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!