Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vegetarian. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Crossroads: A stylish vegan spot for pretty people

Artichoke "oysters" are a fun take on oysters on the half shell, with fried oyster mushrooms sitting on artichoke leaves instead of shells, topped with kelp "caviar"

What: A small plates Mediterranean restaurant that happens to be all vegan, Crossroads is much more upscale bistro than scruffy hippie hangout.
Where: 8284 Melrose, across from Duff's Cakemix , in the slightly cursed former Dolce/Philippe spot.
The goods: Chef Tal Ronnen worked at Lyfe Kitchen and created his own vegan cheese recipes; he's also cooked for Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres and pitched for Gardein faux-meats. He leans towards Italian and Middle Eastern flavors, which is probably the right idea for approachable and flavorful vegan dishes.
He's a big devotee of cashew-based cheeses and such, so if you're allergic to nuts, be sure to consult with the kitchen before ordering.
Crossroads is L.A.'s only vegan spot with a full bar, and the cocktails are one of the highlights. Wine and beer lists are also well thought-out.
Crossroads has a comfy feel with dark red banquettes and dark wood moldings, contemporary chandeliers, a long bar and a more secluded titled room that will eventually house a provisions boutique with Ronen's signature aged vegan cheeses. Hope no one confuses it with Crossroads Trading clothing just down the street.
Who You'll See: Owner Steve Bing; DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg; girls stopping by the bar after a Cakemix birthday party; a low-key yet very Hollywood crowd.
Salads are always a strong suit of vegan restaurants, of course, and this Spring chopped salad with pea tendrils, English peas and watermelon radish is no exception.

Recommended dishes: Kale spanokopita with harissa smoked tomato fondu, cauliflower bisque with fried capers, artichoke oysters, Sunset & Vine cocktail with tequila, St. Germain, blood orange, beet and ginger beer.

Skip it: Neither the carrot cake ice cream nor citrus panna cotta really worked with whatever secret ingredients were replacing cream and eggs. Chocolate bundt cake was quite bitter, yet more to my taste.
Possibility of a return visit: Prices are quite reasonable for the ambiance and location (no meat costs!), so if I wanted to impress a vegetarian friend and not have to order dishes called things like "I Am Transcendent," then sure.

(This meal was comped.)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Veggie Grill: Eating veggie without really noticing

Veggie Grill's sweet potato fries
I wasn't sure what to expect at Veggie Grill, a Southern California mini-chain that takes "American comfort food" -- bbq chicken sandwiches, onion rings, Buffalo chicken wings -- and makes them completely vegan, but with familiar flavor profiles. A few writers and I were invited to try the Farmer's Market location recently and meet with co-owner T.K. Pillan, who is firmly convinced that eating "plant-based cuisine" has numerous health benefits. The owner says that even with deep frying and secret sauces and such, diners are still getting lots of benefits from eating plant-based meals.
veggie Buffalo wings
Hail Kale salad

What I liked about Veggie Grill wasn't so much the pseudo-meats but the large variety of salads and vegetable side dishes, especially the kale-based ones. Hail Kale salad seems to be everyone's favorite, and it's a filling mix of kale, grilled tempeh, carrots, tomatoes, walnuts and corn salsa. If Veggie Grill were a touch closer to my office, I'd certainly pick one of these up for a healthy lunch. They also Thai chickin' salad, Baja Fiesta and Chop Chop chef. Veggie Grill definitely doesn't want you to go away hungry, and the veggie burgers, grilled portabello sandwich and various chickin' sandwiches combine wheat buns with lots of vegan mayo-based sauces for hearty, if not exactly low-calorie meal. My favorite things we tried were the sweet potato fries, and the steaming kale with ginger miso dressing. As far as the mac 'n cheese with vegan cheese -- well, just get the fries instead.
Portabello sandwich, mac 'n cheese
If you're not big on fake meat, just stick with soup, chili, fries, a salad or portabello burger. Veggie Grill isn't trying to be fine dining, it's a fast casual place where everything is under $10 and people who aren't used to vegan food won't be intimidated, and it does a fine job within those parameters. Pillan says the plan is to keep expanding, possibly to Pasadena, the Valley and out of state, in the near future.
Veggie Grill: Farmer's Market, West Hollywood, Santa Monica, Torrance, El Segundo, Irvine

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Would you go veggie for 30 days for GoodLA?

