As many Natives to Washington, D.C. know, H Street has become a foodie’s heaven as there almost no type of food that doesn’t exist down that two mile strip. If you’re looking for Ethiopian, you got it. Burgers? You got it. Sushi? You got it. Pizza or Italian? There’s an abundance of that! Middle Eastern? Absolutely. Just a regular burger? Don’t even sweat it. Or if you’re just looking to go get drunk, there would be no doubt that you would be able to accomplish that while traveling down H Street. Within the past 4 years the number of vegan restaurants as well as Non-Vegan Restaurants with vegan options, on H Street alone expanded significantly. Sticky Rice, a Sushi restaurant with a separate vegan/vegetarian menu, has been open on H Street since I was in high school, and has made waves in the local Sushi and Vegan Sushi Community. But the creators of this creative and innovative sushi restaurant came up with the idea to open a fully plant-based bistro- style establishment featuring Asian Inspired Cuisine called Pow Pow just a few doors down, and it has changed the ways that vegans in this area approach buying Asian inspired cuisine. As if it couldn’t get any better, the two establishments developed a fully vegan Innovative and Creative Sushi Pop-Up that blows the minds of all of those that are able to snatch tickets before they so quickly sell out.
I heard about Sticky Rice from a friend back in 2014, but had rode past it on my way to school every morning, as I had to pass through H Street to get to Benning Road. . I was recently able to go and see what all of the rage was about. My friend and I walked in, were seated, and handed our menus to which I flip over to see a fully plant-based menu. I knew that I wanted to start with the garden balls which are shiitake mushroom, red pepper, cilantro, and rice in a tempura fried inari pocket drizzled with Vegan Eel Sauce. I sat in awe of how delicious it was just to start an amazing meal. I then ordered a Supa Roll which had Cucumber, Pineapple, and Vegan Tuna. That was the first roll that popped out at me, especially the “Vegan Tuna” part. In my personal opinion, that is the top sushi roll that they have (on the vegan menu at least). I followed it up with a Spicy Avocado which had Avocado, Vegan Cream Cheese, and Cucumber. Both rolls were covered with vegan caviar and served with Vegan Eel Sauce ad well as Vegan Cream Cheese and I was able to score an order of Vegan Tuna Nigiri. I was thoroughly pleased with the entire meal and realized that good Vegan Sushi is not as hard to find as some may have thought. Sticky Rice has been the catalyst for the growth of good and creative Vegan Asian Cuisine in Washington, D.C. It has shown itself to be what H Street/ DC needed to jumpstart the vegan food scene.
I heard about Pow Pow, a 100% Plant-Based Asian Cuisine Inspired Restaurant located just a few doors away from Sticky Rice, in September 2018, through Doordash, when I filtered down my options to only the vegan options. Now, I live in Southeast, DC, and the fact that there was a vegan Chinese was available to me was as beautiful thing to me as it was confusing. I scanned through their menu and noticed that everything that was listed was completely vegan, and I was shocked and amazed thinking to myself, “When did this open and How did I not Hear about this sooner??” I actually put ordering delivery from them on the back burner because I decided that I wanted to experience the restaurant as a whole. And when I finally decided to go, I had a complete and total blast.
From the moment my friend and I walked in, I was taken aback by the energy and the scenery. I proceeded to walk down the aisle to take an order (but not before I made my friend snap a cool picture of me), and saw their menu, to which I didn’t really need to look at because I did my research thoroughly and knew exactly what it was that I wanted. I proceeded to order the Natalie Porkman, which is Sweet and Sour Pork Seitan that is served with Black Quinoa and Rice, and a House Salad. My non-vegan foodie friend who accompanied me, got the General Tso’s Chicken which came with similar sides. She and I split the Disco Egg roll, which is similar to traditional egg rolls, except 5x the size, no exaggeration and 10x the taste. We both also got our own orders of the Chimi Chimi Pow Pow Egg Roll, which is vegan Nutella, and Banana in an egg roll, and drizzled with agave nectar and 5 spice (I attempted to place an order for the Taiwanese Fried Mozzarella Balls, but much to my dismay, they were all out. We ordered our food with the incredibly friendly cashier, and proceeded to wait for our food to be ready. In my personal opinion, it was better than the non-vegan alternatives, but that’s just me. My friend loved it just as much as I did and was amazed that she couldn’t tell the difference in the food, and that’s when I knew I wasn’t crazy and that their food was amazing to all who walked through their doors, both vegan and non-vegan. As I was leaving, I noticed a rotating light that was Pow Pow’s logo, which made leaving unforgettable. I’ve picked up food and ordered delivery from them several times since the first time that I’ve gone because I’m literally hooked and I’ve successfully been able to get friends of mine to be equally hooked. I definitely recommend this one of a kind establishment.
