This morning I was repeatedly spinning a little random selector wheel app with all the new restaurant options and nothing was piquing my interest until I hit Vegan Plate. I instantly thought about Green Boheme and Baagan Cafe, both of which I enjoyed but ultimately did not end up returning to. Honestly, as a….Meatatarian (Meatasaurus? Man of the meats? Bear with me, I’m still work-shopping this) it usually something that looks particularly interesting to get me to go to these types of places (not counting going for this blog, which is one of the reasons I do it!). For all the obvious reasons (health, environment, animal welfare) I think it is a commendable lifestyle. I just don’t see myself giving up things like BBQ and sushi. I enjoy dipping my toes into this world once in a while and see how things are progressing.
I took a quick look at some photos online of the place and some food items and what I saw felt very ambitious. Sure, I’ve had burgers and cheesesteaks with Impossible’s beef substitute, and they are anywhere decent to pretty good. I’ve heard that chicken nuggets/ground patties can be done pretty well with soy, although I haven’t tried any that I can think of. But it was the shrimp. That’s what I saw that sealed the deal that I would be going here today. I’ve never seen this before and had to know if the taste and texture of a shrimp was something that could be approximated these days.
It was about ten past one when I arrived in the Hobby Lobby shopping center on Douglas at Sierra Gardens Dr. Two things struck me as I checked out the front of this building. I was surprised to see that the Jimboy’s was gone, and I realized that Vegan Plate now occupies the spot where Bo Bo Cafe was, which was just my 6th post ever (over a decade ago now, what a trip), and the first time I’d ever tried Vietnamese cuisine. I snapped some shots of the exterior and headed in.
The space is straightforward, a counter at center back for ordering, with a nice big black board menu that’s easy to read, and plenty of cafeteria-type seating to either side of the walkway that runs to the counter right down the middle of the room. A couple of wooden crate displays have some shirts and snacks for sale in the isle. There were just a few people in the dining room when I entered. The counter was unmanned but someone emerged right away once I got there. I said I was just starting to take a look at everything and he handed me a bound menu and said I could take a seat and come up and order whenever I was ready.
I knew I had to check out the Bang Bang Soy Shrimp (made of potato starch Konjac, Soy Protein Tossed with our house made sauce – 8 pcs)[$9.25] – as a minor tangent, I googled Konjac and it’s a root vegetable native to Asia, but I loved some of the other names it’s known by and had to share = devil’s tongue, voodoo lily, snake palm and elephant yam. I also decided to get the Soy Crispy Chick’n Sandwich (Patty is made out of Soy and Wheat. Veggies: Lettuce, Tomatoes & pickles – side of fries)[$14.95]. Beverage-wise they have a bunch of options as you’ll see in the menu photos. I went with the Tropical Sunrise, which looked like one of the lighter and more refreshing things available (orange juice, lime soda and grenadine with orange slice and cherry topping)[$5.95].
My food was ready and brought out in seven minutes, with the drink lagging behind a few more. After some quick pictures I took the first bite of the item that brought me here, the Bang Bang Soy Shrimp. What this dish seems to try to mimic is a battered, deep fried shrimp. Where most of those have a very light, crispy texture to them, this had a more substantial crunch to it. This first bite was good (insert George Takei “oh my” here), but the rest were even better. The rest of the pieces had something the first oddly lacked, and that was that, somehow, they’ve gone and done it and found a way to replicate the texture of biting into a shrimp. Well maybe not a whole shrimp but at the very least chopped pieces of shrimp within the battered shell. The flavor had a tease of heat right at the start but it never really turned into anything. The sauce was a little bit sweet. This was very good overall and while maybe not 100% convincing, if you were trying to fool me, it’s getting there.
The Soy Crispy Chick’n Sandwich was much more straightforward and exactly what I expected. The patty had a light crisp to it and it had a very convincing texture of ground chicken. The lettuce was nice and crisp, the tomatoes perfectly ripe and juicy, and the sandwich was finished off with some kind of Thousand Island type sauce. The pickles were kind of all in one spot but that’s about the only nitpick I have with this. I really enjoyed the bun, which was encrusted with nuts and was very rustic feeling. It both added a great texture to the sandwich and was strangely interesting to hold. The fries were the flat steak variety, which had me a bit worried at first. They were sliced quite thin which made them very crisp and they turned out to be totally awesome – with ketchup or without!
Last but not least, the Tropical Sunrise was just as tasty and refreshing as I had hoped. This was the only item that felt a little overpriced. It could have been a bit larger for that amount.
So this place totally blew me away. One of these days they’re gonna perfectly replicate a fatty BBQ beef brisket and the day that happens I’ll take that little voice in the back of my head telling me I should probably consider eating less meat a lot more seriously.