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Taroko Restaurant - Vegan Food Review

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Pan-Asian. What is it exactly? When I first heard the term “Pan-Asian” it felt to me like the restaurants were just trying to make more money by not pigeon-holing themselves into a particular kind of fare. Sort of like the place up the street from my house in San Francisco that served Chinese Food and donuts (while you were waiting for your dry cleaning). However, Pan-Asian food has emerged as a vibrant “cuisine”, with something for everyone. It has risen so much in popularity that unless you are living in a trailer park in Nova Scotia, you are likely familiar with the term. Vietnamese Pho, Japanese Maki Rolls, Pad Thai and Chinese Hot & Sour Soup are just a few of the myriad of dishes you can expect to see at such a restaurant.

However, if you are vegan, navigating the “Pan-Labyrinth” (yes, I said it) can prove a challenge. Many of the dishes, while they seem innocent enough, contain “secret” animal based ingredients such as fish oil, shrimp paste and oyster sauce. Often they are cooked in the same pans and fryers, and on the same grills and cooking surfaces as animal products. Luckily, though, and due in no small part to the prevalence of Buddhism in many Asian countries, many of these restaurants are familiar with the concept of “strict vegetarianism”, and have educated their staff about it. They are versed in animal derived ingredients, and have developed ways to “veganize” even inherently non-vegan items.

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Taroko in Ashland  is one such restaurant, and Rogue Valley Vegans had the pleasure of dining there recently. First of all, the ambiance is great. Classy, but not over the top. I would feel just as comfortable bringing a client here for dinner as I would hanging out on a Saturday afternoon. Secondly, the food was very good. I think we had a representative sampling from every Asiatic culture. I myself had edamame and Singaporean Spicy Noodles, and for once, someone knew what that meant. Thinly sliced jalapenos in delicate curried rice noodles … so good. Looking around the table I saw Yaki Soba, tofu dishes, Pho and a number of different vegan sushi rolls. Everyone enjoyed their meals very much and said they would absolutely come back.

On the heels of that, the manager and wait staff were fantastic. Our server, Sam, was very knowledgeable about the food ingredients and helped each of us order. He communicated with the cooks to make sure that our food was indeed vegan, and kept out of contact with animal ingredients. Christie the manager was also very accommodating, and made sure we were taken care of all through our dining experience, even later emailing us asking for feedback! Service like this is truly rare.

My only critique at this point is that they should have clear, vegan choices on the menu.  Before we had our event, our fearless leader and my lovely wife, Mary, emailed ahead of time to ensure we were taken care of.  We love her!  Way to have our back Mary!  The manager told Mary what dishes could be vegan, but then our waiter, Sam, told us otherwise.  So it would be great if they got with the kitchen and created some vegan dishes, added them to the menu and marking them clearly.  This removes the guesswork out of it, which we appreciate!  We have high hopes for Taroko though because they have a willingness and desire to accommodate vegans and for this they have our loyalty.   We will be back!

 

Sauce Restaurant - Vegan Food Review

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I am about to make a bold statement, but one I feel confident I can stand behind: Sauce Restaurant is THE place to get the best vegan meal in all of the Rogue Valley!

The style of food is hard to describe, but on their website they use the term “Healthy Comfort Food.” I think that is pretty accurate; however, when I think of comfort food I think heavy. This is not exclusively the case. Yes there are rich and heavier choices, but you can get a deeply satisfying lighter choice with their Build-A-Bowl option. I'm sure the chefs went to great lengths to create their other vegan masterpieces, so I apologize for taking control and always wanting to build my own bowl (thanks to being a Virgo!) Seriously, though, I was personally elated when they added Build-A-Bowl to the menu option because ... well ... I like getting what I want and the way I want it! You can choose a grain, an array of decadently cooked veggies (e.g., braised kale, caramelized onions, miraculously and magically cooked Brussels sprouts, yams, butternut squash, roasted cauliflower just to name a few), and a protein choice of tofu cooked and seasoned to perfection, black beans, or golden dal. You also have amazing vegan sauce choices to add such as Green Sherpa, which is creamy spicy goodness; Ginger Teriyaki; mango sauce; and more. I need to backtrack and say that I have been vegan for over two decades, so you would think I have mastered the art of cooking veggies, but Sauce kind of puts me to shame! What the heck do you guys do to your veggies to make them so completely unforgettable! (Rhetorical question :o) Have I raved enough about the Build-A-Bowl option? Probably not!

