Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate (San Diego, CA)

I can’t put me finger on it. Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate‘s blend of dark Communist humor, Soviet hospitality, Georgian wine, topped with a plentiful selections of vegan options  is so uncommon in the restaurant world. It beckons me with charm and salad, while at the same time flippantly tossing my kudos out the door.

The skill of the kitchen, and diversity of the cuisine, dances around the silver dimples of the Zakuski Sampler Platter. Or as Kafe Sobaka puts it, “For those who left their GPS in the car, allow our wait staff to orient you to the possibilities. ($Anarchist).” Our platter included all the vegan salads—plus a few off-menu items. While some salads—like the Lobio: Pâté style red beans with herbs, walnuts, tomatoes, and onions—were better then others, all were full of sharp, fierce flavors. I’m inclined to call it one of the San Diego’s best vegan dishes.

But the star of the platter—and for some crazy reason it’s not on the menu—is the Badridzhani Nigvsit. A thick walnut pate spiked with pungent garlic and cilantro, wrapped in a thin leaf of fried eggplant, and finished off with a tart balsamic reduction. We scraped the bottom of the dish and ordered three more.

Chilled water comes served in spent vodka bottles and the Borscht ($6.75) is a supple specimen of a pervasive Eastern dish.

Anther favorite of the table was the Derevenskaya Skovorodka ($10) “Golden fried potatoes, onions, mushrooms, peppers and herbs served in a cast iron skillet. This sets the stage for gulping beer. For this dish I could easily kill my older brother.” An excellent hash, whose surprisingly savory hunks of mushrooms impressed the mushroom hater that is me. The iron comes with a not at all shy hot sauce and a sprinkle of cilantro. We murdered this pan, but not our brothers.

The special of the night brought on these Vegan Pumpkin Dumplings. Tender eastern European skins are filled with coarsely pureed fresh pumpkin and legions of garlic. Topped with a small pat of fresh dill, these are reminiscent of—but not nearly as good as—the pockets I grew so fond of while in traveling Prague.

Sometime you can just let the dishes describe themselves. Such is the case with the Welcome to the Gulag: “Times are so tuff here they pile your tray with FAKE meat and cabbage!!!!!” the menu exclaimed. The krouted cabbage laced with popping mustard seeds is sauteed with red onion, carrots and what tastes like Trader Joes brand vegan sausages. Paired with roasted red potatoes and finished with fresh cilantro, this ample dish is a curious ménage of east and west.

We had no idea what we were getting into with the Satsivi: “Vegetarian chicken (Beyond Meat) with walnut sauce served with shotis puri (Georgian bread). Satsivi is really a party dish par excellence. Can be served cold or hot. GF bread available.” We missed the part about hot or cold and apparently the default temperature is cold. As we poked at the icy gruel, our eyes fell on the mass beside it. “What is this… a potato?” my dad asked. It sure looked like one and it had the heft of a boiled root. Cracking it open, it was indeed bread. We loved it.

The Carrot Apple “Ice Cream” was an unexpected closer at Kafe Sobaka. Its texture is like a chunky apple sorbet, mixed with a smoothie, with carrot scraps folded in, then all frozen back together again. Neither good nor bad, we ate it (chewed it) in curious silence wishing we had ordered the melon mint sorbet or the poppy seed cake instead.

As we finished this dish, a bald headed gentleman rolled up to the table. “Was the food as terrible as you expected?” We laughed meekly, not sure if this was the owner* or a vagrant.

My dad piped up “This bread is fantastic, I thought it was a potato.” “Ah yes,” he laughed at himself “we make our gluten free bread in house.” A curious kitchen choice as we didn’t request the accommodation—but it was a welcomed modification that made our night.

Kafe Sobaka Restoran Pomegranate
2469 Broadway
San Diego, CA 92102

PomegranateSobaka.com

*Upon Googling I confirmed it was indeed owner Mark Djugashvili

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Soy Leaf (San Diego, CA)

After finding success slinging organic smoothies from a train car in Flinn Springs (at the east end of El Cajon), Soy Leaf opened a second location on Magnolia Ave. Filling the menu with pulled jackfruit and house made Italian seitan, Melanie Arce brings quality vegan food to east county.

I jumped instantly to the ever popular BBQ Jackfruit Burger. Tender chunks of saucy pulled jackfruit tempered with crunchy slaw on a soft wheat bun. While I would have preferred more heat less sweet, I totally get why this is the top selling item on the menu.

Carly of VeganinSanDiego.com ordered the Hickory Black Bean Burger. A house-made patty of quinoa and black beans glistening with a Dijon glaze and served on a bun with lettuce, tomato and mayo. She loved it!

The burgers come will a small side of coconut oil and sea salt scented kale chips. There is a small dining room (with art by some on Soy Leaf’s young fans) although there seemed to be ample take out service as well. As we sat there eating a few people wondered in, looked at the menu, then walked out.

“That happens like once a day,” explained Melanie. “This use to be a BBQ joint and not everyone realizes it has changed hands.”

Their loss, our gain.

Soy Leaf
Juice Bar & Healthy Grill
330 Magnolia Ave El Cajon, CA
SoyLeaf.com

Instagram: @soyleafcafe
Facebook: Soy Leaf

Learning New Tricks With Vegan Cuts

I’ve had the good fortunate of joining a vegan food swap earlier this year; but then the group took a two month hiatus. At that same moment, Vegan Cuts stepped in with this bounty. What arrived was a shockingly tiny box brimming with sample and full sized items… each and everyone new to me.

I had herd about Vegan Cuts previously, but never looked too far into it. I had assumed it was geared toward people in less vegan bountiful parts of the country. Living in Los Angeles I thought I had been exposed to all the best vegan snack items; but this little box put me in my place.

The immediate favorite was the Cinnamon Crunch nuggets by Somersault Snack Co. Crispy bite sized balls of wheat and sunflower seeds from a brand carried at the supermarket 50 feet from my office. I now have a hug bag of these on my desk… and to think, I would have never known about them without Vegan Cuts.

Other items included the by Snikiddy, the sample taste of Coromega Be Bright Superfood Oil, awesome vegan Watermelon Gummies by Surf Sweets, a huge bag of Ziggy Marley Salt & Pepper Roasted Hemp Seeds, Chic-a-Peas Falafel Roasted Chickpea (huge hit a party), Smooze Pink Guava Coconut Ice Pops and samples of pur-Absorb Iron supplement.

I was so impressed with every item. This box is very much worth the $20.00 price tag; plus it comes with free shipping. Vegan Cuts is a winner!