Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sake Cafe

Sake Cafe, 2830 Magazine St., 504-894-0033
(Japanese, Sushi, LD)

Kittee thinks the vegetable rolls are the bee's knees; I think the avocado rolls are the bee's balls. As in reallly good bee's balls. The creamy avocado rolls went down more easily. The last time I ordered the seaweed salad, it was cloyingly sweet. And the tofu steak, while OK in and of itself, was accompanied by a dipping broth that may have been wrung out of sweaty socks. Plus, the house salad was buried under dressing a bit too thousand-islandy for my comfort. Better were the cucumber and bean-sprout salads, which may be the only things that keep me coming back. (Warning: the second time I ordered the bean-sprout salad, it was polluted with strips of fake crab.) Oh, I did have maybe the best glass of sake ever, pearl sake, an unfiltered brew that came off almost like spiked rice milk. Of course, Sake Cafe almost ruined the whole thing by serving it in a martini glass, for christ's sake. Demand that you be brought a shot glass or you'll look creepy.

I don't think kittee would disagree with me about the atmosphere--it's intimidatingly sleek, modern, and humorless. The bathroom is frightening--oh, it's clean enough, but try taking a whiz while an up-tempo lite jazz groove pumps in your ears and you know you have a heavy, heavy paper towel waiting for you after you drive your hands. Don't forget to wear your thin Armani sweater, linen slacks, and fake tanning cream, ya'll. As far as I know, kittee is the only woman with sweaty, hairy armpits to have ever dined at Sake Cafe.


Okinago, 2712 N. Arnoult Rd., Metairie, 504-780-8588 (LD)

Okinago sets out a sprawling buffet of not-half-bad Japanese and Chinese items, not half-bad a'tall. You get the inevitable slightly stale tinge of buffet food slowly dessicating in the open air, but the variety will put you in a gleeful mood. There's everything from seaweed salad to pickled vegetables to vegetable sushi and saucy Chinese possibilities (no MSG, I was told), too.


Miyako, 1403 St. Charles Ave., 504-410-9997; 3837 Veterans Blvd., 504-779-6475;
(Japanese, Sushi, LD)

Miyako advertises the largest hibachi tables in town. If you can deal with the stench of sizzling meat soiling your nostrils, you could do worse than eat here. There's a vegetable tempura entree (maybe vegan, maybe not) and the St. Charles location is right on the streetcar line.


Kyoto, 4920 Prytania St., 504-891-3644 (LD)

We last ate here once about three years ago. The room was pretty enough and the food presentation precious in the usual finicky sushi-restaurant way. I don't remember much about the chow. It was probably OK. Why haven't we been back since. Why? Why does a mother love her ugly fucking stupid baby? I have no idea. Does everything have to make sense? Can't we just bask in god's mystery? Yes, I know, another helpful review.


Horinoya, 920 Poydras St., 504-561-8914
(Japanese, Sushi, LD)

When I'm not reviewing restaurants that dare to serve vegan food, I'm a conniving, sleazy lawyer who loves nothing more than twisting the truth into a pretzel for the sake of my clients. You can scratch up a powerful hunger in this honorable work, Priscilla, and there's nothing that quite quenches the growl in my stomach than heading to Horinoya, my pick for best vegan sushi. The green seaweed salad is crisp and not too sweet the way some amateurs prepare it. Go wild and try the hijiki salad, too. Make sure you tell the waiter to leave the bonito flakes back in the kitchen, though. If I were you, dear vegan reader, I would also order the vegetable rolls, tiny gardens of earthly delights, all crisp and fresh. And these guys put the rock in broccoli. You get a ton of it, and it's steamed to the perfect texture, right between crisp and soft and topped with a creamy carrot-ginger dressing. Shit, there's a million things you can get on this menu, even Cajun-style edamame. The only thing I had a problem with was the natto, stringy and sour fermented soybeans. It's probably an acquired taste, but I think I'll be a closed-minded American bastard and just stuff myself with the broccoli.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal, 923-C Metairie Road, Metairie, LA 504-836-6859
(Indian, LD)

I can't recommend this place. I can't not recommend it. You won't love it. You won't hate it. I pretty much don't remember jack shit about this place except that one waiter looked like Hunter S. Thompson, and the room was as stuffy as my dead grandma's armpit.

Salt N Pepper

Salt N Pepper, 201 N. Peters St. , 504-561-6070
(Pakistani, LD)

I always knew that America and Pakistan would make sweet beautiful love in the form of a restaurant. And then Salt N Pepper comes along and has the balls to open a little dive serving the cuisines of these two mighty Allah/Jesus/Great Void-fearing nations right in the French Quarter. You could order a pizza or an oyster po-boy here, but being the foreign food snobs that we are, we always go for the Pakistani.

