Food & Drink

Accompany Buddies Episode

Courtesy of a Meat-Eater, an Introduction to All-Veg In the Bowl

Accompany Buddies Episode

Kelly O

KNOCKOUT APPETIZER A server named Pear holds Melting Cultures. Seriously.

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Over the past couple years, I've written about a number of Seattle's vegetarian restaurants. I have eaten semi-successful yoga-inspired cuisine introduced with a gong at Wallingford's Sutra, fantastic vegetarian Thai at the U-District's Araya's Vegetarian Place, and completely creditable veggie pub grub at Georgetown Liquor Company. I had a warm if predictable reunion with local veggie legend Cafe Flora (earning comparisons to the Vichy French for being a vegetarian who started eating fish). I'm very excited to test out Plum, the new Capitol Hill sit-down place from beloved veggie sandwich-makers Hillside Quickie. But In the Bowl is the only all-vegetarian restaurant recommended to me—passionately and repeatedly—by a carnivore.

The carnivore in question: my friend Nancy, who nearly shrieked when she heard that I'd never experienced the glories of (terribly named, no use denying it) In the Bowl. "Just go," said Nancy when I pressed for details, declaring everything she'd eaten there—from fake-meat dishes to straight-up veggie offerings—to be "amazing!"

In the Bowl is located just north of the corner of East Denny Way and Olive on Capitol Hill. The slender, no-frills space—one part kitchen and two parts dining room, a dozen or so tables laid out as tight as Tetris—is reminiscent of New York City, where such densely packed small spots are the norm. The restaurant's bossy rules, posted throughout the space on laminated paper, also have an East Coast flavor: "OUR SPICY LEVEL IS HIGHER THAN THE REGULAR, SO PLEASE THINK ABOUT IT BEFORE PLACING YOUR ORDER." If you misjudge, that's your problem: "WE HAVE TO CHARGE YOU AT FULL PRICE FOR CHANGING/REPLACING YOUR ORDER."

The menu is a pidgin-linguistic delight, with courses identified as "Episodes"—drinks are under "Beverages Episode," side dishes are "Accompany Buddies Episode." Vegetarianism is understated yet universal: "All meats, poultry, and seafood menu items are made from soy products" reads a line of print at the beginning, followed by pages of fake chicken, beef, prawn, and duck dishes. I'm ambivalent about such specific meat impersonation. Having given up eating the flesh of dead animals, why would I want to eat something striving to impersonate the taste and texture of dead animals? I don't know, but plenty of vegetarians do. And as Nancy proves, sometimes the impersonation is so tasty it even works for carnivores.

Clearly, my premier In the Bowl experience had to involve Nancy, and I instructed her to order her favorite items off the menu. An appreciation of In the Bowl runs throughout Nancy's fully meat-friendly family, including the fussy 8-year-old, who was tricked into eating at In the Bowl under false pretenses—she believed her "chicken" was chicken—and remained a fan even after the ruse was exposed. Granted, 8-year-olds are also fans of the moist-drywall cuisine of Chef Boyardee. Still, I was curious to try the fake meat that faked out even meat-eaters, and Nancy's choice was the Garlic Mania Noodle with so-called chicken ($7.95). The faux bird came in thin squares strewn among udon noodles stir-fried with a garlic-herb sauce and veggies; it was easily the least interesting component, tasting like nothing-special tofu. But even with the zero-star spice level mandated by Nancy, the dish had a lot going for it: The house-made garlic sauce had just the right edge, and, along with the simple, fresh vegetables, gave the potentially dull udon something worthy to do.

Beef with Broccoli ($7.95) was similar, another fine dose of In the Bowl's garlic gravy mixed with dice-sized nuggets of "beef," served over steamed broccoli. Again, the phony meat was the dish's weakest link. "Is that what beef tastes like?" I asked after chewing my way through a bouncy brown nugget. "Pretty much," replied Nancy. I let her eat the remaining beef dice, which granted me primary ownership of what was left of our knockout appetizer, a culinary oddity known as Melting Culture ($7.50), made of stir-fried-and-ground "chicken," green-curry paste, and coconut milk, adding up to something akin to a delicious Indian-spiced hummus, served hot, with dense, delicious roti rice-flour bread.

Revisiting In the Bowl sans Nancy, I was determined to get acquainted with the purportedly hazardous levels of hot pepper. The Spicy Noodle with tofu ($7.95) was perfect ordered two stars, the significant-but-not-punishing heat giving exactly the right kick to fried rice noodles and un-overcooked veggies (eggplant, broccoli, bell pepper, carrot). A Curry Episode, Green Curry with tofu ($7.95), was another vegetable-filled dish with an equally gratifying spiciness that took off in more complex directions, aided by fresh basil.

But it was two Starter Episodes that truly encapsulated the In the Bowl experience: an order of Vegetarian Duck and Chicken Rolls ($6.50) and an order of Pot Sticker Fans ($5.50; the fans being the diners, not an element of the dish). One involved "meat"; one did not. There was no significant difference in the taste or texture. And both were very good. recommended

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danindowntown 1
"Again, the phony meat was the dish's weakest link. "Is that what beef tastes like?" I asked after chewing my way through a bouncy brown nugget. "Pretty much," replied Nancy."

