perks for your palate.
Vegetarians get stoked for four courses at Cha Ya & more...
Californios offers a sophisticated spin on Mexican
One of the latest pop-ups to go brick-and-mortar, this intimate and romantic spot on twenty second street touts a highly seasonal tasting menu with a secret vegetarian version available ($57), which typically means up to eight superb courses of Chef Val Cantu’s creative take on contemporary Mexican cuisine. All of the chefs here have at one time or another been vegetarian, and it shows in delicious dishes such as the Yerba Buena fruit cup (an interpretation on the Mexican street vendor dish), the winter bean soup served with pickled radish and spicy pepitas, and the roasted avocado stuffed with farro, cooked in a rich vegetable broth and topped with wild mushrooms.
Four affordable courses of Japanese goodness at Cha Ya
Searching for the ultimate in vegetarian Japanese? Look no further than Cha Ya. With over 40 vegetable-, soy-, and rice-based dishes (all vegan), this cozy nook on Valencia is your new home. Inspired by "Shojin Ryori," or Japanese Buddhist cuisine, the kitchen turns out favorites like hana gomoku—sushi rice mixed with a bounty of ingredients that includes seasoned shiitake mushrooms, lotus root, tofu pouch, yam cake, and hijiki, all topped off with a colorful mix of everything from kabocha to pickled burdock and daikon. The steal of a four-course dinner menu ($22.50) includes two full-sized entrées like the hana gomoku, vegetable tempura, cha-ya nabe, or one of their sushi plates, as well as miso soup, rice, and a small sunomono salad.
Saha circles to Yemen through France and back for a song
With an eclectic menu that embraces Middle Eastern, North African, and Arabian specialties, this romantic and cozy place makes for a prime date spot. Saha’s three-course vegetarian prix fixe menu is just $35, and that includes soup or salad, your choice of a small plate, and an entrée. Get down with options like the superb maklouba, a layered dish of rice with allspice, pine nuts, cinnamon, eggplant, marinated tofu and caramelized onions with yogurt and harissa, vegetarian and gluten free. For another sure hit, check out the vegetarian bastilla (which can also be made vegan), with seasonal organic vegetables, goat cheese, and mushrooms all wrapped in phyllo and baked.
Dosa’s winter tasting menu of Southern Indian delights
Whether you’re a strict vegan or a dedicated omnivore, Dosa on Fillmore does your kind of Indian food with flair—and has a terrific bar to boot. Emphasizing local ingredients, the menu focuses on flavors from the Southern states—Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, and Goa. The winter tasting menu—three courses for $42, plus optional wine pairing for an extra $20—boasts plenty of vegetarian fare, including the “meatball” entrée of squash, paneer, and almond kofta with parsnip, squash, mint, and saffron, served with coconut rice.
Dig in at Millennium before the era is over
Purveyors of inventive vegan cuisine for over 20 years, Millennium is offering three different prix fixe and tasting menus—including a raw menu on request—plus select a la carte items. Unique and sophisticated entrées include cardoon gratin with gigante beans, fennel, and braised torpedo onions in white wine–cashew cream with seared baby turnips; and Brussels sprouts, grilled maitake mushrooms, whole wheat pastry crust, dried cherry–red wine reduction, and cornmeal-crusted fried cardoons. The three-course prix fixe (available Sunday through Wednesday) will run you $42, while the five-course chef’s tasting menu (Sunday through Thursday) goes for $72. Be sure to check them out soon: This landmark is closing in April, while the chef works on plans to open a new—yes, vegan—spot.