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Oct 16, 2008 01:14 PM

Vegetarians on David Chang

I am a devout foodie, however I do not eat meat. Like all of us that read about everything food all day long, and most especially those who are in the industry, I have overindulged in David Chang literature for the past year or so. Obviously, I am turned off by his rant on vegetarians, but that's not to say I'm not interested in him as a chef and his creations. I've always wanted to go to one of his spots but have been intimidated, and worried there'd be nothing for me. Are there any vegetarians out there that have gone and had good/bad experiences?

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  1. If you are a pure vegetarian (no fish, which some people actually considered as vegetarian...), then my guess is you won't be able to get any dishes that you can eat. I think there is only one single dish on his Noodle Bar menu that is vegetarian, which is the noodle with scallion. Even his vegetable dishes have hidden non-vegetarians ingredients like fish sauce, dashi, etc.

    However, now that they have more dessert options, that may be something that you can explore.

    As for service, I don't think it makes a difference. They are very clear about not altering dishes for your vegetarian needs, so you already knew and shouldn't bother to ask. it's just not an option.

    1. Well, forget about Ko because you eat what they're serving and that's pretty much it. I wouldn't say that Ssam or Noodle Bar are particularly vegetarian friendly. But their menus are fairly descriptive so you should be able to see if there are many items you can eat.

      As kobetobiko said, substitutions are not an option. So figure out from the meny what you can have and what you can't. But the mere fact that you're vegetarian shouldn't incite much hostility from the staff. "Much." :-)

      2 Replies
      1. re: egit

        > So figure out from the meny what you can have and what you can't.

        That's the problem though. You CAN'T figure out what you can and cannot have JUST based on the menu, as kobetobiko says. There is fish sauce in the fried cauliflower / fried brussels sprouts. The mushroom salad? Has dashi in it. Other items may be fried in pork fat or topped with bacon. There might be meat-based stock in other items.

        There is very little that is purely vegetarian with no hidden ingredients. Pescatarians are typically OK at Ssam Bar, especially if they eat raw fish items. The Noodle Bar or Ssam Bar staff will let you know about it, quite freely, if you ask.

        1. re: kathryn

          I just looked at their menus online ( and *most* of the items are fairly well described as far as their ingredients. Yes, a lot of the food there is flavored or enriched with non-veg items. But it looks to me as if they're described more or less completely.

          I guess the OP wasn't entirely clear. The subject says Vegetarians, yet in the post s/he says "I do not eat meat." That may leave room for a lot of fish sauce, dashi, etc. That's why I suggested reading the menu descriptions. I didn't mean for that to sound dismissive. Another option would be to ask the staff what's vege-pesce-tarian that may fit with their dietary regimen.

      2. I don't think there will be much to eat there as a vegetarian. Certainly Ko is completely off limits and for the most part, so is Ssam Bar.

        1. Were can one find David Chang's rant on vegetarians?

          3 Replies
          1. re: dhs

            a far as i know, he hasn't ranted. his view is this:

            "I respect them [vegetarians], just not in our restaurants…You don’t go to a BBQ restaurant and be like, “I want everything vegetarian.” You don’t go to a sushi restaurant and say, “Please remove the fish, I just want the rice.” Our restaurants are what we serve. And if you don’t like it you can go eat somewhere else."

            1. re: cimui

              Oh gosh, I can't remember where or when I saw it, and maybe I'm hallucinating, but I swear I saw him being all nasty about idiot vegetarians on tv, I mean just gratuitous meanie. He was not being respectful. It was throwaway video on local tv but I remember being a bit put off.

              Argh, I don't think I'm hallucinating -- or maybe I'm just meat-deprived! :-0

              But I do FULLY agree with the concept of do not go somewhere called 'Sushi Only' and expect veggie fare. I just wish that places like that could have one single thing for those who did the "Oops we're here now and we forgot to research" moment. At a sushi place, I will so totally go for vegetable tempura, because so many sushi places do tempura sushi rolls. You know what I mean.

              Oh now I'm all hungry again. You people! I come here and get all hungry!

              1. re: BratleFoodie

                yeah, i remember there being a sort of heated thread on the subject on chowhound a while back, so it must've riled some feathers! then again, sometimes it doesn't take much. ;)

                it's awfully hard to do david chang without a heckuva lot of advanced planning, unfortunately. i think people are still selling organs in exchange for a meal at ko.

          2. thanks everyone for your help with this. its most appreciated. and yes, i never expected to be able to go to Ko... but ssam bar and momofuku, hopefully.

            i do consume fish on occasion, though its usually one of those events where my family that doesn't understand what a vegetarian is makes endless fish dishes especially for me... i dont have the heart to turn them down. so i suppose i am a pescitarian. i apologize for the misrepresentation. i usually generalize but should have known better with this audience.

            and yes, i am full of mistakes here, david chang has never said anything mean about vegetarians, just doesn't like to cook for them:




            1 Reply
            1. re: thevillagevegetable

              hey, don't feel bad. my family used to try to sneak meat of the most hardcore kind into my food when i was vegetarian (for fear that a vegetarian diet would stunt my growth... they were really worried!).

              (i really wasn't trying to call you out on the rant vs. non-rant thing, btw.)

              i agree with the others that david c. as a vegetarian is hard to do. depending on what dishes on the menu you're most interested in, though, there may be some veggie-friendly, david chang-esque restaurants in town that would suit.