A few of the ready-made dishes are already vegan, but they can veganize others, so be sure to ask. I can only speak about the Gaia Bowl because again … I am a control freak and always want to build my own ingredients, but when I had the Gaia Bowl, it was in fact dreamy! They refer to it as the "Mother Bowl." Need they say more? It has roasted organic carrots, organic cauliflower, brussels sprouts, yams, butternut squash, kale, and dal all mixed in a special sauce.

They have amazing appetizers and are adding vegan desserts. My husband goes insane for the Sherpa Naan bread.

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Oh, did I mention they use organic whenever possible? Bonus! AND, equally and possibly more important, the owner has went to great lengths to make the kitchen vegan friendly. I won’t lie; I wish they would take dead animals off the plates. Their vegan dishes prove there is no need to eat animals. However, although they do offer meat, we are SO grateful that they have a high consciousness about veganism and they work hard not to let any animal ingredients sneak their way into vegan dishes. They color code pans and utensils used for vegan dishes and even color code their recipes for the cooks. I have talked with the owner about this and I can tell you she is so respectful about the sacred choice not to consume animals and she could not be more supportive. We love Tara! We also love the cooks and all the staff. They are all so lovely and their service is wonderful.

Sauce’s ambiance is casual and cozy. One of the owners custom built the tables, benches and some light framing, which are all beautifully crafted. The lighting is warm and inviting and the colors vibrant and cheerful. My only critique is that they could invest a little more in their décor. Some of it is quite outdated. Their food is just too outstanding to be served with interior inadequacies. Admittedly though, they could serve in a back alley and it would not stop me from ordering up one of their dishes!!

 

Siam Cafe - Vegan Food Review

Siam-CafeMan oh man, I love Thai food. It's a good thing too since no matter where I go I can usually find a Thai restaurant who, if they don't already have vegan options on the menu, can make some. Interesting flavors, spicy kick; it stands out in stark contrast to the gelatinous slop found in most Chinese restaurants. I think my obsession with it reached an all time high when I was living on Lower Haight street in San Francisco. I lived over top of a restaurant called Phuket Thai, and the smells of the food would waft through my windows and carry me downstairs like Pepe Le Pew. I almost forgave the owners (who lived in the apartment next door) for their late night band practice, and for only knowing 2 songs: "La Bamba" and "Ain't Nothin But a Hound Dog", choices which occasionally prompted a speaker war between our two households.

Needless to say, I've eaten a lot of Thai food in a lot of cities, and I am always impressed with how many Thai Restaurants there are in a county of only 200,000 people. Great news for vegans and vegetarians. There is one, however, that is a cut above the rest.

Ornsurang Yoorungruang, or "Boo" as she is affectionately known, opened Siam Cafe about 10 years ago on the corner of 6th Street and Main in Medford, right across the street from the Medford YMCA. She has at least a dozen vegetarian dishes on the menu (which can all be made vegan) including some of my personal favorites such as Pahd Thai, fresh spring rolls, Pahd See Ew, Pahd Kee Mow and a yellow curry that is so good it will make you do cartwheels around the parking lot (luckily, I can't do a cartwheel so I'll never have to test that theory out). The service is great, and Boo's hospitality is unforgettable. Check it out. You'll see what I mean. Just watch for cars before you start those cartwheels...

Visit Boo at:
618 W Main St
Medford, OR 97501-2742
(541) 734-4789

Tell her Cameron and Mary sent you!  You'll either get the best service of your life or thrown out on your ass! Good luck!