Din Tai Fung, Seattle - Vegan Options

Anytime that we go for a Seattle weekend, we are obliged to visit Westfield Southcentre Mall in Tukwila. It's not that we're big shoppers and frankly, with the exchange rate where it is, there are no bargains but Southcentre Mall is a hub of Filipino activity. Of course, we don't need to go just for Jollibee anymore since we have them in Metro Vancouver now but Seafood City (a large grocery store) carries Filipino products that are hard to find in Vancouver. Also, there are a couple of bakeries and other food outlets that likewise cater to the Filipino community. So we make a stop. And while we're there, my wife can't help but get drawn into the Jollibee line (no small deal as it is inevitably an hour). Since vegan eats are scarce in this part of the mall, we had lunch at Din Tai Fung.

My first question is obviously, who would win in a fight between the Jolibee and this cute little dumpling? Din Tai Fung's claim to fame is that many of their dumplings are made on-site and you can watch through the front window.
We arrived just as they were opening on a Sunday and were seated pretty well right away as they got organized.
We started with Seaweed and Beancurd in a Vinegar Dressing. This was light and refreshing with a sesame oil accent. Everything including the beancurd was thinly sliced long pieces giving it a noodle dish feel.
There are more than just a couple of vegan choices! We tried the Vegan Spicy Wontons and really enjoyed these as well. They were filled with a mix of mushrooms, bean curd and noodles and had an interesting texture while the sauce was garlicky and not too spicy. The wrapper was remarkably delicate. We would definitely order these again.
The Vegan Shanghai Rice Cakes provided some substance to the meal and a few greens. They had a nice chew and were stir-fried with spinach, cabbage, soy and sesame. A very nice dish!
Finally, we finished with Red Bena and Mocho Xiao Long Bao. These were sweet without being overly so and made a tasty dessert. I always thought that XLB meant soup dumplings but it apparently refers to the method of enveloping filling with the twist at the top.
One of my favourite things about DTF is the fact that the vegan items stand out on the menu and even can be sorted easily online. We kind of stuck to noodles but there are several versions of Chinese greens that also looked tempting. Service was great and the room is large and very nicely appointed. 
Even the ceiling is interesting! If you are in south Seattle, this is a fine place for vegan eats! Be prepared to pay the price if you get paid in Canadian dollars though. Our bill came in at $87.
Food                          4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options           4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                     4 1/2 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         3 1/2 out of 5


El Borracho, Seattle - Vegan Restaurant

We have not been across the border to the United States in literally  3 years. We have had no reason to cross, other than the touristy stuff and it turns out there are things to do closer to home, and there is no paperwork or declarations necessary to do them. But my wife stood in line all day, one day last month to renew her passport and wanted to take it out for a spin. So we found ourselves near Pike Street Market and it turned out that El Borracho is all vegan, all the time!

You might think that Mexican food could be veganized easily but the Mexican-American food that we are used is all about the cheese, isn't it (not to mention lard)? We arrived at noon on Saturday and they were not crazy busy at that point.
Daily fresh-made salsas are in a small bar fridge waiting for you to help yourself. We tried them all! The right side is jalapeno based with Salsa Roja next to it, chipotle something and habanero based on the far left which was spicy but not insane. Very nice!
We started with a quartet of tacos and I can't remember which is which. Al Pastor with tofu and pineapple, Jackfruit conchitas pibil, which featured orange-achiote marinated jackfruit, Ancho Chile Adobo Seitan Steak (my favourite) and Chipotle Potato (Mharie's favourite). They were all very good!
We ordered a side of Green Rice and queso (not shown) both of which were quite tasty. Most of the queso got sprinkled on the green rice actually.
This is called a Shortie, basically a small burrito. We tried the Bean and Cheese and the cheese was quite good being melty and cheddar-like Also a solid veganization!
We enjoyed sitting at the front window watching the Saturday crowds go by. There are a few outside tables and seating at the bar and different levels in the room. Our server was friendly and like typical vegans, we exchanged recipes! In addition to what we tried, they serve bowls, nachos, and burritos and have a full bar. This is definitely a haven for vegans at the market.
Food                         4 out of 5
Vegan Options          5 out of 5
Comfort                     4 1/2 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5

Veggie Grill, Seattle - Vegan Restaurant

The only thing wrong with Veggie Grill is the name. It sounds a little like a shopping mall food court joint that serves wraps. The reality is quite different as you will see! Located on 4th near Pike, we expected a little fast food place with a few window seats but ended up in what must have been a Chinese restaurant at some point.

