Monday, February 11, 2008

Lunch #26: Vegetarian Bistro

ClosedVegetarian Bistro is no longer in business.
Vegetarian Bistro Today was MSG150's third backtrack. The MSG150 route is an integral part of our plan. Without it we would wander the ID aimlessly and eat at the good and known stuff up front and leave the dives to the end. So, to keep us on the rails, we follow the route and only backtrack if necessary. We had to backtrack for Szechuan Noodle Bowl, it's closed on Mondays, Mike's Noodle House, it was too crowded on our first attempt, and now the Vegetarian Bistro since it was closed on Tuesday when it was due up.
Vegetarian Bistro, Seattle
Address: 668 S King St, Seattle, WA 98104
Cuisine: Chinese: Dim Sum
Average rating: 4.4 chopsticks
Lunch date: 2/6/2008 @ 12:20:00
Time taken to be seated: 0 minutes
Time to take order: 1 minutes
Time for food to arrive: 10 minutes
Total lengh of meal: 60 minutes
Chopstix quality: Nice Plastic
Do they use MSG?: No, but apparently you can order some.
Where is the owner/chef from?: Hong Kong
Number of tables: 11
Number of occupied tables: 1 (9%)
Number of business lunch tables: 1 (100%)
Number of "local" tables: 0 (0%)
Healthcode Score: 0
Links: Yelp!, Urbanspoon
Vegetarian Bistro

Family Style Dishes

  • 2 x Steam Sticky Rice with Lotus Leaf - $3.00 ($6.00)
  • Sui Mai - $3.00
  • Steamed Vegetable Dumpling - $3.00
  • 2 x Pan Fried Vegetable Pot Sticker - $3.00 ($6.00)
  • 2 x Deep Fried Mashed Potato Stuffing Pear - $3.00 ($6.00)
  • Enoki Mushroom with Pea Vine
  • Salt and Pepper Tofu
  • Spicy Green Bean
  • Green Onion Pancake

Luncher: Geary

Lunch: Family style - $13.00
Fortune: You or a close friend will be happily married
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Geary's Review

The Vegetarian Bistro is a beautifully decorated restaurant. It is clearly targeting the higher end ID market. We arrived a bit after noon and were the only people there. This is now my third visit and it is always empty. I hope they do better business with the dinner crowd. In the past, the owner has served us. She is very friendly and clearly passionate about her food. Our waitress today was also friendly and a bit wacky. We ordered a good selection of Dim Sum offerings and a couple of greens. We stayed away from the meat substitutes, but they have some amazing ones. Lots of "shrimp" and "pork", but the oddest was the abalone steaks. Is there really a large demand for vegan abalone steaks? Our waitress tried to push the General Tsoa's "Chicken" on us, but we were having none of it. She was certain we were not going to get enough to eat. She was wrong.

The food was all delicious and all very carefully presented. For presentation, the Steamed Dumplings (not pictured) and the Mashed Potato Pears get top marks. Each "pear" consists of mashed potatoes with a mushroom based center, a crisp rice flower breading exterior, and a single rice grain as a stem. Not only are they a wonder to look at, but they are delicious to eat as well. For taste, however, the winners were the Salt and Pepper Tofu, the Sui Mai, and the Pea Greens. The tofu was piping hot on the inside and crispy on the outside; the Sui Mai had a deliciously complex makeup of textures and tastes including something with a bit of a spicy kick; and the Enoki Mushroom with Pea Vine was heavenly.

Luncher: Emmett

Lunch: Family style - $13.00
Fortune: You will use your ideas for great benefit.
Rating: 5 Chopsticks

Emmett's Review

I didn't think it possible, but I'm giving out 5 chopsticks twice in two days. Vegetarian Bistro surprised in every way possible. I'm definitely an omnivore and tend to go nuts on meat, but veggies can be pretty good too. Vegetarian Bistro succeeds with inventive takes on chinese dishes that are hearty and flavorful. The restaurant is well decorated. The service is attentive, and the food is outstanding.

I started with the Jasmine Tea, and let the veterans place the order for food. We got an interesting tea made from Chrysanthemum, which also had little prunes and orange raisins floating in it. I tend to dislike teas made out of flowery shit, but this was pretty good. It also came with a little candle below the pot to keep it warm.

The dim sum came out and was fantastic. The Sui Mai were delicious, as were the Steamed Vegetable Dumplings. The Tofu was freshly fried, liberally spiced with salt and pepper, and was probably the best Tofu I've ever tasted. It was actually crispy. The Pot Stickers were the highlight - they had a starchy crunch on the inside that could have been potato or perhaps a baked chestnut. The Deep Fried Mashed Potato Pears actually looked like Pears, and also had a nice crispiness to them. The Pea Vines and the Spicy Green Beans were both perfectly cooked and had great taste. The only thing that was kind of average was the Steamed Sticker Rice in Lotus Leaf. Jade Garden's, which has pork, definitely 1-ups them here.

I sampled a bit of everything and got nicely full. Their deep frying doesn't lend a greasiness to the dishes, and unlike other Dim Sum places, I didn't leave with a knot in my stomach. Everything was vegetarian. I couldn't believe it. I'm definitely coming back.

