Just walking into packed but peaceful Cha-Ya makes you breathe a little lighter and feel a little more clear-headed. It must be the savory steam rising from the udon
pots simmering on the stove. Cha-Ya's menu of vegan Japanese temple cuisine reads like a nutritionist's wet dream -- it plays with more vegetables than most of us have ever heard of. Plus, each dish looks like it was personally designed by a food stylist. Whether compiled into sushi, steamed tofu custards, noodle soups, or rice bowls, those four dozen vegetables are tied in knots, cut into half-moons and cubes, and arranged into complex, rhythmic abstractions. Cha-Ya's food makes you realize that asceticism and aesthetics can share the same plate.