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Cha-Ya Restaurant 1686 Shattuck Ave./Virginia St.; Gourmet Ghetto.  With only a teeny, tiny space and just a few tables, this popular spot often requires a wait at dinner.  Counter seating, with a view of the kitchen action, is sometimes an option.  Vegan Japanese cuisine is the draw, with gyoza and tempura on the menu along with oodles of noodles and sushi.  (Vegan means that no animal products of any kind are used—“No milk, no eggs, no gelatin, no fish, no dairy.  Not even honey made by the hard working bee.”)  Dishes are artfully presented and satisfying.  Desserts include fresh pineapple and a chocolate mousse cake.

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travel writer Carole Terwilliger Meyers

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