Fresh Eats: Polata Organic: Chef Tenzin's Fare Passes the Vegan Taste Test

Polata Organic is a new East Bay restaurant with roots going back over 15 years to the old Organic Cafe in Oakland. A macrobiotic institution, the Organic Cafe changed names over the years to Manzanita and then to Shangri-La Vegan, but the food mostly stayed the same, thanks in large part to Tenzin, the faithful chef. If you've ever tasted Tenzin's cuisine, you'll know the man is a vegetable- and grain-whisperer, teaching children to love kale with one wave of his magic spatula.

Polata Organic is housed in the former Ruen Pair space on the Berkeley-Albany border at 1045 San Pablo Ave. It looks exactly as it did when Ruen Pair inhabited it — posters advertising Thailand and Thai trinkets abound. It has the feel of a pop-up restaurant, but it's apparently (hopefully?) permanent.

The menu is pretty much the same as at Shangri-La Vegan — hearty, simple veg food like bowls of beans, rice, salads, greens, and roasted veggies that might be bland in hands less adept than Tenzin's. There's one menu, and you can order in three ways: the full meal, medium meal, or simple meal (prepared without oil and spices).

We're told that the difference between this food and Shangri-La's is that at Polata Organic Tenzin is able to experiment more heavily with spices, sauces, and bold flavors. If you've been eating bacon and Sour Patch Kids for a week, a meal at Shangri-La will leave you feeling like you made a visit to a spa — one that possibly included a colonoscopy. (A non-gross colonoscopy.) The flavors at Polata Organic are definitely stronger than at Shangri-La, but not in an artificial way. At the risk of sounding ridiculous, it's just a big bowl of delicious health.

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