Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant

June 2006 Cheap Eats

Vegetarians, vegans, macrobiotic eaters, and, yes, omnivores find plenty to like about this pan-Asian cafe, which seems to have been transplanted from a crunchy New England college town. Big sunflowers are everywhere–on the teacups, the wind chimes, the curtains, and the HAPPY TO BE A VEGETARIAN T-shirts tacked up for sale.

The feel-good mood makes this a nice place to dine alone–many bring a book for company, especially at lunch, when you can get an entrée, rice, and salad for $6.

Everything is meat-free, and plenty of dishes stay away from dairy. Though some items, such as the tofu pies for dessert and the vegetarian sushi, are the sort of pleasureless creations that some might expect from a vegetarian's diet, the menu doesn't misstep often. The mock-meats are the stars. Start with an earthenware plate of "chicken" nuggets–darkly fried bits of tofu that are a ringer for the real thing–flavorful wonton soup, or nicely fried cabbage-stuffed spring rolls. Two more "meat" dishes–the kitchen's takes on General Tso's chicken and sweet-and-sour pork–have just the right texture.

You won't go wrong with veggies either. Marinated tofu is tossed with fresh broccoli and fragrant, crunchy bamboo shoots. Super-green kale and burdock root are tossed in a light ginger sauce.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.