Your friend Nancy is either lying to you about eating meat or buys some grade of beef so far down the food chain that it has taken on a spongy texture and flavorless taste.

Fake meat is processed food dressed up as healthy by the vegan/veggie crowd. It has less fat and therefore less flavor than real meat but it is still soy that has been processed into state that robs it of anything approximating good taste. If I am to order vegetarian I would much rather have simple tofu in the dish, not a processed piece of soy product with God knows what sort of flavors injected into it.
Posted by danindowntown on August 27, 2009 at 12:05 PM · Report this
Jefferson 2
Good one. This place definitely deserves more props. Many fantastic 'Episodes' to be had!

Schmader's review here is pretty spot-on. With the exception of his use of "bossy rules" to describe the various signs found throughout the restaurant, which simply state their stance on asking patrons to consider their choices, how spicy they want their food and to make informed selections on the dishes they order. Possibly only in the modern catering-to-the-ignorance-of-the-consumer era could this be considered "bossy".
Posted by Jefferson http:// on August 27, 2009 at 5:35 PM · Report this
I'd eat cat shit if "Pear" served it to me. Damn. She fine.
Posted by Mr. Biscuits on August 30, 2009 at 10:20 AM · Report this
lunch break 4
As a carnivore, I was reluctant about In the Bowl. Now it's literally one of my favorite joints on the hill. I stayed away from the "meat" until a couple visits ago when I tried the "beef". I don't care what they inject it with, it's delicious.
Posted by lunch break on August 31, 2009 at 12:56 PM · Report this
"It has less fat and therefore less flavor than real meat.."

Having ate meat for half of my life before becoming vegetarian (and later, pescatarian) I prefer fake meat because it isn't as greasy or fatty. Obviously that isn't how everyone feels but it's not a fact, sir.

I especially love the "meat" at In The Bowl! Especially the beef!
Posted by Jeddrock on August 31, 2009 at 2:01 PM · Report this
lordbison 6
Try The Moonlight Cafe on Jackson near 19th, if you haven't already. Not only is their fake meat delicious, but their Chinese food in general is some of the best in the city. They offer real meat, too.
Posted by lordbison on August 31, 2009 at 3:59 PM · Report this
ADoodle 7
This place is great. I love it. Tip: their monthly specials are almost always awesome and the "chicken" they usually use in them has a much better appearance and texture than the one they use for their regular menu items. But the "beef" is definitely the best "meat" they serve. And you can buy it in the frozen section of Viet Wah grocery near 10th and Jackson in the ID!
Posted by ADoodle on August 31, 2009 at 5:37 PM · Report this
NumberOne 8
Does anyone know why some restaurants call their menu items episodes or affairs? I have seen this at many different places- and it is not a matter of being "pidgin-linguistic", since one place that does this is a hoagie shop on the east coast and another a taco shop in Phoenix. Also Bumstead's sandwich shop in Tucson lists their menu items as "affairs"). It seems odd and I have not been able to find anything about it on the internet.
Posted by NumberOne on September 1, 2009 at 3:55 PM · Report this
NumberOne 9
BTW - the duck rolls at ITB are to die for!
Posted by NumberOne on September 1, 2009 at 3:56 PM · Report this
I'd like to spend some time in Pear's bowl, yeeeeeooooow!!!!! She looks delicious!
Posted by Imsorryicanthelpmyself on September 1, 2009 at 4:11 PM · Report this
keshmeshi 11
I just get everything with fried tofu. Yum!
Posted by keshmeshi on September 1, 2009 at 4:20 PM · Report this
Simone 12
I'd eat out of Pear's Bowl everyday. She's Cute!!!
Posted by Simone on September 1, 2009 at 5:58 PM · Report this
I love this restaurant. And to add to the chorus in a slightly less pervy way: Pear, you are charming.
Posted by Lincolnish on September 1, 2009 at 11:23 PM · Report this
This has probably been one of my favorite restaurants in the city for the last two years. Also, you're letting yourself down if you don't check out the restroom here. Seriously.

And devil's advocate: I've seen the server pictured at In the Bowl almost every single time I've gone in there. I'm sure that you just made her job that much easier by objectifying her with the caption and via Bathany's comment on Slog yesterday.

And the Tokyo Noodle with Fried Tofu is choice.
Posted by j.lee on September 2, 2009 at 11:12 AM · Report this
Fistique 15
@1, to make tofu, whole soybeans are harvested and dried. The dried soybeans are then soaked in water and pureed to make soymilk. This is combined with a coagulant such as magnesium sulfide to curdle. That's what we call a "process," making tofu a "processed food." Hope this helps.
Posted by Fistique on September 5, 2009 at 11:30 AM · Report this
You'll notice, btw, that it doesn't actually say "accompany buddies episode", but "accompany buddies eSpisode." Even better :)
Posted by AP2 on December 15, 2013 at 9:43 PM · Report this

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