A couple of years ago I took my friend Laura, who is vegan, with me on a photo shoot at a sushi restaurant. While she couldn’t eat any of the plates, she went along happily and lent me her beautifully manicured nails so that I could get just the right shot (see my post here). Since then, I have often wondered what vegan/vegetarian eaters like Laura eat at sushi restaurants other than edamame and rice.
This burning question, coupled with my dietary constraints, led me down the path of accepting an invitation to experience the new Vegan Omakase at Sushi Roku. An omakase is a meal that follows the Japanese tradition of allowing the chef to choose your dishes. It is one of my favorite things to do, and Hubby and I have enjoyed omakase meals from Tokyo to San Francisco to Scottsdale. Could a vegan version possibly hold a candle?
I took a friend who is a fellow foodie, an adventurous eater and someone I could count on to give meaningful feedback. The Vegan Omakase at Sushi Roku includes a 4-course tasting menu for a cost of $40. Sushi Roku is located in the W Hotel on Camelback Road east of Scottsdale. It is not to be confused with Roka Akor, a Japanese spot up the road, where on more than one occasion I have traipsed into thinking it was Sushi Roku. Also, be warned that valet at the W is $8 not including tip. With the formalities out of the way, let’s discuss the menu.
Organic Kale Salad with King Oyster Mushrooms, Crispy Shiitake, in a Ginger Plum Vinaigrette
So clearly you have to like kale to enjoy this dish, and we thought it was so good that we told management they need to have this on the regular menu. I mean, it is near perfect, with an umami punch from the oyster and shiitake mushrooms, lots of great texture, and the ginger plum vinaigrette that offered the perfect hint of sweetness to balance the slightly bitter kale. This dish was just lovely.
Roasted Cauliflower, Miso Eggplant, Grilled Corn
This dish sounds so simple, yet was loaded with an eclectic mix of textures and flavors. The cauliflower was roasted and served in a ginger soy sauce with cranberries and pine nuts, while the eggplant was very simply sautéed to perfection in a slightly sweet miso. And I need to pause a moment to tell you about the corn. It was served on the cob and sprinkled with togarashi (imagine a Japanese version of Tajin powder with chilis, sesame, nori, citrus rind) in a vegan crema that we literally licked off the plates.
Main Course: Choice of Grilled Avocado, Vegan Nigiri or Tofu Steak
For the next course, you are given a choice. And I know that you may be thinking that having a choice is contradictory to the very definition of omakase, and you would be correct. But then again we are in Scottsdale eating a Vegan Omakase, so I was rolling with it, very happily so. We were able to try each of the following three options: Tofu Steak, Assorted Vegan Nigiri, and Grilled Avocado with Ponzu.
I was actually really full at this point, so the grilled avocado would have been just the right amount of food for me. It is simply grilled, sprinkled with togarashi and green onions and served in a ponzu sauce. It was light, creamy and delicious, and don’t be afraid to ask for more ponzu.
If you have a larger appetite, choose either the assorted nigiri or the tofu steak. The assorted nigiri includes a vegan roll filled with king oyster mushrooms and grilled asparagus, a yuzu “truffle” which was yuzu flavored guacamole on a crispy rice cake, pickled Napa cabbage nigiri with chives and lemon zest, strawberry ceviche (delicious and slightly tart…I imagine due to pickling), and dried mango with a plum vinaigrette. This dish was so inventive and delicious and I feel everyone with an open mind will love it.
The tofu steak includes two large pieces of tofu on a sizzling platter of mushrooms in a slightly tart sauce…very good and would be great for someone with a hearty appetite. I should emphasize it is a bit on the tart side so would be good for those who enjoy acidic food.
Vegan Chocolate Avocado Mousse
At this point, I was about to burst, so this bite size vegan chocolate mousse was a fitting ending to a filling meal. Basically this is what we thought of it.
Vegetable lovers rejoice, for the Vegan Omakase is extraordinary…extraordinary in its inventiveness and variety, and extraordinary in providing options to those who either have a dietary need or an ethical belief. And it is done in such a way that you truly do not feel like you are missing out, but rather are treated to a new way of thinking about your veggies. And that is something for which we can all be thankful! xoM
While I was graciously hosted at this dinner, all opinions are of my own. All photos taken by me, Marci Symington, for TEXAZTASTE.COM.