Download the menu onto your phone or grab a paper copy, try to make up your mind and then order and pay at the front corner. Your food will be delivered to your table soon. If this place was closer to us, we would be back frequently and try everything on the menu (because everything is plant-based!). In the short term, we could only try so much.
We started with a couple of Baja-style Fish Tacos despite the fact that we had a bunch of tacos for lunch. Mharie, my wife and our fish expert declared these to be solid. Slightly oceany flavour with fish texture, crispy fried and nicely set up with all the fixin's on corn tortillas, these were some of the best we've had (warning: more superlatives to come).
Next up was the best vegan Reuben that I have ever had! The "meat" was probably soy-based but nicely spiced like pastrami would be and sliced thinly, the cheese was quite good and melty while the bread and saurekraut are vegan naturally. This sandwich made me very happy! The mac and cheese side was maybe not so cheesy as far as flavour (could have used nutritional yeast) but the texture was pleasant. It was a tasty dish and did not go to waste!
Finally, we ordered a Korean Kimchi Beef Bowl. Mharie was not as impressed as I with the "beef" but the overall bowl was fairly impressive. Lots of decent kimchi, some roasted sweet potato, nice greens and rice as well as some spice and not a small serving! Only $14 and a meal unto itself!
And free Chocolate Chip Cookies! They were a little chewier than we expected so maybe that's why they were free but we ate them!
Maybe this photo kind of shows why I assume this was a Chinese restaurant at one time. Anyway, very comfortable and lots of room for the weekday workers who want to eat a cruelty free lunch. Friendly folks (one recommended the Asada Fries and I regret not trying them), fairly quick service and lots of choices. Our little order alone should indicate the breadth of this menu! Something for everyone! 
Food                      4 out of 5
Vegan options       5 out of 5
Comfort                 4 out of 5
Service                  4 out of 5
Value                     4 out of 5

The Keg - Vegan Options...No, really!

The Keg? A palace of beef is no place for a vegan, or so I would have thought. My Mother, while sorting through some stuff, found a couple of Keg gift cards that she didn't plan to use and gave them to us. I looked at the Keg's online menu and learned that they served vegan meatloaf and I was intrigued! So there is no sense in wasting gift cards!

The Keg in Abbotsford is on West Railway neat South Fraser Way and we could barely even get a reservation for 2 people, 2 days later. All I'm saying is,don't show up without a plan, especially at peak times. This is a popular place!

They started us off with a nice little loaf of crusty bread which I forgot to photograph but you know what bread looks like. I think it was sourdough and it came with whipped butter... no, not vegan butter. I enjoyed the bread anyway. We ordered their Deep Fried Cauliflower, the only vegan appetizer on the menu. It was pretty decent. The cauliflower was not overcooked and it came with a sort of teriyaki-style dip. Nice!
The Vegetarian Meatloaf  (why don't they call it vegan meatloaf?) was very nicely presented. I ordered Keg Fries for my side which turned out to be...fries. They were just OK. Both of our meals came with green beans and beets on the side. I appreciated that vegetable effort as they were a step up from frozen cubed carrots and peas. The meatloaf itself was a nice mix of chickpeas, mushrooms and so on with a spicey kick from chipotle. The shoestring fried onions on the top were a nice touch. I was pretty impressed that this place could turn out a decent plant-based meal. They also offer a Mediterranean Cauliflower main and cauliflower mash as a side but one can only eat so mash cauliflower.
My wife ordered a steak because she is her own person and is not a vegan (unless I am cooking). I chose not to post a picture of it because of the direction I am taking with this blog and because you've seen steak before. The Keg is a noisy fun place (Superbowl was on the bar TVs.) and a great place for carnivores. It turns out that a vegan can survive a meal or 2 also which surprised me. Service was friendly and very good.
Food                     3 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options      3 out of 5
Comfort                4 1/2 out of 5
Service                 4 1/2 out of 5
Value                    3 1/2 out of 5

Pizza Knight - Vegan Options

Veganized pizza comes in several possible levels of effort. There is the vegan pizza where removing everything of animal origin is the only option. If you ordered a meat lovers pizza (and I know you wouldn't) veganized, it would arrive at your table as a pie crust with tomato sauce. The next level (lets call it level 1) is when the pizzeria at least has vegan cheese on hand. If you ordered that same meat lovers pizza, it would arrive as pie crust, tomato sauce and vegan cheese! Level 2 is where a pizzeria has vegan sausage or pepperoni available in addition to the vegan cheese. I think you can picture that. Level 3 is an all vegan pizzeria or at least there is a separate menu of vegan pizzas, where they serve creative pizzas which originate as vegan and you aren't obliged to ask endless questions about what is on your pie. Notable places in that category include Pizzeria Grano, Virtuous Pie and believe it or not, Panago!

