Sunday, April 13, 2008

Taiwanese Vegetarian Cuisine at Bean Sprout Cafe

I'm a carnivore through and through. The smell of grilling meat is like the best French perfume to me; however, I also love my veggies and after my less than successful foray into Raw Cuisine last year, I can definitely say that cooked veggies is the way to go. I've been driving past Bean Sprout Cafe, a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, for a couple of years now and although I've been curious about it, I was never really motivated to check it out. One day, after a heavily-meat based dinner the night before, I was in the mood for something different and like a siren's song, Bean Sprouts pulled me into its depths.

So I walked in, sat down and right away, I took a look at the lunch menu and the prices were certainly right. For $5.99, you had a choice between 7 different dishes that included an order of Rainbow Rolls and soup. The lunch deals didn't stop there. You could also order 6 different appetizers for $1.99 each and choose 1 of 3 different teas for $.99. In perusing the menu, I saw the words "Taiwanese" referenced a couple of times and finally confirmed with the waitress that Bean Sprout Cafe was a Taiwanese-Vegetarian restaurant.

Deciding to take advantage of the great prices, I went ahead and ordered two appetizers. One was the Pan-Fried Radish Patties which consisted of shredded radish, rice flour and oatmeal as well as the potato-cilantro-curry powder filled Crispy Spring Rolls. Before those two dishes arrived, a small vegetable bowl showed up along with the order of soup that came with the lunch special. The vegetables, which I think were broccoli stalks, had a nice crunch to them while the soup, though a little oily, still had a nice clean flavor to it.

Then out came t
he Pan-Fried Radish Patties followed by the Spring Rolls. The combo of the golden-brown, slight crispy exterior and softer eating texture of the radish patties was a definite hit while the slight pepperiness of the cilantro mixed with the curry powder added some really good flavor to the potatoes in the spring rolls.

Entree time! I don't have much experience with "meatless" meat so I was looking forward to tasting the Soy Pork with Pickled Vegetables on Brown Rice that I ordered. With my first bite, I did get a bit of the chewy texture you'd associate with meat and there was a hint of smokiness also to this faux pork, but would it replace real pork for me? Not by a long shot. Yet, I liked it. It was tasty. One thing to note is that when something is described as vegetarian anything, that label is just a benchmark to help you go in the direction of what appeals to your palate, whether it's fish, chicken, beef, etc. I wanted something "porky" and my soy pork, for the most part, did the trick and the pickled veggies it was mixed in added just the right amount sour to the whole dish.

Props to the brown rice, which was the best brown rice I've ever had. The thick brown kernels of rice didn't err on the dry side which brown rice tends to gear towards. I also was totally crushing on the rainbow rolls. The ingredients consisted of mayonnaise, carrot, lettuce and peanut powder, all wrapped in seaweed and rice paper. Absolutely delicious!

I don't know I managed, but I even ordered the Tofu Flower with Peanuts for dessert, which was sweet, but not overly so and the tofu was wonderfully silky. So I bet you think I'm done now, huh? Well, not so. I enjoyed my meal so much at Bean Sprout Cafe, I came back a couple of days later with a Vegan friend of mine just because I wanted her to check out my find.

For our lunch together, we started with the crispy seaweed wrap with bean curd skin as our appetizer. Wow, a winner! You get sweet, salty and crispy in every bite. It totally blew both the radish patty and spring rolls I had at my earlier visit clear off the water. As for our entrees, she went with the Noodle with Curry Sauce, which had potato, mushroom and carrots while I had the Sweet and Sour Sauce with Soy Fish on Rice. We also shared the Crispy Soy Chicken which was made up of soy chicken, basil and white pepper.

My soy fish was very good. It was light and crispy and also had a distinct fish taste to it without "being fishy", if you know what I mean. I also felt that soy chicken also tasted quite chicken-y. Both of these "meats" were definitely closer to their counterpart than the soy pork I had earlier in the week. Afterwards, my friend who follows a vegan lifestyle gave Bean Sprouts Cafe a thumbs up so I think that definitely counts for something. However, the fact this self-confessed carnivore would sometimes be willing to forgo a steak for soy fish speaks for itself.

To see pics, go to:

Bean Sprout Cafe
103 E. Huntington Drive
Arcadia, CA 91006

Bean Sprouts on Urbanspoon


Foodeater said...

Wow, all this food looks so amazing! Why have I never eaten at this place before? This must change immediately! Thank you for sharing your pictures, my mouth is totally watering :)

teenage glutster said...

those radish cakes look like the ones at Seafood Village, were they as good?

pleasurepalate said...

teenage gluster: From memory, I'd say yes!

foodeater: You're welcome! :) Happy dining!

Marvin said...

This place is literally down the street from where I work and I too drive past it many times a week. I'm definitely gonna give it a try very soon.

WSL98787 said...

Great photos! Been here before- like the soy fish too! It's pretty good. The other items are pretty good too. Haven't tried their lunch specials yet though. Great post!

pleasurepalate said...

Marvin: Hope you enjoy your meal as much as I did. :)

WSL98787: I'm glad you enjoyed my posting. It's good to see this place has so many fans. More fans means a restaurant that stays in business which is good for all of us.

Junebug said...

mmmmmm. thanks for posting this. all this time there's been a Chinese vegetarian place right under my nose. I can't wait to try it! and the lobo gao looks so good!

Christine said...

Hey, I've been meanin to try out this place. Thanks for the review! Now, I'll definitely have to go on my lunch break.

pleasurepalate said...


Thanks so much for visiting my blog and I hope that Bean Sprout Cafe lives up to your expectations. :)

Anonymous said...

Bean Sprouts serves the best "beef" noodle soup. It's like the real deal.

Nanciful said...

I've been trying to find more Taiwanese vegan places and now there's Bean Sprouts! The tofu flower looks so good!

pleasurepalate said...

Nanciful: Thanks so much for stopping by. I hope that you enjoy Bean Sprouts as much as I did. Let me know if you post a review about it, I'd love to see your take on it.

A Most Unlikely Stripper said...

Your blog has some gorgeous photos and thanks for the heads up on this veggie restaurant in the SGV. I'm vegan and reside in the Silver Lake area but when I visit family in the SGV, we're always short on veggie restaurant options (to accomodate me) so I'll definetly have to take them there. :)

If you're ever in the "veggie mood" again, you must try a lil vegan gem that opened up in Studio City, near Universal Studios. It's called SunPower Natural Cafe and it's this bright yellow building. Kick ass burgers, pizzas and seriously thick and creamy shakes. Burger patties are made from sunflower seeds and taste so yummy - unlike those frozen patties in the store. :( Ew. Shakes are so thick and creamy you won't even believe it's not made from milk. Crazy! Anyway . . . it's definetly a place you should check out.


alice said...

Like you, I'm a serious carnivore, but went along for the ride last night with my vegetarian son.
Could not believe how much I delighted in every bite of the much touted pan fried radish patties and the crispy seaweed.
My entree, eel with sauce over rice, was as close to one of my favorite Japanese dishes as I could ever expect, even down to the crispy 'skin'. The side vegetables were all cooked to perfection.
The food was beautifully presented, and most important to my eye, visually colorful and vibrant.