It was a weekend of outer borough adventures for me, and in between cruising from Rockaway Beach to shopping at the Fairway in Red Hook, a girl's gotta fuel up! With absolutely nothing in the Rockaways other than delis and Kennedy Fried Chicken (or was is it an equally unpalatable Crown Fried Chicken?), I figured a stop in restaurant central Carroll Gardens was necessary! My eye was immediately drawn to the "vegan cafe" portion of the "Wild Ginger" sign on Smith Street, and thought it would be a welcome change from the typical beach food that I've recently encountered.
Wild Ginger offers up a variety of pan-Asian mock meat dishes, which primarily utilize seitan and soy. The menu offers vegan versions of classic takeout favorites, like spring rolls & lettuce wraps, sweet & sour soup, seitan & broccoli, pad thai, and vegan bi bim bop with chickpeas and kimchi. We rolled in around 6pm- relatively early, with a sparse crowd reflecting that. Though initially put off by a construction guy on a ladder at the front of the restaurant, we were given a spacious wooden booth to ourselves towards the back of the restaurant- if we weren't bombarded by flash thunderstorms that day, I'd have surely asked for a table in their quaint outdoor patio space.
I ordered Wild Ginger's version of orange beef, made with seitan, and my honey ordered the basil soy protein with vegetables. Our side salads quickly emerged from the kitchen, and their sweet and spicy carrot ginger dressing was delightful. I wish I could say the same about my orange seitan- it was a bit tough and covered with all too much bland orange sauce. It wasn't particularly spicy, a trademark of orange sauce, nor was it particularly orange-y. If it weren't for a very slight citrus aftertaste, I'd have thought my server brought out the wrong dish. The basil soy protein entree, however, had a slight heat, possibly from ginger rather than chiles, and each bite was full of fresh Thai basil. The soy protein was perfectly chewy and the vegetables were slightly crisp and not overcooked- what a difference a dish makes!
Unlike my fave mock-meat joint, Red Bamboo, pan-Asian is where the variety stops at Wild Ginger, and it sure doesn't cook up deliciously supple seitan and soy dishes like Red Bamboo. But then again, just like your neighborhood takeout place, some dishes will be hits, and others will be misses. Wild Ginger is worth trying if you're in the neighborhood, but I wouldn't make an outer borough adventure of it.
Wild Ginger, 112 Smith Street between Dean & Pacific Streets, Brooklyn, 718-858-3880