If you found this blog by Googling my name or by following sundry noxious links (you know where), please note that all claims that I was fired from my job are 100% false, as are most of the other things written about me. I don't know the people who are libeling me, but it's clear they have some imaginary axe to grind and way too much time.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Ashish is a life-long vegetarian who bravely emailed me to make the point that he does not limit himself to salads just because he is a veggie-eater.

I really admired his optimism in believing that a veggie and a carnivore can be great food buddies, so I challenged him to find the perfect vegetarian place for us to eat. I figured I should also try to be more open-minded. And so I detoured, for the sake of building diplomatic ties, away from meating up and deep into vegging up.

He didn't tell me where we were going until the very day. Because he's Indian, I half-expected an Indian restaurant, since Indian cuisine lends itself so nicely to vegetarian dishes. But I was truly impressed when he suggested Franchia. Ok, I had no idea what Franchia was, but I was truly impressed after Googling it, because it's a vegan Korean place. If there's anybody that can make veggies livable food, it'd probably be someone Korean. Hello, kimchee?

It was a lovely afternoon, so we sat outside under the restaurant's awning. The warm weather, the mellow ambiance, the healthful food, my good-natured dining companion...it was all very soothing.

And that was before we even got our tea. Ashish recommended we split the tea set, which comes with two teas, a tray of appetizers, and two small desserts. The tea menu is longer than the food menu, and we finally settled on white peony tea (my choice) and an iced fruit tea (his choice).

White peony tea

I've been on a tea kick lately, and this one was AWESOME. I could drink it every day. And how adorable are these little cups with the little sieve that fits over them?

The appetizers also had a pretty presentation:

Easily the best thing on this plate was the deep-fried veggie cake on the bottom left. There wasn't even fake meat product in there, and it was super tasty. The California rolls were also surprisingly fresh-tasting, although I may have been overly-impressed at the time, having forgotten that California rolls are vegan to begin with.

The other things? Just ok.

Here is where I got an unfortunate case of food envy:

My entree: cold avocado bibimbap

Ashish's entree: so-hot-it's-blurry-because-it's-still-bubbling vegetarian curry

I should have listened to him. I really should have. He said the curry was reeeaaally good and I was all "it's too hot for curry." God I'm dumb. I took one bite and said "I like yours better." He said, "me too."

I'd eat that curry every day. I wouldn't even notice there's no meat in it, it's so rich. My bibimbap wasn't bad at all, the sauce on the side actually gave it quite a dousing of flavor. But when I used the sauce, I couldn't taste anything else. After all, it's cold tofu and cold avocado over rice - bland in a bowl.

Good thing Ashish was pretty nice about sharing his curry. We talked about vegetarianism and people's reasons for it, his being that having grown up in a family of vegetarians, meat was simply an abnormal concept. Had he tried meat before? Yes, chicken, but it was not a fall-on-your-knees-seeing-the-light experience. Ok, fair, I'm pretty over chicken myself. But I pressed on - what about steak?

He smiled. "Everyone says that. No, I haven't had a steak."
"Would you try it?" What he said next was pretty endearing:
"Ummm I don't think I could ever try a beef steak. I would never eat beef. But a chicken steak? Yes I think I could do that."

Ashish moved from India to the US in 2003 to attend grad school, and most of his family is still in India. We started talking then about Indian mangoes, because I read lately that an Indian mango is, in fact, a fall-on-your-knees-seeing-the-light experience. Perhaps the only thing Dubya did right while in office was lift an 18-year import ban on Indian mangoes in 2007. (He also reportedly said, "This is one hell of a fruit," upon tasting them for the first time during the same state visit.)

I hear that they are still wildly expensive to import and can rarely be found outside of Indian groceries and supermarkets, where they sell for $3-$4 each. Ashish confirmed that they are probably the most delicious things on earth, but said that he'd never had them in the US or knew of any places that carried them. Carbon footprint be damned, I am going to try one, because that's all I can afford. I'll go to Queens if I have to.

We wrapped up the meal with three small desserts:

Lemon pudding, vanilla ice cream, mochi

I usually don't like fruit teas, but this one was perfectly refreshing and not a bit cloying. It also had bits of crispy vegan mystery molecules floating around in it, almost like puffed rice. Delicious. The lemon pudding, which is Ashish's favorite, was less so mine. It was good, but there was an aftertaste to it I couldn't really place. Ditto the ice cream, which had me marveling at how creamy it was.

Have I been converted? Definitely not. Would I recommend Franchia next time my meat-eating friends want a good restaurant? No. Would I go there with another vegetarian? Sure, I'd probably take my mom. But here's Angela's theory on vegan food, which makes a lot of sense to me - vegan places have dual (and dueling) priorities, and much of the cost goes toward making things like pudding and ice cream vegan, which leaves less money on the table to improve in the taste department. So while there were plenty of pleasant surprises, it's only because I'm forever qualifying praise with "...for a vegan dish." For the same price, it's just hard to beat meat.

Except maybe...

from Ashish Axxxxx
to Zoe Yang
date Mon, Apr 27, 2009 at 8:17 PM
subject Re: I NEED AN EATING BUDDY - w4m - 22 (Midtown East)
Let me know if you find anything about those Indian Mangoes! I love them!

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