Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Native Bowl

Native Bowl, located in the Mississippi Marketplace Food Cart Pod on North Mississippi Ave. and North Skidmore St., serves vegetarian and vegan bowls. But trust me, you don't have to be a vegetarian or vegan to enjoy this food.

The regular size is $6, while their large bowl runs at $7.50, pretty reasonable prices for the amount of food you get. I went with a large Alberta Bowl, a medium-spicy dish of Jasmine rice, garlic tofu, Fire-Breathing Dragon Sauce (probably sriracha and mayonnaise), house-made furikake (mainly consisting of nori seaweed and toasted sesame seeds), shredded green cabbage, carrots, and scallions.

This was a layered bowl served in one of those Chinese take-out boxes, so I had to dig down to locate the tofu and the rice.

Spicy Alberta Bowl
Now you can see the garlic tofu chunks. The Jasmine rice was at the very bottom.
I felt like I waited an inordinate amount of time for this meal. The guy said I'dget my meal in about 5-7 minutes, and it was at least 15 minutes before I received my order. Maybe bordering near 20 minutes.

But hey, this was one of the best vegetarian bowls I've ever had. It was basically bold flavor after bold flavor just hitting me left, right, up, down, front, and back. Because it was a layered bowl, I got the refreshing fresh vegetables, salty furikake, and taste bud-awakening Dragon sauce first. The carrots brought a nice sweetness, while the scallions gave a slight bite my mouth craved. The Dragon sauce was not very spicy, but it did send a very small message to the taste buds that it was in the house. So already, we got salty, sweet, and spicy, and we didn't even hit the tofu yet!

I then dug down for the garlic tofu, and it was just freakin' awesome. The garlic was front and center in this one. The tofu chunks -- which was probably the culprit for the order taking so long -- were properly cooked. Native Bowl likely uses firm or extra firm tofu in this dish, which is the smart move so that tofu doesn't disintegrate on the flattop or in the meal itself. Finally, the properly cooked Jasmine rice was a perfect carbohydrate accompaniment to this healthy meal. The nutty aroma of the rice gave the entire meal almost a Thai-like, exotic essence and somewhat neutralized the atomic explosion of flavors my mouth endured (and yes, the "atomic explosion of flavors" is a damn good thing!).

This was just a stunning dish that surpassed my expectations. I wanted this food to last a couple of days, but fat chance. It was gone within 24 hours.

If there's any sort of constructive criticism I have (other than the long wait), I would have welcomed a little citrus (like a wedge of lime) to cut through some of the bold flavors.

Also, just to nitpick a little, getting the food in the Chinese take-out box did make it impossible to get a good "pretty" shot of all the layers of the food. For a foodie like me that wants to photograph something, I would have liked a shot that allowed me to get all the layers in one shot. But hey, the food was killer awesome, and I don't say that to just any ol' dish.

Native Bowl has five different dishes to choose from, a nice selection for a food cart. Each one sounds amazing. In fact, Native Bowl even caters to the gluten-free crowd, as their Hollywood Bowl can be made gluten-free by taking out the pita chips. I know a few of my gluten-free friends will be happy to know this one! You will not miss the meat here, folks. Native Bowl is the place to go for mouth-watering, healthy, meat-free meals! 9/10

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