I am an avowed carnivore. I can also be an intermittently picky eater. Still, I love trying new things, and enjoy new flavors, so I joined several co-workers and headed to Manzanitas, an organic vegan macrobiotic restaurant in Oakland. It was a great dining experience.
Each meal (lunch and dinner) the wily chefs come up with flavorful and varied menus using local organic produce. They offer a full meal or a moderate meal (a smaller portion) and you can also get any item ala carte. The apocryphal story that one of my co-workers shared with me is that the chef used to be the cook in a bhuddist monastery (which, if tropes hold as true as ever, means he could likely kill us all.) the goal is for the meal to trigger all five tastes (sweet, sour, salty, pungent and bitter) and to combine them in inventive and delicious ways. This is decidedly not rabbit food.
The meal began with a veggie miso soup. It had a creamy consistency and a slightly potatoey flavor. It was an interesting twist on normal miso soup, and was a great start to the meal. It was also surprisingly substantial, something I'm not used to in a miso soup.
The main dish was a heaping plate of four dishes, along with a healthy scoop of short grain brown rice. The mixed greens salad had a really nice mustard dressing on it that mixed well with the earthy taste that real greens have. The steamed mustard greens were perfectly cooked (not mushy, but not hard) and had a distinctive flavor. The sauce (I believe it was a lemon-tahini sauce) was a little strong for me, but once I mixed it with some of the other food it was easier to see the subtle flavors mixed in there. The mingu beans were prepared almost like the indian dish Daal. They were in a green sauce that complimented the texture of the beans nicely. The best part of the meal was the mixed veggies, carrots, yams, cabbage and celery root liberally dusted with fresh dill and a sauce I couldn't identify. The sauce was very light, and really brought out the sweetness of the carrots and yams.
So, what did I think? I loved it. My vegan friends Scott & Caren began my adventures in vegan cooking, teaching me that such meals could taste good (sorry, you're still never gonna get me to enjoy tofu, though…) Manzanitas is the apex of that, each dish was nicely complimented by the sauce, which either added or enhanced flavor to the dish. The sauces are what Manzanitas are all about. I also enjoyed learning about the macrobiotic approach to food (trying to mix the healing/ natural effects of different foods) and how they built their daily menu. I would happily go there again, and look forward to trying other creations from their kitchen.
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