A Vegetarian Down Under: Vegetarian Options in Sydney, Australia

August 21, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

Going “Down Under” does not mean that a vegetarian has to starve. In fact, there is a wealth of options for us that don’t go for rumps, ribs, roasts or roos.

In the United States, my typical experience with restaurants is that there is usually a little tiny “vegetarian” section on the menu. Or, even worse, listed in tiny print under the burger section is the option to get a veggie patty substitute (which invariably is some frozen hockey puck). It’s more often than not that restaurateurs in the US seem to just sigh, shrug their shoulders, and just throw in one option to appease us non-meat eaters.

In Sydney, however, vegetarian options were sprinkled all over the menus and, lo and behold, these options were thoughtful and creative. The wealth of local organic vegetables must inspire chefs to develop these great vegetarian dishes.  When I perused menus there wasn’t just one veggie burger option but two, three and sometimes even more, in the burger section. Was I in heaven?

I had a chance to check out some of great places around Sydney that I stumbled upon just wandering around the city.

Iku Whole Foods
Multiple Locations in Sydney
Map of location visited

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The Iko Whole Foods we went to was in a large food court at the bottom of a downtown office building. The really extensive menu featured wraps, soups, casseroles, tarts, pies and more. All of it vegetarian or vegan. All organic.

My black bean curry was served steaming hot with brown rice. The curry included zucchini, carrots, green beans, sweet potatoes and tofu in a really fresh and tasty sauce.

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The minestrone with pasta soup was hearty, filling and delicious. How often do you get this type of good food in a food court?

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(Note: There were several other stalls in the food court that had great vegetarian choices including Sumo Salad. I had a couple of the toasted wraps from there and they were quite good.)

Bodhi Restaurant+Bar
Cook & Phillip Park (between pool and cathedral on lower mezzanine)
Map

On a walk to the Manly Ferry, we stumbled across a vegan oasis in the middle of the city.  What a great way to start the day! Bodhi is located in a very relaxed and scenic part of the city in the Cook & Philip Park between a pool and St. Mary’s cathedral. There is ample outside seating which provided us with front row seats to watch all the early morning swim class attendees march by with their parents.

The breakfast menu includes a variety of yum cha (dim sum) to choose from. My steamed dumplings included a sticky rice, sweet potato and spinach. It was a unique and satisfying breakfast. Not sure what the crowds at lunch or dinner look like, but we spent a nice quiet time eating and planning our day at Bodhi.

Moo Gourmet Burgers
Bondi Beach
70A Campbell Parade
Map

In the spirit of full disclosure, I did not personally experience Moo Gourmet Burgers, but someone that went there gave me rave reviews after he ate there.  Apparently, he was one happy vegetarian after eating a red kidney bean burger and even happier after washing it down with a nice Aussie beer.

The Moo Gourmet Burger has three vegetarian burgers which include:

  • Chickpea burger – Chickpea & couscous patty, Swiss cheese, baby spinach, tomato, home‐made mayonnaise & tomato relish
  • Red kidney bean burger – Spicy red kidney bean patty, mixed leaf lettuce, tomato, home‐made mayonnaise & tomato relish
  • Falafal burger – Falafel, hummus, cucumber yogurt & chili jam& tomato juice

You can top off your veggie burger with extra toppings such as pineapple, avocado, mozzarella cheese, Swiss cheese, aged cheddar, sweet potato, tomato, beetroot. (I discovered on this trip my love of beetroot on a veggie burger. The earthiness of the beets is something that is quite good.)

Peace Harmony Vegie House
29 King Street
Sydney

Take out spot – 29 King Street
Restaurant – 44 Erskine Street

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This vegan Thai restaurant was right around the corner from our hotel and only steps from Darling Harbor. Unfortunately, we did not get a chance to check out the food, but just by looking at the menu, I knew it would not let anyone go away hungry or disappointed. The chef specials included BBQ soy chicken, mushroom steak, soy fish and soy nuggets in plum sauce. They also had several thai salads with veggie lamb, beef or duck. There are also 15 stir fries, 6 curries, and 7 noodle dishes to choose from. Just a heads up, if you’re not specifically looking for this take out spot you may end up just walking by it.

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Looking for fancier fare? Check out my review of Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant. Well worth a visit if you’re in Sydney.

By the way, if you’re looking for a specific type of restaurant or location, check out Veggie Friendly for a quite extensive review of vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants around Sydney.

A Vegetarian Down Under: Review of Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

August 19, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney did not disappoint…I think. I say that because we were quite jetlagged during our dinner that we were hoping that there wouldn’t be a full plate of food in front of us when our heads hit the table in exhaustion. A 14 hour time difference hit us hard and hit us right during this meal.  That said, we were glad that we fought through the tiredness as this meal was really quite good.

Harvest Vegetarian is located in the Rozelle area of Sydney and off the beaten tourist path so we ended up taking a quick cab ride from Darling Harbor. When you approach the restaurant, it seems like you’re in the wrong place to find a restaurant because the area looks a bit residential.

We were the first to arrive in the restaurant so it was a little quiet at the beginning of the meal. But by 7:00 the place was filled with several couples and larger groups. It’s an intimate setting so it was easy to overhear all conversations in the place, but, trust me, that helped to drown out some of the really strange music coming over the speakers. Apparently, this restaurant can get a bit crowded so, it’s probably best to call for reservations if you’re not planning to get there right when it opens.

