Saturday, August 27, 2011

Veggie Heaven Restaurant, Austin Texas

A few weeks ago I had a speaking engagement in Austin, Texas.  I had previously been to the vegetarian restaurant, Mother’s Café and Garden.  I did a little research and decided to try Veggie Heaven this visit.  They offer an impressive variety of mostly Asian-inspired entrées and appetizers. 

Veggie Heaven is located on Guadalupe Street in Austin, Texas.  The restaurant is very small, I might even say tiny.  The tables are packed in close, mostly two and four seaters.  The floor is uneven in spots.  There is no fancy décor.  BUT, the food is excellent, and inexpensive.  All menu items are vegetarian or vegan.  Their website has pictures of every menu item, with ingredients listed.  (I have used personal photos here.)

My bother and I started off with a vegan Fried Spring Roll and a vegan Steam Bun.  The spring roll has cabbage, carrots and celery, and was cooked perfectly, delicately crispy.  It’s a bargain at $1.00.  The Steam Bun is a thick, doughy shell with onions, carrots, shitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, tofu, and vegetable protein inside.  They also have a Curry Bun with tofu and vegetables.  The Buns are $2.50.  My brother was a huge fan of the Steam Bun, and said he would definitely order it again.  I could take it or leave it, but would have the Spring Roll again. 

My brother and I ordered and shared two entrées.  We got Lucky Seven, a vegan entrée for $6.95.  This dish has 7 fried tofu meatballs made with vegetable protein, breadcrumbs, celery, carrots, and chestnuts.  Meatballs are in a sweet spicy red sauce, with broccoli, baby bok choy, cauliflower, carrots, napa cabbage, onions, and garlic.  Entrées come with a choice of brown or white rice. 

This dish was quite good and flavorful.  There was a bit of a disconnect for me with the meatballs, which looked like browned meatballs made of meat.  The texture however was nothing like meat.  On the bright side, maybe this was an indication that the texturized vegetable protein content was relatively low.  I’m not a big fan of the TVP or seitan (wheat gluten), which are ingredients in many of the entrées at Veggie Heaven.  Although they usually give a meat-like texture to the dish, I don’t think they are particularly healthy.  I definitely think they should be eaten in moderation, and for me personally, seldom. 

I selected the vegan Eggplant Tofu for $6.95.  This consisted of fried tofu and lots of it, eggplants, garlic, and onions in black bean sauce.  The fried tofu, something I also try to limit to the occasional treat, added a really nice texture to the dish, which I thought was delicious.  I would definitely order this again. 

My brother had a green apple bubble tea without the tapioca.  He enjoyed it.  I passed. 

While we were at Veggie Heaven, we noticed a half dozen or more people, mostly men, who came to the door and picked up small carry-out containers, without actually setting foot in the restaurant.  We watched our server dip up rice into these containers, take them to the kitchen (we presumed to top the rice with some type of vegetable selection), then place one or two at a time on the table by the door.  Seemed to us like Veggie Heaven (and likely other Austin restaurants) are feeding the homeless, who were all orderly and respectful in retrieving their food. 

Bottom line, I highly recommend Veggie Heaven.