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Now Open: Chakra
By Jul 18, 2013 Dining


A new "vegan" cafe by the name of Chakra has opened at the corner or Ruijin and Julu Lu. I popped in for lunch yesterday. Let's take a look at few of the items on the menu:

"Pumpkin Soup with Cream & Pumpkin Seed"
"Brei [sic] Cheese Panini"
"Pan-Fried Egg Panini"
"Garlic Butter Bread"
"Creme Brulee"
"Ice Cream"

Anyone notice anything strange yet?

Yeah. I was thinking the same thing. That's an awful lot of animal products for a restaurant that bills itself as not serving animal products. If you can read Chinese you'll discover even more of them in the salad section. Their Nicoise salad comes with a duck egg vinaigrette, for instance. Their garden salad has a honey lemon dressing (let's not forget that bees are animals, too).

My first assumption was that this was merely a language discrepancy. Totally understandable. Maybe the owners assumed that "vegan" and "vegetarian" are one and the same. Since the sign maker charges by the letter, using the word "vegan" was a way of cutting costs. Maybe it's a poor Romanization of some Chinese word I've never heard before.

After I finished my brie panini I asked the server if the brie was real. Her eyes widened and she let out a slight gasp. "Yes," she answered, "are you able to eat it?" Clearly they get it: "Vegan" means no animal products.

So why are there so many of them on Chakra's menu? It turns out that they're in "trial mode" right now. I'm not sure what exactly that means, but from what I could gather it works like this: They're going to spend four to six weeks turning off what is already a sliver of a demographic with a menu that they won't want to eat. After such time they'll finally unveil their bona fide vegan menu. I guess I've seen stranger business models...

So, if any of you out there were having any cravings for a tofurky sandwich on gluten-free bread and soy-based faux mayonnaise. I'm afraid you're going to have to wait a few weeks.


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