As with many vegetarian restaurants, it was hard to decide which entree to get. The menu was pretty extensive and included a harvest curry, a nutty cheese and leek tart, soba noodle stir fry, and a savory mushroom pancake stack. There was a wide variety of flavors and dishes to get from all around the globe. Our server was very polite and even informed us that the main dishes would take a little bit to cook as everything is made from scratch. We took that opportunity to order the twice baked goat cheese soufle as a starter. I’m glad we did because it was a great way to start the meal. The souffle was a delicate cloud bursting with goat cheese flavor. (The room is brightly painted but the lighting is dark – that’s why most the photos came out a bit blurry as my camera was working on mostly candlelight.)

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

The zucchini boats served on a bed of English spinach were the highlight of the meal. The stuffing inside the zucchini was pureed and smooth. The stuffing was unique because it included a slight hint of lemon which freshened the taste of the dish.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

The English spinach and kamara gnocchi were quite large and dense. The menu explained that sweet potatoes made the base of the gnocchi so that added a unique twist to the dish. They were more like large dumplings, and I really prefer my gnocchi to be smaller and lighter.  There is a choice of either a lemon and garlic cream sauce or a roasted tomato sauce. The roasted tomato sauce was hearty and was really what made the gnocchi taste delicious.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

My arm was twisted into getting desert even though my thoughts were more towards getting to bed, but I’m glad I acquiesced. I had the white and dark chocolate truffles and they were heavenly and decadent.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant in Sydney, Australia

With full and happy stomachs, we were ready to head back to our hotel. Our server gladly called us a cab which arrived a few short minutes later.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant is one of the few fully vegetarian restaurants in the Sydney area that featured more than just Asian dishes and it’s worth a trip over to Rozelle. Just be sure that you have conquered your jet lag and you’ll have an even better time.

It turns out that this restaurant has been around for many years, but it does not seem to have its own website. It’s a shame, because the place has great character and an interesting menu and their own website will allow them to  share their vision of the restaurant in their own words.

Harvest Vegetarian Restaurant
71 Evans St
Rozelle NSW 2039
Phone (02) 9818 4201

harvest vegetarian restaurant - outside

(Due to the aforementioned jet lag, I completely forgot to take a picture of the outside of the restaurant. The exterior shot was actually taken by Scotticus_ via flickr)

Vegetarian Restaurant Review: Mi Lah, Philadelphia, PA

June 11, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review, Travel

Mi Lah Vegetarian Restaurant in Philadelphia was an accidental find. We were walking down 16th Street, on our way to Monk’s for a Belgian brew, when we stumbled upon a restaurant with a large sign that read “Vegetarian”. I, of course, had to cross the street to get a peek at the menu and, after a quick glance, I immediately knew I had to go in. (Our beers could wait.)

The restaurant closes at 10:00 and the time was about 9:40. We walked in and it was nearly empty – save a large table upstairs filled with a giddy reunion of about 8 people. The service was friendly, funny and down to earth. We apologized for coming so close to closing and they did not seem bothered at all, in fact, they were very relaxed about it.

There was a wide variety of dishes on the menu that will satisfy anyone’s particular tastes. After we ordered, we were brought a small plate of soft bread and a delicious basil spread that was a great way to start our meal.

My Cambodian Amok arrived at the table piping hot. The sauce was creamy and spicy, warming my stomach after a long day of travel. There was a LOT of tofu in this dish which also consisted of spinach, eggplant, and tofu in coconut lemongrass sauce. It was a shame I couldn’t bring the leftovers home with me but we were sans fridge in our hotel room.

We also ordered the zucchini stuffed with seitan and red peppers. The is a definitely dish I wish I could replicate at home. It had a rustic, woodsy and, dare I say, “meaty” taste to it. Again, the portion size for this dish was quite large – but not a bit was left on the plate.

Mi Lah was a great accidental find. We left full and happy and ready to imbibe some Belgian beers.

Just a heads-up, this is a BYOB place. As an out-of-towner, this can be a bit discouraging if you were hoping to pair your meal with a nice wine.

Mi Lah Restaurant
218 South 16th Street
Philadelphia, PA

Restaurant Review – San Francisco Soup Company, San Francisco, California

May 26, 2009 By: Megabeth Category: Restaurant Review

The San Francisco Soup Company – why couldn’t this place be called Washington DC Soup Company? I would eat lunch here every day if it was located on the East Coast. As a vegetarian, it’s so refreshing to enter a restaurant and have items identified as vegan or vegetarian. This is even more refreshing when ordering soups because of ubiquitous chicken or beef stock in many soup recipes.

The San Francisco Soup Company boasts a long list of fresh soups that were vegetarian. The gentleman behind the counter gave me the  opportunity to sample a few soups. I had trouble deciding between a hot pea soup and  a cold avocado based southwestern soup. We also ordered a tomato bisque.  The menu changes daily but can be found easily on their website.

The tomato bisque had several complex flavors and depth. It was smoky and creamy. On a cool spring day, the soup was warming and filling.

San Francisco Soup Company - Tomato Soup

I finally decided on the cold avocado soup as it was refreshing and light. I added some hot sauce and sour cream and it became a fantastic mid-afternoon snack.

San Francisco Soup Company - Avocado Soup

There are 16 locations around San Francisco according to their website. I also just found out that there is a San Francisco Soup Company location in the SFO airport in Terminal 3. On my next layover, I definitely will be stopping by.

San Francisco Soup Company
Various Locations
San Francisco, California


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