The Creek Cafe | Vegan Omakase

This past weekend, the sunlit and cozy interiors of The Creek Cafe welcomed a trickling but steadily increasing stream of curious diners, all eager to get a taste of the cafe’s new vegan Omakase menu. Nestled in the historic Lakewood neighborhood in Dallas, the spot describes itself as Americana with a Tokyo twist. On a normal day, they serve breakfast, pastries, French toast, and Japanese-style fluffy pancakes. Their special two-night vegan event saw such a popular demand that reservations sold out! My dear friend Christina and I were among the lucky attendees, and I’m excited to share our experience with you.

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Omakase (お任せ): a Japanese phrase meaning “respectfully leaving another to decide what is best.” In this case, the diner is entrusting the chef to make the decision about the dishes to be served. This gives the chef creative flexibility, and also provides the diner with a unique experience.


I love this concept, and learning more about it helped me appreciate the food in a different way. Life is less heavy, when we savor small spontaneities. The tradition of omakase invites us to embrace the artful act of being open to new experiences.

My friend Nick Ammon, who helped The Creek Cafe develop their new vegan menu, told me that it was inspired by traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine. As someone whose family is rooted in Vietnamese Buddhism, I very much appreciated this concept! My lifestyle as a vegan is absolutely aligned with my spiritual philosophy and family upbringing. Please see below to learn about the meaning behind this kind of food. It will give you a better understanding of the meal and the tradition behind it.


Shojin Ryori (精進料理):  traditional Japanese Buddhist cuisine. Also known as temple food, based on the rightful thought and action in food. “By consuming a diet free of animal flesh, [practitioners] are abstaining from violence against living beings.

Sho (精) means “to focus.”

Jin (進) means “to go forward” or “to advance along the way.”

Shojin (精進) implies a procedure of constant reflection.

Ryori (料理) is the word for cooking or cuisine.


I love that this mindset was the driving concept behind their vegan items. The carefree spirit of mindfulness and minimalism definitely came to mind with each carefully crafted plate. Eating temple food can be a meditative experience, if one slows down, and takes care to appreciate the various textures and the subtle flavors in front of them.


The Creek Cafe | Vegan Menu Review | plantcrush.co

course no. 1 

chilled edamame soup | creamy + refreshing | perfect for summer | reminiscent of matcha at first

homemade Japanese pickles | homemade using Texas veggies | adds a nice bite of acidity between the other bites

caponata | made with sweet bell peppers

ume plum vinegar sauce | fragrant, tart + a sweet contrast with everything else.
I dipped the other bites in this sauce and loved it all!

Mixing and matching the bites with each other and the sauce was recommended! I love doing that anyway, because contrasting various flavors usually make for a more satisfying dining experience.

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I particularly loved and appreciated that the lotus root was included in this dish, as it has held great spiritual meaning for many Asian cultures, including my own Vietnamese culture, in which it is held up as a symbol of divine beauty and spiritual enlightenment.

The lotus flower is revered in Japan for its ability to rise from the dirty, murky waters to bloom into a beautiful pure flower. This process symbolizes attaining enlightenment. The idea is that we can rise above human suffering in the same way as the lotus by moving from the lowest to the highest state of consciousness.


course no. 2 

inari + steamed veggies | sweet + savory + chewy | super satisfying

wasabi potato salad | creamy, with a clean sharpness that tingles + lingers

agedashi taro | crispy + packed with flavor | this taro croquette was my favorite!

mushroom pesto | rich flavors all around | this was also my favorite | ok, it’s a tie | this goes very well with the agedashi taro!

salisbury shiitake tofu | great textures, note that shiitake has a really subtle flavor. I enjoyed mixing these bites with some of the mushroom pesto.

stir-fried tubers + 16 grain rice | gorgeous presentation + flavors, just needed some sauce, or maybe I’m just a saucy person!

Once again, I found that the best way to experience this was to mix and match different bites with each other for various flavor combinations.

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course no. 3

strawberry white chia pudding + cashew cream | creamy, refreshing + enjoyable | not too sweet + fun to swirl!


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Starting this week, The Creek Cafe will be serving several vegan options on its permanent menu, served all day (their hours are 7 am – 3 pm). These options include two omakase plates, onigri, Japanese curry, wasabi potato salad, three bean taco rice, and a panini featuring their salisbury shiitake tofu. All their vegan fare will be clearly marked with a simple vegan logo. The omakase plates will reflect the seasons, and they will also vary according to what the chefs are feeling.

This summer, if you’re in the mood for a light and refreshing breakfast or lunch that doubles as a unique experience, The Creek Cafe is worth checking out.

I, for one, am eagerly awaiting the glorious day when they come out with vegan versions of their decadent French toast and Japanese fluffy pancakes! And I am forever dreaming of vegan croissants.

A big thanks to our friends Nick Ammon and Sarah Fun for all their work helping The Creek Cafe rebrand and add more vegan options to their menu! The cafe’s next event will be a cosplay event—stay posted by following them on Facebook or Instagram!

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Light appetizer bites! Photo courtesy of the incredible Sarah Fun.


Omakase is considered a request for a wonderful meal. If you’re looking to save money, omakase isn’t the way to go. Nevertheless, it usually represents an excellent value.

