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Grantville’s best views are inside Purple Mint Vegan Bistro

Organic Asian dishes without the meat or shrimp

Organic black rice noodles in coconut milk, and more
Organic black rice noodles in coconut milk, and more

There are parts of Mission Gorge Road that pass through a tranquil, natural setting, but the section traversing Grantville is not one of them. Backed into a corner created by the intersection of two freeways, its congested commercial corridor skews industrial, a place one might go for a smog check, in search of car tires, or maybe to rent a storage unit.

Place

Purple Mint

6171 Mission Gorge Road, San Diego

Which makes walking into Purple Mint Vegan Bistro all the more refreshing. The southeast Asian eatery occupies the end unit of an unremarkable shopping strip, looking the part of a boxy low-budget restaurant, one might suppose, devoid of charm. But a spacious dining room dressed with living walls, pendant lamps, and indoor pergolas welcomes guests with comfortable tranquility. Well-placed mirrors set in vintage-styled window frames create the illusion the world is just as chill outside as it is within.

Combination fried rice featuring shrimp that isn't shrimp

While positioning itself as a Vietnamese restaurant, vegan fare is the unifying thread in a menu supplemented by Chinese, Thai, and other regional influences. Thus, vegan pho and bun options are the likes of kung pao chicken, walnut shrimp, and papaya salad. Ingredients going into these dishes include soy protein meat substitutes and organic vegetables. The $13.95 “steak filet mignon” offers the most visceral example of meat replacement, served on a sizzling platter with grilled onions, showing hints of ginger and warming spices. Naming it after the notoriously smooth mignon may be overstating the resemblance — this soy substitute more closely emulates hunks of a tenderized roast cut — but the flavor and chew may satisfy former meat eaters who miss such presentation.

A beautiful interior invisible to the outside

I think the value here is better found among the rice and noodle dishes. I took some perverse satisfaction in enjoying a combination fried rice featuring “shrimp.” A food allergy prevents me from trying the real thing, and even knowing the kitchen was vegan I did ask for assurance no real shrimp snuck its way in. More to the point, the faux egg, pork, and shrimp served their textural purpose in a well-flavored rice interspersed with a healthy mix of veggies and punctuated by spiced cashews.

The $13.95 “steak filet mignon"

Another winner was the organic black rice pasta in coconut milk. The presentation reminded me of Burmese dishes I’ve tried, the dark noodles plated with an array of bean sprouts, carrot and jicama shreds, crispy threads of fried potato, tofu, lettuce, and crushed peanuts. Mixed all together, the contrasting textures of cooked and raw ingredients make this tasty dish fun to eat.

Purple Mint seems like a perfect metaphor for the state of vegan dining in San Diego right now: from the outside it may not always look all that inspiring, but once you go in for a closer look, there are more than a few surprises.

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Organic black rice noodles in coconut milk, and more
Organic black rice noodles in coconut milk, and more

There are parts of Mission Gorge Road that pass through a tranquil, natural setting, but the section traversing Grantville is not one of them. Backed into a corner created by the intersection of two freeways, its congested commercial corridor skews industrial, a place one might go for a smog check, in search of car tires, or maybe to rent a storage unit.

Place

Purple Mint

6171 Mission Gorge Road, San Diego

Which makes walking into Purple Mint Vegan Bistro all the more refreshing. The southeast Asian eatery occupies the end unit of an unremarkable shopping strip, looking the part of a boxy low-budget restaurant, one might suppose, devoid of charm. But a spacious dining room dressed with living walls, pendant lamps, and indoor pergolas welcomes guests with comfortable tranquility. Well-placed mirrors set in vintage-styled window frames create the illusion the world is just as chill outside as it is within.

Combination fried rice featuring shrimp that isn't shrimp

While positioning itself as a Vietnamese restaurant, vegan fare is the unifying thread in a menu supplemented by Chinese, Thai, and other regional influences. Thus, vegan pho and bun options are the likes of kung pao chicken, walnut shrimp, and papaya salad. Ingredients going into these dishes include soy protein meat substitutes and organic vegetables. The $13.95 “steak filet mignon” offers the most visceral example of meat replacement, served on a sizzling platter with grilled onions, showing hints of ginger and warming spices. Naming it after the notoriously smooth mignon may be overstating the resemblance — this soy substitute more closely emulates hunks of a tenderized roast cut — but the flavor and chew may satisfy former meat eaters who miss such presentation.

A beautiful interior invisible to the outside

I think the value here is better found among the rice and noodle dishes. I took some perverse satisfaction in enjoying a combination fried rice featuring “shrimp.” A food allergy prevents me from trying the real thing, and even knowing the kitchen was vegan I did ask for assurance no real shrimp snuck its way in. More to the point, the faux egg, pork, and shrimp served their textural purpose in a well-flavored rice interspersed with a healthy mix of veggies and punctuated by spiced cashews.

The $13.95 “steak filet mignon"

Another winner was the organic black rice pasta in coconut milk. The presentation reminded me of Burmese dishes I’ve tried, the dark noodles plated with an array of bean sprouts, carrot and jicama shreds, crispy threads of fried potato, tofu, lettuce, and crushed peanuts. Mixed all together, the contrasting textures of cooked and raw ingredients make this tasty dish fun to eat.

Purple Mint seems like a perfect metaphor for the state of vegan dining in San Diego right now: from the outside it may not always look all that inspiring, but once you go in for a closer look, there are more than a few surprises.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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