June 9, 2007

Bodhi Tree Vegetarian Cafe [Huntington Beach]

My new vegetarian lunch regime brought me to Bodhi Tree on Saturday, where we arrived before it opened and had to take a walk down Main Street to pass the time. Half an hour a later, the gates were open for our consumption.

The decor is a little new age for my taste, but I guess good karma is never a bad thing. We moved onto the menu and gave ourselves one helluva time trying to decipher the English-only translations of the traditional Vietnamese vegetarian dishes. We even had to consult the pictures to figure out what the descriptions were referring to exactly.

My parents had come for dinner the night before and they knew I was in my vegetarian phase and wanted to share. I steered them away from their regular picks and asked our waiter for a few recommendations.

We started with the jackfruit salad ($8.95), which came with deep-fried "shrimp" cakes. The cakes were greasy and are normally baked, not fried. Aside from that minor flaw, the salad was actually quite good and was texturally similar to its meat-based counterpart with seitan chicken and tofu strips. My parents mentioned that this wasn't traditional, since onions and garlic are not usually present in Buddhist vegetarian food [most typical of what you'd find in Vietnamese vegetarian cooking].

We revisited two of their favorites: Fish Claypot ($8.95) and the Hot and Sour Soup ($4.95). Both were very good and I was especially impressed by the soup broth, which would've held its own against any canh chua cá you'd find in a regular Vietnamese restaurant. You can have the soup Vietnamese or Thai-style, though we chose the former. The appearance of the fish in the claypot was less successful, though the dish as a whole was good. The fish actually mimicked the taste of seafood, though with less pungence and no bones Though I often find cà kho tộ too salty or saucy, Bodhi Tree's version was milder and thus didnt require spoonfuls of rice to wash it all down.

We also tried the Rice Dishes with BBQ Pork and Eggroll ($8.95) and the Seasoned Fried Shrimp ($10.95). Both were good, though the "shredded pork" on the rice dishes wasn't as good as what they serve at Au Lac. I enjoyed the fried shrimp, which are also known by the name of salt and pepper shrimp. They were very flavorful, though the texture was more of a shrimp paste than actual shrimp. Although there is a misconception that vegetarian food is always healthier, dont be fooled. Deep-frying is no good for you no matter how you spin it.

As with any Asian vegetarian restaurant, I would steer away from any stir-fries and come with the right level of expectation. These restaurants only try to mimic meat for commercial viability, so dont come with hopes of feeling satiated in the same way that meats can satiate you. But if you're looking for a light meal with all of the flavorful trappings of what you'd eat normally, then dont hesitate to give Bodhi Tree a try. Overall, it was good, but I've had better.

Bodhi Tree Vegetarian Cafe
501 Main Street, Ste. E
Huntington Beach CA 92647
(714) 969-5000

1 comment:

Pelagia said...

You write very well.