These crazy coo-coo birds love oil more than George W. Motherfuckin Bush and his momma put together. Be careful, too, to order the food to the proper spiciness level. Otherwise, you might have flames shooting out of your mouth. Well, if you can get past the grease, the vegetables will do you right, especially the spinach and eggplant are both creamy delish. Be warned about the samosas, too. They've got this weird flaky crust, but once you break them open, the taters will give you love. Stay away from the pakoras unless you're prepared to chomp into fried bits of onion and potato that may be well-cooked or may be the temperature of ice cream. The cook clearly gives a shit when he's making the flaky slightly sourdough naan and the deeply spiced potato parathas, though. Red alert: make sure you get it without butter. Oh, and with any dish, be sure to scream from the top of your lungs that you don't want any yogurt, or else you'll get a big stinking pool of it with anything you order.

Nirvana Indian Cuisine

Nirvana Indian Cuisine, 4308 Magazine St., 504-894-9797
(Indian, LD)

You know when you've been to a restaurant a long time ago and you remember you didn't like it that much, and you haven't been back for decades? And then you go again? This is my story. I hit the buffet recently. The standard two or three vegan choices packed a wallop, briefly making me regret my hiatus, only to have my world come crashing down around me thanks to the ice cold pakoras. How perfectly goddamn delightful it all is to be sure, plus kittee doubts they have anything vegan, so definitely barrage waitstaff with thorough questioning.

India's Restaurant

India's Restaurant, 5230 Essen Lane, Baton Rouge, LA 225-769-0600
(Indian, LD)

We had to evacuate to Baton Rouge after the levees failed. But instead of moping about the shitty town we had to hang out in while our town dried out, we decided to make fertilizer out of it. Yes, this blog is proud to announce that it's expanding its restaurant review section to Baton Rouge. We hope to crush or annex any websites containing vegan-oriented reviews of capital-area restaurants, just like the good little capitalists that we are. Well, the buffet was a bit slim in its vegan pickings, but what was there was pretty all right. One of the steam trays was packed with mini masala dosas. And although they were kind of soggy, you should count your blessings--it's not every day you run into dosas at your local Indian buffet. The bhindi masala shows all you Southern motherfuckers how okra should be cooked.

Hookah Cafe

Hookah Cafe, 1132 Decatur St., 504-566-7057
(Wannabe Indian, LD)

The first time I ate here, I stupidly ordered only a beet salad with, I think, mango sauce. It was tasty enough but I left crying with hunger and had to quickly inject a falafel at the Mona's on Frenchman for dessert.

Then I went back and had the spinach and tofu and smoked a hookah. I felt like the cutest fluffiest little puppy in the world romping in a sunshiny meadow. Little did I know it would be the high point of my life. The levees failed, and now I have an anxiety disorder. Shit, I need to go back there for my mental health if nothing else.

August Moon

August Moon, 3635 Prytania St., 504-899-5129, 504-899-5122
(Chinese and Vietnamese, LD)

Kittee likes this place more than me, though it does get points for being MSG-free. You be the tiebreaker. I've had better Vietnamese soft spring rolls, though the super-crunchy tofu inside just about made up for the too-sweet peanut hoisin sauce. kittee thought the eggplant was just right. It was too sweet for me. The lemongrass tofu with vermicelli noodles and General Tso's tofu were kind of lacking in personality. OK, time to put on a (mostly) happy face. August Moon is also open late, it's right across the street from a Kwicky Mart ("a pack of Kools, a Gatorade, and a Penthouse--will that be all, sir?") caddy-corner from a hospital (very handy in case of heart attack caused by uncontrollable rage kindled by denial of soy milk).

Five Happiness

Five Happiness, 3605 S. Carrollton Ave., 504-482-3935
(Chinese, LD)

Half the population of China could fit into this sprawling warehouse of a restaurant. Good, let 'em. This place is about as uninspired as it gets. But our waiter knew the word "vegan" -- ding ding ding ding. Steer clear of the barely edible tofu and go straight for the eggplant. Five Happiness gets five smiley faces for serving brown rice. And that brings up a larger point -- I don't think any city east of San Francisco has more restaurants offering rice of color. I think everyone in New Orleans went on a sugar busters diet a few years ago, and we just never got over it.

Coco Hut

Coco Hut, 2515 Bayou Rd., 504-945-8788
(Caribbean, LD)

It's good. It's very good. The Back Yard Banana Chips, a.k.a. fried plaintains, are the best in town. The lentil soup is a miracle. The owner, Pam Thompson, is from Cali, Columbia, and has lived in New Orleans since the age of 5. Her husband is from Kingston, Jamaica. They're Nyabinghi Rastafarians. There are lots of photos in Coco Hut of Jah Rastafari himself, the emperor Haile Selassie. Sorry to be the bearer of the truth, but if you don't go to this place within one week of reading this review, the blackheart man is gonna get you and your children.

Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar

Surrey's Cafe & Juice Bar, 1418 Magazine St., 504-524-3828
(New Orleans, American, BL)

Ding ding ding. The word "vegan" actually appears on the menu, so love is in the air already. You can start with Fair Trade, I repeat, Fair Trade, coffee and regular soy milk (If I'm not mistaken, I saw owner Greg Surrey carrying some bags full of food items from the nearby Wal-Mart, including Silk. Bad move, Greg.) Or you can go for a freshly squeezed organic juice. Or Abita root beer on tap. If you go for the tofu platter or sub it for eggs, though, proceed with caution. I've gotten it in pretty decent crispy-fried cubes, and I've had sopping, over-marinated strips. Definitely order the chunky home fries, though. If Bush ate these (and maybe got rimmed by an intern just like a sexy president should) every day, we probably wouldn't be getting ready to bomb the fuck out of Iran right now. Another boner-producing menu item is the vegan avocado mash po-boy. And for you fake vegan wanna-bes, Surrey's loves you, too, with organic yard eggs.


