By Carol Brock
20-02 Utopia Parkway, Whitestone
Vege World fits the bill.
In the new millennium, knowing the name and number of a good vegetarian restaurant is mandatory – and if it happens to be kosher certified, so much the better.
Vege World, south of the Cross Island Parkway, opened just four months ago. But Master Chef Su Long Huei of Taiwan has been creating vegetarian dishes from soy for the last 25 years.
Today, the hottest item in the food world is not chili peppers but soy. It has skyrocketed in the past year. (And, just in case you want to brush up on your soy, there's a glossary in Vege World's oversized menu.)
Eat in or take out? Eat in! The presentations look so great. In this corner restaurant there's a mini display of mini teapots and fruits on the Utopia Parkway side, set on a teak wood stand. Note, too, the maroon rug with turquoise, peach and lavender pin-head dots. They set the tone for turquoise-covered seats and periwinkle cloths topped with peach throws. Subtle. The same kind of flair is evident in the food.
We were lunching on a chilly day in January. Four tea cups and saucers were centered on each table. No sooner had we settled down, a cup of hot tea was at our place, with a little snack of shelled peanut-like soy beans with vegetable protein in a delicious sauce. Our waitress brought a second dish “because you like them so much,” she said.
My dining companion started with a bowl of creamy corn soup. This was no ordinary corn soup but a creamy white base with a scattering of fresh corn-off-the-cob kernels, mini carrot cubes and a few fresh peas. “Try this. It's incredible-and you can quote me,” she quipped.
Our Asian waitress came bearing a bamboo steamer, and lifted the cover. Here were my six steamed spinach dumplings set on a soft green, steamed lettuce leaf. Stunning! Green pasta couplets, escargot-size, stuffed with minced fresh spinach and a sprinkling of carrot. Were they flowers or jewels? With a soy- sesame sauce spooned into each, it was a treasure for eyes and stomach.
The entrees would be three: Crispy “chicken,” a mushroom and vegetable dish, and an intriguing item called “paradise rolls” at the suggestion of our server. Again, we were bowled over by the simple but stunning presentation: A crown of fresh, green broccoli flowerettes filled with slices of deep-browned “chicken” in the chef's special brown sauce. We “oohed,” we “aahed.” We dug in and “oohed” and “aahed” some more. The texture was so beef-like and chewy. As for flavor – A+.
Broccoli, carrots, soy protein and bits of red and yellow pepper and mushroom pieces were tossed with slivered zucchini for entree number two.
Paradise rolls actually lived up to their name. Shaped like Chinese egg rolls, but pale gold in color, they were cut in half on the diagonal and fanned, cut side out, on shredded lettuce on one side of the platter, veggies (a toss of pea pods, good-size zucchini slices, halved and tofu) on the other. After spooning sauce into a roll we bit it. Here was a crispy, crunchy tofu crepe filled with julienne carrots and zucchini and mushrooms. It tasted heavenly.
Now two words about the brown rice: Select it, even if you're not a brown-rice person. It's actually tan and more like pilaf than rice, separate kernels soft and plump yet with some of the sticky qualities of the Japanese sticky rice – the better to eat with a chop stick, my dear. (The table is set with silver. Just ask for chopsticks if you like).
Our treats were not over yet. Our waitress cleared the table, and then brought a plate with marble-size golden balls rolled in sesame seeds and a pot of hot tea. (Vanilla or strawberry ice cream is extra and if you'd like a glass of fresh carrot juice first, that's extra, too).
Other diners were having the $4.75 lunch special. (A choice of hot & sour soup, seaweed, bean curd, miso, creamy corn, or vegetable roll and one of the 24 entrees served with brown or white rice.)
Great eating. I'll be back for more soy soon.
THE BOTTOM LINE
A new vegetarian (gourmet Chinese) restaurant. Excellent food, well presented. Good service. Simple decor. Kosher certified.
Steamed Spinach Roll…$3.75
Creamy Corn Soup…$1.50
Miso with Tofu Soup…$l.50
Vege Filet Mignon…$9.25
Vege Sirloin Steak…$9.25
Crispy Vege Chicken…$8.25
Sauteed String Beans with Broccoli
and Snow Peas…$7.25
Food: Vegetarian (Chinese/gourmet)
Setting: Simple decor
Service: Very nice
Hours: L & D, 7 days
Location: South of Cross Island
Credit cards: All major (except
Takeout: Yes. Delivery
Off-premise catering; Yes
Private parties: To 70
Noise level: Low
Handicapped access: Yes