Hail Seitan's Realm
Last week I plowed through spicy wings, a Reuben, jalapeno poppers, an Arby’s-style sandwich, loaded fries, plus an immense slab of chocolate cake. And the effect this had on my cholesterol level? If anything, it likely inched down.
No, I haven’t made a deal with the devil, but I have been praising seitan lately.
Seitan — pronounced say-tan — is an interesting vegan ingredient that is sometimes called “wheat meat” because it has a meat-like texture and it's made of gluten, the primary protein in wheat.
Seitan is interesting etymologically, too: It’s a portmanteau of Japanese words that basically means “vegetable protein.”
Seitan’s Realm — the eatery that prepared the aforementioned wings, Reuben, poppers et al. — has been having fun with seitan as a word and a protein since the little to-go (at least currently) shop premiered in Clintonville two months ago.
A spinoff from a popular same-named food truck, the brick-and-mortar Seitan’s Realm assumed the space vacated by A Common Table. The new occupant has redecorated the restaurant in a cheerfully irreverent, Halloween style that draws on the satan/seitan similarity and incorporates an occult-esque logo, devil-red lights, cartoonishly “demonic” rock ’n’ roll imagery, skulls and so forth.
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The fare served at Seitan’s Realm is playful, too, featuring vegan versions of deli, fast food and sports pub favorites. That Seitan’s Realm succeeds so well at preparing such crowd-pleasing dishes using only plant-based ingredients is a pretty, well, hellacious achievement.
Appetizers were a highlight. For example, after biting into the pricey but eminently likeable, spicy and substantial Poppers ($15 for six), the last thing on my mind was “healthful substitute.” These huge, skillfully fried, crackly coated jalapenos with molten “cream cheeze” and “chedduh” fillings enhanced by smokey house “bacun” are some of the better poppers around.
Bacun bits and persuasive melted cheeze also contributed to the success of the Loaded Fries ($10 for a big serving). So did creamy house ranch dressing drizzles, snipped scallions and a base of mostly crisp seasoned curly fries.
The hits — and wacky, vegan-ingredient spellings — continued with the recommended Buffalo Wingz ($12): hefty and “meaty” pieces of fried seitan with a pleasantly threatening cayenne-pepper bite. While not as vinegary as many other Buffalo wings and more like oversize nuggets, these were a top-notch replacement for the real thing.
Partnering appetizers with generous good sides ($4) — such as the sweet-and-sour Vinegar Coleslaw and the fine Broccoli Salad (firm florets accented with nuts, dried fruit, bacun bits, onions and a credible plant-based mayo) — makes an entertaining shared dinner, especially if you tack on the Devil’s Food Cake (a mammoth slice of dense, moist and delicious chocolate cake; $6).
A dozen sandwiches are offered, too. Several riff on Arby’s specialities, such as the modest-sized but pretty convincing Beeef N Chedduh ($9): Thinly sliced seitan resembling roast beef layered onto an onion roll with two sauces flavored like Arby’s eponymous condiment and its gooey cheese sauce.
With The Notorious B.B.Q ($12), y’all can have your barbecue and eat your vegan food, too. The nice enough smoke-scented ensemble combined texturally on-target pulled “porq” drenched in a tangy sauce with slaw plus comforting “mac n cheeze.”
Seitan is especially effective at mimicking chicken, and The Dude Ranch ($11) bears that out. One of the most satisfying sandwiches I sampled, this featured a thick, crispy breaded fried disk of “chickun” enhanced by plant-based cheese, ranch and bacun, plus lettuce, tomato and a shiny pretzel bun.
The Rick Reuben ($10) was somewhat sloppy and missing its cheese component, but the Reuben-style sandwich wasn’t lacking for bold flavors: marbled rye, aggressive kraut, good house-made Thousand Island dressing plus loads of “corned beeef” scented with peppercorns, cloves, bay leaf and — give the devilishly impressive seitan its due — believability.
3496 N. High St., Clintonville