Monday, December 19, 2011

Andy Nguyen

After today's post, I'll be taking a holiday break until January 4th. So I thought it was only fitting that for my last blog post of the year, I would write about a vegetarian/mostly vegan restaurant, Andy Nguyen.

When this restaurant first opened in Sacramento in 1984, it was a very popular restaurant serving Vietnamese cuisine. But it wasn't a vegetarian restaurant. That transformation came much later after the owner made a decision to honor her Buddhist principles by no longer serving meat in her restaurant. The new philosophy at Andy Nguyen is summed up on their website: "Focusing on respect for people, animals, and the environment we hope to be a positive influence on our customers and our community."

Since the guys in my house were busy with other activities last night, I decided to treat myself to a nice solo dinner at Andy Nguyen. While everything on the menu is vegetarian, some dishes contain egg, so if you're vegan, you'll want to make sure that whatever you order has a (V) after the listing on the menu. I began with a Crispy Lotus Rolls appetizer, described on the menu as "fried golden brown vegan egg rolls" with a "soy vinaigrette and chili dipping sauce." The rolls were hot and crispy and quite delicious, especially when dipped in the tasty sauce.

I ordered two different entrees, which means that I have leftovers for lunch for the next couple of days. The Flower Adornment Sutra (don't you love the name of this dish?) consists of tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and broccoli sautéed in a spicy sweet basil sauce. Yum! And the Mandala Fry Rice included chopped vegetables, tofu, and soy ham. I'm not usually a fan of fake meats, but I really enjoyed the flavor of the soy ham in this dish.

No alcohol is served at Andy Nguyen, so if you want to have a beer or a glass of wine with your food, you'll want to order it to go.

Andy Nguyen is located at 2007 Broadway. Their phone number is 916-736-1157, and their website address is The restaurant is open Sunday and Monday from noon to 9:00 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Season's Greetings to you and your family, and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2012!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Monsoon, Cuisine of India


I noticed yesterday that the new Monsoon, Cuisine of India, restaurant had opened in midtown.  So I called in a take-out order and tried a few of their dishes for dinner last night.

I started with the vegetable samosa appetizer, four small turnovers filled with seasoned potatoes and peas.  They were flaky and delicious, and I'm sure I'll order them every time I go to Monsoon from now on.  I also ordered the aloo gobi, which is a cauliflower and potato curry toasted with ginger and cumin seeds.  I think it was the best aloo gobi I've ever eaten.  The third dish I ordered was the vegetable biryani, which consisted of seasoned rice with vegetables, mostly potatoes, mushrooms, and bell peppers.  The entire meal was excellent.  I shared it with my son Zack, and he thought it was delicious too.

There appear to be several vegan options on the Monsoon menu:  tomato soup, vegetable pakoras, grilled fresh vegetables, a few of their curries (eggplant, chickpea, or okra), and one of their dal (lentil) entrees.  I know I'm going to enjoy eating at this restaurant!

Monsoon is located at 1010 16th Street in the space at 16th and K formerly occupied by Spin Burger.  Their phone number is 916-469-9999, and their website address is  The restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lemon Grass Restaurant

Since I'm such a fan of Star Ginger, I don't know why it took me so long to check out the mother ship of Mai Pham's dining establishments, Lemon Grass Restaurant.  But yesterday, I finally had lunch at Lemon Grass, and it did not disappoint.

As with Mai Pham's other restaurants, the menu at Lemon Grass indicates which items are vegetarian or can be made vegetarian.  In looking at the list of ingredients for each vegetarian dish, it appears that they are vegan as well.  My friend Kristine and I started with the Crispy Veggie Rolls, which are filled with shredded taro, carrots, wood ear mushrooms, green onions, and herbs, and served with lettuce and basil leaves in which to wrap the rolls and lime-soy dipping sauce.  These were very tasty, and a nice start to the meal.

For my main course, I had the Ginger Tofu Salad, which consisted of fried cubes of tofu, green beans, carrots, broccoli, tomatoes, and fresh basil, with a roasted chili-soy vinaigrette.  The tofu was fried to a perfect golden brown and the vegetables were cooked to just the right level of crispness.

Other vegan items on the Lemon Grass lunch menu include Garden Rolls, made of soft rice paper-wrapped tofu, shiitake mushrooms, carrots, and mint; Vegetable Stir-Fry on Cool Rice Noodles with shiitake mushrooms, tofu, vegetables, herbs, and roasted peanuts; Su Co's Delight, which is tofu, baby bok choy, broccoli, bell peppers, and mushrooms sautéed in shallot-soy broth; and Monk's Curry, which consists of tofu, kabocha squash, broccoli, zucchini, and carrots in a mild Thai yellow curry sauce.  The dinner menu at Lemon Grass includes a special vegetarian section with some of the same items that are on the lunch menu, plus a few additional items. 

