Best Vegan Restaurant - 2006
The menu is inspired, we are told, by a vegan cuisine favored by Japanese monks: a "500-year-old fad diet," witty posters say. The design is clean and spare wooden refectory tables and matching benches in a large, airy second-story room, part of the Crocker Galleria's food court but also reachable via its own Sutter Street entrance. The fare that issues from the long, immaculate open kitchen ranges from the simple (delicate, savory sesame tofu, thickened with kudzu; broiled eggplant topped with white miso paste and sesame oil; maitake mushroom tempura) to the elaborate (the signature Medicine Roll, pinkish nine-grain rice rolled around a pretty mosaic of pickled plum, avocado, shiso leaf, carrots, and fresh green daikon sprouts; whole oven-roasted dumpling squash, sliced in half and filled with a rich mixture of chopped squash, shimeji mushrooms, Japanese eggplant, avocado, and a white miso soup). There are plates of vegetable sushi that smartly counterfeit raw fish. The impeccable ingredients are treated with respect. Don't miss the yuzu lemonade or the crushed-ice dessert with yuzu syrup and fresh fruit.