On 4 Stones Vegetarian and Relaxing Like Cows.

Yesterday it was time to take a break from meat and seafood.  Over the last two weeks I’ve eaten pork, beef, duck, pork, shrimp, chicken, spot prawns, pork, tripe, jellyfish, char, pork, pork, and pork.  How am I ever to dine with my vegan friend Zoe if I keep this up?

Enter 4 Stones Vegetarian, a restaurant owned by a Taiwanese family that under one name or another, has been around for 14 years (they used to be called Simply Vegetarian and located on Ackroyd).  I took notice of this place on Westminster one day after I’d left The Oval and was cycling around.  Why did it appeal?  Because I’ve always been happy to eat vegetarian (I cook without meat most of the time at home anyways), and thought maaaaaybe they’d have vegan dishes, too.  I checked the menu online and boom-dy-ada!  They do!

I’d like to clarify something before we delve into the incredible world of 4 Stones:  I’m not writing this post in hopes of sparking an international debate on the pros and cons of vegetarianism and/or veganism.  There’s plenty of space for that on the inter-webs already.  What I would like to do is showcase some options available for those who don’t adhere to a mainstream diet, or perhaps have dietary restrictions.  They like to eat too, gosh-darnit, and I’ll to do my best to find them something good!

And 4 Stones Vegetarian isn’t just good.  It’s EXCELLENT.  I was joined by my friends Zoe and Dana (you may remember Dana from Parker Place BBQ and Meat.  She’s clearly ok with eating carnivorously one day and vegan the next).  These ladies are witty, they are charming, and they are UP FOR TOFU.

We arrived for dinner around 6pm, just as the small restaurant was beginning to fill up.  Our server, a pleasant young woman named Kiki, brought us a pot of tea and helped us choose our dishes.

I know it can be difficult and at times frustrating for vegans to order in restaurants; kitchens are often willing to cater to certain needs, but it can be a stressful ordeal nonetheless.  At 4 Stones they make it easy – each dish is vegetarian to start with, and any that can be made completely animal-free have V’s next to them.  We went with Kiki’s suggestions, handed back our menus, and were as relaxed about the whole thing as cows on a vegan commune.  I also noticed they use metal, reusable chopsticks, which is a thoughtful departure from the wooden disposable ones.

We started with a bowl of (rather bland) vegetable soup, and another of Chinese herb soup that was slightly bitter, and our favourite of the two.

We also tried the Oyster Mushrooms (listed under dim sum), which were coated with spiced bread crumbs and fried.  They were crunchy and rich, with the flavour of the mushrooms and spices holding up in the deep-frier.  The dip they were served with was savoury and amazing; we lapped it up as if it was water and we were lost in the desert.

The first of our mains was Eggplant with Basil and Cha Huo Sauce.  The eggplant was stewed and tender, brightened up with fresh basil and edamame and served with brown rice (as part of a combo that included the soup).  At 4 Stones they offer either brown or white rice, which I really appreciated.

Next we had Fried Tofu Stew, the name of which didn’t sound appealing at all.  I couldn’t help but picture chunks of bean curd floating sadly around in broth.  The dish was outstanding, however.  The pieces of tofu were coated in an herbed mixture and fried, then braised in an equally sweet and savoury sauce.

Our final dish was traditional Taiwanese fare: Cold Noodles with Peanut and Sesame Sauce.  Though a little sweeter than I expected and mild in comparison to the other dishes, the noodles were refreshing and toothsome.  The more I ate of this simple dish, the more I realized how I could come to crave it on a hot summer day.

Our 3 dishes, including rice and two small soups, came to $36.07, another bargain for remarkably good food.  There wasn’t a single point during the meal at which I thought “this is good, even if it’s vegan.”  All I could think was “WOW, this is some of the best food I’ve had in Richmond.”  Truly.

And now, in honour of this post, I’d like to share a recipe for vegan cupcakes I baked for Zoe a few months ago.  They were remarkably easy, and made with ingredients I already had in my cupboards.  Slather them with one of these icings, and you’re set!  You’ll have vegan treats that even your bacon-loving friends will fight over.

 

Chocolate Vegan Cupcakes

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup coffee, water, or coconut milk

½ cup canola oil

2 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 (12-cup) cupcake pans with 14 cupcake liners.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together coffee, oil, vinegar, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture and whisk until just combined. Do not over mix.
 
Fill the cupcake liners about two-thirds full with batter. Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cupcake comes out clean with a few crumbs clinging to it. Cool the cupcakes completely before frosting.

 

28 Comments

  1. JapaDog

    Another Great Post! Follow by yesterday and the day before and I’m glad you review this restaurant! Keep it up!

    Reply
  2. Jasmine

    Thanks for sharing! I will try it someday.

    Reply
  3. cwid

    Love this post! I am always intimidated by vegan menus and I approach vegan dishes gingerly. I don’t know why. Maybe because some of them include ingredients that pretend to be meat. Those dishes you picked looked honest and I would love to try them someday.

    I like your recipe and will most likely do this today. Very timely, too, as I was just thinking of baking chocolate cupcakes.

    Reply
  4. Robyn

    I had no idea this place existed, but it does look amazing. My boyfriend and I are frequently visitors to the Foundation on Main, and we try to eat vegetarian every once in a while, but I kind of get tired of the same old same old. Well, now I know where I’m going the next time I’m craving a purely vegetarian meal. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Stephen

    For anyone else that goes here, try their Ma Po Tofu and the Taiwanese chow mein with kimchi. The chow mein in particular is very close to what I had in the night markets of Taipei. So very awesome.