13, 517 Frenchmen St., 942-1345
(American, BLD)

I've a pretty OK barbecue tofu po boy a couple times. So if you're in the Marigny and you need a tofu scramble or a tofu breakfast burrito, this is pretty much you're only option, but be prepared to choke down some stingily-seasoned food. OK, enough negativity already. Despite the food, I was kind of charmed by this place. The tables are in the back, and there's a bar in front. The morning we went, the doors were swung wide open, and I wished I had sat there to catch a buzz until it was time for a falafel at Mona's.


Elizabeth's Restaurant, 601 Gallier St., 504-944-9272
(New Orleans, BL)

We last made it here in October 2004. Since then, it's changed owners and, more importantly, egg suppliers. Elizabeth's used to get its eggs from our adorable across-the-street neighbor Patrick, who picks up said eggs from his equally adorable chickens, who romp, beaks intact, in his backyard and on his mama's farm in Mississippi. Now, it's anyone's guess.

I'll assume, but not guarantee, that nothing's changed. I can't remember whether we had a sweet potato or french po-boy or both here, but the point is that you can get some kind of potato on soft french bread and join in a glorious New Orleans tradition without roast beef juice dripping down your face or an oyster exploding in your mouth. Bring your own veganaise, and live like a vegan star (just don't use their vinegar, kittee tried some and and then realized there were 25,7897,455 dead fruit flies in it.)


Bennachin, 1212 Royal St., 504-522-1230
(African, LD)

Fuck yeah, man. This place may have the tastiest vegan food in town, and it's in a quiet part of the French Quarter. For you geography buffs, Bennachin cooks a combo of Gambian and Cameroonian food. Forklift the jama-jama (spinach) into your mouth as fast as it'll go. The plantains would make Jesus hop down from the cross, as would the coconut rice. And each dish comes with a quaint little vaguely football-shaped white roll the same consistency as po-boy bread. I have no idea if this is a Gambian thing, a Cameroonian thing, or a New Orleans thing. The blackeyed-pea fritter po-boy is okay if you're looking for a vegan variation on the famous local sandwich, but it's a bit tasteless compared with the other mighty offerings on the menu. The fritters were sort of like deep-fried grit balls, and together with the bread packed maybe too super starchy of a punch.

If none of this sounds good to you, maybe you need to see a priest. Or you could follow this tip: many of the meat dishes are available vegan-style. I would, and do, order the dishes served with fufu, a sourdough-tasting mound of pounded cassava.

Bennachin also happens to be the perfect way to get your mind off that nasty Jazzfest sunburn. These guys have a stand at the fest at which you can slurp down some jama-jama and plantains while you're getting your jam-band boogie on.

Commander's Palace

Commander's Palace, 1403 Washington Ave., (504) 899-8221 (Weekend jazz brunch, LD)
When you make a reservation, tell 'em you request a vegan meal.

Is it snooty? Yes, and I quote, "Dress is upscale, jackets preferred at dinner. No Shorts." So if you go in there like a wise guy with your long white t-shirt and your jeans hanging low, I don't care if you're Lil fuckin' Wayne, expect to be dragged back to the kitchen and have a shaving cream pie smashed in your damn face.

What I suggest for the ladies is to wear something baggy and sleeveless, something that shows off your sweaty armpit hair nicely. I didn't see that banned by the dress code.

Is it touristy? Yeah, but who gives a shit? Look around, and you'll also see something far more repulsive -- a bunch of rich white New Orleans uptown prunes with huge gold broaches and earrings so heavy, their lobes drag on the ground. You know who you are -- you Nancy (Worms Have Recently and Justifiably Torn the Dead Flesh From My Bones) Reagan lookalikes who care more about what to wear to your no-blacks-allowed Mardi Gras ball than about Chopper City soldiers killing one another at a rate unsurpassed by any other city in America.

Disclaimer: Commander's is a fully integrated eating establishment. If you're a person with color, and you have a jacket and a couple hundred bucks, you get a table at Commander's, no questions asked.

Well, that's some expert sociological analysis right there. It's making me hungry.

The one time I ate there, Commander's served the tied-for-best (with Cochon) fancy vegan meal I've ever had. It was grilled veggies and a salad -- and I can't really tell you what made them so magical because I have a bad memory -- but someone back in the kitchen put some fairy dust on that shit or something. Someone else I know reports similar results.

Now, I hope this review doesn't have unintended consequences, like Commander's chef jizzing in your appetizer just because you're vegan. Not all vegans are this bitter and nasty. And yet so willing to speak the truth.

Well, I was gonna write more, but the doggie's gotta go pee pee and poo poo.