Editors' pick

Sunflower Vegetarian Restaurant

Japanese, Vegetarian/Vegan
$$$$ ($14 and under)

Editorial Review

2007 Fall Dining Guide
By Tom Sietsema
Washington Post Magazine
Sunday, Oct. 14, 2007

From the outside, Sunflower's low-slung brick facade and aluminum trim could pass for a Long Island diner. Enter through its doors, though, and what you discover is a tasteful oasis of soft green and yellow, accented by depictions of the namesake plant and ringed with Japanese-style dining nooks. The menu is free of meat, although meat, fish and chicken are suggested in the likes of satisfying "sushi" fashioned from brown rice and pickled vegetables, as well as in the kabobs threaded with barbecued mushrooms, zucchini and soy protein. "I feel like I'm being cleansed," a dining companion says between sips of carrot-beet-ginger-apple juice and dips into an enormous bowl of soup thick with shredded cabbage, mushrooms, baby corn and bamboo shoots. The soup's broth, at once hot, sour and afloat with a saucer-size vegetable patty, is alone worth the price of admission. Not everything lives up to its promise -- "Burst With Joy," a pale swamp of mushrooms and ginger that looks like steamed tripe, grows tedious a few bites in. But you have to admire a kitchen that can satisfy vegetarians and carnivores in equal measure and the winning way of the gracious servers. The name might ring a bell: Sunflower is a spinoff of a restaurant in Vienna that has been spreading MSG-free cheer for a decade.