Vegan Review: Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese Restaurant San Francisco, 18th and Valencia

Cha-Ya Vegetarian Japanese on Yelp

Taku-Sui with Dengaku Combination Plate for $20.50

The Dengaku consisted of a block of uncooked tofu, round of broiled eggplant and cooked shiitake mushrooms with a ginger miso glaze.

Kaylie Says:

The Dengaku vegetables were wonderfully prepared, but horribly bland without the sauce.  The sauce on the other hand was awfully overpowering and tasted as if they has put a spoonful of miso paste on my dish.  The dish could have used some more thought, especially for the price charged. To have a completely successful dish, flavour and preparedness of your vegetables must fuse superbly.  To fail miserably in one of these areas and decide to still charge $10 for the plate while singeing my taste buds with miso paste slightly offends me. I know I have high standards, but I am paying for my dish and this was only worth about $4.50 at the most.

Where the Dengaku failed the Taku-Sui didn’t do much better. Steamed veggies, veggie gyoza, broth and noodles. Simple. No complaints because after the first dish I wasn’t exactly ready to be wowed by the dish to follow.  I got what I ordered and there was a lot of it, which if I’m paying ten bucks for bland Japanese food I might as well get a lot of it. Is corn a traditional japanese filler for gyoza? There is nothing more frustrating than when restaurants throw non-traditional vegetables in their fare because either, they are cheap or they don’t know how to cook… Corn in Japanese dumplings? What?!

Moral of the story: Don’t pretend to be fine dining by charging high prices unless you have the food to back it up.

I will probably not return to Cha-ya unless I am starving and out of options in the Mission, which is highly unlikely. I’m sure Malloreigh will make up for my disdain right about now…

Malloreigh says:

I was annoyed from the minute we stepped in to Cha-Ya. They’re a cash only restaurant, and though they have an ATM on the premises, it charges an extra $2 on top of whatever your bank fees are for taking out cash, and I saw more than one person have trouble with it during the time we were there. Maybe if this were a quick grab-and-run cafe, cash only would be acceptable, but they have a minimum $9 charge per person, plus tip. To top it all off, there’s a sign clearly displayed on the wall that states they retain the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.

At least the food was good. We ordered a combination meal – taku-sui with dengaku – and the vegetables were perfectly cooked. Everything was fresh and well done, but like Kaylie said, I found the miso glaze pretty overpowering. The vegetables themselves were bland. When the taku-sui – a hotpot with veg, tofu, and gyoza – turned out bland too, I started to feel like my $20.50 plus tip plus $5 in bank fees plus a conversion to Canadian currency was a waste.

Still, the service was alright, and though there wasn’t any music, the din of conversation and the kitchen was comfortable. I don’t think I’d go back to Cha-Ya on my own accord.

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