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VeganMoFo: Golden Era restaurant review, or hooray for second helpings

This post is part of the Vegan Month of Food - or VeganMoFo to you and me. To learn more about VeganMoFo, click here.

Recently, I was in San Francisco for work. Then, lucky sod that I am, I got to stay on for a bit and enjoy the city.

I'd have been mad not to take advantage of a city that's brimming with vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants so my stay in San Francisco was peppered with visits to animal-free eateries, including Herbivore and Gracias Madre.

One place I got to eat at twice was Golden Era, an Asian restaurant that serves entirely vegan food.

We ended up eating here twice - once because we hunted it out, once because we were too tired, hungry and lazy to bother finding somewhere new to eat.

I'm glad we were feeling lazy, hungry and tired that second time - the first time, I made some dodgy menu selections and left thinking it meh. The second visit, however, I lucked out and picked some crackers.

My dodgy menu choice first time around was Ocean of Love, a dish I picked purely because the name amused me in the most childish way. Alas, the joke was on me - it was wranging.

The main problem was the ocean part - fake shrimp. Clammily fishy, rubbery and oddly realistic to look at,  I ended up trying a couple of the shellfish simulacra and then pushing them to the corner of my plate in favour of the water chestnut, courgette and cashew combination around it. The sauce and veggies were a tasty mix of soy and slightly sweet, but I couldn't escape the grimness of the shrimp winking back at me.

My dining companions both made better choices. The standout was lemongrass deluxe - a chewy, savoury chicken-substitute and broccoli dish on a bed of fresh lettuce, shredded courgette and carrot.

My other co-diner went for the Spicy Szechuan, which turned out to be a little spicier than expected - after accidentally swallowing a chilli, my co-diner coughed like he'd lost a lung and then temporarily lost the ability to speak, but not the ability to throw drink after drink down his neck to try and douse the Golden Era fires. Despite the crashing chilli disaster, he still pronounced the plate fine.

On our second visit, me and Flicking the Vinos (who'd suffered at the hands of the Spicy Szechuan) were feeling greedy and went for a starter, choosing Vietnamese Crepe.

Along with the juicy yellow joy you see below, the crepe came with its own big platter of mint, coriander, lettuce and dipping sauce, so we could make Vietnamese spring rolls  with lettuce instead of a rice flour wrapper.

I've no idea what the crepe is made of, but it made such a light, fresh filling to the rolls, I could have eaten only that and not have felt hard done by. I could also have got away with having only that, given the size of the portions - splitting the crepe between two as a main would have been a good-sized dinner if you both weren't starving hungry.

Alas, we found that out after we'd ordered, and having scarfed down the crepe, both still had mains to come.

Mine was the wonton vegetable noodle soup, and despite my fullness, I damn near crammed the whole generous soup down my gullet.

Perched on a mountain of noodles in light, if a bit inoffensive, broth were  dumplings, vegetables and three types of tofu: age, atsuage and yuba. Aside from the dumpling wrappers jonesing for a bit longer cooking time, the whole was a busy but proteiny wonder. 

On my second visit, my only complaint was that I was too full to try the interesting list of desserts that Golden Era has. Almond pumpkin cheesecake, you say? Maybe a third visit is needed...

Golden Era
572 O'Farrell Street
San Francisco, California 94102
(415) 673-3136

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