Nashvegan

A not-very-definitive guide to eating (and living) as a vegan in Nashville.

Khan’s Mongolian BBQ November 10, 2009

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Khan's - buffet 1

Choose your choice!

At Khan’s, you decide EXACTLY what your dish will include.  That makes it paradise for vegans.  Khan’s Mongolian BBQ is on 4th Avenue, right next to the entrance to the Arcade.  When you walk in, it kind of looks like a buffet.  You can a choose a large or small bowl and then fill it up with whatever you want.  They have tofu and TONS of fresh vegetables: sprouts, green peppers, carrots, white and purple cabbage, water chestnuts, snow peas, broccoli, onions, zucchini, mushrooms, scallions, baby corn, and more.  Plus you get $1 off for getting a vegetarian bowl.  You should see the art of architecture that takes place here–people build elaborate towers of food, cramming as much food as possible into the bowls.  I have yet to master the art of making a bowl without anything falling out of it onto the counter or floor, but that’s okay because there’s always someone walking around refreshing the bins and cleaning up the messes made by people like me.

khan's - buffet 2

Even more choices!

Towards the end of the line are a wide variety of sauces and seasonings to make your creation complete.  There are recommended recipes taped to the sneeze guard, but I usually just add a little bit of everything.  A little goes a long way with all the sauces–if you add too much, your food will come out too liquid-y.  It has taken me several visits to find the appropriate sauce-to-bowl ratio.  Also, let me tell you, it is awkward to take photos of the food line in Khan’s.  People must have thought I was insane.  Once your bowl is complete, you approach the cash register and hand it over so they can cook it up for you.  You get your choice of rice or noodles, but get the rice because the noodles are made with egg.  The key feature of a Mongolian BBQ restaurant is the large metal cooking area; I read that it’s supposed to be reminiscent of Mongols cooking food on their big metal shields.  If you ask nicely, the proprietors will cook your food in a pan in the back instead of on the big cooking circle thing, to avoid having your food cooked where meat was just prepared mere moments before.  That’s what I always do.

Khan's - entree

Look, it's all steamy.

You get a little paper number and wait for your food to come out, and when it does, you are in for a serious treat.  Rice, veggies, tofu, sauce, all made exactly to your specifications.  And it doesn’t end there.  Khan’s has an arsenal of delicious condiments you can use to top your dish.  There’s soy sauce, duck sauce, sriracha, tabasco, hot sauce, and something delicious and brown next to the register in little cups.  You can choose chopsticks or traditional utensils.  I have to tell you, I’ve never had anything at Khan’s that wasn’t delicious, but the plate you see here was the best I’ve ever had while eating there.  I think I finally got the sauce-to-bowl ratio right.  Just writing this entry is making my mouth water.

Khan’s is a seriously popular downtown lunch spot.  If you show up just after 12:00, you’ll have to wait a while and there probably won’t be any tables left.  If you can, try to head there a bit before 12:00 or a bit after 12:30.  I’m glad to see that so many people love this place.  I am absolutely certain that I will be back, just as I have been there many times before.  The best thing about Khan’s?  Every meal is different.

Khan’s Mongolian BBQ

237 4th Avenue N.

Nashville, TN 37219

615.726.2340

Khan’s doesn’t have a website, but here is a blurb from the Nashville Scene.

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Suzy Wong’s House of Yum September 24, 2009

Don't worry, the drinks are not about to slide off the table.

Don't worry, the drinks are not about to slide off the table.

So I have a backlog of restaurants I need to write about.  I’m a busy student and don’t have the time to update the blog as much as I would like, and I always add restaurants in the order I visit them.  This is an exception to that rule, because this place is SO AMAZING that I need to write about it immediately.  Seriously, this restaurant completes my Nashville vegan trifecta of the BEST vegan food in the city: Suzy Wong’s, Mellow Mushroom, and Fattoush.  You may disagree with me, and that’s cool, but I was blown away by this place.

The first thing that struck me about Suzy Wong’s was the decor and intimate vibe.  My dining companion likened it to restaurants in NYC, because the restaurant is long and narrow.  There is an enormous patio out back which is perfect when the weather is nice.  We dined inside, right in the window.  It was a little strange having people look into the restaurant at us, but whatever.  The space is impeccably furnished, with a variety of table set-ups and seating arrangements.  The lighting was just right – not too dim and not too bright.  And look at that adorable YUM plate!  I want seven.

