Potala Vegan Restaurant 1045 San Pablo Ave./Marin Ave., in Albany, (510) 528-2375. L-D daily; $$. No reservations.
Named for the striking hilltop palace in Lhasa, Tibet, this all-vegan, all-organic restaurant has only one set menu available each day. A server with take your order after you select your choices from a white board in the entry, after which you can help yourself to a glass of water or complimentary hot tea—on the day I visited it was Organic Kukicha Twig Tea—from the bar and then seat yourself.
Your choices involve how much food you would like—a simple, medium, or full plate. I ordered the medium portion and finished it all. All but the soup is served on a single dinner plate. An a la carte menu is available; children are welcome and can order from that. No fake meats are used. The menu for my visit was kidney bean veggie soup (my favorite item); wild brown rice and green split pea with onion (I also really liked this); sauteed red and green cabbages, carrots, and potato; steamed collard greens with beets burdock onion sauce; mixed green salad with brown rice vinegar-tahini dressing. Flavors and textures vary, and I felt healthier when I left. I would have liked some bread, but none is served here. Cookies and other desserts cost additional, and vegan wines and beers are available.
Decor is secondary but pleasant--some lovely Thai carvings left from a previous restaurant here, flute music, a tiny orchid on my table that I had to pinch to be sure it was plastic--and comfy booths are a big plus, as is the free parking lot.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers