Not wanting to let any CSA veggie go to waste, we have hardly had a meal away from home in the last six months. Not only have we not eaten in many restaurants, but unlike me in my past life, I have no idea what is going on in the restaurant world anymore.
Besides being inundated with veggies for many months and enjoying cooking every last morsel, there is really nothing out there in the restaurant world that really inspires me or drives me to visit. I think I have become desensitized to restaurants. That magic combination of variables needed for me to enjoy a restaurant experience has become rather illusive. I wonder if others feel this as well?
This last weekend I finally decided we needed a new restaurant experience. I perused the menus of Om, Bar La Grassa and Ginger Hop. The menu that looks the most appealing to me is Om, a contemporary Indian place downtown across from the Fine Line, but having to find parking, make reservations and possibly dress in anything other than comfy jeans and a sweater scared me away. I had such high hopes for Isaac Becker’s new digs, but alas, I cannot bear to order pasta in a restaurant. The idea just seems absurd. I can cook the stuff at home. It’s so easy, so cheap and so NOT interesting and remember…SO EIGHTIES. Please come up with something more interesting for vegetarians.
Ultimately, we were left with Ginger Hop. This sibling of Chang Mai Thai is located in the beautiful space vacated by the old Times Bar and Cafe. The decor is fabulous: casual, stylish and comfortable. Style wise, it beats most of the Asian ethnic eateries in town.
We arrived without a reservation and were placed on a waiting list. The bar had seats available so we were able to enjoy a cocktail and peruse the menu while we waited. Immediately, I noticed that vegan friendly menu items are marked with a big “V.” Thanks. The beer menu is not as extensive as I had hoped, but the server was knowledgeable and able to direct Jeff to a wheat beer from Stillwater – Lift Bridge Farm Girl to be exact. The service both in the bar and at our table was fantastic.
The food…well…not so fantastic. I will say, however, that the sweet potato fries were some of the best we ever had. I’m not sure why. They were crispy on the outside and tender in the middle and covered in flaky kosher salt. A dish of spicy ketchup which I believe was Sriracha and Ketchup mixed together was served on the side. We also ordered an Eggplant Satay, Caramelized Onion Cream Cheese Puffs and Tofu Spring Rolls. The Spring Rolls really surprised me because they were falling apart and tiny. I made spring rolls this summer and I learned how to soften the skins just the right amount so they don’t rip. If they sit in water too long, they start to turn to mush and fall apart. These were clearly made by a novice.
For our main meal, I had the Potsticker Soup which was satisfying and tasty, but not nearly as good as the Vegetarian Pho at Jasmine 26. Jeff had a Crispy Tofu Salad with rice vermicelli, but the Mock Duck Salad at Pho 79 knocks the socks off this dish. All this mediocre Asian food leaves me to question whether they have anybody in the kitchen who really knows how to prepare these dishes. On the other hand, the prices are similar to some of the very casual ethnic eateries in town.
Sorry, Ginger Hop. You have a beautiful space, you have kindly marked your menu items that are vegan, you have a lovely serving staff, and your prices are very reasonable. Your kitchen, however, needs some tweaking.