Josh is jumping in again with his take on our eating experience at a vegan restaurant in California. You are all going to be fans of his writing and you won’t want me back!
Take it away, Josh.
A couple of weeks ago FGV and I were on our way to Portland, driving up the Northern Californian coast, marvelling at ancient redwood trees and gasping at stunningly dramatic coastal roads. On our way, we stopped to stay with our friend Susan in delightful Mendocino, a picturesque period town overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Not only is Mendocino visually charming, it is also home to the luxurious Stanford Inn which incorporates the legendary Ravens’ Vegan Restaurant. Of course there was no doubt about where we were heading for dinner!
We had heard good things about Ravens’ for many years. It used to be vegetarian but appears to have recently made the switch to being 100% vegan. (FGV editor note: the wine list was not entirely vegan. Carry on.) Things were already looking good before we had even arrived. As we entered the restaurant, the sun was beginning to set and the staff were busily lowering the blinds in the restaurant so we didn’t get blinded by the light. Very thoughtful indeed.
We wasted no time in scrutinising the menu and the three of us decided to start by sharing a couple of dishes; the Tamari-Maple Glazed Tofu (wasabi emulsion, sesame seeds and scallions) which was a delightful combination of sweet and salty; and one of the day’s specials, the name of which I can’t remember but it was basically a lightly-dressed selection of raw vegetables, wrapped in a lettuce leaf and tied up with chives. Maybe there were nuts inside too… maybe some tofu? I can’t recall now, but it was tasty. A complimentary basket arrived with slices of wonderful freshly baked bread together with a tasty dip/spread. Again, my memory is a little hazy and it could have been a humus or nut based but suffice to say that it was scooped up promptly!
For the main course, FGV had the Encrusted Mushroom Sandwich; (Cornmeal encrusted oyster mushrooms, house-made mustard and aioli, pickled red onion, cucumber, tomato, avocado, with golden baked potato wedges and cashew-paprika sauce). He liked it but didn’t love it. In fact he didn’t finish it so we took it home with us and picked at it a little the next morning but still couldn’t finish it. I don’t like oyster mushrooms to start with so that put me off, but I also think the flavour was a bit underwhelming and the potato wedges weren’t cooked well enough.
Susan opted for the Indian Spiced Polenta Napoleon (Garlic and mint roasted tomatoes, coriander scented zucchini, cucumber raita, cilantro coconut relish, with endive and stewed spicy tamarind-tomato chutney, Portobello Carpaccio, and kale cilantro cashew cream) and enjoyed it very much. I tried it and agreed that it was a great dish with a lot of intense flavours going on, although very much on the spicy-side.
I chose the Ravioli (House made spinach pasta filled with butternut squash, leeks and shallots. Braised greens, roasted criminis, Dijon cream dressing) which was delicious. I was not a fan of the roasted criminis but everything else was stunning. The flavour of the ravioli was delicate and perfectly complemented by the sweet, tangy Dijon cream which also made a great accompaniment to the bitterness of the braised greens. In fact the dressing was so good, it took a lot of will-power not to lick my plate clean.
Susan and I were full but decided to martyr ourselves for the sake of the blog and order the Carrot Cake with creamy icing. It was one of the best carrot cakes I’ve ever tasted and as tempting as the other desserts were, I would probably order it again.
Ravens’ isn’t cheap but it is a very right-on/ideological place. A large amount of the produce is grown by them in their lovely gardens and the rest is bought locally, which is why there is a heavy focus on mushrooms on the menu. The food was enjoyable overall but I wasn’t completely blown away by it and for the prices they charged, I was expecting maybe a slightly higher quality of food. That said, I would go back again and try other items from the menu. Sadly, I’m not passing through Mendocino on a regular basis. I would definitely recommend that you call in if you are ever in this part of the world as Mendo (as the locals call it) is a beautiful place to visit.
I almost forgot to mention the book shop! By the entrance to the restaurant there is a book shop which is packed with just about every vegan cookery book I could think of. It was great to see that Ravens’/The Stanford Inn are wearing their vegan status with pride!
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