More than a century ago, after the legendary horticulturist Luther Burbank moved to Santa Rosa from New England, he said of this area, "... I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned." In our times a vegetarian fortunate enough to live in Northern California cannot help but echo Mr. Burbank's sentiments.
And if that vegetarian were to be passing a pleasant Sunday in the Chinatown section of San Francisco, they might be lucky enough to experience the finest vegetarian Chinese restaurant in the world--Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant. From the Portsmouth Square Parking Garage down on Kearney Street, it's a short stroll up Washington Street, through the bustling crowds, past produce stands, herb shops and trinket emporiums, to the small hole in the wall decorated with tacky paintings, a small shrine, and a collection of newspaper reviews lauding their exceptional cuisine. It's a small place, and you may be asked to share a large table with another group if it's a busy time.
We love to begin our adventures there with the hot and sour soup. Fresh wedges of tomatoes and small cubes of bean curd complement the mushrooms and the spicy broth. Spring rolls, wrapped in thin crunchy crust contain a colorful mix of vegetables and sprouts. The most extraordinary component of the unique cuisine is the selection of wheat gluten--deep fried bits of dough which are then immersed in different sauces--either sweet, curry, or spiced. The childrens' favorite is the sweet and sour "pork" which is made with the wheat gluten, along with pineapple and bell pepper.
There are a variety of hot crockery dishes. Our favorite is a braised eggplant and fried tofu dish which comes bubbling hot in a savory brown sauce. It is heavenly! There is also a great variety of vegetarian chow meins. Our preference is the black mushroom and Chinese green chow mein. There are all sorts of other noodle and fried rice dishes, a colorful "birds nest" filled with vegetables, and a tremendous selection of specials that we've yet to even sample.
Cooking is an art. And while you might be surprised to find Matisse displayed in an unusual setting such as a framing shop in the mall, it wouldn't make it any less of a masterpiece. The Lucky Creation Vegetarian Restaurant is a funky little place serving food fit for a king. And don't forget, on your way out, to get a container of the wheat gluten to take home with you, along with a sampling of their sweet treats.