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

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