of the food and the process of cooking, eating and socialising made it a rather fun evening. Additionally, for those who are familiar with the SF Bay Area, San Francisco (and Daly City) summers are often far from being warm, so hot pot was definitely a good idea on a chilly day. Little Fire Pot is located at the back side of the Westlake Centre in Daly City, very near the border of San Francisco, so not hard to get to if you have a car (plenty of parking nearby). There are probably quite a lot of hot pot restaurants in the San Francisco area, but this place is definitely friendly for both veg and non-veg friends.

Little Fire Pot
470 Westlake Center (on Lake Merced Blvd)
Daly City, CA 94015, USA
(650) 992-0888

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Green Garden, Paris

Having visited Saveurs Végét'Halles on our previous trip to Paris and enjoyed their vegan cuisine, we decided to check out a place that they had given us a business card for, Green Garden, a Chinese/Vietnamese/Asian vegetarian restaurant . It is located in the Chinatown area, and the nearest subway station is Porte d'Ivry is a few minutes away.

This place turned out to be another vegan restaurant but one with links to 'Supreme Master' Ching Hai (the wiki is full of laughs and well worth reading), a Vietnamese cult leader who promotes vegetarianism with interests in America and her own TV channel.

The supreme master herself

I didn't have to look up to find out that last part, because they broadcast Supreme Master TV on several screens in the restaurant.

Supreme Master TV

Vegetarian propaganda in 15 languages! To be honest going to a vegetarian restaurant to be confronted with this felt a bit like seeing those anti-piracy warnings at the start of DVDs - surely we weren't the ones who needed convincing here?? It made for a bemusingly entertaining dinner accompniment.

Anyway, we got seaweed salad to start with. The seaweed was a bit different than what we expected, maybe more 'sea' and 'natural' than what we are used to in the Japanese wakame/seaweed salads. Nevertheless, it is quite fresh tasting with the slightly sour, tangy, vingear type dressing/sauce.

Seaweed salad

Then we had these Vietnamese thin rice crêpe, bánh cuốn (à la vapeur). Ihascupcake was very excited about this dish because normally you only get a few dishes in vegetarian versions in the Vietnamese restaurants we have been to in London, and bánh cuốn is something we can't normally get. It comes with pieces of vegetarian chả lụa (Vietnamese ham) on top of the rice crêpe. There is a little bit of filling inside the folded bánh cuốn, think it might be diced mushroom and something else? It is served with the vegetarian nước chấm/fish sauce. This dish is rather light, so perfect for the hot summer weather!

Vegan raviolis

Ihascupcake continued the cool and light theme with one of the bún (rice vermicelli 'salad') dishes -Vietnamese spring rolls and rice vermicelli noodles over salad and sliced cucumber, herbs and bean sprouts. It came with roasted peanuts on top, also served with the vegetarian nước chấm on the side. It was a decent bowl of bún!

Vermicelli and spring rolls

I had vegetable ho fun/chow fun rice noodles. I know the choice wasn't too adventurous, but I thought it sounded good and the the noodles indeed were very good. The imitation meat was a bit chewy to my taste, which I suppose is common with a certain type of gluten 'meat'. The kai-lan/Chinese broccoli was a bit hard and had that slight bitter taste, but I actually quite liked it like that.


Our whole meal came to €27,60. Although the portions weren't huge, compared to London standard that was pretty affordable. The decor of the restaurant wasn't fancy but it felt cozy and clean. The service we got from our waitress was polite. We spoke to the owner/manager at the counter right a little bit before we left and found out that he was Cambodian Chinese; he was quite friendly.

There was a small 'shopping' section at the front of the restaurant, where you can buy Chinese/Oriental vegetarian cooking ingredients, like some of those mock meat and such. Ihascupcake felt compelled to buy something, so she picked up a pack of ground/dry shiitake mushroom and seaweed, a product from Taiwan.

The food here at Green Garden was perhaps a bit closer to home cooking than gourmet Asian/vegetarian food. However, we still thought it was a decent place. We would probably come back when in Paris again, but maybe after we try Tien Hiang, another Chinese/Vietnamese/Asian vegetarian restaurant in Paris we haven't tried yet but heard good things about. But if you are near the Chinatown area and don't mind a bit of (potentially amusing!) cult propaganda, Green Garden is not a bad bet.

Green Garden
20, Rue Nationale75013 Paris, FRANCE
Tel: +33 1 45 82 99 54

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Momiji Restaurant, Paris

We went to Paris for a few days in July and thought we could share what we ate when we were there!

We had a long and exhausting day (RER train strike, heat, etc.), so we decided to go to dinner at a place that would be easy to find. We had been to Momiji on a previous visit to Paris, when we found it just by walking around the streets near Bastille Metro stop (the restaurant had a big advert inside the station to direct you). Although it is not great Japanese food, we thought it was decent enough and we didn't have to think about where to go. Neither of our French is that fluent, so it's good to just fall back on somewhere you know there would be enough vegetarian options. Although Paris might not be the most vegetarian friendly city, there are quite a lot of vegetarian friendly places or places that might make you something without meat; however, with the language barrier, sometimes it takes a bit of work. Many places also don't seem to have the full menu on display outside of the restaurant but only certain selections or offers.

