Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Shangri-La: Vegetarian Chinese Food in San Francisco

I enjoyed my first visit to Shangri-La, a vegetarian Chinese restaurant on Irving (between 21st and 22nd) in San Francisco. It's a small place, easy to miss, but obviously a popular dining destination, as the restaurant completely filled up as Anna of Anna's Cool Finds and I spent the shortest two hours dining there (we arrived early at 6pm).

Shangri-La has the largest selection of faux meats I've seen on a menu. Faux goose, duck, shrimp, chicken, beef, pork, even vegetarian tripe!

While I've never been huge on faux meats, I was very curious to try Shangri-La's selection as I read many good reviews of their faux meat products.

I was super excited to try the lemon chicken, a dish I still remember eating in my teens, a sticky, crunchy, deep-fried lemony thing (with chicken).

While nicely presented, I was disappointed that the dish did not correspond to my remembered dish. The server clearly pointed out that the "chicken" was sauteed, not deep fried. However, it was soft and glutinous and the lemon sauce was both cornstarchy and watery.

The Mongolian Beef ( I don't recall ever having the real thing) was excellent: spicy, nice texture (which Anna said was really close to the real thing, and I trust her) and the cabbage was delicious. After a couple of hours, it took on a more glutinous taste, but it was really good.

The lotus root with carrots and snow peas was absolutely fresh and delicious:

The star for me, however, was the chow mein. It had the most divine smokey flavor, had crisp, fresh vegetables, and was perfectly oiled, unlike so many chow meins that are overly greasy.

Next time, and I'm sure they'll be one, I'll order the faux shrimp, but otherwise stick to tofu and vegetable dishes. I think it's fair to say, I'm just not that into faux meat dishes. Certainly, the pricing is very reasonable and the service is extremely gracious. I would love to hear other peoples impressions of this restaurant in the comments.


Blogger Chris @ Beyond Ramen said...

Too bad I can't get to SF to try this out. The least I can say is thank goodness for vegetarian Buddhist monks that pervade Asia. The unfortunate thing is that they often use lard and MSG (which apparently isn't vegetarian), but it looks like Shangri-La is a great find.

7:51 PM  
Blogger A_and_N said...

The words Chinese and Vegetarian sound so strange placed next to each other ;) I live quite far off SanFran but if I come to SF, I'll make sure I go here and check it out. Thanks for introducing this to me :)

7:57 PM  
Blogger keite said...

I'm on the Peninsula, but I remember eating there some years back. It's good food, but I'm with you on the faux meats.

Garden Fresh in Mountain View is similar, but I believe that they have new owners or something because nothing there tastes as fresh as it used to. I also like White Lotus in SJ.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Anna Haight said...

What fun we had! Looking forward to chatting and chowing with you soon!

10:38 PM  
Blogger Erika said...

I really enjoyed going there a couple of years ago, but last year NPR reported that lots of gluten used in Chinese cooking, and sold in Chinese markets in the USA (and presumably served in local restaurants) had been contaminated with sawdust of all things. I sure hope that was just a fluke. The news kept me from visiting the gluten mock-meat Chinese restaurants of SF. Does anyone know anything about this? I want to enjoy this restaurant again and not be too skeptical about the additives found in some foods imported from China. Thanks if anyone knows about this issue. For the record, the meal I had there was fabulous.

4:27 PM  

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