Monday, 13 October 2008

top 6…vegetarian joints

Being a vegetarian can often be hard work. You get teased for not eating meat, accused of being anaemic and you’re constantly asked “But why?”

Whether it’s because you were scarred from watching Bambi’s mother die, it’s part of your belief system, or you simply don’t eat it...there are ever increasing options when it comes to vegetarian food other than fries and rabbit-food. There are even some establishments that are completely vegetarian. Here are a few of the best in Sydney.

Bodhi in the Park (Cook and Phillip Park, College St Sydney)

Most of us Chinese still consider food with tiny bits of pork in it vegetarian. But it’s understandable that most vegos don’t feel the same way.

Bodhi in the Park not only does Yum Cha vegetarian style, but it’s vegan. And incredibly good. It even passed the old-school Chinese Parent Test with flying colours. In fact, my father couldn’t believe that the meal was meat-free at first.

Star items on the menu include the spicy glass noodles, tied in little parcels that give a satisfying crunch in the mouth.

The Snow Pea dumplings are also deliciously plump and steamed.

Add to this the fact that you’re eating Yum Cha outdoors, garden style, sans the overwhelming noise of 300 people talking loudly in close proximity – this place has atmosphere, service and great food in spades.

Bamboo Organic Vegetarian Café (45 Gould St, Bondi Beach)

If you’re one of those rare vegetarians who don’t like the smell of bacon (don’t lie to yourself…bacon smells good, even if you don’t eat it) then Bamboo is the perfect place to have a bang-up breaky without meaty scents wafting out of the kitchen.

Situated a little off the beaten track (for Bondi), this café has a great quiet location and is perfect for parking yourself with the paper, a coffee and leisurely eating your breakfast. Try the big breakfast of toast, baked potato rosti, egg, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms and house-made baked beans if you’re ravenous.

Mother Chu’s Vegetarian Kitchen (367 Pitt St, Sydney)

Buddhists do vegetarian food well. They’ve been practising it for some time now.
One of the original vegetarian stalwarts on the Sydney dining scene, it isn’t the décor that you go here for, rather a great range of vegetarian food that will have you coming back again and again.

Smack bang in the middle of the city, it’s a haven for hungry vegetarians and omnivores alike, churning out some of the best dumplings and noodles this side of the Himalayas. Try the eggplant and tofu with miso sauce or the handmade noodles to go with the delicious dumplings.

Green Gourmet (115-117 King St, Newtown)

Newtown had to feature here somewhere. This part of the Inner West is renowned for championing alternative culture, dreadlocks, weed and of course meat-free food.

Another Buddhist establishment that also has a branch in St Leonards, it is popular with students, Buddhists and vegetarians alike.

There is a range of options including a serve-yourself Bain Marie as well as ala Carte, and my recommendation would be to go with the latter.

Try the Better Than Oyster Fritters. Battered marinated oyster mushrooms in a sour dipping sauce, the Sweet and Sour Taro ‘Fish’ and don’t miss out on the 5-grain rice – so good you could almost eat it as is.

Harvest (71 Evans Street, Rozelle)

If all this ‘peace, love and mung beans’ is getting to you, then take heart. Harvest is the closest to fine dining as an exclusively vegetarian restaurant gets in Sydney. Here, it’s about the food – not the novelty of it being meat-free. Each dish is as carefully put together as any quality establishment – and is real testament to the fact that a truly substantial food experience doesn’t have to include meat.

Try the Cheese Soufflé for a rich entrée is a house favourite as well as the Vegetarian Lasagne and the Frangellico and Cointreau truffles.

It’s homely atmosphere and friendly service and the plus side of eating a 3 course meal this way is that you’ll feel satisfied but not overloaded the regulars here tell me.

Nature Care College (46 Nicholson Street, St Leonards)

If you happen to find yourself north of the border (that’s the Harbour Bridge to you), then all is not lost. St Leonards might seem like a heap of concrete buildings and fast food joints, but it hides a little gem in Nature Care College. The chose place to study all things alternative, the Nicholson Street campus is home to a great vegetarian café serving delicious, nutritious lunchtime fare.

Try the Red Lentil Burger – a deliciously spicy burger choc full of salad and a hint of satay sauce. There are also vegetarian steamed dumplings as well as quiches, pies and some pretty impressive salads.

At under $7.50 for most items on the menu, this café is not only favoured by the College’s students but savvy office workers in the know as well.