Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Two restaurants for Boston vegetarians to daydream about

I know I'm supposed to be searching out good vegetarian eats here in Boston, but sometimes I have to take the show on the road. The show has been on the road a lot lately, and happily I had two transcendant veggie experiences out there. One was at Malabar in Santa Cruz, CA, and the other at Maoz in Philadelphia.

It's probably not really fair to wish Boston could have a Malabar, because Santa Cruz is such an absolute happy hippie land, but I can still dream. Malabar is completely vegetarian, with a really simple, nice Asian-ish interior. The menu is extensive, with a mix of Indian-type dishes as well as some Italian-style and American food. The Indian influence seemed strongest though: see, the five different kinds of kofta on the menu. We shared two appetizers, one a spring roll with watercress and crunchy spiced tempeh bits, and the other an avocado stuffed with a sort of pico de gallo. Both were incredible--the tempeh especially was unique, and memorable. I got garlic ravioli with fennel, spinach and walnuts. Everything was really fresh and the ravioli was definitely homemade. The entree that really blew me away, though, was Brian's pistachio kofta. The kofta nuggets were sort of barrel shaped, and really dense and chewy, covered with a thick nutty, creamy sauce. The taste was closest to Indian, but not exactly the usual malai kofta I've had. I was so, so full when we left this restaurant. Having more than one or two vegetarian options was actually pretty overwhelming--in a good way, of course.

Maoz, though, is a place that's totally easy to imagine in Boston--in Coolidge Corner, maybe, or JP, or even the Financial District. And, I just found out it's a chain. Franchise that, somebody, please! I was at the one on South Street in Philadelphia. It's a tiny falafel place that also serves Belgian french fries. The menu is really basic, with a few different sizes of falafel wraps and the fries. Then there's a counter area where you add your own toppings to the basic falafel, and with maybe five or six sauces to add. The pickles are wonderful, and there's a coleslaw-type salad, seasoned carrots, and some other yummy toppings I don't remember. Everything is cheap ($5 or $6 for a meal), fresh, hot and dee-licious. I've been there a few times, and this last visit I just got french fries and enjoyed every second of eating them. They come in a paper cone, like in actual Belgium, and Maoz has the mayonnaise-y Belgian sauce too, which I skipped in favor of extra salt. Such good stuff. Sigh. I wish it wasn't so far away. I'm thinking I could use maybe a twice-monthly dose of those fries.

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