Vegetarian Cuisine For Meat Lovers
Bok Choy is the latest offering from chef Mike Behrend, the creator and co-owner of Green Vegetarian. This quaint little spot at 5130 Broadway boasts a flavor-packed, plant-powered, pan-Asian menu perfect for lunch or dinner Sunday – Friday (that’s right, they are closed on Saturdays).
Let’s get something out of the way; I am NOT a vegetarian. I consume vegetables with little joy, convincing myself this is what adults do. So if you are like me — a bacon-loving, porterhouse- eating, cook-the-duck-in-its-fat kind of guy — you are going to love Bok Choy. Did you hear the record scratch? That’s right, meat lovers; Bok Choy brings the flavor to a level where you will not be asking “Where’s the beef?”
Bok Choy is a small spot, but it’s bright, clean and looks fresh. If we have come to expect anything from chef Behrend, it’s fresh ingredients, clean restaurants and full-flavor meals. You can walk up to the counter to order or just grab a seat. The staff is super attentive and will greet you promptly. Start your order off with a few appetizers, especially if this is your first trip; they will give you a sense of the food and flavor combinations.
The Vietnamese Spring Rolls are outstanding — rice paper wrapped around fresh herbs, carrots, cucumbers and noodles and served with a homemade peanut sauce. The rice paper fries up nicely to deliver a crisp but still light spring roll. Most impressive was the crunchy texture and the almost complete absence of the frying oil. A perfect complement to the Spring Roll is an order of the Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts. Bok Choy deep-fries their Brussels sprouts, the best way to eat any vegetable, and then tosses them in a pineapple sweet and sour sauce with scallions and peanuts. The peanuts add just the right amount of crunch to these Brussels sprouts.
Take a few bites, and then plot out your next moves. You can grab a quick lunch at Bok Choy, but do yourself a favor and plan to sit awhile and order a few bites at a time, and then plan to do this at every restaurant you go to for the rest of your life! Slow food is always better food, and when you are at a spot like Bok Choy, where the staff and owners have obsessed over the freshness and preparation of their food, you owe it to them to take it slow.
The entrees are truly pan-Asian, from Vietnamese Pho to General Tso’s Chik-n, and honestly, no one knows where this dish originated. General Tso is a real guy, but this dish has a fascinating story; check it out in the Searching for General Tso documentary. Order several entrees and plan to share. Like Green Vegetarian, Bok Choy offers meat substitutes in dishes like General Tso’s Chicken or Beef and Broccoli. The General’s Chicken is cooked to order and served with fresh stir-fried veggies, whose vibrant colors pop amidst the familiar dish. The “chik-n” (how Bok Choy designates their chicken substitute) is similar to white meat chicken, but slightly lighter.
It’s clear chef Behrend has a skilled hand at cooking with these substitutes; you don’t miss the real thing, particularly in the case of the General’s Chicken. The sauce is tangy and full-bodied, and the lightly breaded chik-n has a wonderful firm texture due to the light deep-fried batter. It is delicious. They say it’s spicy, but if you like stuff really spicy, then you should ask them to take it up a notch. Don’t stop with one dish; the menu has so much to explore that you will want to make several visits.
Bok Choy is open for lunch and dinner six days a week and closed on Saturdays. Their website, eatbokchoy.com, is easy to navigate, gives you all the menu options and has a very well- constructed online ordering system. Stop in for a bite or order online and bring Bok-Choy to the office or home for dinner. Tell them Scott sent you — they will not disappoint!
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By Mitchell Scott Austin
Photography by Raleigh Hart