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Grasshopper

First things first: I’m BACK!  I had a wonderful time in L.A., my class was awesome, and I was invited to come back later in the year for the second installment of the course!  And, naturally, I had all manner of delicious vegan food.  Compared to where I live (compared to most places, actually), LA is vegan paradise. Oh man.  I miss it already.

Of course, a big negative to my extended absence from the Northeast was that this blog got slightly abandoned!  Fortunately I can make it up to you today with a pretty amazing restaurant discovery in Allston, Mass.  I spent the morning helping my boyfriend get settled for his first week of grad school at BC, and by 12:30 or so we decided it was time to check out the local restaurant choices.  We didn’t have to go far (thank God, since it was 97 degrees today!).  After just about a half-mile walk down the street we spotted a bright green awning with “ALL VEGAN” on it in white letters.  Now that’s what I like to see!

Grasshopper is one of those seemingly ubiquitous “Asian” restaurants, where you can’t really tell which “Asian” it’s supposed to be, but you can generally count on steamed rice and stir-fried veggies.  I can tell you, however, that Grasshopper went above and beyond most of its competition on a few key things (these may not do it for you, but they were enough for me):

  • Complimentary pot of tea before you even order anything!  This definitely will score you points with me!
  • $6.25 lunch special that came with a cup of your choice of soup: hot and sour, miso, or veggie delight
  • Super-friendly, smiley, helpful waitstaff.
  • Look at the menu!  Cheap appetizers and a pretty impressive selection of entrees.

I ended up ordering the hot and sour soup for starters.

Hot and sour soup. Included with lunch special.

Do not let its simplicity deceive you; this soup was INSANELY delicious.  Just the right combination of thick texture, spicy flavor and tofu:veggie ratio.  Get this one!

My boyfriend got some kind of sweet basil stir-fry thing that I didn’t get to take a picture of.  He’s still warming up to the whole food-blog idea :P.  I got a picture (and a taste) of his miso soup, though!

This was really just average — your basic bland tofu chunks in bland miso broth.  (I LOVE miso soup when it’s done right, just to clarify!) Also appearing to the right in that picture is the really cute cup they gave us to pour the tea in.  The cup to the left is full of ginger dipping sauce for the “chicken” dumpling that came with his entree.

For my entree I chose the stir-fried veggies with “vegi-beef” and brown rice (which I can’t find on that online menu so it must just be a lunch special thing).

tasty stir-fry from grasshopper! with brown rice. what you can't see is that the stir-fry continues UNDER the brown rice...there's at least three more pieces of vegi-beef, plus some broccoli and squash under there.

This was really good!  The sauce was a little oilier than I would’ve liked (I didn’t expect any oil at all, but I should’ve known better), but it was tasty — reminded me almost of a stroganoff-type sauce, thick and flavorful.  I don’t know why they gave me three different utensils to eat the same dish with, but that’s ok…good to be prepared?  It came with a fork, spoon, and chopsticks; I found it especially ironic when I ended up borrowing my bf’s knife to cut the huge veggies, bringing my total utensil count up to four…

The veggies were your standard mushroom-squash-carrot-broccoli-peapod-bamboo mix.  Tasty but nothing special.  I was really impressed with the vegi-beef though.  It reminded me of a brand of vegan jerky I used to eat all the time: Stonewall’s Jerquee.  That’s a good thing, since what I especially liked about that jerky was how chewy and filling it was.  In this case, the beef absorbed the sauce well without getting soggy.  (In fact, none of this dish was soggy — my boyfriend even remarked on how crisp the carrots were, despite being cooked.)  It’s a good thing I liked the “meat,” too, since they were quite generous with it!  I definitely felt like I got my protein (for all of you non-vegans keeping tabs on my protein status) and I couldn’t even finish the whole thing in one sitting.  All in all, certainly the best meal I’ve had since coming back from LA.  I’m VERY glad it’s so close to where my boyfriend will be staying, since it means many repeat trips there for me!

I do have two complaints – one smaller than the other.  First, I was mildly irritated that I had to pay to “upgrade” to brown rice here, when at many comparable restaurants brown rice is standard or at least a free substitute.  But as it was only 50 cents and they gave me a ton of it, I can let it slide.  The big complaint I have had nothing to do with the food — it was the bathroom!  The lights hardly worked, it was dingy and all-around gross-looking, there was stuff all over the floor, and there was no soap left in the dispenser.  I always wonder about the state of the kitchen when I see an unkempt restaurant bathroom, you know?

Bottom line on Grasshopper: Go there.  Order the lunch special (with the hot and sour soup!).  Just try to remember to go to the bathroom BEFORE you leave home.

Grasshopper is located at 1 North Beacon St in Allston, MA.  http://grasshoppervegan.com/index.html

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