Tuesday, 13 January 2009

utopia/formosa, northbridge

Utopia has been an old vego standard here in Perth town, with its delicious all-vegetarian foods and its great karaoke screens and its bubble tea, fuelling the sago obsession in this town.

Being long settled in Northbridge, it's a constant late-night haunt and, rarely being closed, it is ideal for those conventions that take you in to Northbridge for four days over long weekends, when no other restaurant is open. It is not fantastic, and it is not high cuisine, and it can be a little on the pricey side, but it is old faithful, and its mushrooms are delicious.

chicken claypot

You grab yourself some tea and/or some water, some bowls and chopsticks, and a couple of menus. There are little forms and pens to use, and you write your the menu items down by number, before paying and ordering up at the counter. This makes dividing the bill pretty easy, but it also means you need to pay attention that you don't write down the wrong letter and end up with a steak and chips or something.

char kuay teow

Vego restaurants are so thin on the ground in Perth, it's nice to go with a whole bunch of vego (or vego-friendly) friends and share a range of dishes, some new and some incredibly familiar.

hou tou mushroom

The Hou Tou Mushrooms are one such old standard, deep fried spice mushrooms, and the attending cashews are delicious. Liz introduced us to this dish, and we order it quite often.

salty fried chicken

About a year ago there were rumblings that the fake-meats at Utopia (and also at Lotus) were not vegan, as they contained whey. Some research has given me confidence that so long as we stick to the "white meat" products, avoiding beef and pork, and also things like prawns, then we are okay. For vegan-safety, I'll probably check again when we hit twelve months, and keep doing so for so long as they keep stocking vegan-unfriendly mock meats amongst the stuff suitable for vegans.

I do, however, prefer the less mock-meaty dishes. Mock meat serves its purpose, but I continue to believe the best stuff is mock-meat free, just delicious fresh vegetables and tasty broths and wonderful spices.

crispy fried mushroom

On this particular visit, we had the tofu and vegetable curry, the char kuay teow, the hou tou mushrooms, the crispy fried mushrooms, the salty fried chicken and a chicken claypot. The tofu and vegetable curry suffers from the same problem as all of Utopia's curries, that is that it is exactly the same as all the other ones. The flavour of the gravy is just fine, but there is no change and that makes it a bit boring. The claypot was not great, clearly very thick with cornstarch and possibly a little msg. Utopia's kuay teow is servicable, the salty fried chicken was just fine, and the hou tou mushrooms and the crispy fried mushrooms are the reason why we go there so often, and they were exactly as we expect them to be.

tofu and vegetable curry

utopia square
shop 14 (upstairs)
109 james street


Unknown said...

what a great place! vegetarian food and karaoke :)

Sarah said...

have you tried compass rose in mount hawthorne? I tried it last week, and it's half the price of formosa, and the vegetables are twice as fresh!

steph said...

Food and karaoke is always a great combination. :o)

Sarah, I hadn't even heard of Compass Rose. The website is pretty poor, there are no details of the vegie food! What did you have? How much did it cost?

Sarah said...

It has a HUGE vegetarian menu. Look at the meat menu...everything on it can be made with mock meat instead, plus there are veggie dishes as well. They give you a lot more veggies than Formosa, which is my big complaint with them. Dishes are $9.50 to $10.50 a piece. My boyfriend didn't finish all of it...and I've NEVER seen him give up! :-)

Anonymous said...

I've always wanted to try the food at Utopia/Formosa Cafe, but I haven't gotten around to it. I've heard that the best dishes actually aren't on the menu though...

Unknown said...

I had no idea some mock meats would contain whey. you don't happen to know which brands they use that are unsuitable?

Eloise said...

I can't stand mock meat. I never really liked real meat to begin with, and the fake stuff is even worse. That's my biggest problem with the buffets at Sri Melaka and One World :(

(but it's cool that One World has vegan cake!)

My boyfriend agrees that the mushrooms are the way to go at Utopia. I only go there if it's meant to be a fun meal, but not necessarily the best tasting ;)

steph said...

Angie, I've never heard that about Formosa, hmm. I know that's certainly true of Lotus/Sri Melaka.

Hey Philippa, I don't actually know which brands they are, sorry!

Eloise, I do sort of agree about fake meat - I tend to preference meals without fake meat. It has its uses, but yeah. The mushrooms are definitely way to go at Utopia, and it's great to be able to go somewhere with a bunch of people and know I can (usually) eat everything we order.

steph said...

Sarah, I will definitely giving Compass Rose a look, I am intrigued!

Liz said...

I was googling in the hope that someone else was addicted to spicy hou-tou mushrooms from Utopia and this was the first hit (naturally!)

Next time we are both in Perth we have to order the spicy mushroom and/or tofu and eat it very slowly and carefully so that we can reverse-engineer the recipe. Maybe we can do a baked tofu with the sauce. instead of deep-frying...