Potala Organic in Albany Is Hearty, Simple, Healthy Vegetarian Food

There's a new, extremely healthy, veg restaurant in the East Bay with roots going back over 15 years to the old Organic Cafe in Oakland. A macrobiotic institution in Oakland, the Organic Cafe changed names to Manzanita and then to Shangri-La Vegan, but the food mostly stayed the same, thanks in large part to Tenzin, the faithful chef through it all.

If you've ever tasted Tenzin's cuisine, you'll know what a true artist in the kitchen can do. This man is like the vegetable and grain whisperer, teaching children to love kale with one wave of his magic spatula. Seriously, he's a master of healthy and delicious, and he's finally got his chance to shine in a brand-new restaurant of his very own, Polata Organic.

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A Polata Organic going on!

Sitting at the Berkeley/Albany border at 1045 San Pablo Avenue, Potala Organic is in the former Ruen Pair space. This fact is obvious, as it looks exactly as it did when Ruen Pair inhabited it -- posters advertising Thailand and Thai trinkets abound. It has the feel of a pop-up restaurant, but it's apparently (hopefully?) permanent.

The menu is pretty much the same as at Shangri-La Vegan -- hearty, simple, healthy vegetarian food. There's one menu, and you can order in three ways: the full meal, medium meal, or simple meal (prepared without oil and spices).

We're told that the difference between this food and at Shangri-La is that Tenzin will be able to experiment more heavily with spices, sauces, and bold flavors. Shangri-La's food is very satisfying in the way that if you've been eating bacon and Sour Patch Kids for a week, a meal at Shangri-La will leave you feeling like you had a visit to a spa -- one that possibly included a colonoscopy. (A non-gross colonoscopy.) It's just super simple, healthy, clean food: bowls of beans, rice, salads, greens, and roasted veggies that might be bland in hands less adept than Tenzin's.

Excitingly, the flavors at Potala Organic are definitely stronger than at Shangri-La, but not in an artificial way. Tenzin is clearly creating food with the best possible ingredients, and everything is just so damn fresh and flavorful. It's just a big bowl of delicious health, and I know I sound ridiculous saying that, but it is. Strange decor aside, this is definitely a place worth checking out, especially after an insane Thanksgiving feast.

Potala Organic, 1045 San Pablo Ave., Albany. (510) 528-2375. Open daily, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m., 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m.

Laura Beck is a founding editor of Vegansaurus! and tweets at mrpenguino.
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5 comments
Jenine
Jenine

I walked into this place expecting the old restaurant, Ruen Pair, a couple weeks ago and was happily surprised to have one of the best meals I've ever had in the Bay Area. This coming from a Berkeley native and a non-vegetarian--I highly recommend this spot!! Super fresh, delicious, well-balanced and really unique flavors.

Joe
Joe

Please explain how the vegetables at this restaurant are "extremely healthy" or even "healthy." 

I suspect they do not contain any extra vitamins or other nutrients. So what exactly makes them so "healthy" compared to the same vegetables elsewhere?

heather
heather

Um. What don't you understand? This is a restaurant that cooks up lots of vegetables and grains and things that nurture your body, as opposed to, say, calling pizza a vegetable and claiming that it's "healthy". Not really so confusing.

Joe
Joe

heather, you don't seem to understand how food works. I also don't know why you are answering for the author of the blog post.

Pizza also nourishes your body. (And you should keep up because it's pizza sauce, that is, tomato sauce, that was called a vegetable, not pizza. I'm sure you would agree that tomato sauce and tomatoes are at the least, "vegetarian." If not, you need to exclude all fruits from the definition of vegetarian.)My question to the blogger is, what makes that restaurant's vegetables any healthier than any other restaurant's? The word "healthy" is used numerous times as though this restaurant conveys health but others serving organic vegetables do not. 

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