It’s been a little disconcerting for a vegetarian to watch the menu changes at La Perla, the Latin-inflected bar in downtown Fort Worth that has an ambitious food menu.
La Perla — which is trying to change its name from La Perla Negra, although you’ll still see the old designation on its Facebook page and elsewhere — was an early champion of Blue Zones-style “plant slant” eating. Meaning things like an actually exciting quinoa salad alongside its ceviches and pisco sours.
And in fact it was the first place in town where I saw little Blue Zones symbols all over the menu, prompting me to look into the Blue Zones restaurant program.
La Perla, it turns out, was one of the first three restaurants to be BZ-approved for the way it made making healthy eating easy and automatic — an accomplishment for what is essentially a bar.
But lately, based on the online menu, it has appeared that La Perla has gotten rid of every last vegetarian thing it had been offering. Even the sole salad listed comes with a choice of three meat toppings.
Fortunately, I had heard that people were still spotting plant-based dishes on offer at the restaurant, so I ventured back.
And hallelujah. The printed menu handed out at lunch and dinner has a quinoa salad ($8) that looks similar to the one La Perla had when it opened, with tomato, radish, roasted corn, onion and vinaigrette. Makes perfect sense that this kitchen does good things with this South American grain (I know it’s not truly a grain). There’s also a veggie sandwich ($10), with hummus, sprouts and several vegetables.
But the newer things are more interesting, starting with a great little veggie empanada ($5) with a lot of mushrooms in the filling and an herb sauce on top. Especially at this price, it’s one of the best bar snacks I’ve had.
Another nice one is the papas bravas ($7), a easy-to-share plate of fingerling potatoes seasoned with paprika and sea salt and served with a jalapeño crema that I’d be happy to drink. There’s also vegetarian-safe popcorn ($3), with butter, lime and Tajin (a Mexican seasoning powder with chile peppers).
La Perla is also doing a whole roasted cauliflower ($9), a beautiful presentation topped with pistachios and crema. The interior parts were less flavorful than the outside roasty bits, so we didn’t quite finish it, but I’d definitely order it again.
The brunch menu looks less vegetarian-friendly, but I was told the egg dishes can easily be modified. I wondered why there are no Blue Zones designations on the current menu, but our server said the kitchen is still refining it, trying to work out which items will become permanent. Keep La Perla in your rotation.
Let’s go to Tokyo
A new fast-casual chain has arrived in Fort Worth with an emphasis on healthy choices and lots of options for vegetarians and gluten-free diners. Tokyo Joe’s is in Waterside in west Fort Worth — the development where Whole Foods will open Oct. 12.
Tokyo Joe’s uses worthy ingredients such as wild-caught fish and some organic produce. The emphasis is on Japanese, but it’s really pan-Asian. I shared a sushi roll and scarfed a curry bowl in the same meal.
The Boulder veggie bowl ($7.25, named after the veggie-friendly Colorado city — this is a Colorado-based company) is nice, with lightly grilled tofu over brown rice with the expected vegetables: broccoli, water chestnuts snap peas, bean sprouts, onions, red bell peppers. You may choose one of 12 sauces, though, that can take it in a Japanese (yakatori, teriyaki) or Thai direction (peanut sauce, two curries).
I prefer the build-your-own option ($5.75 for tofu), because it lets you pick your own veggies ($1.35 for any mix of them). I get bored with those vegetables you see on every Asian menu — water chestnuts and broccoli, especially, are things I’d never choose.
So I made a bowl with tofu, udon noodles instead of rice, plus asparagus, carrots, green onions, jalapeño slices and the green lime-coconut curry sauce, which was spicy as advertised. Eleven of the 12 sauces are vegetarian (the other probably includes fish).
There’s also a vegetarian bento box ($9), a sushi roll with grilled tofu and avocado in the filling ($4 for four pieces, $6.50 for eight), and a fresh spring roll with tofu and veggies ($4). Every vegetarian and gluten-free option is clearly labeled as such on the menu.
Have a suggestion, a veggie news tip or a question? Send it to Marilyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter, @LonesomeVeg. For more Lonesome Vegetarian columns, visit dfw.com/vegetarian.