Even in health-conscious California it’s not so easy to live a vegetarian lifestyle. Sure, it’s easy enough to find one or two items on any menu when I try a new restaurant in a carnivore’s world (and it’s definitely still a carnivore’s world out there), but most likely my choices are limited to salmon a la something or to a hybrid from the kitchen where the chef substitutes shrimp or portobello mushroom for a meat dish. This all gets old real fast. But it’s either that or drag everyone else to only seafood restaurants when I go out…and great seafood joints are actually quite rare.
So when there’s a really good vegetarian restaurant, where I can eat EVERYTHING on the menu, I have to write about it. I’m talking about Bo De Tinh Tam Chay, a pleasantly zen vegetarian restaurant in a mini-mall next to a large Asian supermarket chain.
My mom and aunt had tried to take me here before but we came during the lunch rush right around a Buddhist holiday and did not want to wait 40 minutes for a table. This time I came for an early lunch and got a cozy booth near the window. I ordered hot tea, and instead of bringing out the usual pot and teacups, they surprised me with a glass of hot chrysanthemum tea with Goji berries:
The menu is crazy extensive and it seems like every Vietnamese (meat) dish you can think of is available, even when you tell yourself it can’t possibly be the same with meat substitutes. But fancy mushrooms are cleverly dehydrated and marinated to taste like fish and boring tofu is magically transformed into pork or duck. Through creativity and incredibly sensitive taste buds, the chef delivers a great dining experience to both vegetarians and carnivores alike. Well, I don’t know if all carnivores can get used to the texture/taste of tofu faked into meat, but for this vegetarian who’s spent a good 20+ years picking peperoni off of pizzas and chicken out of tortilla soups, it was fabulous to just dig in without asking: is this meat?
BTW here are pics of the BÃºn cháº£ giÃ² bÃ¬ (vermicelli noodles with shredded pork, egg rolls and vegetables)
and phá»Ÿ Ã¡p cháº£o (pan-fried rice noodles with beef):
There is a small waiting corner near the front door where you can relax with books about Buddhism, and down the other end of the restaurant is a food-to-go area in case you just need a quick hit of tofu or don’t have time to dine in:
I’m so coming back here. Next time, bring on the BBQ ribs!