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Richmond, Virginia

I was in Richmond this past week.  I had checked Happy Cow ahead of time and picked out some restaurants to visit.  Luckily, my colleagues were game to try them; so we went to a couple of restaurants in the neighborhood of Virginia Commonwealth University. 

The first was Ipanema  They are not entirely vegetarian, but overwhelmingly so (one fish dish).  It's in a basement, and is dark and narrow.  It looked sort of like a college bar; in fact, there is a bar but it's all about the food.  It was astonishingly good.  The only menu is on a chalkboard; I guess it's different every day.  The dishes were creative, but they worked really well.  I had a grilled tofu sandwich (the tofu was grilled, not the sandwich), along with a cup of white bean tomato soup.  Both were phenomenal (I lit into it like a wolverine after a day of trying to survive on what I could pick out of the conference lunch buffet...).  Someone had tempeh with plantain fritters (I'm not getting the names of the dishes exactly right).  It was in a really fabulous tomato sauce with cilantro.  Both her dish and mine came with sweet potato fries.  One person had the fish dish, which was on a bed of Israeli couscous with something like apricot chutney; another person had the tofu version of the same dish.  I didn't try that one, but they really liked it.  Another person had a veggie burrito that was as big as your head.  I should point out that this is a college restaurant, so they don't give you those chintzy nouvelle cuisine portions.  Despite the fact that I was already stuffed, I had to try one of their vegan deserts.  I chose coconut cinnamon vegan creme brulee.  I don't believe I've ever had real creme brulee before, but my companions tried it and said that they wouldn't have known the difference.  Others had pear-ginger pie and strawberry-almond pie.  I would've tried those, but finishing my own dessert nearly killed me.  The waitress was also excellent.  I give this place 5 stars.  Please go there if you're ever in Richmond.  ;)b

The second place we tried was Panda Veg, a vegan Chinese restaurant.  The atmosphere was very "college" and it was very inexpensive.  The food was decent, not great.  The waitress was very nice and helpful, if a little overworked.  I had veggie wonton soup, which was, again, good not great, though very pretty with green wontons.  I also had mock beef with broccoli.  The mock beef was a bit salty and there was one flavor stood out a bit that I couldn't put my finger on; maybe ground ginger?  Anyway, it was definitely better than the romaine lettuce and broccoli that I'd had for lunch at the conference...  My companions had a variety of appetizers, with which they seemed quite pleased.  We were really pleased when we got the bill and it was $40, including tip, for four of us.

I'm really disappointed that I didn't get to the Harrison Street Coffee Shop If they opened a bit earlier, maybe I could've gotten there for some French toast before the first conference session of the day.  :(

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