In our inaugural Pub ‘n’ Grub, we stumbled from a student infested Irish sports bar to Native Foods, in the “scenic” district of Westwood, under the shadow of the UCLA campus. This time around, we decided to shun the down-to-earth college vibe and go for something a little more quixotic, perhaps exotic and certainly chaotic: LA’s Melrose Avenue. Also, in celebration of Chinese New Year, we decided on an Asian angle too.Tags: alcohol, beer, beer, chinese, pub 'n' grub
looking for a daily vegan lunch special that will fill your belly up with satisfaction and play nice with your wallet? well look no further than mao’s kitchen on melrose. the starkly designed communist china-themed restaurant (sounds weird, i know) offers an extremely delicious and vegan-friendly menu. and everyday from 11am to 5pm, you can have your pick of several different 3 course animal-free lunch specials for just $7.50.
what you get when you order the lunch special, is a scaled down version of any entree from mao’s menu…plus your choice of 2 of the following: soup, salad, or bejing spring roll. we tried out this meal deal over the weekend, and left mao’s completely stuffed and less than 20 bucks poorer.
i started with a cup of vegan great harvest soup…a rich blend of vegetables, rice and herbs. this stuff has so many complex flavors going on; it would have to be one of my favorite soups in LA. i’m not sure exactly what they put in it, but it’s super warming and satisfying.
rather than soup, my husband went with the salad option. it came with cool crisp leaves, fresh cucumber and carrot shreds, all mixed up in a soy dressing. it was light, refreshing, and definitely tasty…but i don’t think it comes close to the awesomeness that is the great harvest soup.
we both chose the vegan beijing spring roll with our lunch special, so that’s a double order you see pictured above. each roll was cut in half, shoved full of grated vegetables, and deep fried to perfection. it was so rich, i couldn’t even finish mine.
for my entree, i ordered the long march camp fry with smoked tofu. i tried this once and have ordered it every single time i have been to mao’s since then—i love it so much! it costs an extra dollar to add smoked tofu, but man it is so worth it. the best thing about this dish is they mix in a generous amount of delicate and flavorful wood-ear mushrooms. i could eat an entire plate of the mushrooms just on their own.
my husband went with the black bean entree with soft tofu, a blend of garlicky black bean sauce and lots of vegetables. also a really excellent choice, this came with lots of crunchy broccoli and soft zucchini rounds. as with all the dishes at mao’s, be sure to specify that you want them prepared vegan. most of the vegetable ones are vegan by default….but you’d hate to get stuck with an animal-containing sauce by accident.
after our meal our server brought us some fortune cookies, and while i don’t know if the cookies themselves were vegan or not, i ripped my fortune out just for fun…
i’d say it was right on the money.
so next time you want to fill up on lunch for under ten dollars, check out mao’s kitchen on melrose. tasty, clean, affordable chinese food in a place that has the word “vegan” all over the menu. gotta love that!
7313 melrose avenue
LA, CA 90046
PS: this place also has free wifi!Tags: chinese, melrose
PPS: there is another mao’s kitchen in venice which has the same menu…but i’m not sure if they do discounted lunch specials.
well, well, well…back in the day, my companion mr. meaner wrote a review of mao’s kitchen on melrose in which he commented on the delicious food, yet unpredictable service and portion sizes. the stark and modern byob chinese cafe is the newer sister restaurant to mao’s kitchen in venice and offers really decent, healthy-tasting asian food with loads of vegan options. i have always loved the food there, but last june my experience was so annoying (slow service, overcharging on the bill, and skimping on the main ingredients in our dishes), that i vowed to never return.
after about 9 months of cooling down and recovering from the situation, i was convinced by my husband to break my protest against mao’s kitchen…after all, they have damn tasty tofu. however when we headed over for lunch one saturday, although i was no longer protesting mao’s, several angry chinese people were. that’s right, there was a fucking picket line outside the melrose cafe, with angry dudes shouting into bullhorns and carrying signs that said things like, “MAO’S KITCHEN = HITLER’S BBQ!! RENAME YOUR RESTAURANT!!” there was such a scene going down, we decided it was all too much and went to bulan instead. i mean, i’m not a fan of mao himself or anything (c’mon, anyone john lennon personally disses in a beatles song is probably a total cunt), but didn’t these chinese protesters have anything better to do? isn’t there some actual violence to object to, rather than picketing outside a cafe owned by ignorant white people who are probably just trying to be trendy? sheesh!