Good is doing some excellent work with its local Los Angeles community news and events. They support everything from food swaps to beer bike rides, and you can't argue with doing good. The magazine/integrated media platform emailed me to ask if I'd like to post about their June challenge, which is to go meat-free for 30 days to help save the planet. I'd love to support Good and all they do, but that's just too long for a foodblogger to go without carnitas, sushi and shortribs. Actually I don't eat much meat at all, but I feel better if I keep up a fairly steady supply of fish, poultry and the occasional pork belly-scallop skewer like last night at Moko. But I'll try to be mindful of choosing more sustainable poultry and meat this month, and maybe get a bit more ambitious with some vegetarian main dishes, just to be a good sport. Which is probably more than most foodbloggers would do, since they tend to skew thoroughly meatarian like this Ruth Bourdain graphic mocking the new government food recommendations.
What do you think? Would you go meat-free for a month? Do you think it would make a significant environmental difference?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Mooi: Some like it raw

Mooi represents the new Echo Park with a vengeance: it's fashionable, yet funky, with a decadent sounding selection of dozens of flavors of ice cream -- yet the ice cream is made from raw cashews, and the "orange chicken" is made from jackfruit. Located in the old Jensen's Rec Center building, the look is fetching, with menus made from Dr. Seuss books, mismatched vintage furniture and an ice cream counter up front.And of course the patrons sport beards worthy of a deep woods logging camp. At lunch, though, you won't get to try the jackfruit chicken or enchiladas with sliced walnuts -- the lunch menu is quite small, with a soup, a few salads and two "sandwiches."
I use the term loosely because truly, a slice of cucumber on a clump of raw grains mushed into a patty does not a sandwich make.
A mild salad of apple, cucumber and zucchini cubes in a curry dressing was fine because of course, salad is normally raw. Though the sandwiches were basically a joke, I quite liked the ice cream. Given the caloric content of cashews and coconut, I'm guessing it's nutritionally similar to the real stuff, but my chocolate chile and Layne's Cracker Jack ice cream had a mapley sweetness,with a touch of salted caramel -- and pretty good in their own right.
I'd like to say I'll be back to try the more ambitious dinner menu, but who am I fooling? There's plenty of other places that actually apply heat to their food, so I'll probably pass, unless I'm totally jonesing for some apricot cashew ice cream.

1700 W. Sunset Blvd.
Echo Park

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cafe Flourish brings on the greens

Cafe Flourish opened down the street from my office several months ago, and despite glowing reviews from vegan bloggers like Quarrygirl, it took me a while to get there. Why? Well, for one thing, it's vegan, and I'm kind of compulsive about making sure I get enough protein at lunch to get me through the day. Plus, ten blocks might as well be ten miles when you're stuck in a busy office all day.
Feeling like I could use some more vegetable matter in my diet, I finally stopped by for dinner after work the other night, and now I know I'll be hauling some of my vegetarian colleagues back there soon.Cafe Flourish is located in one of the Miracle Mile's historic office buildings, with a clean, modern design. The dishes are saddled with cutesy names like Amen for Almond Hummus and Hooray for Burritos, but don't let that bother you, the food is fresh and vibrant and makes you feel like you've actually eaten enough vegetables for a change (a constant challenge for those who live to sample taco trucks and sushi buffets). For some reason I always order BLTs in vegan cafes. I think it's because I love how they slather everything in pseudo-mayonaise. Flourish's BLT & A (yes, it stands for Be Love Thanks and Abundance) is one of the best I've had. For $9.25, it's a reasonable portion rather than an overstuffed sandwich, with excellent tomatoes, avocado and spicy mayo alongside the tempeh bacon. Each sandwich comes with a side of green salad, tabbouleh or 3 bean salad. Don't be fooled by wan pre-made 3-bean salads you've had before: this one combines kidney beans with edamame and black-eyed peas, with a sweet viniagrette and chopped peppers and celery. It's delicious, plus you feel incredibly virtuous while eating it. There's a few tables inside and a few outside on Wilshire, and they seem to do a very steady takeout business as well.
I'll definitely be back soon, even if I'm forced to ask for a "Flourish Plate, Y'all" or a Mediterranean Gratitude pizza.
Cafe Flourish
5406 Wilshire Blvd.
Cafe Flourish on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Cafe Flourish: new Miracle Mile vegan

