Manpuku (Berkeley, CA)

The hand roll is blurry because it is irrelevant

The evolution of vegetarian sushi stalled a long time ago. I love kappa maki, avocado rolls, inari, futomaki and tomago as much as the next vegetarian, but after years of eating these monotonous platters over and over, I’ve grown completely disenchanted. So whenever I come across ANY vegetarian sushi innovation, my attention is piqued. Continue reading

A-Frame (Los Angeles, CA)

Swanky IHOP!

As a native Culver City girl, I’m absolutely floored by the bunny rabbit style growth of the restaurant scene in my little town. I may live in East LA now, but when I heard that one of the hottest new restaurants had popped up in my old hood, I had to go asap!

Pop pop chomp chomp

First out, the Furikake Kettle Corn ($5) Blazin’ Jay’s, Hawaiian Style. The kettle corn is richly buttered with the salty sweet goodness we all know and love, but then rocketed into the gourmet stratosphere with the addition of puffed corn, sesame seeds, nori flakes, and a blast of spiciness. The punchy mix is sourced from local popcorn vendor Blazin’J’s – watch out J, the word is out, and your booth will surely be blazin’ with foodies in the future.

These are not "pickles"

Along with the kettle corn, we ordered the Moooooo Kimchee ($3)—a modest plate of cubed white radishes swimming in lactic brine. Other than the salty brine, these bite-size dices of crunchy daikon bear no resemblance to kimchee. We selected this over the Heirloom Pickles because my friend doesn’t like “pickles.” She was later surprised to discover the pickle plate wasn’t all cucumbers. Instead it was an earthy mix of carrots, parsnips, red radishes, and something that looked like an apple… maybe an Asian pear?

[Memo to the world: Pickles are not just cucumbers! Also, not all pickles are made with vinegar! The fact that this information is not inherently known stuns me every time]. Continue reading

Kajitsu (New York, NY)

Nothing stand between us but empty space

In Kyoto I failed to convince my travel companions to dine at the famed Kanga-an, a temple serving some of the finest fucha ryori (Buddhist vegan temple food) in the world… at least that is what I’ve been told, I wouldn’t know, would I…

Back in New York I found some solace in the newcomer Kajitsu, a shojin ryori (Zen vegan temple food) restaurant nestled in the East Village. Located in an austere and spacious basement, it is distinct a Japanese/NYC hybrid; the large wooden bar where diners can watch the chef artfully prepare each dish could easily fit 16 people, but at Kajitsu the arrangement allows a maximum of 6. We were seated at the (seemingly much too large for our group of three) front window’s organically undulating slice of hefty wood, the only bold object in the otherwise restrained dining room, but in this restaurant we are arranged with purpose, and negative spaces becomes a part of the $70 (+$30 Sake pairing) eight course Hana menu experience.

Hey look tea... hey look, it costs money

I ain't no Goldilocks, all these sakes are "just right"

The classiest edible arrangement ever

Course 1: The meal began with the artful Steamed Hearts of Palm with Plum Sauce, Daikon Radish, and Menegi. It is fragile sculpture of white rings standing in succession crossed by a young green sprig like a beauty queen’s sash. The hearts are delicate and do not struggle to slide from my silver chopsticks and I slowly made them disappear. Continue reading