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Teapot Vegetarian House

The Teapot has long been one of Seattle's vegetarian treasures. The restaurant has become so popular that it has expanded to the Eastside, opening a second location in Redmond. Teapot is a big hit for good reason: the menu boasts dozens of delicious, exotic vegetarian choices. It would take many visits to exhaust all the possibilities.

Chinese-American proprietor Cathy Jones opened the restaurant, formerly called The Mandarin, in the 1980s. At that time, there were just a few vegetarian options on the menu. But as the years passed, she increasingly added meatless dishes, to the point that in 1998, she decided to scrap meat altogether and switch over to an all-vegan restaurant. Jones explains that her family grew tired of cooking meat, and a high percentage of her customers were vegetarians anyway. To mark the change, she switched the restaurant's name.

The menu features dishes from all over Asia, including Thailand, Japan, Indonesia and Singapore. All this great food is offered in a pleasant dining room on Capitol Hill with lots of greenery and a small pond with gold fish in the middle of the restaurant. The new Redmond location, in a strip mall near Microsoft, exhibits a tranquil Zen eloquence.

Many of the dishes at Teapot make use of fake meats, made from wheat gluten. These fake beef, chicken, duck and seafood dishes have their roots in Chinese Buddhist history. Chinese Buddhists developed vegetarian meals that resemble meat because they wanted to show their guests hospitality by giving them food that was like their own.

Come prepared to make some tough decisions. The appetizer and soup portion of the menu alone comprises nearly 20 choices. There are potstickers, spring rolls, steamed dumplings, fried wontons, hot and sour soup, miso soup and tom yum soup-a spicy Thai version made with mushrooms, seasonal vegetables, lemongrass, lime and basil. If you don't feel like making decisions, you could perhaps try the bobo platter ($12.95), which provides several of the appetizers in one selection.
The entrees pages mean more difficult decisions. Here, there are nearly 60 choices. Especially good are the Thai green curry, smoked salmon fillets made from tofu and nori and jewel box, a dish of cashews, almonds and diced vegetables served in a purse of nori and tofu film. Other options include tempura vegetables, phoenix nest (vegetables cooked with mushrooms and gluten in a nest of crispy shredded potato), broccoli beef, a bachelor hot pot with chunks of fake meat, cabbage, tomato, mushrooms and broccoli, and Singapore-style rice noodles.

Another way to avoid making tough menu choices is to go with one of the combination or family dinners. The diamond vegetarian meal, for example ($15.95 per person, two-person minimum) provides sizzling rice soup, potstickers, tofu prawns in spicy tomato sauce, gold and jade sizzler (a sizzling plate of tofu with mushrooms, onions and scallions) and vegetable chow mein. If additional people join you, more dishes are added to the meal.

Teapot on Capitol Hill (206-325-1010) is located at 345 15th Avenue E #201. The Redmond location (425-373-1888, 425-747-8881) is located at 15230 NE 24th St. Teapot is open daily from 11:30 to 10:30. Entrees are mostly in the $7 to $12 range.