BEST VEGETARIAN RESTAURANT (1998)

Take the organic warm mock-duck salad. It's plain old mock duck, glazed until crisp in a potent ginger-garlic paste, served on greens with a peanut-lemon grass dressing. It's thoroughly vegetarian, yet lively and harmonious. A recent special of sautéed eggplant with two sauces (tomato and yogurt mint), basmati rice pilaf, chickpea stew, and green beans is as sophisticated as any chestnut-purée-enhanced beef tenderloin, with loads less ethical and calorie-counting guilt. Sure, it's not a strictly vegetarian restaurant, but no vegetarian restaurant around here prepares food even half as well. Brenda Langton has the gift of culinary magic: taking the simplest items, be they chickpeas or salmon fillets, and burnishing them until they shine.

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