Hello there! Remember me? I know, it’s been a while. Far too long. But The Perky Foodie is back and here to stay! Woooo!!!!! I hope you’re hungry!
Today’s gem of a restaurant is Jajaja, an unassuming vegan Mexican restaurant on the Lower East Side in NYC! I say unassuming because I literally walked past it three times in search of it– their sign is a tiny neon glow that can hardly be seen– but after I found it, waited on the Yelp waitlist for an hour and a half, and was finally seated… I knew I’d struck gold.
The restaurant is warmly colored, boldly patterned, hip, and floral, with its quaint tiled floors, cacti everywhere, hibiscus and mint in the water on the tables, and neon and fringe accents. Stop me if you don’t get this, but it was one of those restaurants in which I knew the food was going to taste like what the place looked like. Does that make sense?? Go there, you’ll get it.
So, my credentials for ideal vegan food do not usually include “tastes like meat”. You know that kind of vegan food that’s trying to be something it’s not? I love good vegan food, and I’d rather simply eat beautifully seasoned vegetables than something that’s soy in disguise trying to be something it’s not! I typically enjoy vegan food that is what it is unapologetically. ~However~ the food at Jajaja actually tasted like meat somehow and was 100% vegan??? And was SO good??? ¿¿¿Qué???
My friend and I split the nachos to start. Fresh tortilla chips smothered in turmeric-nut queso fundido, something that tasted very much like chorizo but definitely wasn’t (I’m still stumped as to what it was), black beans, spicy vegetable relish, and vegan sour cream. And we added guac (obviously).
These nachos were LOADED. My friend and I split the small portion, and it was anything but small in size and in flavor! There was so much going on in the best way possible. They were super spicy, and the crunchy chips were nearly overwhelmingly topped with so many wonderful items. The only downside: I have yet to be won over by vegan cheese, I’ll be honest. The vegan chorizo, however, was smoky and glorious.
We were full after the nachos alone, but of course there’s always room for more with food this good. My entree was the Enchiladas Mole. I’ve always been intrigued by mole, a rich brown sauce made with tomatoes, peppers, garlic, lots of spices, and the best ingredient– chocolate. It’s hard to convey how luscious and deep the flavor of this sauce is in words if the chocolate thing sounds weird to you, but trust me on this one– it’s amazing.
The enchiladas were stuffed with carnitas made of shredded palm. Now this is where I was truly shocked by how much vegetables can be made to taste like meat. My vegan friend I went to the restaurant with took a bite and said she would never order that because it tasted too much like actual meat! It really had the consistency of pulled pork or brisket, and it tasted like it too in its slightly spicy sauce, paired with another queso (which I didn’t clock as queso but didn’t mind). I’ve never had shredded palm as a meat alternative (or even heard of it), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it became the next trendy food item because it really has a great texture and absorbs flavor beautifully. The rice had a satisfying slight crunch to it, similar to socarrat– the rice that gets lightly toasted at the bottom of a Spanish paella– and this rice was perfect for the excess sauce.
- highly Instagrammable
- a great place to take your vegan AND non-vegan friends
- SOSOSO good.
Enjoy! 🙂 Love, The Perky Foodie