Luncher: Adam

Lunch: Family style - $13.00
Fortune: You will inherit money and jewelry.
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Adam's Review

Oh the irony of veggie Dim Sum. Dim Sum should be all sorts of combinations of pork and shrimp in some sort of dumpling form. Unfortunately, I knew there was no pork+shrimp combos to be had at a place like this. *tear*.

How does Vegetarian Bistro make up for not having meat? Their strategy is three-fold:

  • Have fake meat. Not just the standard fake meats of "chick'n" or "beefe." You can order fake ABALONE! I'm no vegetarian, but none of my veggie friends have ever said: "man... I've got a wicked hankerin' for some Abalone."
  • Their second prong of attack is "presentation." The food comes out, and it just looks good. The mashed potatoes come out shaped like little pears. PEARS! And they havea a little piece of mushroom inside (yay!) and a little piece of waterchestnut (boo!).
  • And the finally tactic is having the pushiest server to date. This lady kept telling us to order more and more and more. And we did and did and did. The server was great though. Super nice and very attentive. Our tea pots (all three of them) were always full.

This place is definitely a great place for lunch. It was kind of sad how few people were in here, but with food this good... they must do a killing at dinner and on the weekends.

Great food. Great service. Great atmosphere. Definitely check this place out.

Luncher: Rob

Lunch: Family style - $13.00
Fortune: You will have good luck in the springtime.
Rating: 5 Chopsticks

Rob's Review

Yay! Finally, the MSG150 reached the one restaurant in the ID where I'll happily eat anything on the menu. And yes, I happily ate everything on the menu that we ordered. The waitress was very helpful with our ordering. Yeah, okay, so the waitress was a little too helpful with our ordering: she happily tried to convince us to order twice the amount of food we did end up ordering, and if we spoke too loudly about other dishes while waiting and then while eating, she tried to take that as a cue that we wanted to order more. She was good-natured, and it was funny, but it made me feel like I was in a Seinfeld episode. Soon, though, the lazy susan in the middle of the table began to turn and turn, and scrumptious veggie dishes kept going by, one after the other. The dim sum choices (favorites: potstickers and potato "pears", and sticky rice, and dumplings, and... okay, you get the idea) were all good -- some were steamed, some were fried, but all were good. The regular dishes we ordered to share also got two thumbs up from me. The salt and pepper tofu was particularly noteworthy, I thought. Breaded and quickly deep-fried nuggets of soft tofu -- crispy on the outside and soft on the inside -- not your usual fried tofu. Overall, it was our most expensive lunch so far, but worth it, as far as I'm concerned. Maybe I can hypnotize the other MSG150 folk and make them believe we haven't yet gone to the Vegetarian Bistro so that we can go again soon.

Luncher: Kara

Lunch: Family style - $13.00
Fortune: You will be called to fill a position of high honor and responsibility.
Rating: 4 Chopsticks

Kara's Review

First, you can't really beat a vegetarian dim sum place when you are vegetarian..they had my at the Meat-Free Zone sign on the door. Not being the biggest fried food fan...the greens were amazing. I applaud Geary's great push for the pea vines...those were the best. Followed closely by the spicy green beans (though not really spicy but nice and crunchy) and then the 'pear' that was really potatoes. I also loved the green onion pancake...I think I'm listing all the food because it was all quite tasty. I'm still in a bit of a food coma as I write this. The only thing I didn't really love the crysanthimum tea...though I appreciated the orange raisins and plums floating in it that improves one's eyesight and general good health. The presentation alone would make me choke some down.

All that said, our waitress was the best. I would go back just for her..and to try the General Tzao's 'chicken' that she was pushing so hard. Just don't mention a dish that you don't want with her around. She'll hear you from the back kitchen and want to add it to your order.

Vegetarian Bistro Photos

Vegetarian Bistro
Vegetarian Bistro

Tea
Tea

Green Onion Pancake
Green Onion Pancake

All Spiced Up
All Spiced Up

Salt and Pepper Tofu
Salt and Pepper Tofu

Sui Mai
Sui Mai

Pot Stickers
Pot Stickers

Mash Potato Stuffing Pear
Mash Potato Stuffing Pear

Steam Sticky Rice with Lotus Leaf
Steam Sticky Rice with Lotus Leaf

Sticky Rice Disrobed
Sticky Rice Disrobed

Enoki Mushroom with Pea Vine
Enoki Mushroom with Pea Vine

Spicy Green Bean
Spicy Green Bean

Meat Free Zone
Meat Free Zone

Our tea. Apparently it's good for the eyes.
Our tea. Apparently it's good for the eyes.

3 comments:

Alex said...

I'll have to try Vegetarian Bistro, sounds great. This blog is like a dream come true since I work near Dearborn and Maynard and am always looking to find things to eat, vegetarian and fish options in particular.

Jennifer said...

I'm so glad this place is still open! My father and I ate lunch there two years ago. It was one of the best chinese restaurants I've ever been to, specifically because of the quality of the menu. I had the ginger fried rice, my dad had the general tso's "chicken", and we also ordered fried spring rolls. He'd eaten half his order before musing out loud that he didn't think it was actually chicken. It was fantastic!

Craig said...

I went there today with high hopes.. the sign on the door said it all. "Closed for Business". sigh