There are quite a few Japanese restaurants run by non-Japanese in Paris (the same is true in many other Western countries); not that is necessarily an issue, but just want to mention that Momiji is probably one of them. For some reason yakitori (grilled things skewered on a bamboo sticks) seems to be quite popular on the menus in Japanese restaurants in Paris (and we have studied quite a few during our visits there), and Momiji had a quite a few grilled vegetables on offer. Here we had some rather delicious courgettes and mushrooms on sticks!

In the set menu, there was a vegetarian sushi set, so it made it easy! It wasn't anything out of the ordinary tastewise (although you don't see the same kind of avocado sushi too often), but did the trick!

We also ordered this tofu and tomato side. It was quite light and refreshing, especially after a hot day in Paris!

Tofu side at Momiji

I guess we didn't order a lot of food, but perhaps we weren't too hungry that day. All that came to €41.90, so it wasn't cheap but not too expensive for central Paris I guess. And if you want more authentic Japanese food, should head towards the area near Pyramides station.
20, Rue Daval, 75011 PARIS, France
Tel: +33 1 48 06 14 72

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Goodbye Japan

Sadly, that was the end of the trip! No more eating in Japan for us until next time, whenever that may be.

We discovered a new meaning for Viking, visited green tea desert heaven, found two vegetarian friendly burgers and great value noodles. We also found a friendly vegetarian restaurant that we went back to for second helpings. It is very difficult to pick a favourite, but our two choices would be the amazing yudofu course at Junsei and the everything-fried-and-on-sticks buffet at Kushiya Monogatari.

Next time we will try to find a shojin ryouri place that is open, sample monja-yaki and hopefully benefit from having more money to spend.

It is certainly not as easy being a vegetarian in Japan as in London, especially with only some knowledge of the language. However it is very possible to still find great food all around, though it can take a bit of luck or some research to find the best. A large part of the reason we decided to write about this trip was in the hope that others (vegetarian or even not) might benefit from it when they come to plan a visit to Japan. We hope you have enjoyed it.

This is not completely the end of the blog though as we have other destinations to explore soon!

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Chef's V, Marunouchi

For our last evening in Japan, we went to the rather cool 36 storey Marunouchi building near Tokyo station in the business district. It has a wide selection of restaurants. We didn't go to any of the really fancy (and non-vegetarian friendly) restaurants on the top couple of floors; we were originally planning to go to Fujino tofu restaurant on the 6th floor after seeing it recommended (when it was at a different location), but on enquiring at the front the host apologetically told us that much of the food has fish broth in! Boo! Perhaps it has changed a bit since it moved location?

So we wandered around and on the 5th floor stumbled upon a place called Chef's V - 'Vegetable Dining & Wining', with boxes of vegetables outside (good sign!) and a more veggie-friendly menu.

Chef's V

Sorry about the blurry photo below! This is a map displaying where their produce came from in the country, cool! I think the restaurant's selling point is fresh vegetables and other ingredients.

Chef's V vegetable map

We started off with cute mini-potatoes, our only experience with the 'amuse-bouche' that we didn't actually order but did get charged for, which we saw a few blogs complaining about at other places. In this case they were good enough that we didn't mind. I think they were boiled and lightly seasoned, so you taste the natural flavour and freshness.

Potatoes at Chef's V

We weren't really hungry, so we got a selection of different things to share and try. Colourful vegetables salad rolls (or something like that)/ 彩り野菜のサラダロール (¥500) were an interesting twist on sushi/Vietnamese summer roll concept and the peanut dressing went very well.

Salad rolls at Chef's V

Also we had smooth smoked tofu/なめらかスモーク豆腐 (¥300) , which was produced in-house/made their own (燻製 -自家製 ). It had a mild smoked taste, with that a dab of the yellow sauce (not quite sure what that was). I'm generally a fan of smoked flavour food, so was happy to try smoked fresh tofu!

Smoked tofu at Chef's V

We also had some delicious fried avocado/アボカドフライ ((¥400). The frying was very light, rather like when tempura is done correctly, not this heavy batter you get with some of the so-called tempura you get outside Japan. Finally we got this 'hot cocotte cooking' - mozzerella and tomatos with bread and olive oil/モッツァレラチーズとトマトとバジルのオリーブオイル焼き (¥650) cooked in a cocotte dish, which was slightly heavy but very tasty.

Avocado and tomatoes at Chef's V

For somewhere we hadn't been intending to go to this was a really great find, with some cool dishes and an emphasis on fresh vegetables. There were a couple other pasta dishes looked like they should be suitable for vegetarians and would be more substantial if we were more hungry. The food was very well prepared, and the restaurant didn't seem to be that expensive for its location and being in a business district, so overall a pleasant surprise for an accidental vegetarian find!

Chef's V
2-4-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-6390 (5F)
〒100-6390 東京都千代田区丸の内2-4-1 丸ビル5F
Tel: 03-5288-9005