Friday, October 20, 2006
The other night we ate at a place called Millennium, a totally vegan restaurant in downtown San Francisco. I had only been to a couple of vegetarian spots in my life until moving to SF last year, but now I’ve been to several and I can’t believe that in many ways I am beginning to think I could live sans meat and actually enjoy it. Don’t get me wrong – a nice steak, a couple of fried pork chops with apple sauce, meat loaf, barbecued ribs, a juicy brisket and other such items still cause me to salivate and swoon – but I’ve learned not to be frightened by meals that don’t involve something that was breathing prior to hitting my plate. Millennium is a true vegan establishment – they talk the vegan talk and walk the vegan walk, because they don’t have anything on their menu that had a face or anything that comes from something that has one. That means no dairy, no eggs, and no honey, for that matter. The only things you’ll find at Millennium grow out of the ground. And, believe me; they don’t sacrifice taste or variety in doing it that way. Located in the Hotel California on Geary Street, this restaurant explores the pleasures of perfectly prepared produce from every angle using every method of preparation imaginable. To kick off this all-natural exploration into the vegan universe, we started off with some pretty amazing appetizers. By far the best thing we ate all night was the Sesame Cornmeal Crusted Oyster Mushrooms ($9.00). They came with a cucumber mint salad, and a sweet & spicy apricot ginger coulis and they kicked ass. The texture and the flavor was a winning combination. I ate more than my share of this appetizer, which resulted in sideways looks from some of my dining companions, but to be honest, I really didn’t care. If this is the kind of stuff vegans eat, count me in! The other appetizer we sampled was a Black Bean Torte ($8.00), which consisted of a whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantains, smoky black bean puree, manchamanteles sauce, cashew sour cream (without dairy), and a golden watermelon-jicama relish. I would say it was just okay. When I saw plantains listed as an ingredient, I thought it would have some of those flavors, but the rest of the dish overpowered the entire affair. For entrees, we had the Grilled Rosa Bianca Eggplant Napoleon ($22.00) which had more produce in it than your average Whole Foods Market. It’s a sage scented flageolet bean ragu seared garlic polenta cake with a summer ratatouille, arugula and Greek basil salad and a smoky Romesco sauce. If you know what that means, go for it, but all I know is that it tasted pretty damn good. The only criticism I might have with this dish is that it was very busy. There were so many flavors bombarding my taste buds in unison that some of them got lost. We also had the Chipotle Grilled Portobello and Zucchini Tamale ($21.00) with dried cherries and toasted almonds, sautéed greens, ancho-carrot “cream,” roasted tomatillo salsa and spiced pumpkin seeds. A version of high-end Mexican vegan cuisine, no doubt, this dish was muy caliente and mucho flavorful. All in all, I would say that Millennium is a very intriguing place that has taken vegan gourmet food to a whole new and exciting level. I would recommend it if you’re on a healthy food kick and even if you’re not. Millennium is located at 580 Geary Street in SF and their phone number is: (415) 345-3900.