Sipz Fusion Café5501 Clairemont Mesa Blvd.Clairemont Mesa858-279-3747
T's introduction to Asian food came a little later than most, after her kids had grown and gone and she'd met a friend at the office who'd become as close as family and had a compelling need to match-make people to new foods.That would be me.
The fix-up was a success; T's been wielding chopsticks with improving grace and requesting that all our meet-ups be at Asian restaurants. Since we're both trying to reduce our meat consumption, we had lunch recently at Sipz Fusion Café, an eatery with vegetarian versions of favorite Asian dishes. Sipz began as a small boba tea and coffee shop before expanding into a full-blown restaurant, and it still serves a long list of tapioca drinks and slushes. (Correction: “slusheez.” The menu employs kicky Z's to replace most of the S's on the multi-paged menu. For wordsmiths, it's maddening.)
My fiery Thai curry bowl with faux chicken was as competently tasty as any I've had, and the coconut milk helped dampen the thrilling, but tongue-searing, spice level. The curry came with a scoop of brown rice loaded, in Sipz-speak, with nuggetz (or ballz), of mock chicken, eggplant, peppers, potato and bamboo shoots.
The vegetarian chicken pieces had a pleasant chewy consistency, and though I don't necessarily look to faux meats and the like as meat replacements, I enjoy them as additional protein options. Many other textured soy foodstuffs can be found down the street from Sipz, in the refrigerated aisles of 99 Ranch Market. The “chicken,” labeled Vege Chicken, has great flavor and texture and is delicious sliced up and eaten as-is. But if you have an issue with even slightly meat-esque food, just ask to sub in tofu or all vegetables, which are alternative options for almost every dish.
My friend has been on a strict regime of clean, unadulterated food, so an udon noodle soup, made with a light vegetarian broth and filled with baby bok choy, bamboo shoots and other vegetables was the ideal meal. Though I'm usually all about long-simmered stocks made savory and rich with roasted meat bones, I took a taste and found it flavorful enough to hold my interest. She wanted to augment her lunch with a vegan sushi roll made with brown rice, but the sushi, using both vegetarian and vegan ingredients, is only available after 5 p.m.
Other meat-free dishes that passed muster include the wok-fried drunken noodles—wide flat rice noodles sautéed with vegetables and your choice of fake chicken, fake beef or tofu. The mock beef is probably the least successful, both as a meat-clone and as a habit-forming food. There are also a couple of straight-up dishes that you might see in a regular Chinese restaurant, including eggplant in a vegetarian oyster sauce, which is made from shitake mushrooms, and spicy black-bean-sauced tofu. You can even eat in the traditional Asian-style banquet here—Sipz offers multi-course dinners that give you a taste of each of the mock meats and can be shared with a group.
For dessert, I waffled between a whole young coconut stuffed with sweet sticky rice and one of Sipz's homemade vegan cakes (options include banana, chocolate and carrot). I made a good call by choosing the banana cake, which is served warm. It was moist, like a steamed pudding, draped with a creamy blanket of sweetened coconut cream and sprinkled with crushed, salty peanuts for tasty contrast.
I'm a good eater, but I'd barely conquered half my bowl of curry, so the rest came home with me for lunch the next day. Sipz is a bargain, considering that I was able to make two full meals out of a $7 bowl of food. Now, if only they'd do something about their Styrofoam takeaway boxes—and those pesky Z's.