I took it upon myself to accompany a visiting consultant for lunch, and having worked with her over several months, thought I knew her well enough to suggest we try a new place within walking distance of the office. As it was one of those gloriously sunny spring days, I thought the brisk walk would do us both good, a refreshing change from the morning long fluorescent-lit meeting.
On Chowhound, the two most frequent responses to the question, “Where can I get good vegetarian/vegan fare?” is Padmanadi and Oriental Veggie House (both lean heavily on soy and taro root products to create a “meat”-like texture). I had been to the former for their monthly buffet, and was curious to see what the latter had in store.
We reached the restaurant just after noon, and found it empty on a Friday. Though that wasn’t a good sign, the friendly proprietor quickly greeted us and led us to a table. The space was larger than I had expected from the outside, and filled with natural light from a bank of windows. Décor was minimal, and though I pointed out to my dining companion that the vinyl tablecloth was in dire need of replacement, our surroundings were pleasant enough.
The menu, printed in an attractive font and bound on thick cardstock, was a pleasant alternative to the large plastic-encased folders typically found at Asian restaurants. Though the combination for two ($28.50 for the specified soup, appetizer, and two entrees) looked interesting, my companion didn’t like the chosen dishes. So instead, we put together our own meal that included a seaweed and tofu soup ($5.95), shredded veggie tofu wrap ($5.95), country style tofu ($8.95) and rice noodles with veggie seafood ($9.50). We opted not to order rice due to the steep $5 charge.
Over the course of our meal, two other parties joined us, but for a restaurant in the Chinatown area with free parking, it was much too quiet. The upside to this of course, was quick service. We received our first course soon after putting in our order. As we had ordered the small, I was expecting a portion meant for an individual. Instead, we were confronted by a bowl that yielded each of us three servings, brimming with contrasting textures of crunchy seaweed, silky tofu, and pea poppers. The broth was not overpowered by seaweed flavour though, and I found the mildness to be the perfect way to start off the meal.
Seaweed and Tofu Soup
The intriguing tofu wraps were next – I ordered them purely based on the concept, thinking it would be the healthy equivalent of a spring roll. It turns out tough bean curd was used to enfold shredded carrots and bean sprouts, among other vegetables, then pan-fried. The wraps were actually quite greasy, and without the crunch that I was hoping for.
Shredded Veggie Tofu Wraps
The next two dishes came fast and furious, and we struggled to keep up. The country style tofu was reminiscent of a dish that could be ordered at most Chinese eateries serving more traditional fare. Filled with plump cubes of tofu and vegetables, we both wished we had ordered the rice after all – rice would have been the perfect way to soak up the delicious sweetness of the sauce. The rice noodles in our second entree were moist and cooked well, but I wasn’t too fond of the overly chewy “seafood”.
Country Style Tofu
Rice Noodles with Seafood
Our lunch totalled about $40 (with a $3 pot of tea), definitely not inexpensive when compared with other area establishments. The owner did point out their two chest freezers containing products that customers could take home to prepare themselves. For example, a popular item was their faux chicken.
Oriental Veggie House did provide an interesting alternative to the usual Asian cuisine, and is worth a try if you’re looking for something different.
Oriental Veggie House
10586 100 Street NW