The American Vietnamese must not like vegan very much. (And I stress “American” because plenty of places back home specialize in making vegan dishes far tastier than their meat counterparts.) Take Berkeley for example, there’s no Vietnamese vegan diners, but I can think of at least three Chinese ones (Vegi Food, Long Life Vegi House, and Renee’s Place) and a multitude of American’s (like Cafe Gratitude, Herbivore, and Saturn Cafe). Green Cafe in Milpitas is the first Vietnamese vegan restaurant you can find south of Berkeley.
Its good points: there’s an online menu, everything costs under ten bucks, and they give you a free warm-up. The tofu soup has little black squares of dry seaweed and a soothing broth slightly thickened with tapioca starch. The soup isn’t magnificent, but nothing gets the appetite rolling better than a gulp of soup.
Green Cafe’s fourth good point: no item on the menu has the word “Buddha” attached to its name. Here’s a pet peeve of mine: some people casually name their stuff Buddha this and that whenever their stuff doesn’t have animal. How come I haven’t seen “Jesus steak” or “Krishna delight”? I don’t even see “Washington mix” or any of sort. Just cuz the Buddhists don’t yell at you that it’s offensive to them it doesn’t mean you can commercialize any name as you please. Anyway, Green Cafe doesn’t have any of that on their list, so I eat here in peace. Granted they do have some sequin-sparkling names like “beauty tofu eggplant claypot” or “noble broccoli” (vegan beef and broccoli stir fry). I don’t know if the broccoli is noble, but the eggplant claypot looks as good as it tastes, for eggplant at least. The sauce could use some more salt and sugar and simmering, but the spongy eggplants and mushrooms soak up enough of it to nicely complement white rice.
The star of our lunch is the $7.95 wonton noodle soup with soft and flaky fried tofu, snow mushroom, and fried shallot in a sweet broth. If everything on their menu is as good as this soup, Green Cafe would rival Garden Fresh on my list. Or if they have vegan shrimps.
Lunch for two: $19.06
Address: Green Cafe Vegan Cuisine
190 Ranch Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035