I'm a carnivore through and through. The smell of grilling meat is like the best French perfume to me; however, I also love my veggies and after my less than successful foray into Raw Cuisine last year, I can definitely say that cooked veggies is the way to go. I've been driving past Bean Sprout Cafe, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, for a couple of years now and although I've been curious about it, I was never really motivated to check it out. One day, after a heavily-meat based dinner the night before, I was in the mood for something different and like a siren's song, Bean Sprouts Cafe pulled me into its depths.
So I walked in, sat down and right away, I took a look at the lunch menu and saw that the prices were certainly right. For $5.99, you had a choice between 7 different dishes that included an order of Rainbow Rolls and soup. The lunch deals didn't stop there. You could also order 6 different appetizers for $1.99 each and choose 1 of 3 different teas for $.99. In perusing the menu, I saw the words "Taiwanese" referenced a couple of times and finally confirmed with the waitress that Bean Sprout Cafe was a Taiwanese-Vegetarian restaurant.
Deciding to take advantage of the great prices, I went ahead and ordered two appetizers. One was the Pan-Fried Radish Patties which consisted of shredded radish, rice flour and oatmeal as well as the potato-cilantro-curry powder filled Crispy Spring Rolls. Before those two dishes arrived, a small vegetable bowl showed up along with the order of soup that came with the lunch special. The vegetables, which I think were broccoli stalks, had a nice crunch to them while the soup, though a little oily, still had a nice clean flavor to it.
Then out came the Pan-Fried Radish Patties followed by the Spring Rolls. The combo of the golden-brown, slight crispy exterior and softer eating texture of the radish patties was a definite hit while the slight pepperiness of the cilantro mixed with the curry powder added some really good flavor to the potatoes in the spring rolls.
Entree time! I don't have much experience with "meatless" meat so I was looking forward to tasting the Soy Pork with Pickled Vegetables on Brown Rice that I ordered. With my first bite, I did get a bit of the chewy texture you'd associate with meat and there was a hint of smokiness also to this faux pork, but would it replace real pork for me? Not by a long shot. Yet, I liked it. It was tasty. One thing to note is that when something is described as vegetarian anything, that label is just a benchmark to help you go in the direction of what appeals to your palate, whether it's fish, chicken, beef, etc. I wanted something "porky" and my soy pork, for the most part, did the trick and the pickled veggies it was mixed with added just the right amount sour to the whole dish.
Props to the brown rice, which was the best brown rice I've ever had. The thick brown kernels of rice didn't err on the dry side which brown rice tends to gear towards. I also was totally crushing on the rainbow rolls. The ingredients consisted of mayonnaise, carrot, lettuce and peanut powder, all wrapped in seaweed and rice paper. Absolutely delicious!
I don't know how I managed, but I even ordered the Tofu Flower with Peanuts for dessert, which was sweet, but not overly so and with tofu that was wonderfully silky. So I bet you think I'm done writing now, huh? Well, not so. I enjoyed my meal so much at Bean Sprout Cafe, I came back a couple of days later with a Vegan friend of mine just because I wanted her to check out my find.
For our lunch together, we started with the crispy seaweed wrap with bean curd skin as our appetizer. Wow, a winner! You get sweet, salty and crispy in every bite. It totally blew both the radish patty and spring rolls I had at my earlier visit clear off the water. As for our entrees, she went with the Noodle with Curry Sauce, which had potato, mushroom and carrots while I had the Sweet and Sour Sauce with Soy Fish on Rice. We also shared the Crispy Soy Chicken which was made up of soy chicken, basil and white pepper.
My soy fish was very good. It was light and crispy and also had a distinct fish taste to it without "being fishy", if you know what I mean. I also felt that soy chicken also tasted quite chicken-y. Both of these "meats" were definitely closer to their counterpart than the soy pork I had earlier in the week. Afterwards, my friend who follows a vegan lifestyle gave Bean Sprouts Cafe a thumbs up so I think that definitely counts for something. However, the fact this self-confessed carnivore would sometimes be willing to forgo a steak for soy fish speaks for itself.
Bean Sprout Cafe
103 E. Huntington Drive
Arcadia, CA 91006