All Chinese, But None Of The Meat

Posted: May 08, 1992

The name is Cherry Street Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant, which sounds as if there are vegetarian restaurants all over Chinatown.

Sure, you can get vegetarian dishes at most of the Chinese restaurants in the area. And this isn't the only one that caters strictly to vegetarians. But Cherry Street Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant is in a class by itself.

There is no smoking. The menu is totally vegetarian, and the restaurant features macrobiotic and Pritikin menus. Not only that, it says it is certified kosher.

While there are dishes with meat names, they employ mock - or imitation - meat made from wheat gluten. So when you see an entree called lemon duck, or beef with asparagus, be apprised that the "duck" and the "beef" are imitation. When you taste them, you'll probably realize that.

I'm not sure that true meat lovers will enjoy these mock versions. Those who don't eat meat, no doubt will. At least the non-meat eaters I've talked with assured me that they do.

Cherry Street Chinese Vegetarian also has dishes that use only vegetables, and these are executed quite well. You can get string beans done in spicy Szechuan style ($6.75), a hot-and-spicy eggplant in garlic sauce ($6.75) and a number of rice and noodle dishes.

Wonton soup ($1.50) has - of course - a vegetable broth, and the wontons are filled with a variety of shredded vegetables. Similarly, the hot-and-sour soup ($2) had a very light taste, along with subtle flashes of hot and sour flavors.

The huge dumpling appetizer (eight for $3.95) was steamed - you can also order it fried - and more than enough for two. Jonathan, a young aspiring journalist who accompanied me as part his school's career-day activities, opined that the dumplings - as vegetarian cusine, anyway - were "not bad at all."

We also had an excellent pan-fried, crispy noodle dish ($6.95) covered with a variety of vegetables and a large bowl of moist and chewy brown rice (75 cents). These, like the other portions, were extremely large and certainly shareable.

"Beef" in a spicy chili and black bean sauce ($6.75) had slices of mock beef in a dark and rich sauce. It was a good version of mock red meat, but I'd feel uncomfortable telling die-hard meat lovers that they would find it superior to the real thing.

Our "chicken dish" ($7.75) came with bright, fresh and crisp broccoli. The cubes of mock white-meat chicken were crunchy on the outside and - like real poultry when done right - moist inside.

The regular menu here covers in vegetarian form just about all the standard Chinese dishes you'd find at regular restaurants. The macrobiotic menu features miso soup ($1.95), noodles with tofu and vegetables ($6.75) and mixed vegetables with brown rice ($6.25).

Cherry Street Chinese Vegetarian Restaurant has a special weekday luncheon

menu that includes an entree, choice of soup and rice ($4.75 to $5.50).

Service is pleasant and the place is attractive and comfortable. Meals end with complementary orange slices and fortune cookies, but there are also desserts, including blintzes with non-dairy sour cream ($1.25).

CHERRY STREET CHINESE VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT

1010 Cherry St., 215-923-3663.

Open: Lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinner, 3 to 10 p.m. Mondays to Thursdays, to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and from 12:30 to 10 p.m. Sundays.

Price range: $6.25 to $8.50.

Credit cards: Major cards.

Nonsmoking section: No smoking in restaurant

Facilities for handicapped: Ramp in rear.

Atmosphere: Attractive and spacious.

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