Us Wilshire Blvd. workers are always happy to see new places joining the tired selection of restaurants between Fairfax and La Brea. A new vegan spot, Cafe Flourish opened a few weeks ago in this historic art deco building at 5406 Wilshire. They've got quesadillas, ruben sandwiches, chocolate-peanut butter pie, cookies, cupcakes coffee and more, and a few preliminary reports on Yelp. I was on my way to beef up at Umami, so I didn't try it, but I'll try to walk over soon since I love my veggies just as much as my meat.
Turns out Quarrygirl tried Cafe Flourish yesterday, and says it "truly has its shit together." Jackfruit tacos, huh? Wonder where they got that idea?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Cafe Bravo: A fine choice for vegetarians and meatatarians alike

Eggplant, yogurt with spinach, cabbage and potato salads

After Kathy's guest post about the "sizzling meat aroma" at the newly-opened Cafe Bravo in Silver Lake, a vegetarian commentor opined that it was not a helpful post for veggies. But nearly all Middle Eastern restaurants have a large selection of vegetarian dishes, and Cafe Bravo is no exception. So I thought I'd blog about my (nearly) vegetarian lunch there just to keep everyone happy. Although a woman did walk in and say "It smells so good in here!," I didn't find the meaty smell that pervasive. Cafe Bravo's menu is somewhat different than some other Armenian/Lebanese restaurants like Zankou Chicken. There's no rotisserie chicken, and no falafel. So what's a veggie to do? You can choose from a hummus and grape leaves sandwich; a vegi plate with hummus, tabbouleh and stuffed grape leaves; a vegi kabob with hummus and rice or go for more variety with the Bravo salad sampler. Cafe Bravo breaks from the usual menu with a a choice of 10 different salads, and you can mix and match four for $6.50 including pita bread. It would be easy to go all-vegan, but I opted for yogurt with spinach, cabbage salad, ikra (roasted eggplant, bell peppers and tomatoes) and Stolichnaya salad, which adds chicken to potato salad, so ok, it wasn't completely vegetarian. But there's also bean and corn salad, as well as fattoush and Greek salad. I loved the thick, creamy yogurt which was seasoned to complement the spinach, and the cabbage salad with carrots and lemon juice was healthy and refreshing. But my favorite was the Ikra, a kind of Middle Eastern ratatouille, with super-smoky eggplant and deep carmelized onion flavor. Next time, I'll try the lentil soup, which is just $2 a cup. As far as meat options, there's kabob plates and kabob sandwiches of chicken, Cornish hen, beef, pork and lamb, chicken shwarma and beef shwarma. It's not fancy inside, but there's plenty of tables to eat there and they seem to be doing a brisk takeout business as well. Silver Lake seems very happy to get a place with freshly-cooked, healthy food where nothing on the menu costs more than $8.50.
Cafe Bravo
2662 Griffith Park Blvd. (next to Hard Times Pizza)
323-912-1111 (closed Sunday)

Cafe Bravo on Urbanspoon

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Vegan Spot: Behold the vegan Twinkie

Can you tell I'm working on a vegan round-up for the Los Feliz Ledger? Today's fake meat was courtesy of the Vegan Spot, which replaced Cardone's short-lived deli on Sunset. Outside, the Vegan Spot sign looks cheery and rather generic, while inside, the spare storefront sports a bright, artsy mural and not much else, looking more like a juice bar than a full restaurant. In back, the old neon "mozzarella" sign leans forlornly against a wall near the restroom, waiting for the day when dairy might be allowed back in. The menu's fairly large, with meat and dairy-free versions of things many vegans didn't even know they were missing, i.e. Philly cheesesteaks, roast beef sandwiches, turkey dinners...and Twinkies. There's also salads, breakfast (although they open at 11), and chocolate banana or peanut butter and jelly shakes.
I had a pretty good ABLT -- I've had better vegan versions with crispier tempeh bacon, but the secret sauce melded with the avocado in such a perfect way that it redeemed the whole sandwich. And the coleslaw was woefully underdressed and/or underseasoned, but a shot of the wine vinegar I keep on my desk remedied that. As a shameless omnivore, I didn't feel truly qualified to judge the food at the Vegan Spot, so I asked a vegetarian colleague to try the Philly Cheesesteak (below).
Here's what he said:"The Philly Cheese Steak was great. But you have to remember this is coming from a guy who hasn't eaten a Philly Cheese Steak in 15 years. Vegan cheese is a tricky thing. It doesn't like to melt, and when it does, it tends to melt in a very unappetizing manner. Their cheese, on the other hand, was great. I think they make their own 'meat,' which surprised me. It wasn't bad. It was just, considering the effort, a tad unremarkable."
Now for the Twinkie: For me, this was a healthyish, not-too-sweet pastry to have with my morning tea, although the specific gravity was somewhat heavier than an actual Twinkie. Here's what my colleague said: "I haven't eaten a Twinkie in more than a decade. And for that singular accomplishment I forgive all shortcomings. I'll be back."So there you go. Fun to check out for the veg crowd, but the omnis might be bemused by the faux roast beef. Service is of the freak folk variety...a bit dreamlike, but friendly.
Vegan Spot
3206 W. Sunset Blvd.
(323) 667-0116