    Reply
  6. Joan

    Fantastic to have a vegetarian option in Richmond esp. for my vegan family members.

    Reply
  7. J.

    Awesome post! Defenitley going to check out this place!

    Reply
  8. Jeff

    Good selection of dishes. Your pictures are topnotch too. Just noticed though you have 4 dishes instead of 3. It will be helpful too if you post the price of each dishes.

    Reply
  9. E.J.

    Really glad to hear about this restaurant. Many of the local asian restaurants do not understand vegetarian menus and even if my family can find something to eat the surrounding smells and sights put us off. We shall have to try this one.

    Reply
  10. Kai

    This restuarant has been here 14 yrs and it’s not even on my radar!! So nice to have you locate this gem for us. Great post!! I can see you are getting the hang of it. Keep it up!!

    Reply
  11. Wylie

    Good to know there is a vegetarian option in Richmond! Oh yes, if you have a chance, go to the Sikh temple on Westminster Highway … on the way to New West. They are wonderful hosts and serve vegetarian meals for free. The meal is absolutely fantastic. You also can learn about the Sikh faith.

    I love Richmond (except for the drivers ha ha).

    Reply
    • cwid

      I was told they also serve free vegetarian meals at the Buddhist Temple on Steveston Highway. Is this true?

      Reply
      • June

        The temple at No. 5 and Williams (Ling Yen Mt. I think?) serves “free” veggie meals on weekends – BYO container and prepare to brave the lines!

        Reply
  12. Sue

    Didnt even know this place existed! Thanks for the education Lindsay. Awesome post. You’re hitting your stride and not compromising yorker writing style which is awesome. Way to go.

    Reply
  13. KimHo

    Actually, if you look carefully, there are a lot of vegetarian/vegan options in Richmond, partially due to the Indian and Chinese population. In both cases, because of religious believes. For example, as mentioned by Whylie and cwid the Sikh and Buddhist temple offer such meals. As for paid restaurants, there is Spicy Vegetarian, Veggie Delight, Woo Ying and so on. I have been told once a month, they have to go vegetarian for the day and some of those restaurants – including this one – are packed (or, in cases of some grocery shops, packed).

    Reply
  14. Katie

    mmmm… everything looks so tasty!! Thanks for the post!

    Reply
  15. mrschesh

    Fabulous post as always and yummy looking pictures!!

    Reply
  16. Winnie

    Thanks! I was wondering where to find good vegetarian food in Richmond.

    Here’s a place for nice tofu desserts: Excellent Tofu & Snack Ltd. 160-4231 Hazelbridge Way. Silky smooth tofu pudding – great just with ginger syrup, or you can try the black sesame topping, or red beans & coconut milk. They also have savoury tofu snacks.

    Reply
    • GS

      I’m a regular at this restaurant.
      Love the MSG Tofu Parfait!
      Gotta try it!

      Reply
  17. GS

    Vegetarian?
    Real man don’t eat Quiche!

    Reply
    • KimHo

      Well… Lindsay is a girl so I am not sure how that fits! And, depending on your interpretation of vegetarian, specifically, eggs and/or dairy, technically, quiche is not vegetarian! ;)

      Reply
    • Winnie

      Tragically, real carnivorous man expire prematurely. :(

      Reply
  18. Luke

    Relaxing like cows? Do cows relaxing? I saw documentary called Food Inc, is very sad many animals on farms have very sad life and then get die very horribly. Maybe is good you eat vegetarian today… But I must admiting, you title makes me hungry for some beef!

    Reply
  19. Robert

    Hey Lindsay, I just had a vegetarian lunch at O’Hares pub on Railway at Steveston. French fries with curry sauce and raita. Went great with a glass of craft beer. Your readers will want to know about this place. BTW, beef and pork are also on the menu.

    Reply
  20. Janice

    Hey loved your post and am glad you are open to vegans as well. Looking forward to trying this restaurant out. Thanks!!!

    Reply
  21. Gurdeep

    Lindsay,
    Thanks for the great reviews. Long time Richmond residents, who is interested in trying some new places. The write-ups and pictures are great, however I do find it difficult to find the address for some of the places you review. It would nice to see it near the top or bottom .. consistently in same place, would be helpful:)
    Gurdeep

    Reply
    • Lindsay365

      Hi Gurdeep – I’ve heard this from a few people, so from now on I’ll write the full address at the very bottom. Thanks for the feedback, and thanks for reading!! :)

      Reply
  22. Sherry Sakamoto

    I have been enjoying the 4 Stones Restaurant food for the 14 years it has been in business (formerly Simply Vegetarian). It is by far the BEST vegetarian restaurant, BAR NONE and I guarantee you will not miss meat.

    The dishes are the creations of chef, Mr. Shih who is from Taiwan but trained in Japan.

    The dishes you were served are good but pretty boring to what else is available.

    My “must-try” recommendations are the braised green beans, the spicy cabbage deluxe and the miso treasure with crepes. Order 3-6 extra crepes as this dish is to die for!

    Parking is a bit of a hassle, but you can park across the street at the Richmond Centre mall near The Bay or at London Drugs parkade down the street. I would take a quick stroll into the store just in case cameras are watching…not sure about this but covering my bases! LOL

    Enjoy!

    Reply

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