I love Thai food: Curries, Pad Thai, Green Papaya Salad, Sticky Rice with Mango, Coconut Milk, Kaffir Lime Leaves, Thai Basil, Hot Chilies, Cooling Cilantro, Lemongrass… But as a vegetarian, I often have trouble at Thai restaurants. While the menus always appear to have many vegetarian-friendly options – with my choice of tofu or vegetables – upon ordering them, I find myself tasting some decidedly non-vegetarian flavors: fish sauce, oyster sauce, or shrimp paste.
So I was incredibly excited when Urban Vegan – a 100% Vegan Thai restaurant – opened this summer. It took me a while to convince Mike (my omnivorous boyfriend) to try it with me, but we finally went earlier this month. A week later we went a second time – at his suggestion!
It is a small, cozy restaurant that seats maybe 20 people. The room is sunny and cheerful, thanks to large windows facing onto Montrose Avenue. While the room is empty in this picture, it soon filled up with diners and people picking up take-out orders.
On one visit, we started off with a Thai Iced Tea. Thai Iced Tea is often topped off with condensed milk, but vegans don’t need to worry here!
We also tried the Steamed Curry Dumpling appetizer of steamed won-tons in a spicy green curry sauce, which were fantastic. The dumplings were light and fresh tasting, and the sauce was so good that I had to restrain myself from licking the plate clean.
It was so hard to decide what to order for our entrees. Like most Pan-Asian restaurants, many of the dishes come with your choice of meat – except here, all the meats are completely vegan. Hmm… was I in the mood for Chicken? Pepper Steak? Fish? Shrimp? Bacon? or would I rather stick with Tofu or Seitan? What a tough decision!
Both times we went, we ordered the Combination Plates. For $11.95 for dinner or $9.95 for lunch, you can have your choice of entree served with miso soup, salad, and spring rolls.
The fried spring rolls didn’t wow me, but I found the drunken noodles to be incredibly satisfying, with ‘steak’ and red peppers in a yummy brown gravy.
The Sweet & Sour dish also hit the spot with succulent chunks of pineapple, tomato, and cucumber. My curiosity got the best of me though, and I decided to try Vegan Shrimp for my first time. Unfortunately, the tangy sweet and sour sauce couldn’t save the ‘shrimp’, which was completely flavorless and rubbery. While it looked like real shrimp with it’s perfect shape and orange stripes on the outer edge, this fake meat wouldn’t fool anyone.
Our favorite dish so far was the Red Curry which was outstanding. Mike ordered this and I think I stole about half of it when he wasn’t looking. The spicy, aromatic curry sauce would be the perfect dish to warm up with on a cold winter’s day.
Overall, while I’m not a fan of fake shrimp, I’m a big fan of Urban Vegan and am looking forward to trying the rest of their menu!
I’d love to hear from you!
What are your favorite and least favorite meat substitutes?
What’s your favorite Thai dish?