Our cocktails were both fantastic.  I had the Lychee Cocktail which consists of lychee vodka, lychee liquer, lime juice, and ginger ale.  It even comes with a lychee fruit in the glass, which is totally delicious when you finish your drink.  My companion enjoyed a Blackberry Mojito, which I tasted and also enjoyed.  We determined that my drink complemented the food better than hers did, as it was lighter and crisper.  They also have a pretty substantial wine list, and offer that awesome sparkling white that comes in the purple can with the bendy straw.  I forget what it’s called, but it’s what they give you at Fido when you order a mimosa in the morning.

Vegetable Summer Rolls, Kung Pao Green Beans, Lemongrass Vegetable-Tofu Stir Fry, Vegetable Gyoza Pot Stickers

Vegetable Summer Rolls, Kung Pao Green Beans, Lemongrass Vegetable-Tofu Stir Fry, Vegetable Gyoza Pot Stickers

We ordered two “Yum Bowls” and two “Small Plates” to be sure that we could sample a wide variety of foods.  At the top of the photo is a plate of Vegetable Summer Rolls.  This was the least impressive dish we ate.  I just thought they were kind of flavorless, but my companion thought that might be because everything else on the table was so well-seasoned that they just seemed bland in comparison.  The circular dish on the left contains Kung Pao Green Beans.  When they say “Kung Pao” they’re not kidding – these beans pack some punch.  They were fantastic.  It was just beans and peanuts and what may have been french-fried onions and the sauce, but they were fantastic and I highly recommend you order them.  Next is the Lemongrass Vegetable-Tofu Stir Fry.  The mixture of vegetables in this was great, and they all tasted really fresh.  It included red and green peppers, scallions, broccoli, carrots, green beans, water chestnuts (ew), and perhaps more that I’m forgetting.  The tofu was nice a crispy, but I wish there had been more of it.  Believe me, I saved the best for last: Vegetable Gyoza Pot Stickers.  OH. MY. GOD.  Seriously, it was like there was a party in my mouth and everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was invited.  My dining companion and I kept saying that we were going to come back over and over and order ten plates of these things.  They are just simply perfect, and so is the sauce you dip them in and the crispy noodles that are served under them (because the crispy noodles stick to the pot stickers and you get a mouthful of different tastes and textures and awesomeness).

Another angle on an amazing dinner

Another angle on an amazing dinner

Another component to my excellent experience at Suzy Wong’s was the service.  My server was awesome and rushed to the kitchen to get answers to all my ingredient questions.  He was also a vegetarian, so he totally felt my pain.  We also got to chatting about veganism and the restaurant and life.  He informed me that they will be updating the menu soon to clearly label all vegetarian and vegan options.  My only complaint about the place comes from when I inquired about dessert.  I wanted to see if there was a vegan dessert option, and it seemed like there almost might be, because they have a dark chocolate fondue served with strawberries and crystallized ginger.  When my server went back to check on the vegan status of the fondue, he reported back that it had half-and-half in it.  They also have a banana tempura thing with ice cream (the tempura batter is vegan), so I asked if I could have that without the ice cream.  I was informed that this was not possible, because the owner is kind of a “soup nazi” and won’t make any changes to menu items.  Disappointing, right?  Well, don’t lose hope, because I told my server if the restaurant would be interested in serving a vegan dessert they would be heads and shoulders above other veg-friendly restaurants in the city.  He seemed quite amenable to the idea and promised to discuss it with the owner.  So, nashvegans, descend upon Suzy Wong’s House of Yum, eat enough pot stickers to make yourself sick, and stand up and demand your vegan dessert!

Suzy Wong’s House of Yum

1515 Church Street

Nashville, TN 37203

(615) 329-2913

Website

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ETA: Suzy Wong’s recently updated their menu with handy symbols indicating which menu items are vegan (and which are gluten-free).  I absolutely love it when restaurants do this, as it makes it easier for me to order food and it shows that vegans have really come a long way.  Unfortunately, the vegetable pot stickers and Kung Pao green beans are not listed as being vegan, even though I was told at the above visit that they were.  Also, the edamame is not listed as vegan–I don’t understand how that’s even possible.  I’m sorry for any misinformation I have provided, but on the visit above my server went to the back to ask the owner about everything I ordered so I thought I was in the clear.  I guess not.  How annoying.