Lemon Grass Restaurant is located at 601 Munroe Street, just behind Loehmann's Plaza.  Their phone number is 916-486-4891, and their website address is  The restaurant is open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  They are open for dinner Monday through Thursday from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.  The restaurant is closed on Sunday.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Road Trip! 1515 Restaurant & Lounge in Walnut Creek

I was in the Bay Area over the weekend, and had dinner with family Saturday night at 1515 Restaurant & Lounge in Walnut Creek.

While there weren't many vegan options on the menu, at least the vegan options they had were interesting.  I ordered the Primavera, which was penne pasta with seasonal vegetables, walnuts, and a choice of either tomato, olive oil and garlic, or pesto sauce.  I always assume that pesto sauce will include Parmesan cheese, and I get tired of always having pasta with tomato sauce, so I ordered the olive oil and garlic.  It blended well with the vegetables, which included squash, cherry tomatoes, and mushrooms.  I really enjoyed the addition of the walnuts to this dish.  The menu indicates that whole wheat penne pasta is available by request.  The menu also says that the pastas are topped with Asiago cheese, so be sure to ask your server to omit the cheese if you're vegan.

The other vegan entree is the Vegetable Medley, which consists of mandolin sliced carrots, eggplant, zucchini, and squash in a homemade tomato sauce with garlic, herbs, and spices.  There is also a salad that sounds delicious and looks like it could easily be made vegan: the Fuji Apple Salad, which includes butter lettuce, Fuji apples, plum tomatoes, pistachios, red onions, and avocado, dressed with a balsamic vinaigrette.  It is normally topped with Feta crumbles, which could be left off.

1515 Restaurant & Lounge is located at 1515 North Main Street in Walnut Creek.  The phone number is 925-939-1515, and their website address is  According to their Facebook page, they are open Monday through Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. until 10:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from 11:30 a.m. until 1:00 a.m., and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. until midnight.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Cafe Morocco

I was out running errands yesterday and decided to stop in for lunch at Cafe Morocco in the strip mall at the corner of Capitol and Alhambra. 

I ordered a cup of their delicious harira soup, made with rice, lentils, and garbanzo beans in a tomato base.  I also asked for an order of dolma, grape leaves stuffed with seasoned rice.  I always like the dolma at Cafe Morocco because the grape leaves don't have such a strong brine taste as I've encountered when eating dolma at other restaurants.  I had them omit the tzatziki sauce, however, since it's not vegan.

While I was there, I asked which of their other menu items are vegan, and there are several.  On the appetizer list, the humus, baba ganooj, falafel, olive mix, and torshi (pickled peppers, wild cucumbers, turnips, baby carrots, and cauliflower) are all vegan.  The tabooli salad is vegan, but most of their other salads include feta or a non-vegan dressing, so be sure to ask about the ingredients if you order a salad.

At lunch time, it appears that the only vegan entree may be the falafel sandwiches.  But if you go in at dinner time, there are a few options:  vegetarian couscous Maftool, vegetarian Musaka, vegetarian Mujadara, and vegetarian curry.  Cafe Morocco appears to be a very easy place to be vegan!

Cafe Morocco is located at 1221 Alhambra Boulevard, and their phone number is 916-731-4637.  In theory, their website address is, although I didn't have any luck when I tried that link a few minutes ago.  The restaurant is open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.  As an added bonus, they have belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.  Cafe Morocco is closed on Sundays.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Part-time Vegan?

I'm probably wading into a minefield here, but I'm going to do it anyhow.  In Sunday's Sacramento Bee, restaurant reviewer Blair Anthony Robertson critiqued two local vegan restaurants:  The Green Boheme and Loving Hut.  First, let me just say that I love the fact that he wrote a thoughtful review of these restaurants.  But secondly, I appreciated this quote from the article:  "I love animals and believe there is a moral responsibility that comes with being at the top of the food chain. I'm also interested in a healthy lifestyle, and these days that means that two of my three daily meals are entirely fruits and vegetables, i.e. vegan."

Robertson is not a vegan.  He still eats non-vegan food items for one of his three daily meals.  I know there are purists out there who think that anything less than all vegan, all the time, is unacceptable.  But I believe that this approach discourages people from making changes to their diets that would be beneficial, not only to their own health, but to the health of the planet as well.

I happen to know that many of the people who read this blog do not follow a strictly vegan -- or even partially vegan -- diet.  But the fact that you read the blog at all tells me that you think about what you eat and that the idea of vegan eating isn't entirely abhorrent to you.  So the purpose of this blog post is just to plant the seed that, even if you don't believe that you could ever embrace a strictly vegan diet, maybe you could think about eating a vegan meal once in awhile.

How hard could it be?  Think about some very common items that people eat all the time without giving any thought to the fact that they're vegan:  spaghetti with marinara sauce (but no Parmesan on top, okay?); a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on sourdough bread; minestrone soup; oatmeal with apples and cinnamon; chips with salsa or guacamole.

