• toi on sunset – vegan hipster/stoner food

    May 26th, 2008mr meanerLA restaurants, toi

    OK, anywhere that opens at 11am, remains open until 4am the next day and calls itself “rockin’ Thai food” is begging for the midnight and early morning crowd. Who dines at 3am?

    • I have been known to
    • Hipsters (usually just out of a recording session [they wish]) do
    • Stoners do (duh)
    • Vegans do, as this is almost certainly the only place to get vegan food of any quality (other than Burger King fries, and even those are questionable) after about 11pm

    On a recent late night visit there, I chowed down on my usual order:

    Saigon Spring Rolls (Cold Vietnamese spring rolls with basil), a hearty portion for a hearty price of $9.95.

    It’s nice to have a mixture of basil, cilantro and crunchy tofu all wrapped up into one, along with vegetables (outside and in) and a couple of nice sauces to boot. Ask for the hot sauce carousel, and you won’t be sorry. Spice it up!

    Followed (quickly, when the service is good) with:

    Veggie Pad Thai (Thai noodles with mixed veggies, tofu, bean sprouts with peanuts on the side), $9.95.

    You have to ask for it “vegan”, and in addition to skipping the egg (superfluous anyway in a pad Thai), they ensure your sauce is vegan. I’ve had a million pad Thai dishes here, all of them vegan, and they taste amazing.

    For additional midnight munchies (get your mind out of the gutter, I don’t just mean those kind of munchies), an excellent side dish is:

    Combination Vegetables, with Tofu, $8.95.

    One thing I like about Toi is that the food is very consistent, and cooked so well. I kinda gave up on most Asian food when I became a vegetarian (to say nothing of my vegan transition years later) as it is most often laced with fish, chicken and beef stock. Not at Toi. The menu even says “Almost anything can be prepared vegetarian or vegan, and all our sauces ONLY use vegetable stock”. That really fills me with the confidence that I’m eating only good stuff.

    Another positive about Toi is the reasonably priced house red wine — only $4.99 for a large glass of cabernet or merlot, and it ain’t from a box (I saw them pour it from a bottle once!).

    Downsides? Well, service can be spotty, and when it gets busy (from 8pm-11pm, or whenever I show up for some obscure reason) there are some really crappy tables too small to even put your iPhone on while eating, and the waiter service gets insanely slow. Having said that, I’ve always had exactly what I ordered, the quality has always been exemplary and once the order gets placed, things arrive quickly and politely. Oh, and good luck parking, especially when you are stoned…. and if you are lucky enough to park while stoned, EXTRA good luck finding your car after you’ve eaten…. dude.

    The atmosphere, despite the unbelievable hipness of the place, is very congenial. It is basic, down to earth, and the long haired, lead-guitarist types mingle in with the balding businessmen really well. You’re as likely to find a ho stamp as a rubber stamp here, and people just…. well… get along!

    You can see the quality here, close-up. Perfectly cooked Thai food, non-greasy, crunchy yet cooked vegetables as well as the right quantity of sauce (too much and your stuff swims in it, too little and you end up with not enough taste: the balance is critical)

    Above is the Combination Vegetables with a sweet sauce, again perfectly cooked. Throw down some of the jasmine rice, slop on a bit of everything as well as some of the hot sauces, get a mouthful of wine and EAT EAT EAT. Guilt-free, vegan, nice atmosphere. Go there.

    The Santa Monica Toi outlet on Wilshire has a similar menu but lacks the interesting clientele and atmosphere of Sunset. Yeah, rich guilty liberals don’t compete with the real thing and increasingly you can only find the real thing in Hollywood. I’m there. See you there.

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