My recent dining adventures at Renton's Blossom Vegetarian got me pining for the mock meat-studded plates at its parent restaurant, Moonlight Cafe. Moonlight's iffy interior--gummy tables, spotty carpet--is a lowly cousin to Blossom's refined aesthetic, but that's never kept me far from its doors. I've actually acquired, after many visits, a whole set of "Tupperware" re-purposed from their sturdy take-out containers.
Shabby outside, grungy inside, sketchy karaoke, and kick-ass vegan eats.
For vegans and vegetarians, few Seattle restaurants can top this brand of unfussy hospitality, and it all culminates with the vegan menu--the item-for-item mirror of Moonlight's traditional Vietnamese menu. And yes, folks have been raving some time over the dueling menus, but really, who else goes to those lengths (I'm talking a whopping 105 menu items) for us veggies?
It's a smorgasbord. For starters, there's the fried eggrolls, which are supreme, filled with cabbage, carrots, "pork," liberally seasoned with black pepper, and served with a light soy dipping sauce. Vegetarians often opt for fresh rolls to side-step their fried, pork-filled counterparts, but no worries here with these vegan torpedoes. The fresh rolls are lighter but packed with flavor, housing delicate shreds of fried tofu, rice noodles, and basil in a rice paper wrapper next to a savory peanut sauce.
If you've ever questioned whether your tofu pho broth hints of chicken or beef, you'll not wonder here. The broth on #41, the special tofu & vegetable noodle soup, is clean and aromatic, with rich flavors of cinnamon, ginger, and garlic. With all the noodley accoutrements and a variety of vegan meats--ham, fried tofu, mushroom cake, and gluten balls--you've got yourself a meal indeed, and one free of doubt.
Oh, and then there's the eternally endearing Engrish, which is not a knock on the establishment but a final salute to its worn-in character. It may have been edited since I picked up the old, battered take-out menu I keep in a kitchen drawer, but item #49 on the vegan menu reads: "Bun Rieu Chay, crap meat & tofu noodle soup." Years ago I underlined it and have a chuckle every time I call in a take-out order, and truth be told, I've never ordered it. I can hardly tear myself away from the chicken cashew with vegetables (#64) or the vermicelli rice noodle bowl with shredded tofu, egg roll & grilled pork (#37). But let's get real here: it's probably the shit.