This restaurant is located in Talmage, a small center just east of Ukiah, which used to be one of California's larger mental hospital compounds before they were all shut down by Ronald Reagan, and the nuts simply turned loose on the streets of Berkeley. The building housing the Jyun Kang restaurant looks like the old doctors' cafeteria; nearby is the old gymnasium, now the "Hall of 10,000 Buddhas" (though I didn't actually count them I wouldn't be surprised to find it was literally true) just down the road from the laundry. The compound is now called the "City of 10,000 Buddhas," and frankly it was rather creepy to walk through to get to the restaurant, which had been recommended to us by a trusted friend. The place reminds you of that bleak town in "The Last Picture Show," only the avenues have been re-named, things "Street of Transcendent Virtue" or "Righteousness Boulevard": there was almost no one around, and wanted only the occasional tumbleweed blowing down the road to complete the post-nuclear atmosphere. I was told, later, that the monks and other inhabitants are forbidden from mingling with "outsiders". My guess was that they'd all visited Ukiah once, and felt that was enough.
The restaurant, by contrast to the grounds, was crowded and we were lucky to get a table. Take note, you e-types: this is a CASH ONLY establishment! The decor was very basic, in fact just a few travel calendars in Chinese. One of the fluorescent overhead lights even buzzed, just like in my old school cafeteria. The first time we went there the tables were the original long institutional ones, and one ended up sitting next to strangers, which was not such a bad experience. Now those are gone, replaced by the usual tables-for-four, which is kind of too bad.
The original menu, which unfortunately has also been cleaned up a bit since our first visit, was simply wonderful. The food is not just vegetarian, or even strict vegetarian, but strict Buddhist Vegan vegetarian, and gratefully the menu was written by somebody with a tenuous command of English which helped mitigate the righteousness. And really, who among the inquisitive diners of the world can resist trying a "Fried round ball in Healthy Sauce"? Or an "Excellent Stirring with Sauce"? Or even "Ginger Balls"? Not me, for one -- and all of them were utterly delicious. Whatever they were.
More familiar Chinese dishes like spring rolls, basil & eggplant, and sweet & sour whatever also appear. Portions are not immense, but quite satisfying. The veggies and herbs were fresh and flavorful, the fried items cooked just right and not heavy or greasy -- in fact everything was very well prepared, reasonably priced, and we left feeling full and contented and quite pleased with the whole experience. It was still a bit creepy walking back to the car, which we'd mistakenly parked far off by the gate, but we'll just park closer to the restaurant next time.
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