It’s not easy being green in Dallas, the land of big beef. Let’s face it, if I want to go out with friends many menus do not offer my vegetarian choices and so I find myself succumbing to meat on occasion. I am vegetarian by choice, not by any social or moral edict. I just find eating flesh distasteful. But there are times I find myself straying just because it is an easier path, and maybe I had my fill of salads for the week.
Occasionally a place is found where I don’t have to appear high maintenance and I can have my ultimate choice of fare sans meat. Recently I stopped into Malai Kitchen with a friend and found out they cater to pretty much any dietary requirements a person could have, including vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
This place is a genuine find. Malai is a sexy restaurant in the West Village off McKinney Avenue in Uptown. They serve upscale versions of Vietnamese and Thai food and can make pretty much anything on their menu suitable for a vegetarian. With just a few tweaks of their recipes any non-meat eater will feel right at home. They can do this by adjusting the flavors of the meals where they can omit oyster sauce. They also have a gluten-free soy sauce. Otherwise, they will substitute any dish that has beef, chicken or shrimp with a soft or fried tofu.
Luckily my date who is a ravenous meat-eater agreed to join me in my quest at Malai and try the kicked up vegetarian dishes. He wasn’t disappointed.
We started with a the Green Papaya Salad ($10) and the Malai Spring Rolls ($8). These dishes were the least difficult to make vegetarian and both gobbled up the Spring Rolls quickly. The Green Papaya Salad naturally has a ton of heat, and if you aren’t a big spice fan you may want to order this one wimped down a few notches. Also, the salad comes with candied bacon, so my guy ordered that on the side because he said it sounded too good to pass up.
I have serious doubts they could make the beef tartare suitable for a vegetarian like a few other dishes on the appetizer side of the menu, but there are plenty of choices.
Next we ordered the Drunken Noodles ($13), or the Pad Kee Mow. This is full of flat rice noodles and plenty of Thai basil that brightens up the plate and makes everything taste fresh. Instead of beef or chicken, Malai used crisped strips of tofu that you will swear is chicken at first bite.
We also had the Red Curry Georges Bank Cod($19), sans the cod of course. This was my favorite plate of the evening. This came in a large cauldron of seared vegetables and curried jasmine rice with the perfect level of spice and flavor. Any one on a steady beef diet would enjoy this ever bit as much as anything on the menu.
We finished the night with a Banana Pot de Crème ($7) that came with fresh bruleed bananas. A perfectly creamy ending to the evening. Malai is now numero uno on my vegetarian alternative list.