A holiday observation: Dogs are acceptable absolutely everywhere in San Francisco. I saw them on streetcars, in stores (macaws are also apparently acceptable in thrift stores), and yes, even in restaurants. I didn’t notice the little dachshund hidden under a patron’s coat at Cha-Ya until it barked imperiously at a server.
I was at Cha-Ya because I was suffering slightly from an overindulgence in Mexican food. You see, California does Mexican food very, very well, and I may have got overexcited and partaken with a bit too much gusto (Sulagna and I *may* have recoursed to Chipotle several times by this point. Also a lot of Melbourne’s Mexican tastes like Chipotle, so maybe we got a bit too excited there guys). Anyway, I had started to think keenly about noodles and sushi and miso and so very much needed a Japanese lunch.
Luckily, San Francisco happens to be home to Cha-Ya, an entirely vegan Japanese restaurant. The menu is huge, and was full of all the things I’d been longing for – agadashi tofu, maki rolls, gyoza, edamame, my head was turned every which way as I bounced from choosing the vege tofu curry, the sea vegetable salad or a plate of fried loveliness in the form of vegie tempura.
In the end I decided to go with the lunch set, as then I would be able to have the choice from a list of big bowlfuls of assorted vegies alongside a small bowl of warming miso. The hana gomoku, or sushi rice bowl, looked to be the ticket: sushi rice mixed with seasoned shiitake, green beans, carrots, lotus root, sliced tofu pouch, yam cake and hijiki, topped with seasonal vegetables.
After enjoying the miso, which was delightfully salty and filled with threads of seaweed, the hana gomoku was just the hit of vegies I craved. The almost overflowing bowl sat on a mound of sticky sushi rice, and the highlights included warm shiitake wedges that had been broth blanched, meticulously carved carrot pieces, big half moons of lotus root, and many shiny orbs of bright green edamame. It was the perfect dose of hearty, generous vegie health that I’d been longing for, and very much satisfied my craving.
The service was very efficient and kindly, and the staff are equipped to deal with the unexpected (like barking hidden dogs) with aplomb. Cha-Ya is a definite must for vegans traveling in San Francisco, or anyone who likes a fresh bowl of vegie delights.
762 Valencia Street, San Francisco
Ph: +1 415 252 7825