Flora vs Fauna: The Monkey Tree
Vegetarians are not all evil, despite what some may say (ahem, Tony Bourdain). I have some very good friends who are vegetarians, and while I don’t share their lifestyle choice I understand and respect it. I have no desire to get into a debate about the ethics and politics of the topic. Suffice it to say that vegetarianism is not for me. It never has been and I can’t see that it ever will be. It’s not that I eat a lot of meat; I eat some, sure, but it’s not necessarily a part of my daily diet. It’s just that I don’t want to be limited when it comes to food. There’s a wild, wonderful world of cuisine out there and I want to be free to explore it without inhibition. I want it all, baby.
That being said, I am perfectly happy eating vegetarian as long as the food is good. Case in point: The Monkey Tree. This great little bakery and restaurant, owned by a former baker at Sound Foods, Adam, and his lovely wife, opened not long ago on Vashon Island. All dark, weathered wood and creaky floorboards, stepping through the door I felt transported into a rustic farmhouse. The space is small, and you will likely end up eating elbow to elbow with your neighbor, but the atmosphere is so amicable and homey that you won’t care. On a recent visit, while perusing the menu and coming to the swift conclusion that I wanted to try one of everything, it had to be pointed out to me that the place was vegetarian. I had not even realized, the dishes were so satisfyingly complete.
My aunt, sister and I did our own family-style sharing of a few dishes, a strategy I recommend as you will have a hard time narrowing down your choice. We started with borscht, Russian beet soup. The borscht I had tried prior to this had been a thin, soupy variety: tasty, to be sure, but not a meal in itself. The Monkey Tree serves a traditional, hearty stew, full of vegetable chunks, topped (upon request) with sour cream and served with freshly made bread. This stuff will fill you up. Next we had a toasted open-faced sandwich, perfectly crunchy bread with artichoke hearts, grilled red peppers, and melted cheese on top (something akin to a provolone, the exact variety slips my mind). The satisfying crunch of the bread mingled happily with the tender juiciness of the toppings. With this we also ordered the black bean cakes, reportedly served with collard greens but in actuality appearing with a green salad. Never mind, it was the best dish of the bunch. The three cakes were more than plenty for one person. Tender, tangy, rich, topped with sour cream, this is one of the most well executed and delicious use of beans I’ve tried. At the end of the meal we were all left with that full, contented, happy-all-over feeling that follows any great dining experience. As full as we were, however, we could not resist taking some to-go items from the tempting case of baked goods. We were not sorry we did. After a rainy afternoon spent slogging around the beach with one very excited dog, some cake was just the thing. The pear bunt cake had a very natural, grainy texture–moist but not greasy, the pears tender, never slippery. The marbled chocolate butter cake was a bit crumbly, barely sweet, very natural and wholesome tasting. These desserts filled us up as solidly as any meal.
The Monkey Tree is completely worth a day trip out to Vashon Island. More than doing vegetarian dining justice, they do food justice. And how.
Bakery opens at 8:00 am, open for lunch daily from 11:00-3:00. Dinner is served Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 6:00-9:00 and dessert and wine from 9:00-10:00. Closed Wednesdays.
The Monkey Tree
17817 Vashon Hwy SW
Vashon, WA, 98070