Pizza Knight is fairly close to us, at the corner of Fraser Highway and 64th in Langley, and has a very cool name! They also have some vegan options. They are a level 1 vegan pizza place and the menu says that you can order any pizza as vegan for an extra $3. We decided to give them a try. After learning in a phone conversation that vegan cheese is what they are counting on, we realized that the only real options for vegan pizza, is to start with a veggie pizza and go from there. 
We started with the Baked Vegetable Stuffed Samosas after clarifying that they are made with oil and not ghee. They come with a side of chutney according to the menu but ours were delivered with sweet Thai chili sauce. Still, they were pretty good samosas and baked seems like a good option as they were not greasy!
We ordered 2 medium pizzas. The first was the Veggie Taco Pizza. Making it vegan meant only switching out the Mozzarella to vegan cheese. It was not a bad pizza and the cheese was melty (our main criteria is certainly melty cheese). Not sure if I would call it taco though. The lettuce on top was fairly sad and the salsa not identifiable. It came with sour cream on the side which was decidedly not vegan. I kind of expect tortilla chips and refried beans on a veggie taco pizza but there was none of that. So, it was not a bad pizza, just not very taco!
We also ordered a vegan Spicy Veggie Pizza. This was at least a little more true to its label. It was nicely spicy with banana and jalapeno peppers. The crusts of both pizzas were decent although I notice that they do not have options (well, keto and gluten free but I will decline to comment on that) on the crust. This was a decent vegan pizza. There are a at least a couple of other pizzas on the menu that might nicely survive the leap to vegan.
They have a few tables here in a room that is decorated with warm wood and nice lighting(I was not expecting that).  They even have a wine list and full bar so rather than just being another take out pizza joint, you really could enjoy their hospitality by dining in. The folks we met were friendly and accommodating and patient with my many questions. We appreciate that they have at least made some effort to accommodate the plant based eaters. Their prices are more than decent, btw.
Food                       3 out of 5
Vegan options        3 out of 5
Comfort                  3 1/2 out of 5
Service                   4 out of 5
Value                      3 1/2 out of 5

Mila - Dine Out Vancouver - Vegan Restaurant

Mila turned out to be our final Dine Out Vancouver adventure this time around. We had visited Mila once before during World Vegan Month namely, November in 2020. We were happy to be back.

Located on Keefer just west of Main, we had made a reservation and that was a good idea. They were quite busy all the time that we were there. There were 2 appetizers, 3 mains and 2 desserts on the DOV menu so there was very little decision-making to do on our part. We basically asked for one of each (except for one main, if you are doing the math).
The Carrot Arburi Oshi is the dish that made a big splash when Mila first opened and it continues to be a favourite today. By now, we have had carrot 'lox' or 'sushi' at quite a few places but we find Mila's to be the best with a pretty firm 'sushi' texture. Still, it is the creamy sauce, and bite of the jalapeno that makes this something that we crave.
The Karaage Tofu Bao was the other appetizer available and these were also pretty special! The tofu was nicely crispy and even reminiscent of the chicken original. The added crunchy veggies and sauce and a very decent bun made this a special vegan dish.
Often Dan Dan Noodles will blow your head off but the chef showed some restraint while still making me sweat and numbing my tongue. My advice is to take your time and not try to scarf this done in one mouthful. Nice greens and some nuts and a nice creamy sauce made this another happy dish!
The Mushroom and Sausage Tagliatelle was a rich and creamy pasta dish that was very excellent. The garlic toast really put the whole thing over the top. This so completely kicked ass when compared to Pagliacchi's vegan pasta in Victoria (that we tried recently). At this point, we had to use some strategy as we were already feeling full from the appetizers and the first few bites of noodles. We decided that we would have to take roughly half of our main dishes home if we were going to be able to tackle dessert!
And the desserts were pretty amazing. Our favourite was this Peanut Butter Cup Pie. The filling was creamy like a good cheesecake and very peanut buttery. A rich chocolate ganache was the topping with just a sprinkling of salt that brought the flavours up a level. Very nice!
We also enjoyed the Black Forest Ganache Tart. A few pie cherries divided rich chocolate from the whipped 'cream'. Also very rich and delicious. Good thing we decided to box up most of our pasta to go.
So we had a lovely meal. The folks working here made our visit very pleasant and seem to be mostly vegan themselves. We like Dine Out Vancouver but we don't really view it as a way to get a bargain but a way to experience some new (well not this time) Vancouver eateries so we will keep supporting the festival.
Food                              5 out of 5
Vegan options               5 out of 5
Comfort                         4 1/2 out of 5
Service                          5 out of 5
Value                             4 1/2 out of 5

Chickpea - Dine Out Vancouver - Vegan Restaurant

The last time we visited Chickpea was in 2018. Not much seems to have changed. They still have a very creative vegan menu, and serve generous portions. The space is homey and a little quirky and they are very busy, at least at Sunday brunch time. Located on Main Street near 28th, I would call this few blocks of Main, vegan restaurant row. I am envious of anyone who lives near here. So we made a reservation and showed up on Sunday morning. Chickpea offers a brunch and dinner menu with DOV options to match. The brunch offering is $28 for beverage, main and dessert.