luckily, i did get a chance to return to mao’s recently with a friend for lunch…no angry mob in sight. the meal was so absolutely delicious, i think i can put all my hard feelings about mao’s kitchen waaaaaay behind me. the portions were huge, the vegetables were plentiful, and our waiter was delightful.
my friend ordered the green curry with tofu, which i took a pretty huge helping of. i usually don’t order asian curries in restaurants, because coconut milk strikes me as a bit meh. this stuff was amazing though. the sauce was thick with a darker color to it and was packed with spices and tons of heat. floating in the savory and drool-worthy sauce was an ample amount of crispy fresh asian vegetables. no complaints what-so-ever about this dish. oh, and it also came with a grip of fluffy rice (not pictured) to mop up all the curry goodness.
i went for the long march camp-fry which is normally 7 bucks, but i added tofu which brought it up to $9. this dish was nothing short of w00t. seriously, if you are in a healthy-kick kinda mood and want billions of vegetables with baked tofu in a light vegan (yet extremely flavorful) sauce, eat this! i have been to mao’s several times and never ordered this before, but now i know it will be one of my standard go-to dishes. it was packed with really scrumptious vegetables like cabbage, tomato, peas and my new favorite…wood ear mushrooms! the fluffy little mushrooms look like dark leafy greens but pack all the texture and flavor of a really tasty portobello. i’m going into food high just thinking about it. i especially recommend the long march camp-fry if you are dining out with others and want a vegetable dish to share. it’s artfully prepared, well-balanced and above all delicious. i’m never ordering steamed vegetables again.
oh and one more thing, the food at mao’s kitchen is very good…so be sure not to fill up on the tempting vegan crack they bring to your table for free when you are seated. these deep fried crackers with sweet vegan sauce will sneak up on you…then all of a sudden…half the bowl is gone and you have no room for food because your brain is swimming in huge amounts of grease you just consumed. beware.
hit up mao’s kitchen on melrose for really awesome vegan chinese food. to avoid any contamination, just let them know you are vegan and that you want all your sauces animal-free. they seem to be pretty knowledgeable and always able to accommodate. good luck in there…hopefully you won’t run into crazy/bored protesters like me and the mr. did. if you do, there is always bulan or m cafe just blocks away. 😉
P.S. mao’s kitchen has a parking lot (epic melrose score!), it isn’t busy at lunch time, and you can take in your own booze. you officially have no excuse not to eat there.
mao’s kitchenTags: chinese, communist, curry, tofu, west hollywood
7315 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90046
open 7 days
11am – 12am
June 20th, 2008mao's kitchen
I must admit that I’m a sucker for cold war era imagery. All those gray clothes, communist soldiers marching in line on icy streets under the watchful eye of Chairman Mao while eating Black Bean Tofu (only joking about the last bit, of course). Anyway, a bit of Communist China can be found much further West on Melrose and La Brea in the form of Mao’s Kitchen (sister outlet to Mao’s Kitchen in Venice). This restaurant seems to have it all: Airy interior, not too crowded, “any dish can be prepared vegan” promise on the menu, BYO (for cheapskates like me) and even a friggin’ parking lot — something very rare on Melrose.
The menu is fairly eclectic, with all the meat options you’d expect plus a healthy selection of delicious appetizers and entrées that would make any vegan proud. If you visit, I recommend starting with the one dollar salad — a medium portion of salad greens with sesame dressing for only (you guessed it) $1.
Most of the dishes have vegan sauces, and in almost all cases meat can be substituted for smoked, fried or soft tofu so you can enjoy sweet and sour, peanut, green curry or black bean (among many others) sauces with your favorite tofu indulgence.Tags: chinese