If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, I don’t have to tell you about how difficult it can be to find a place to dine out — you already know. But there’s a new spot on the block, and Amituofo is ready to impress.
While there are plenty of restaurants that offer vegetarian and vegan options — Falansai comes to mind, given their range of options and willingness to make substitutions — there are surprisingly few dedicated vegan or vegetarian restaurants.
Amituofo, at 19 Bogart St., was opened by Tina Chau on Jan. 9. It’s a large and airy space, pale blue walls adorned with murals by local tattoo artist Calinez. It’s too open to be called “cozy,” but it’s undeniably comfortable. Though young, word is already spreading — during my visit, quite a number of diners were seated.
“We have a lot of Asian dishes, traditional dishes,” Chau said. “We have a couple of American dishes as well, such as pasta. Our Impossible Burger, that’s been popular.”
I sampled a few dishes from Amituofo’s menu, which is still being tweaked and updated, focusing on the Asian flavors: king oyster mushrooms, sesame rolls, barbeque pork noodles, and sweet, sticky rice balls with coconut.
The king oyster mushrooms, tempura battered and fried, were a delicious riot of texture. The batter was light and crispy, and the mushrooms retained their natural, non-rubbery chewiness. The sesame roll — carrot, string bean, and soy protein rolled into bean curd-coated seaweed — was rich, earthy, and filling. The sweet sticky rice ball was classic mochi, coated in dried shaved coconut and filled with sugared crushed peanuts, a tasty end to the meal.
The barbeque pork noodles were a surprise. The “pork” was soy protein and, while too soft to be called “imitation pork,” had a pleasant texture all its own, kind of equal parts soft, chewy, and firm. More importantly, it was an excellent vehicle for the barbeque sauce.
The best way to describe it might be as what you’d get on pork spare ribs from your local takeout place, but taken to another level. A little sweet, a little tangy, a little floral, it was impressive in its depth of flavor and the ways it changed and evolved as you ate it — with the vegetable-and-mushroom broth, its savoriness was emphasized; pair a piece with a mouthful of perfectly-cooked rice noodles for its sweetness to pop. The dish is currently a special, but we hope for an upgrade to full-time menu status soon.
“I wasn’t always vegan,” said Chau, “but eventually I decided that it’s just the way to go. It’s better for [your] health, it’s better for the planet, it’s better for animals. We opened this place as a way to give people more options and to encourage people to eat less meat.”
“He was here from the beginning, when we first started designing,” said Chau of Teran. “It’s incredible and it’s extremely helpful, because he has so much experience with how to set up a restaurant and how to manage it. I’m learning a lot from him.”
Teran’s own restaurants fall under the management of his company, The Watson Group, but his work with Amituofo is something different.
“We’re consulting and helping out with other restaurant owners who are looking to get into the business,” Teran said. “I genuinely want to help with that. I know all the ups and downs of it that, with just a conversion, can be avoided. That’s my mission.”
As for why Chau decided to open a vegan restaurant, it’s a family affair.
“It’s basically my mom,” Chau said. “She’s been very passionate about opening a restaurant just so she can encourage people to eat more vegetarian food, eat more vegan food. It’s something very dear to her, to be able to do that with this space.”
The familial roots are evident in the name: Amituofo is Amitabha Buddha’s name in Chinese, and is used as a greeting by Chinese Buddhists. It is the greeting that Chau’s mother always uses when inviting people into her home.
Come to Amituofo and be welcomed.
Cover photo by Andrew Tobia
Light, airy restaurant dishing up vegan takes on Asian classics, with some American favorites thrown in.
19 Bogart St, Brooklyn
(off the Morgan Ave stop on the L train)
Sun-Thu: 11:30 am – 10:30 pm
Fri-Sat: 11:30 am – 11:30 pm
+1 718 366-2288