Then expand that to include some vegan items from local restaurants that are similar enough to your regular diet that you might not even notice that you are eating something vegan:  create your own salad at Jack's Urban Eats using only vegan toppings and balsamic vinaigrette; have the Vegetarian Lettuce Wraps or Vegetarian Dumplings at P.F. Chang's China Bistro; order the Spaghetti Aglio-Olio at La Trattoria Bohemia; try the Vegetable and Lentil Curry at Star Ginger; or treat yourself to the Vegan Boca Bacon Cheese Burger Combo at Downtown's Kitchen at the Round Corner.  And if you are looking for something sweet to top off your meal, stop in at Here's the Scoop! and get a cup of absolutely decadent Very Cherry Chip soy ice cream.

You may not have any intention of ever going totally vegan, but you might want to think about at least trying to eat a vegan meal now and then.  You may be surprised to find out that it's not as hard as you think.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Thai Basil

I had lunch last week at the popular Thai Basil restaurant on J Street in midtown.  Like the other Thai restaurants I've written about, Thai Basil is able to make many of their dishes vegan because they allow you to pick the form of protein you want added to your meal.  However, their curry dishes cannot be made vegan because their curries contain fish sauce.  Still, there are numerous other choices available for vegans.

I ordered one of their rice plates, the Gra-Tiam-Prik-Tai, which consisted of carrots and snow peas pan-fried in a mild Thai garlic pepper sauce, with tofu added as my protein selection.  It was served with white rice and a salad of romaine, tomatoes, and cucumbers.  A sweet chili sauce, which was actually quite spicy, was served in a bowl on the side.  Since it was lunchtime, I was able to order a small plate, which was just the right amount of food.  I thought it was a very satisfying meal. 

Thai Basil offers several different rice plates, all with a different combination of vegetables or sauce.  They also have salads that appear to be vegan, such as the Lap-Jay, which is a Thai spicy salad served with grilled tofu, the som tum, which is a green papaya salad, and the mixed green salad.

The Thai Basil location I visited is at 2431 J Street, but there are also Thai Basil restaurants in Elk Grove and Roseville.  More information about their locations, hours, and menus is available at

Friday, December 2, 2011

SactoMoFo This Weekend!

I just noticed that the Sacramento Mobile Food Festival (SactoMoFo) will take place tomorrow, Saturday, December 3rd.  I checked the websites or got in touch with several of the vendors that are scheduled to participate to see who will have vegan menu options, and here's what I found out:

Wicket 'Wich offers sandwiches made with vegan Italian sausage, vegan kolbassi, or portabello mushroom.  They can make these sandwiches with vegan Provolone cheese, and their coleslaw is vegan.

Hapa SF is a San Francisco-based food truck offering modern organic Filipino cuisine.  They have indicated that they offer a vegetarian pancit that can be made vegan.  I have never had pancit, so I had to look it up to see what it is, and it's basically noodles.  So if I can make it to SactoMoFo tomorrow, I'll definitely give the vegan pancit a try!

Emma's Tamales lists several different vegan tamales on the menu on their website, so let's hope they bring an assortment of them to the festival.

Smoothie Patrol says that all of their smoothies can be made using soy milk in place of milk.!/SmoothiePatrol

The festival will be held at the weekend farmer's market location under the freeway at 8th and W  between 11:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.  It will be a benefit for Sacramento Food Bank and Family Services and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program, so please bring canned food or new unwrapped toys to donate.   A map showing where each vendor will be located can be found at  More information about SactoMoFo is available at

If I find out about any other vendors offering vegan menu items, I'll update in the "Comments" section of this post.

Road Trip! San Francisco Soup Company

My mom and I took a day trip to San Francisco yesterday, and while we were there, we had lunch at the San Francisco Soup Company.  This restaurant offers a variety of soups, salads, and sandwiches.

There were three vegan soups available on the menu:  southwestern corn chowder, smoky split pea, and Indian lentil.  I decided to have a soup and sandwich combo with a cup of the southwestern corn chowder and half of a hummus wrap.  The soup was wonderful, the predominant flavors being corn, potatoes, some kind of spicy peppers, and the cilantro garnish.  The online menu says the hummus wrap includes roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives, cucumbers, and Romaine lettuce, but mine seemed to consist of just a little hummus and a whole lot of lettuce.  If I had it to do over again, I'd probably order a whole bowl of the chowder and skip the half sandwich. 

Other vegan items on the San Francisco Soup Company menu include side salads of either mixed greens or seasonal fresh fruit, and custom wraps or salads that allow you to choose the ingredients you want from a long list of options.

The San Francisco Soup Company chain has several restaurants in the Bay Area and one in Boulder, Colorado.  The restaurant where my mom and I had lunch was at the San Francisco Shopping Centre on Market Street, which has a very impressive food court with several unique restaurants, many of which appeared to have vegan menu selections.  The San Francisco Soup Company's website address is