The menu at Chinese Club—a rinse and reboot of Malaysian spot Pasar Malam on Grand Street in Williamsburg—isn't strictly vegetarian by any means. The Indian-Chinese menu has loads for dedicated carnivores, like tender bites of dark meat in the Hakka Chili Chicken and a taboo selection of bovine dishes like Steak and Asparagus Stir Fry—even the rice is infused with chicken from the kitchen's homemade stock. These dishes are all delicious in their own right, but it's the restaurant's meat-free dishes that really surprise and delight, especially the Manchurian Vegetable, a true melange of Indian and Chinese flavors and styles.
It's something co-owner Stacey Mehta Lo's great grandfather might have served to Indian ex-pats living in China in 1914 when he founded the Darjeeling Chinese Club, upon which this Brooklyn effort is modeled. As vegetarianism is common in India, Lo and her husband Salil Mehta wanted to honor that tradition with a dish that would satisfy cravings for Chinese flavors without the use of animals.
Butter Salt & Pepper Mushrooms (Nell Casey/Gothamist)
The resulting dish looks a bit like Swedish meatballs, little balls of vegetables in a savory broth. Instead of pork, however, these fried orbs are composed of cabbage, carrot and onions, seasoned with garlic. The broth they're floating in is a soy-based brown sauce infused with cilantro, chili, garlic and ginger. It shares some genes with kofta, the vegetarian balls often served in a creamy sauce, but this version is 100% vegan.
One could easily make for a light meal with the veggie balls and a side of (non-chicken-infused) rice, but don't miss out on another vegetarian winner: Butter Salt & Pepper Mushroom. The mushrooms are tempura fried whole—you can just make out the shape of the caps and stems through the batter—in a peppery seasoning then tossed with scallions. It's Mehta's version of calamari for vegetarians; you definitely won't miss the squid.