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

M Cafe de Chaya: If one is good, two must be better

It looks like butter on the side, but it's "soy butter."

The new M Cafe de Chaya in Culver City doesn't even have a sign out front yet, but that doesn't stop gaggles of parents with slick strollers and lunching gal pals from filling every table on a Saturday afternoon. The second outpost of the trendy macrobiotic cafe is far easier to navigate than its cramped Melrose parent, with its nearly non-existent parking and broiling hot sidewalk tables. There's a spacious patio, lots of street parking, and a bar along one wall with plenty of extra stools in addition to the large communal table. I like M Cafe much better than most supposedly healthy places because 1) Most of the food actually has some flavor and 2) There's fish, so I don't get that panicky "what if I don't get enough protein" feeling that vegan restaurants sometimes cause.
It's a bit early for their excellent tuna burger, and I'm feeling virtuous, so I'm ready to spring for a tofu scramble with tempeh bacon and sweet potato hash. But they're somehow out of scramble, so I try the cranberry walnut French toast with maple syrup and cranberry compote. I'm not sure how they make it since there's no eggs involved, but it's a tasty, hearty brunch dish with the tangy cranberries on the side adding a nice counterpoint to the syrup, even though I could swear they're raisins. It's a little odd that although you can get a double espresso, you can't get any black tea like Earl Grey or Darjeeling, so I get a strong cup of green tea served with cunning little packets of maple crystals. The only problem with the Culver City location is that you're probably less likely to spot Jake Gyllenhaal or Sarah Silverman than at the Melrose one. Or that could be an advantage for some people, I guess.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yet more vegan fare in Silver Lake

While ordering carne asada tacos at El Siete Mares over the weekend, we noticed that Cardone's Deli on Sunset has been replaced by a new place called The Vegan Spot. Don't get us wrong, we like some green stuff in-between liberal doses of carne asada. In fact, the post before this was about the Pure Luck, and the one after this will be about the new M Cafe de Chaya in Culver City. But there are seriously a lot of vegan places in Silver Lake and Echo Park already. (Cru, Flore Cafe, Elf, at least four Thai places, etc.) So we're just wondering, are there really that many vegans on the near-Eastside? Are there substantially more than in other areas, because the concentration of vegstaurants seems denser, kind of like the mac 'n fake cheese at some of these places.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Zen Burger: Fast food vegging in Hollywood

I always thought there should be more healthy fast food places, but I'll have to reserve comment on Zen Burger until I taste it. Zen Burger, which opened in New York last fall, is coming in late summer/early fall to 7950 Sunset, near the corner of Hayworth. The prices are certainly right -- about $4 for most items -- but something about faux-beef and faux-chicken sometimes rubs me the wrong way. Here's a review of the New York outlet from the Midtown Lunch blog.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Taste test: Lucking out at Pure Luck

