Well, batting two for two today. I wanted to visit the Kalga Kafe for dinner tonite. I wanted to go vegetarian style to make up for all the meat I've been ingesting. As has been the case the last dozen times I've wanted to eat at the Kalga Cafe, the fates have intervened and they were closed. I made the mistake of settling for the Bay Leaf vegetarian restaurant just a few blocks further out Division.
If I were to review this on a five star scale, this is totally a one star dining experience.
-1/2 a star for making us wait to place our orders, not setting our places, and generally ignoring us.
-1/2 a star for the droning instrumental music typical of every Chinese place you've ever eaten in.
-1/2 a star for the decor. A couple of wall scrolls and bamboo plants aren't enough.
-1 star for the food, below.
-1/2 a star for getting my order wrong and also ignoring us some more during dinner.
-1/2 a star for generalized awkwardness due to the rotten handling of other diners during the checkout phase of the meal. Did I mention waiting and being ignored? Oh. Well, we did some more of that during this time period, too. It gave us a chance to catch up on recent happenings in our lives.
-1/2 a star for the prices being too high for generic Chinese food with no meat.
The 1 star this place got? Half of that that would be the tea. We got a small (really small) pot of Bai Mu Dan tea which was really good. The man making the tea did it with care and attention, which was pleasant to watch. The other half was that they had Lion's Mane mushroom on the menu with baby bok choi. It wasn't identifiable as Lion's Mane when it was battered and fried and slathered with sauce, but just to see the species mentioned reminded me that mushroom days are coming soon!
Satay Lion's Mane Mushrooms. It says it comes with garden greens, and I guess Baby Bok Choi qualifies. It is listed on the menu as spicy. I requested EXTRA spicy. I got NO spicy. Not even the most remote hint of heat. Like, this was as spicy as...milk? Or as fiery as...vanilla ice cream? Maybe it's as hot as...chicken? It was edible, sure. The baby bok choi is really delicious, and the presentation was interesting. Just, the mushrooms didn't even taste of mushrooms. Where are they getting lion's mane mushrooms this early in the year? Do they grow them commercially in this region? I want to know, because I'd do something TOTALLY different with them besides bread them and fry them. I really couldn't tell it was even mushrooms under the coating. It could have been orange chicken if they'd used a different sauce! It had no flavor whatsoever! Grrrr.
The mushroom dish came with some mixed rice. The rice was better than plain old white rice, and we'll leave it at that. To analyze it further would be somewhat like picking a scab.
The Mu Shu vegetables were just okay. As were the tortillas that we used to make our burritos. As was the plum sauce. The vegetables were really salty. They were also greasy, bland, and unremarkable. This dish was an almost-tasty waste of my time.
I had thought that the lack of cars in the parking lot was due to the health conscious clientele that would frequent a vegetarian Chinese restaurant. Alas, I think it's because this place is a barely adequate excuse for your standard Chinese hole-in-the-wall, with much higher prices and no meat in their dishes. I would think that in wanting to promote their meat-free cuisine, they would strive to produce excellent and memorable meals. Said meals would be best enjoyed in a discreetly attentive atmosphere with smiling and helpful service. At least my mediocre meal at Heidi's this morning had SOME service...