Not long after I found out about Pow Pow, I learned that a beautiful secret love child made from Pow Pow and Sticky Rice was in the oven and it’s name is Noridojo. Unfortunately I was not able to get tickets to the first pop-up (because tickets go incredibly fast), but I was able to snag tickets to the second ever Noridojo Sushi Pop-Up on February 5th. I was able to experience how vegan chefs are pushing boundaries and making foods that are identical and slightly better than the non-vegan alternatives. Now, a good portion of the reason as to why it took me to long to become a vegan was me not being able to get legitimate sushi replacements, but Noridojo has made it so nobody has to miss a thing.
My friend and I entered Sticky Fingers, an amaaaaazing vegan bakery located in Columbia Heights, the establishment where the event was hosted and we were offered ginger pear cocktails upon arrival while we waiting to be seated. We were presented with our pre-set menu and proceeded to get our food as they were brought out one by one. Our first course included a “crab” roll that was served with melted butter for dipping and tasted so much like actual crab that I almost came close to shedding a tear because my DMV upbringing included mountains of crabs (I became the crab cracking princess at 8 years old), and I was starting to miss it a lot. We were then served with two completely amazing and mind blowing Nori Tacos (nori sheets fried hard in tempura batter into taco shell shape…… I know who would’ve thought??). One had Seitan Bulgogi and another had Vegan Tuna Poke.One hot, one cold, but both were topped with slaw and absolutely mouthwatering.The seitan bulgogi was legit, but the tuna poke was perfect to the point where I was questioning if I had purchased tickets to a VEGAN sushi pop-up. The creativity in that dish specifically puts them on the next level of culinary excellence. That was followed with a seaweed salad to hold us over until I could feast my eyes on the one thing that I’ve been waiting on, VEGAN EEL! The “OG’s” were presented to us which were Vegan Eel and Cucumber, Spicy Tuna and and Cucumber, and Spicy Crab and Avocado. Those three rolls had the perfect flavor, texture, and even smell. I was in love with how the rolls made me feel as though I never had to give up sushi in the first place.
As if it couldn’t get any better from vegan Spicy Tuna AND Eel rolls, we were then presented with Vegan Unagi Donburi, which was Eggplant Eel over a small bed of Sushi Rice and accompanied with Japanese Pickles. Although I could tell that it was Eel, it still had the perfect taste. As crazy as it sounds, we still had more food to be served. They gave us a taste of Cashew Mozzarella topped with Sliced Beets to hold us over until we were given our next taste. Soon we were given Colonel Mustard which was Ninjin (Sliced Marinated Carrots) wrapped Beef Seitan with Mustard Sauce which was served perfectly. The Ninjin was cold, and the Beef Seitan was fresh off of the grill, in addition to the flavors of the ninjin and Beef Seitan being perfectly complimentary towards each other. And for our last taste, we were given King Kinoko and Zen Zen rolls. King Kinoko was a Tempura Fried King Mushroom, Avocado, and Cashew Mozzarella Roll which was actually perfect because it is definitely difficult to find good vegan tempura rolls. Zen Zen was Asparagus, Shredded Tofu, and Avocado topped with Sliced Beet, and it was a nice subtle way to end the meal. For Dessert, we were then given Hong Kong Challah Bread lined with Red Bean Paste and served with Sweet Dipping Sauce, which was the perfect way to end
All in all, I applaud Noridojo for their ability to replicate Vegan Sushi to their Non-Vegan Alternatives and throw a creative spin on it. Them as well as Sticky Rice and Pow Pow have broken the barriers for Vegan Sushi and Traditional Asian food throughout the DC Area. The unrivaled creativity, impeccable replications, explosions of flavors, and these businesses giving you the opportunity to say that it is all vegan are qualities that make these establishments an unforgettable experience the moment that you enter.