151 Smith St, 718-596-3466, delivery pre-7pm (they claim)
Café Kai is an embarrassment of a vegetarian restaurant with downright hostile service. When I asked for delivery I might as well have tried to order a steak, and after I opted for takeout, I was warned they were out of almost everything. This statement proved false, but I wish it had been true, because if I’d known what my veggie-lovin’ roommate and I were in for, I would have hung up, thrown away the menu, and skipped dinner altogether.
Our two main dishes, Curried Chick Peas with Mango ($6.50) and Thai-style Stewed Eggplant ($6.50) looked as if they were coated in the same brown sauce. This overcooked vegetable mush tasted as undifferentiated as it appeared, a geriatric dining experience that provoked unpleasant thoughts of nursing homes. The Mixed Vegetable Turnover ($3) turned into a dry lump in my throat, I don’t think the French Lentil Soup ($3.75) was ever warm, and if I had ordered the bread pudding the woman at Café Kai had the nerve to hard-sell me in the same breath as her vigorous complaints about wanting to leave early, odds are it would have been inedible too.
Café Kai seems determined to drive away business. If they continue treating customers like a superfluous annoyance and serving abysmal food, success is inevitable.
Vegetarian’s Paradise 2
144 W 4th St, 212-260-7130
“Paradise” isn’t a word I usually associate with vegetarian cuisine — I’m never one to order the steamed veggies in watery swill that commonly pass for meatless eats.
So what are ethical vegetarians, unconcerned with fat and calories, to do? Instead of gorging on Indian again, try Vegetarian Paradise 2 for something faux, fried, and fabulous.
The World Famous Crispy Soul Chicken ($6) was deliciously chewy, crispy after 30 minutes in transit, packed with hickory barbecue sauce, adding some needed flavor. Curry Rolls ($3), filled with a generic Indian-esque glaze and soy protein, were transformed by a bath in the boiling oil.
For a final fake chicken fix, Kung Pao Chicken ($10), studded with fiery dried chilies and whole peanuts, was better than most Chinese joints manage with the real thing. Trying one of the non-soy-proteined dishes, however, was a mistake. Three Kinds of Mushrooms with Veggies ($9), sitting in tepid water, wasn’t fit for consumption by any but the most ascetic vegans.
For vegetarians sick of food as punishment, longing for some saturated fats, you’re in luck. Vegetarian Paradise 2 excels at this trickery. For vegetarians who think fake meat is anathema to your entire philosophy, get some steamed crap; they deliver that too.