Monday, April 18, 2011

Grasshopper Restaurant: No Bugs or Animals Harmed!

On my last night in Boston, my parents took me to one of my favorite restaurants, Grasshopper Vegetarian Restaurant in Allston, MA. Despite the use of "vegetarian" in the name, the restaurant is strictly vegan. This restaurant has a relaxing and fun atmosphere and is constantly filled with college students. Grasshopper has also withstood the test of time and while other vegan restaurants vanished into thin air, Grasshopper somehow has managed to stay afloat. My best guess would be that it's because the food is so delicious and so closely resembles the beloved meaty Chinese food many people have become accustomed to. In fact, my parents, who are both omnivores, prefer this restaurant to any Chinese restaurant they normally frequent.

We headed over with our $25 gift certificate, which required a minimum spending of $45. This was not hard to do with three people and a menu filled with endless options.  It was almost as if the employees at Grasshopper knew we were coming and exactly what we would order because our soups and appetizers came out almost immediately after we placed our order. Talk about fast service!

My dad and I both ordered the hot and sour soup ($4), while my mom ordered the miso soup ($3).

The hot and sour soup was so delicious. It had a great tangy flavor with a slight vinegary taste. The vegetables were soft and complemented the chewy pieces of "meat". The broth was just so scrumptious and I was glad it wasn't overloaded with vegetables.

My mom described her miso soup as being very light with a hint of spice. It also had notes of soy sauce. She really enjoyed it and found it a great option for a less spicy dish.

Next, we dug into the house special assorted appetizers, which was composed of vermicelli rolls, fried wonton, fried dumping, and fried spring rolls.

The fried appetizers were so delectable and not overly done. They were so crunchy and crispy but did not taste too greasy. The contents inside were soft and even more flavorful. The salad was a nice complement to the fried dishes and had a light, creamy vinaigrette. The vermicelli rolls were a good contrast to the fried dishes in having a soft outer skin and having a lighter filling of tofu and vegetables. Each appetizer was further enhanced by the luscious sauces, especially the bean sauce which was slightly sweet with a tad of bitterness.

We didn't even finish our appetizers before our two entrees came out.  My favorite is Grasshopper's specialty dish, ironically called the No Name, which is battered gluten in a sweet and sour sauce served with assorted steamed vegetables and topped with sesame seeds ($12.45).  We also ordered the Braised Spicy Tofu and Assorted Seitans Hot Pot in a Clay Hot Pot with Pineapple and Lemon Grass ($10.50).

Grasshopper's take on traditional Vietnamese, Chinese and even Thai dishes is innovative and unlike a lot of vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, they do not merely defrost some gardein. They actually take the time to hand-make the "meats" themselves, which is evident in each perfectly crafted dish. This is one of the few restaurants where the vegan meat actually resembles real meat and could fool any omnivore.  Each entree perfectly replicated its meaty equivalent in a frightening manner.

The gluten in the no name mimicked chicken so closely, I could even taste the tendons as I bit into it. I do have to admit, this grossed me out a bit, but I could see how this would appeal to omnivores and transitioning vegans alike. It was coated in a delicious, sweet and slightly tangy sauce with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds to add an extra crunch to the dish. This is the best dish I've had at Grasshopper and I would definitely recommend ordering this if you dine there.

I really liked this dish, although it was not as flavorful as the No Name. It had a lighter taste and was slightly bitter. The vegetables and tofu were soft and had a thin glaze of sauce.  The seitan were also soft and slightly chewy. The dish was well spiced, although I would have liked for it to have been a bit spicier.

We were served more salad to accompany our entrees, which was a light and refreshing contrast. The brown rice was also very soft and well cooked.

Lastly we ordered a strawberry cheesecake to finish off the meal.

This was not the best cheesecake I've ever had, but it was still pretty good and only $4! It was very creamy and slightly tart. The strawberries added a nice sweetness to the dessert and made it more decadent.

Grasshopper Restaurant is a must if visiting the Boston area, especially with the great discount. We ordered the pricier dishes, but most of the dishes only cost around $8. The dishes are also HUGE and we ended up taking home a good portion of each entree. This place is very consistent and the service is beyond amazing.  With the discount, we paid about $33, with tax and tip, which was such a great deal.

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