It is a strange sensation for me to be presented with a restaurant menu where I have 110 legitimate choices of what to eat. As a vegetarian I’m so used to having a choice of one or two appetizers and a single entree, it is bewildering to be faced with all of these options. At Vegan Garden, a bright, clean, and relatively new restaurant in Seattle’s Little Saigon at 12th and Jackson, the options are both numerous and delicious. Not only that, there are items on the menu with no English translation that I can order with impunity! They are rapidly becoming one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, so I hope to simply eat my way through the entire catalog.
Vietnamese appetizer rolls come in both fresh and deep fried versions, and they can both be spectacular. On a recent visit with Mini-Me we when for the fried Cha Gio Chay, which came out piping hot, super crispy, and filled with little bites of tofu, mushrooms and cabbage. I haven’t had any as good as these since my love affair with the first dilapidated and then departed White Lotus in San Jose, CA. Then we shared Bun, the classic Vietnamese bowl filled with a bed of lettuce, a big bunch of soft, cool and thin rice vermicelli noodles with fresh and pickled vegetables. At Vegan Garden you have a choice of multiple toppings, inlcuding Egg Roll and Shredded Tofu, Lemongrass Tofu, Egg Roll with Grilled Pork and Shredded Tofu, Lemongrass Chicken, and Lemongrass Beef.
Naturally none of the Pork, Chicken or Beef is actually animal product. They are made from tofu, wheat gluten and lotus root. We chose the Lemongrass Chicken today, which had a pleasing texture, not too chewy, and a peppery lemongrass glaze. If you enjoy the mock-meats, Vegan Garden does a solid job of them, and if they aren’t your cup of tea there are plenty of straightforward tofu and vegetable options.
One of the glories of Vietnamese food is Nuoc Cham, a sauce that includes lime juice, garlic, shallot, sugar, shredded carrots, and … fish sauce. Vegan Garden makes a lovely version that omits the fish sauce and includes some pineapple vinegar. We used it both for the rolls and to pour over the rice noodles of our Bun.
The folks at Vegan Garden are absolutely serious about being vegan, right down to soymilk in the iced coffee and eggless fortune cookies. The fortune cookies also provide insight into the spiritual beliefs underpinning their cuisine. The first one we opened said:
"When we are pushed into a situation, we realize our wisdom"
– Supreme Master Ching Hai
and referred us to godsdirectcontact.com for more information. (But don’t worry, other than the fortune cookies you won’t be subject to any other religious instruction while you dine).
Our large lunch of rolls and bun came to $12 plus tip, and you could get out even cheaper if you skipped the appetizer. They were also very kind to Mini-Me, providing her with small chopsticks, asking her lots of questions, and looking bemused at her shouts of "no take my plate! I still eating!", which scores plenty of points with us dads.
NOTE: see the comments for this post – when I try new dishes at VG I’ll add a note.
1228 S. Jackson St.
Seattle, WA 98144
Daily except Tuesday, 10 AM – 9:30 PM
Parking lot immediately east of restaurant