For one of our mains, we chose the Latke Benechick. The latkes themselves got lost in this mountain of tasty food but when you could locate them, they were crispy and earthy. Beyond that, we chose the carrot 'lox' and for a $4 adder, the mushroom bacon. The bacon was one of those things where we said to ourselves, "Wait! Are we eating meat?" The eggs were tofu based and somehow creamy and egglike in a way we have not experienced before (at least since I stopped eating eggs). With a nice side salad, we ended up taking home half of all our food!
Next up was the Malawach. Not sure what the hell the name means but this was based on a puff pastry pancake! Topped with too many things to name them all but there was a pretty good sausage, avocado, sweet potato, hummus and tahini. With a side salad again and really good home fries this was another mountain of comforting and satisfying vegan eats!
There were actually 2 different Baklavas and we tried one of each. They looked exactly the same so I have only posted one picture but the flavour of each was subtly different. Both were delicious and served with a side of vegan whipped cream!
Chickpea has only been around since 2017 but it still feels like an institution. It has a vegan vibe that makes me feel optimistic about the future of the planet! The servers are friendly and efficient but nicely casual. As mentioned, we took like half of our food home for later so generous and well-priced is one of the standards here. 
Food                             4 out of 5
Vegan options              5 out of 5
Comfort                        4 out of 5
Service                         4 1/2 out of 5
Value                            5 out of 5


Chi - Dine Out Vancouver - Vegan Restaurant

For this edition of Dine Out Vancouver, there are 6 restaurants that are plant-based and offer vegan Dine Out menus. We have been to all of them in the past but hope to revisit 4 during the course of the festival. Last evening, we had the privilege of visiting Chi and were treated to a wonderful vegan meal at the hands of some very nice and attentive people in a delightful space! Have I given to much away already?

Chi is located on 4th Avenue, just west of Cypress. We chose to take transit which was pretty uncomplicated (one bus and a short walk from Burrard Station). We arrived 6 minutes late but they had not given away our table (just kidding. of course, they hadn't)! Being late is still unacceptable but you never quite know with transit!
The complimentary puffy bread, straight out of the fryer and dip, a soubise with cassava if I am remembering correctly, was so good that we briefly considered just ordering more and making that our meal! The soubise, which is basically  an onion sauce, was rich and slightly sweet.
Their DOV deal is an appetizer, main and dessert for $45 and there are enough choices that we could go back a second time and not repeat. We decided to start with Spicy Truffle Wontons. These were not overly spicy nor truffly but we enjoyed them. The dipping sauce leaned toward the vinegary and we like that. They were delicate and 'meaty'.
The appetizer that really made us sigh was the Smoked Eggplant. I don't see it on the DOV site menu for Chi so they must have subbed this but we are not sorry. It was smokey and rich and topped with possibly cashews and garlic. Either way, this was complex and wonderful!
We recall that when we last visited Chi, we had their Tumeric Fish and this was a similar type of fish dish (sorry, a familiar type of phish dish). Advertised as Seitan, Chi herself gave away the secret which I neither remember precisely nor could I recreate at home. Suffice it to say that this is a seitan and tofu mix complete with a seaweed skin that contributed to the ocean taste. There was a sweet caramelized onion sauce which was outstanding and actually caramelized to the point of being sticky! Amazing! Served with coconut rice (this was an adder) and some greens, I was astounded but Mharie was less impressed. She kind of loves her real dried fish so this might have missed the mark from her standpoint.
We also had the Laab which is a Laotion dish here recreated with crumbled tofu. Cooked with lots of typical S.E. Asian herbs and served as a lettuce wrap, this was a home run also.
Mharie had no trouble deciding on dessert as she loves tapioca. Serve it with banana, coconut and peanuts and again, you have a winner!
We also had the Pear Poached in Red Wine with Coconut Ice Cream and this too was a showstopper. The pear was nicely firm while the sauce was rich and we love coconut ice cream so this was another happy taste of dessert.
We kind of thought of Chi as a more casual restaurant. The truth is that the last time we came, it was for lunch, and we had a 'chicken' burger and fries, which was great. This time though, we got a real appreciation of what this kitchen can do and they definitely have moved into the top few vegan restaurants in Vancouver in our minds. As mentioned, the staff were very attentive but nothing approaching too familiar. Definitely visit them for DOV or at any time!
Food                    5 out of 5
Vegan options     5 out of 5
Comfort               5 out of 5
Service                5 out of 5
Value                   5 out of 5

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...