Considered one of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in the United States, Cafe Flora in Seattle exceeded all of my expectations. When you walk in, you never would have guessed that the building used to be an abandoned laundromat. In fact, right off the main dining room is a peaceful arboretum complete with a bubbling fountain and humongous greenery. This restaurant is a treat for both your eyes and your palate.
Cafe Flora takes advantage of the local organic produce to create fresh and interesting dishes that complement the current season. We ordered two entrees that were marked as a seasonal dish. (Although, I’ve heard the mushroom wellington is their “to die for” signature dish.)
First up were our appetizers, and even though we were a party of two – we ordered three. I didn’t want to miss a thing.
The fried avocado presented itself as a simple dish. But, the flavors were quite complex. It’s too bad that the recipe for these are not in their cookbook, because I could quickly become addicted to them. They were battered in a crisp cornmeal breading that complemented the soft inside of avocado. The papaya chutney was sweet and fresh offsetting the spicy cayenne aioli.
Our coconut battered tofu was cooked perfectly. According to the Cafe Flora cookbook, the key to making the perfect battered tofu is pressing all the liquid out of the tofu for a long time. (In fact, they recommend pressing it for an hour.) The sweet chili dipping sauce was addictive. I let my tofu sit in the sauce to make sure all the flavors intertwined.
The final appetizer was a flavorful pate made of lentils and pecans. This recipe is also featured in their cookbook so I’m looking forward to recreating it at home. The plate was heaping with tiny gherkins and olives which ended up sort of overwhelming the plate. I’m sure if we didn’t have two other appetizers to eat, they would have been eaten up. But, instead, most were left on the plate and headed back into the kitchen.
The entrees were spectacular. The artichoke croquettes were moist and crisp – cooked to perfection. The grilled asparagus nearly stole the show as it was fresh, crisp and smoky. The potatoes had a sweet taste of satsuma orange and ginger. Everything on the plate had distinct flavors that were well thought out and executed.
Rather than just serving a plate of risotto, Cafe Flora puts on yet another beautiful presentation. As with the croquettes, all of the garnishes were not just thrown on for decoration, but they added so much depth to the meal. The risotto was earthy while the pea mash on top created a lighter taste. The pea vine salad was a unique crisp topping tying the whole dish together.
All in all, this is worth the short cab ride from downtown Seattle to Madison Valley. The servers were friendly and knowledgeable and the food was spectacular. Reservations are only accepted for larger parties. I noticed that most tables were set for two or four people. The few larger tables were filled quickly, so it’s best to call and check.