Also keep in mind that Japanese portions tend to be smaller than the hefty Western portions that Texans may be accustomed to. The food reminded me of my time spent at various meditation retreats in Taiwan, in which the fare was quite light and the flavors are usually more subtle, because the focus was spiritual cultivation and inner reflection. That said, this place is definitely must-try if you’re wanting to treat yourself to a different experience, and it would also make unique date spot!


 

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Classic Tofu Scramble

There are some dishes that are such staples, you could make them with your eyes closed. Tofu scramble is that dish for me. I KNOW, soo basic. But soo good. Just like avocado toast, tofu scramble is a vegan breakfast classic, loved by all. I told y’all, my body is in need of the hearty basics after all the crazy indulgences at the Houston Vegandale Festival.


Classic Tofu Scramble | plantcrush.co


Tofu scramble was the first thing my mom ever taught me in the kitchen. She likes to make hers a bit on the salty side, because we would usually eat it with plain white rice. SO GOOD. It’s a staple that stands the test of time. Last year, one of my vegan friends told me that my tofu scramble back in high school actually introduced her to vegan food. High school was at least 10 years ago…I was so touched!! Omnivores have told me that this scramble even rivals the one at a certain beloved vegan diner around these parts (Spiral Diner, I still love you and your migas; don’t come for me, hahaha). My cousin Jackie is also obsessed with my tofu scramble and has always asked me exactly how I make it, so I made a Highlight about it on my Instagram to share the process; check it out here!

It’s high time I had a post on here dedicated to this beloved classic. My sister Anna and I often find ourselves making a huge batch of tofu scramble every week or so, especially when we find tofu on sale for 25 cents a box! Yes, that happened this weekend, and we bought ten boxes. My mom was so proud, but she said we should’ve gotten 20. #asianmoms

Tofu scramble is satisfying, quick, and packed with nutrients and protein. And it’s so easy to pack in veggies and customize it to your liking! You can make it so many different ways, depending on your mood. Tofu scramble is THE most versatile dish in any vegan’s repertoire. Everyone’s got their own way of making it, and here’s mine! Lately, I’ve been obsessed with lemon pepper and I put it in everything. It really brightens up a tofu scramble! Continue reading

2 Ingredient Chocolate Mousse With Citrus + Lychee

Lychee is one of my favorite southeast Asian fruits, second only to mangosteen. Its pink-white flesh is glossy, delicate and aromatic…the vibrant taste is absolutely unique. Think of a grape, but juicier, with smooth floral, rosy notes and pear undertones. Even comparing it to a grape is slightly insulting, because its freshness and flavor is on an entirely different level.

lychee fruit (1 of 2)

Clearly, lychee is my valentine this year.  Lychee is also considered a lucky fruit in Chinese culture, symbolizing family abundance and harmony, so this dessert would be a fun fusion dish for Lunar New Year gatherings this weekend. Red and golden hues make a lucky color palette. Continue reading

Vegan Bulgogi Fusion Tacos

Happy Taco Tuesday!

For my first post of 2018, what could be better than sharing a recipe for these gorgeous fusion tacos? As always, I must apologize for my absence–life’s kept me on my toes lately. For instance, I wrote this entire post at the print shop yesterday, while waiting for my portfolio to print! And I had to squeeze in the photo shoot a few weeks ago as the sun was setting! I can’t believe my to-do list sometimes. You ever feel like your week’s been crazy, and you look at the calendar to see that it’s only…Monday? Haha.

One of my intentions this year is to let go of my perfectionism and share as many recipes and inspiration as possible, even when I’m inclined not to share them because of my intermittent bouts of Imposter Syndrome (not to mention, my unpredictable grad school schedule). I’m making an effort to share more of my meals on Instagram. In grad school, you eat a lot of random meals, and they’re not always photogenic.

Speaking of photogenic…I’m so happy about how colorful these tacos are! For Christmas, my good friend Lesley got me a marble backdrop for food photos, and it’s pretty much the best thing ever. I am IN LOVE (thank you so much, Lesley). Lesley’s one of my favorite people ever from my hometown. I don’t get to see her often but I love that we always encourage each other’s creativity! One of these days we’re going to make some vegan Disney-themed food for her Youtube channel. 🙂

Vegan Bulgogi Fusion Tacos  | plantcrush.co

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Chinese Five Spice Gingerbread Cookies

Happy Christmas Eve, y’all! 2017 is coming to a close–I can barely believe it! I’m in the mood to bake spicy cookies and drown my stress in hot chocolate, how about you?

Needless to say, grad school life has kept me quite occupied this year. I actually got sick twice this semester (currently still recovering)–which is absolutely insane to me, because I hardly ever get sick. This semester seriously took a toll on me. I have another year left–my thesis looms ahead! Cue the tears and hot chocolate…and Chinese five spice gingerbread cookies.

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Chinese five spice, ngũ vị hương in Vietnamese, is one of my favorite things to reach for in the kitchen. It has a complex balance of flavors: sweet, savory, sour, and bitter. Around this time last year, I shared a savory recipe featuring it–Fusion Jackfruit Bao Bites. This year, I’m showing you how I decided to throw it into some cookies…it turned out to be a success at a vegan Christmas cookie swap I went to, so I decided to refine the recipe to share with you!

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Chilling the dough before and after rolling keeps cookie shapes intact–but I also like the cute mistakes that occur when I forget to chill the second time, like this little dancing cutie!

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