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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Dining in Paradise



R: Traveling eastward to check out a Chinese vegetarian restaurant in San Dimas, we thought we might fall off the edge of the Earth, that is, if it were flat and ended at the Los Angeles County line!

Z: Actually, Veggie and Tea House is quite close to the border between Los Angeles and San Bernardino Counties. Ideally located very close to the freeway off ramp in the large San Dimas Station shopping center, the large restaurant is easy to find and offers plenty of parking.

R: Upon entering, one cannot help noticing a different concept in restaurant dining and menu presentation. Beautifully crafted oriental screens separate the foyer from the restaurant. In front of the screen is a long sideboard with an attractive fountain and a tea set. To the right are a number of tea sets in a display showing how to serve the Kung Fu teas that the restaurant sells. Veggie and Tea House

Z: The menu offerings are attractively displayed directly to the left. In tiered, glass deli cases each of the restaurant's selections are shown on platters heaping with colorful foods. Every dish is numbered and carries a description of its ingredients, corresponding to the numbers on the menu itself.

R: We noticed immediately that almost half of the more than 20 appealing dishes were vegan and ordered much more than ought to have. At the counter we placed our order that included Soy Crepes, Seasonal Beans, Rice Noodles, and Kung Pao Vegetables.

Z: As Christina, who preferred to be called "Tina," escorted us to our table, we were charmed by the large, bright, spacious, and pleasing ambience this high-ceilinged dining room offered. Chinese music featuring the koto, a Japanese string instrument, filled the room softly, gently transporting our spirits to far-away places.

R: Offered a choice between white or brown rice, we chose the brown at $1 extra. While waiting for our meal, we usually like to take note of the little details that make the experience unique. Veggie and Teahouse is a restaurant that makes a conscientious effort to provide the diner with a tranquil atmosphere. Soft music, dusty pastel colors, Chinese paintings of bamboo and foliage, tables spaced far apart, a large, cascading wall fountain, and a pleasant attentive staff are all part of the scene.

Z: Our food came quickly, one dish at a time with the Soy Crepes appearing first along with the brown rice. Six plump tofu-skin-covered rolls, about the size of blintzes, rested on a bed of curly green leaf lettuce and were dressed with a light sweet marinade. Flanking the Crepes were mounds of plain raw shredded green cabbage, sweet marinated shredded purple cabbage, and sliced steamed carrots also seasoned with a sweet marinade. The Crepes were filled with a sweet, lightly seasoned combination of shredded cabbage, carrot(s), zucchini, and shiitake mushroom.

R: Those Crepes were a such a photogenic presentation. We also appreciated the unique serving vessel that held our Brown Rice. In front of me was a shallow rectangular box made of bamboo that reminded me of the thin, light colored balsa wood I used for making model airplanes as a kid.

Z: Another large oval platter arrived with our Rice Noodles sitting over a colorful layer of shredded stir-fried napa cabbage, shredded carrots, garlic sprouts, and diced scallions all with a lightly sweetened seasoning. The fine angel-hair thin noodles had a light oil-based dressing with an Asian flair. The menu recommends this dish for children, but us big folks loved it, too.

R: The Seasoned Beans were a sure winner. The platter was heaping with seasoned, fresh stir-fried green beans. Layered beneath the beans was a bed of savoy cabbage leaves. Accompanying the beans were the same sweet carrot slices and shredded green cabbage that came with the Crepes. This dish, however, was garnished with half slices of fresh orange, while the beans were sprinkled with spicy preserved bits of cabbage or, perhaps it was turnip.

Z: Nice touch, those salty little preserved vegetables--and just a few to add punch to the beans. Our fourth entrée, the Kung Pao Vegetables, was a rainbow of color consisting of chopped red and green bell peppers, zucchini, bamboo shoots, quartered mushrooms, celery, and fresh peanuts served over a bed of green curly lettuce. The seasoning was delicate, the accompaniments the familiar sweet sliced steamed carrots and shredded fresh red and green cabbage.

R: The Brown Rice warrants mention, too. Usually short grain brown rice prepared in the Chinese style is typically sticky. This rice, however, was rinsed before cooking to remove the starch. The process creates a drier rice with each grain separate from the rest. My preference, I must admit, leans to the traditional starchy, sticky, clumpier brown rice.

Z: To keep in step with our oriental meal we ordered Green Tea that was served steaming hot in a tall 20-ounce styro cup that was a delight to hold. The entire outside surface of the cup was covered with a flocking that felt so pleasing to the touch.

VIP Gothic R: We learned that a team of doctors, nutritional scientists, and health experts founded the restaurant two years ago on the principle of helping people live long, healthy lives. Their first location, opened three years ago, is in Palm Desert. Dr. Lo, a health practitioner from Taiwan, wanted to offer a healthy vegetarian alternative to fast foods.

Z: Dr. Lo also has a farm where he grows the fresh vegetables served in the restaurant. With the convenience of its own vegetable farm, the restaurant offers seasonal menu changes that feature a refreshing array of vegetables throughout the year. Though many dishes contain tofu, there are no fake meats in any of their items. A lovely place to dine, Veggie and Tea house has the look of an expensive eatery, yet its prices are quite reasonable.

R: We enjoyed our meal but wished we could have asked someone to hide the chef's sugar bowl. Though the foods were lightly sweetened, every dish included sugar-sweetened vegetables and marinades.

Veggie and Tea House
641 Arrow Highway
San Dimas, CA 91773
Phone: 909-592-6323
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Inexpensive

Reviewed December 2002


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