Tuesday, April 29, 2008
As I mentioned previously, I spent a week at my mom's place for spring break earlier in the month. I got to relax, enjoy seeing family and friends, and of course eat a lot of good food! Anyone who has visited the Northern Virginia/Metro D.C. region knows that they are not lacking for vegetarian dining of all kinds. When I visit, I tend to venture into D.C. to try out the great selection of restaurants, but this time around I decided to stick to the Virginia side of the river. Here are my reviews of the three restaurants that I got to try. (For a complete listing of all vegan, vegetarian, and veg-friendly restaurants in Northern Virginia, D.C., and Maryland, make sure to check out this fabulous list by VegDC- this was my starting point)
While browsing the list, Happy Family caught my attention. First of all, their location in Falls Church makes them very close to my mom's place, and second of all, they have an entire section of their menu dedicated to veggie meat dishes. As most of you know, I am endlessly fascinated by vegetarian meat creations, so I wanted to try this place out. As you can see from the photo above, the restaurant itself is very small and run-down. That didn't matter to us, though, since we were getting our food to go.
My mom ordered the spicy eggplant with garlic sauce, a dish that both of us regularly order in Chinese restaurants.
I got an order of spicy Szechuan chicken and veggies. I loved the texture of the seitan and veggies, and thought the dish was pretty spicy (although I wouldn't have minded if it was even more so!). My mom and I both liked our dishes, but found them to be a little under-flavored and overpriced compared to other take-out style Chinese restaurants in the region. If you have a particular craving for mock meats and are in the neighborhood, Happy Family is worth checking out, but I wouldn't describe it as outstanding.
Next up, a blogger meet-up! I met Ryan (of Veg Blog fame) for lunch at A Taste of Burma restaurant. You might remember my previous write-up of another Burmese restaurant, Myanmar, in Virginia (here), where I professed my love for the cuisine. This lunch only solidified my love.
Ryan had the green tea leaf salad, which is a refreshing and unique dish that you have to try at least once in your life.
I decided to go for the tamarind veggie curry, which was phenomenal. It was a mixture of a ton of veggies (cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, green beans, eggplant, onions, and more) and two kinds of tofu (baked and deep-fried) in a bright and tangy tamarind base, all topped with cilantro, and it was awesome. I can still taste it now, and I know that I will always want to go out for Burmese food when I visit my mom from here on out. It was also very fun to meet and get to talk with a fellow blogger- a definite highlight of my trip!
I had heard whisperings about a new vegetarian restaurant called Lotus in Chantilly, and I convinced my mom and my aunt to go there with me the day before I left. I had heard that the owner used to work at Sunflower, the famous veggie landmark, so it seemed worth a try. (You can read my write-up of Sunflower here) My aunt is very cautious about trying new foods, so I appreciate both her and my mom for humoring me. Lotus' menu is pretty large, and clearly distinguishes vegan and vegetarian dishes from one another. I was disappointed that there were no vegan desserts, but that didn't prove to be a problem as the three of us stuffed ourselves on our lunch dishes!
We started with an order of summer rolls which turned out to be my favorite. A crisp combination of tofu and veggies wrapped in a soft rice paper wrapper, and dipped in a sweet and sour peanut-y sauce definitely satisfied my cravings.
My aunt went for the house salad, a combination of field greens topped with carrots, apples, sunflower seeds, crispy soy nuts, and a delicious house dressing.
My mom ordered the Manchurian palate, hoping for a spicy dish, which she got! Spicy seitan chicken nuggets, along with crisp red and green peppers in a nice sauce came atop a bed of steamed cauliflower, along with a side of brown rice. I loved the emphasis on healthy ingredients at Lotus, where steamed veggies and brown rice were plentiful.
I ordered the tempeh sandwich, which the menu said came with cheese. When I asked them to not include the cheese, the server very kindly told me that the sandwich also had mayo, and asked whether I would also like to omit that, which I of course did. I love the little luxuries of veg restaurants, where they are mindful of the ingredients and the potential preferences of their customers to such a degree. My double-decker sandwich was awesome even without cheese and mayo- the tempeh bacon had a perfectly smoky flavor and crisp texture, and the tofu and veggies brought it all together. My aunt got to try tempeh for the first time by sampling my sandwich, and she loved it. The order also came with a small side salad.
Overall, Lotus Vegetarian was a good restaurant, but it definitely does not reach the levels of flavor that I experienced at Sunflower. It is awesome to see a restaurant of its kind in the neighborhood, though, and I would definitely go back for more healthy fare. Next time, I'm going to have to try one of their intriguing smoothies.
301 South Washington St
Falls Church, VA 22046 (703) 534-3838
A Taste of Burma
126 Edds Ln.
Sterling, VA 20165
13872 Metrotech Dr
Chantilly, VA 20151 (703) 378-6888