Life Elf Cafe in Echo Park, the Pure Luck is one of those places that could exist only on the near-Eastside at this point in time: a groovy vegan cafe with a loyal retinue of perfectly-scruffed young patrons sporting heavy tattoage, ironic eyewear and much facial hair, which just happens to have a killer beer list. Real old-timers will remember that the old building that houses the Pure Luck used to be Cafe Mambo, a happening Latino-style diner owned by the Cha Cha Cha family. Well, it's happening again, but instead of chorizo and eggs, this time it's jackfruit carnitas (below left), one of the wonders of the vegan world with which I was not previously acquainted. You can keep your mock meats and such, because jackfruit carnitas tacos are strangely tasty and meaty, if perhaps a bit protein-deficient. I can never remember where to go when I want a big salad, but Pure Luck's salad selection sounded promising. There's also burritos, wraps, tacos, tortas and and an array of snacks to help sop up the beer. We tried the fried dill pickle chips (right) served with barbecue sauce, which I devoured scary fast, and the sweet potato fries with a sweet mustard dip, which were kind of limp. Beers are top-notch, including the Anvil ESB, one of my favorites, and the Stone Smoked Porter. Fortunately Pure Luck sees the wisdom of offering half-pints so you can try a few varieties. There's also a tamarind/lime/soju cocktail that looks pretty good.
Verdict: Super cute, with some good dishes. I wish it was a bit more pub-like with lower lighting; instead it has more of a vegan diner feeling. Make sure to hit Scoops across the street afterwards for dessert.
Pure Luck
707 N. Heliotrope
(323) 660-5993
(lunch and dinner, closed Sunday)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Open in time for Sunset Junction: Flore Vegan Cuisine

The Sunset Junction area is uber-busy this week, with everyone spiffing up in time for the Sunset Junction fair. Flore Vegan Cuisine opened Thursday and owner Miranda reports it was packed the very first day. They're open for breakfast and lunch right now; dinner may follow later. Dishes include blueberry buckwheat pancakes, tofu scrambles, seitan tacos, tempeh salad and avocado, grapefruit and fennel salad.
Flore Vegan Cuisine
3818 W. Sunset Blvd.
(323) 953-0611

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Taste test: Elf Cafe

I went to Elf Cafe a month or two ago, but just now got around to writing about it. Here's some of my review from the Los Feliz Ledger.
Out front on Sunset Blvd., a punked-out young couple enjoy a leisurely dinner while their infant slumbers away in a designer stroller. Several parties show up with wine bottles in hand, taking advantage of the $5 corkage and quickly filling the restaurant's nine tables.
Right now, Elf is the quintessential Echo Park restaurant: no sign in front, deer line drawings on the front of the organic menu, no reservations, cash only. The owners also have a band, Eastern music-meets-electropop act Viva K. Despite the rather precious trappings, the service is genuinely friendly and attentive and the food is clearly made with care as well. Chef Timothy Maloof, who also runs a packaged raw food business out of the space, is from a Lebanese background, but the menu ranges beyond the Middle East to a few Greek-inspired dishes, Moroccan vegetable tagine and French vegetable tarts. It's homey food, like you might have whipped up in your kitchen if you had all morning to spend at the farmer's market. Some dishes have a hint of hippie cooking, like a sturdy brown rice pilaf with the roasted fennel and beet plate. Others are light and modern, like the cool Greek cucumber and dill-laced yogurt soup that helps cool off a warm summer night. Elf's Greek white lasagna, a version of pastitsio, is satisfying with garbanzo beans and potatoes standing in for the usual ground lamb, a good choice for those used to meaty dishes. Confirmed greens lovers will like the kale salad with avocado, hemp seeds and a bright citrus dressing, although it might be easier to eat with smaller pieces of kale. As the restaurant evolves, the chef might try varying the ingredients more with the seasons (an autumnal pear tart stays on the menu even in prime summer fruit season) and creating some more imaginative presentations, but for now it's enough just to have a pleasant restaurant in the neighborhood. And it couldn't be more adorable, from the elfin band member/servers to the pierced parents on the sidewalk.
Dinner for two with two starters, two mains and one dessert ran about $60, reasonable enough for the organic origins and attentive service.
Elf Cafe, 2135 W. Sunset Blvd., Echo Park (no phone)

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Vegans: Pedantic and pretentious, or just healthy?

Chowhounders nearly came to virtual blows recently over Echo Park's tiny Elf Cafe. Although most posters seem to like the vegan, vegetarian and raw food, debate rages over whether the owners and clientele are, variously, "a little too hip," "freak folk" and "hipstery pretentious." The owners have the local band Viva K, which does not seem particularly freak folk. I haven't gotten to Elf Cafe yet -- they're only open Wednesday to Sunday evenings -- but I'll try to report back soon.