Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sage Vegetarian Cafe, Chapel Hill, NC


At the moment of writing this entry, Sage Vegetarian Restaurant is an unconditional favorite of Aparna and I in the triangle area. In fact, its among my top 3 favorite non-Indian vegetarian restaurants anywhere. We come here at least once every 3-4 weeks and it is our destination of choice if we need to wow guests visiting us in Durham. In addition to scoring top marks in the food department, Sage is also a very cosy and quiet little romantic getaway. If you are a party of more than 2, you'll need a reservation. It has almost always been full at nights in our experience.

While acknowledging a generally great menu with decent selection of starters including salads and dips, I will skip thru to my favorite - the Fesenjoon. I've been to this restaurant at least 10 times in the last 10 months and I've ordered Fesenjoon as my entree 9 times. This usually goes against the grain of my logic which is to go for variety. However, I lose that battle at the entrance to Sage. Fesenjoon (also Fesenjan) is a heavenly stew with a rich creamy texture featuring pomegranate, walnuts and tempeh. With a delectable interplay of sweet and sour flavors and a tart aftertaste (from the pomegranate), this is a dish I've come to worship.

What Fesenjoon is to me, the Chicken Cutlets in Coconut Curry is to Aparna. At the risk of sounding repetitive, I will keep saying that its not easy to pull of faux-meat/chicken dishes. This is another (rare) example where the 'chicken' is drenched in the coconut curry. It is important to note that this isn't a typical thai style preparation. While every bite is incredibly soft and tender, sweet coconut underlines the subtle but rich flavor of the creamy sauce. I believe these dishes are cooked for hours at a stretch - and not surprisingly, the dish comes thoroughly saturated with flavor.

On rare occasions such as today, our guest decided to order what neither of us could in our many visits in the past few months. The Bud-m-Joon, is another great stew featuring eggplant, tomatoes, lentils, onions and several different spices. In the past, I've also ordered their ravioli and gnocchi - which were among the better italian dishes I've had. While Sage is a vegetarian restaurant, it isn't necessary fat-free. All the dishes are incredibly rich and creamy and the serving size isn't something to be sneered at. Come prepared to enjoy a sumptuous dish - you are not skimping out on anything.

While Sage has a good-looking dessert menu, we weren't very impressed in the past with our selections. That's probably why I'd give Sage only 4 beets. If I ever figure out how to assign a 1/2 beet, I'd give it 4.5 beets. Still, if you are in the Triangle area, Sage is not to be missed for it's unique and lovingly prepared dishes.

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