Heaven’s Dog »
Firstly, I wish it had a different name. “Heaven’s Dog" makes me think of gourmet hot dogs or some such, and I don’t want to make a special trip for gourmet hot dogs, however the rest of the world feels, I just don’t like them in that way. Luckily the restaurant doesn’t actually have anything to do with hot dogs, gourmet or otherwise, so if you get over the silly name then you should be fine. The food is good, and on the low side of expensive (about equal to Beretta), but nothing to really flip for. Let me tell you why, at great length!
Laura and I went on a Monday night, and it was slow as anything, hardly anyone was there. I think there was a family, as in, at least two adults and their coordinating small children finishing their supper when we arrived, somewhere around 8. That was unexpected, the family, but the kids weren’t loud or anything, and it was a Monday night, so maybe not so surprising. Our waiter seemed very Monday-night, quite mumbly and new. He was nice and helpful, knew what was and wasn’t vegan, asked about a substitution for us, and had good timing. He just seemed a little meek for the cutthroat world of restaurant service. Again, though, it was a slooooow Monday night, definitely a good time for a quiet waiter to work.
We ordered three items off the regular menu—two appetizers and one main dish—and the special appetizer. This was plenty of food for two people who love eating. Also, one cocktail each. Laura was most excited about the vegetarian pork belly dish, so obviously we had to order it; we also got an edamame salad, the dan dan mei (with flat rice noodles substituted for egg), and the special, kabocha done tempura-style.
The kabocha was marvelous. It was battered and fried, but much lighter than tempura, and the batter had some kind of seed crushed in it? Or maybe seaweed, because it was salty in a lovely fishy way that contrasted neatly with the sweetness of the squash. If it had only been cooked a bit longer—a few of the kabocha pieces were a bit too al dente. It could’ve also been accompanied by more tasty cranberry sauce, alas.
I liked the edamame salad pretty well; the “bean curd ribbons” turned out to be sort of tofu sliced to resemble noodles, and they were my favorite part, I guess because of the texture. Not quite raw noodles, you know, but cool and a little chewy and exactly right. The rest of the salad was fine; I expected more from the pickled mustard greens—I expected more pickled mustard greens—but, no big deal.
Unfortunately for the two of us, the vegetarian pork belly came three on a plate. Fortunately, they were all excellent, and as Laura is a supremely good friend (who had already asked for an order of them to take home to her boyfriend), she let me have the second one. They are made of mushrooms inside tofu skins topped with scallions and cradled inside pretty white clamshell buns, and you pinch them shut like teeny tacos and eat them up in two bites, chomp chomp, and they are scrumptious. They come with a sauce, which is fine, but I think they would’ve been better served with that cranberry sauce from the kabocha special.
The dan dan mei was not what I was expecting—it turned out to be this big creamy mess of noodles, with little pieces of tofu and some chilis here and there. There isn’t a picture of it because by that time I believe the photographer was overwhelmed by our meal, and tired of pausing before diving into the food. This was also the case with dessert. Very intelligently, Heaven’s Dog offers only three desserts, and one of them is vegan, hooray. It is a chocolate sorbet with a little salt—big fat black grains, name I can’t remember—on top of what they call a cherry compote that was actually just big fat cherries that had been soaking in some kind of sweetish-sourish sauce. The serving was plenty large enough for two to share, especially considering the size of our preceding meal.
Some notes: While the website claims the restaurant is inside the Soma Grand Hotel, a more precise description would be “shares a building with the hotel, but no connecting entrances, so don’t try to get into the restaurant through the hotel lobby.” It’d be a nice place to go if you are around Civic Center and loathe to go up the hill to Little Saigon/the ‘Loin. As ever, while the four dishes we ordered were confirmed vegan, I can’t speak for any of the other vegetarian items, so ask first, or order just like Vegansaurus did and ensure cruelty-free satiety (HO HO clever!).