Anna Maya Vegetarian Cafe
3 Taojiang Lu (桃江路3号)
“WHAT is a vegetarian cafe on Beverly’s blog doing with a 5 star rating“, you say? Well, Anna Maya totally deserves it and it was a total surprise to me too that it’s now ranked one of my favourite places in Shanghai.
My girl friend decided to have a small dinner on her actual birthday, and we decided on Anna Maya since she’s a vegetarian. I’ve been keen to try Anna Maya out after she told me she loved it – they are (obviously) vegetarian, but also do a lot of vegan, and also macrobiotic food. To be frank, except for another Aussie girl friend’s birthday last year (which we celebrated in a vegetarian restaurant in Singapore), I’ve never been to a vegetarian place before. In fact, I don’t even eat vegetarian meals.
So it was with great novelty to me to go to Anna Maya. It’s a little cozy cafe that looks like a living room, with wood antique furniture, lamps, and just a few tables squeezed in. It’s very chill, and has a definite bohemian, laid back vibe. Their food is all about whole foods, and all unprocessed, with the daily menu simply scribbled on a sheet of brown paper.
The meal started off verrrrry slowly. We waited more than 30mins before we could order, despite the cafe not being crowded (and the diners were already eating). In fact, I ordered the orange and peach cocktail and it took 45 mins (!!!) to come out. When it did, it was served in a shot glass, not a regular-sized glass as expected. Very weird.
But then it picked up and went to super-stardom from there. We asked the Japanese owner to put together a degustation menu for us, a special request that she kindly accommodated. The meal was kicked off with a capsicum (red pepper) soup, which initially didn’t excite me. It didn’t have a swirl of sour cream on top, and at first I was disappointed, then realised this place is also “non dairy”. The soup was divine – creamy, rich, and had a beautiful slightly-spicy tinge to it. Would have also loved to dunk some crusty baguette into it…. then realised they also only do “whole grains” so white baguette is out of the question :P
The salad set was so beautifully presented it made the fact that we’re eating un-cooked veggies a whole lot more appetizing. I admit, I did struggle through it. I just don’t know how to eat vegetables by themselves, like this, in salad form? It was just so foreign to me. Each dish was marinated or had some sort of dressing on it though, which was delicious. My favourite was the homemade tofu which actually didn’t taste like any tofu I’ve ever had, and was freakin’ awesome.
Next was the Chickpea pattie with fresh herbs and spices served on homemade whole wheat bun. It looked very suspicious. One bite and my suspicions were confirmed, “I think I’m eating cooked cardboard”, I moaned. But I realised that it was just because I’ve never had a veg burger before, and my brain just kept expecting JUICY BEEF, so it was stunned into a state of confusion. A few bites in, I got used to the flavour and really liked it. The texture was creamy and I loved the fresh avocado, tomato, and lettuce.
The next fantastic dish was the Vegetable curry and brown rice, with fried tofu ball. This is probably the closest thing to a “regular meat meal”. There are so many different veggies in the curry you don’t really notice meat is missing, plus the rich spicy flavour was divine. The brown rice? MAN!!!! I haven’t really hard brown rice before but now I wish I had. This one wasn’t hard to chew and swallow as I’d assume brown rice would be, and it had a mild nutty flavour that was well suited with the spicy curry. I also enjoyed the Fried tofu ball, which was small but very tasty.
The Japanese soba noodles with sesame sauce was actually ordered on another night, but I just slid it in this post. It’s fantastic. Silky chilled noodles topped with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and finely shredded seaweed. But the stunner is the sesame sauce – rich and creamy and slightly chilled, it coated the soba noodle strands and gave it a beautiful nutty creamy flavour. It’s on the menu as a Main dish, but it by no means is sufficient (much like all their other Main dishes), and needs to be supplemented with other dishes.
Dessert I was VERY hesitant about. They didn’t look very appetizing in the glass cabinet and they were made with tofu AND fruit. That’s kind of in direct conflict of what a dessert should be (ie. should contain no fruit, and certainly no tofu!!)?? However, I fell in love. The Tofu cherry pie and Tofu peach pie was something I’d never have ever ordered in a million years. But they was outstanding. The crust was a buttery mix of nuts and spices, the tofu was creamy and non-tofu tasting. And the Banana pudding? A stunning chilled sweet dessert with soft bananas in some sort of smooth creamy sauce (not sure what it is since they are non-dairy. Maybe more tofu?). THE DESSERTS WERE AWESOME!! So much so I also ate my friend’s plate of desserts, despite being stuffed up to my eyeballs.
The only downside of our awesome meal? At the end of it, I started to fill really quite ill. And OK this is going to get a bit TMI… but my stomach was so bloated by the time we started on dessert, and I was starting to find it a bit hard to breathe (not enough room for my lungs to fill up properly, I think). Back home, I couldn’t move because I was feeling so full and bloated, and errrmmm…. really really gassy. As in, non-stop, weirdly gassy. From both ends!! Chris thought it was hilarious, but really, it wasn’t very pleasant or lady-like ;)
Because my normal eating habits don’t include vegetables, whole grains and fruit, I was told that my body just couldn’t handle the influx of all that healthy food. So bloating and gas is a common side effect as my body struggles to try and process it. By the next day I was fine though… *whew*
I really enjoyed going out of my usual comfort zone. I loved the “I’m at home and Mum is cooking me ridiculously healthy food” vibe. It was interesting eating all this healthy food, and really opened my eyes, making me realising that all the yummy high-fat, high-sugar, high-everything that I eat 100% of the time isn’t the ONLY type of food that tastes good. And it also surprised me that vegan food can be totally delicious – something I would’ve laughed at if you’d told me that before.
Anna Maya Vegetarian Cafe
The beautiful cozy interior
My 50元 (US$7) orange+peach cocktail, in a shot glass, LOL!
Tea in cute teapot
A beautiful creamy capsicum (red pepper) soup
An assortment of little salads. I loved the homemade crumbled tofu (bottom left),
which had a creamy nutty texture and tasted nothing like normal tofu
Chickpea pattie with fresh herbs and spices served on homemade whole wheat bun –
at first the burger tasted so weird and.. vegetarian. But then I got the hang of it and it was yum!
Vegetable curry and brown rice, with fried tofu ball – this dish was
excellent, every bit of it. Beautiful creamy curry and I loved the kick of spice
Japanese soba noodles with peanut sauce – creamy and absolutely awesome!
Tofu cherry pie and Banana pudding – both desserts were just flat-out amazing
Yummy Tofu peach pie – same as the cherry one above, but with peaches