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.
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.
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.
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.
course no. 3
strawberry white chia pudding + cashew cream | creamy, refreshing + enjoyable | not too sweet + fun to swirl!
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!
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!