Restaurant review: Metro Bodhi Vegetarian (一沙一塵創意蔬食料理)

By Olivia Wycech  /  Contributing reporter

Sat, Jun 08, 2013 - Page 12

Fine vegetarian food is rare in Taipei, but there is artistry at work on the menu at Metro Bodhi. They have fashioned a plant-based menu that is homely yet elegant. The restaurant was started by a Buddhist organization in the belief that Buddhism does not have to be ascetic, but can be about living a full life and enjoying what it has to offer.

The restaurant is rather large with three floors for seating. It’s elegant but modestly decorated in a Buddhist fashion. Bronze statues and tea lights adorn the otherwise clean walls, creating a warm atmosphere amid plenty of literature and wines that are available for sale. The tableware is embellished with golden place settings and deep burgundy serviettes, which appear modest but still modern enough to give the restaurant a refined appeal. It resembles an upscale family restaurant.

The spicy tomato chickpea soup (NT$120) doesn’t pack much heat, but is well seasoned with herbs that give it an earthier taste than your classic tomato soup. There are three salads to choose from, my favorite being the fresh mozzarella, roasted garlic and red wine onion salad with Modena vinaigrette (NT$160 for a single serving, NT$320 for 2 to 3 people). Modena essentially means balsamic, so this salad has a dominant sweet Italian zing. If you prefer bitter flavors, try the chayote salad with grapefruit, mint olive oil dressing and aged white wine vinaigrette (NT$160 for a serving, NT$320 for 2 to 3 people). Chayote is similar to squash, but is more bland. Together, the components release a pungent yet refreshing burst of flavor on the palette.

From the appetizer menu, the goat cheese with avocado and banana dressing (NT$360) is highly recommended. It’s a small serving but worth every dollar. Diced avocado and creamy goat cheese sit atop a bed of sprouts, raisins and nuts, with a dollop of banana puree sweetened with honey, spiced with nutmeg and soured with white wine. The mushrooms with balsamic vinaigrette (NT$160) are nothing more than their description, but are sauteed until perfectly coated in a thick and not-too-sweet reduction.

The five slices of bread (NT$200) are a unique spin on a restaurant regular, as a variety of thick grains and spreads are served in a range from sweet to savory. The potato wedges (NT$100) are simple but worth ordering for the dip. A seriously strong jalapeno relish-type dip accompanies the spuds, which also comes as a side to the cumin bread sandwich (NT$280), which is topped with a poached egg and generous amounts of mozzarella cheese. The cumin was quite mild and was balanced nicely by a topping of creamed mushrooms.

The restaurant offers three sizzling pans, and both the menu and myself recommend the Ofeakwu (NT$295). In fact, it was my favorite item of the day and I immediately went home and tried to replicate this native Nigerian dish. Wild rice, various beans, seasonal vegetables and a poached egg are covered in a simple tomato sauce that makes it somewhat of a stew. The flavors are so wholesome and robust that even hardcore carnivores won’t complain.

Metro Bodhi’s interpretation of pizza is more like a flatbread with toppings, which once again gives off more of an earthier taste. The lack of oil makes it drier than what you expect from pizza, but also means you can better taste the toppings like the explosive taste of pesto on the arugula pizza (NT$300). It’s perfect for those who enjoy the concept of pizza but usually pass on an oil-drenched deep-dish style.

There are a variety of fresh juices on the menu, like the cucumber juice (NT$120) and lemon juice (NT$150), but the real gems are the teas. The brown sugar galangal tea (NT$150 per cup, NT$200 per pot) tasted like your typical sweet milk tea but with an added zest of ginger. If milk tea is too heavy for you, the lemon-yogurt tea (NT$200 per pot) is more delicate with just a touch of creaminess. And for dessert, the cheesecake (NT$180) is what drew the most oohs and aahs. It’s creamier than most cheesecakes and has subtle hints of orange in every bite.