• February 9th, 2011quarrygirlfresh east, LA restaurants

    over the past couple years, we’ve seen west hollywood grow into quite the little vegan mecca. santa monica boulevard, west of la cienega specifically, has been just blowing up with options lately—from zpizza, to tender greens, to millions of milkshakes, to o!burger—everyone is serving up cruelty-free cuisine. the latest addition to the list is fresh east, a quick casual asian eatery that specializes in healthy fare with loads of meatless options.

    after scoping out the menu online, we decided to check out fresh east for a fast weeknight dinner. when we walked in, i was immediately smitten by the bright, clean interior—colorful yet simple with lots of comfy seating.

    we approached the counter to place our order, and i noticed that fresh east’s menu was even more vegan-friendly than i thought. there’s a little V symbol next to each item that can be veganized, including several dishes where tofu can be subbed for the meat. unfortunately the vegan symbol isn’t shown on the online menu right now, but trust me, there are loads of options.

    after much deliberation, we decided to share a noodle and a curry dish, both of which were exceptional…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Tags: , , ,
  • May 27th, 2009quarrygirlau lac, LA restaurants

    if you live in los angeles and want to have a completely unique vegan food experience, lemme tell you, it is definitely worth making the hour-plus drive to orange county to visit au lac. located in fountain valley, the humanese restaurant offers an entirely vegan menu, with several raw and cooked selections. all the raw foodies i know have nothing but wonderful things to say about this place, so my husband and i stopped in to check it out a few weeks ago when we were in the area.

    we decided to go all out, ordering appetizers off both the raw and cooked menus, plus dessert (which is only available in raw). thankfully, although we ordered several dishes, the some of them were quite small, so we left feeling satisfied but not overly stuffed.

    dau hu rang muoi: battered soft tofu seasoned in salt, black pepper, cilantro and jalapeno. $8

    dau hu rang muoi: battered soft tofu seasoned in salt, black pepper, cilantro and jalapeno. $8

    for our cooked appetizer, we started with a flash-fried tofu dish called ‘da hu rang muoi,’ which consisted of ultra-soft tofu in a light batter and cooked with salt, pepper, cilantro and jalapeno. this may sound like a typical asian tofu appetizer, but oh my word, it wasn’t! probably the best tofu dish i’ve ever tasted, it was barely coated with batter, completely covered in seasoning, and perfectly soft and moist in the middle.

    for our raw appetizer, we went with the chimichurri, which turned out to be two slices of doughy bread with an oil and herb sauce for dipping. i seriously have no clue how they got ‘raw’ bread to taste so fucking good, but this dish was spongy, soft and porous beyond belief. even if you aren’t in to raw food, i’d recommend the chimichurri. not to mention the perfect infusion of fresh herbs and oil…excellent dipping sauce any way you look at it. at $5, it was pretty pricey for two pieces of bread, but i definitely think it was worth it.

    chimichurri: dip with garlic bread. $5

    chimichurri: dip with garlic bread. $5

    for his main course, my husband ordered the ‘bo luc lac’, which was a massive plate of watercress and vegetables tossed in a light vinegar dressing, all topped with several slabs of faux beef. for just ten bucks this thing was absolutely huge, and everything tasted amazing. the soy meat was tender and well seasoned, and all the vegetables tasted extra fresh. i stole several bites of this throughout the meal.

    bo luc lac: watercress, soy beef, garic, vinegar dressing, tomato, onion. $10

    bo luc lac: watercress, soy beef, garic, vinegar dressing, tomato, onion. $10

    i went raw on my main dish and ordered jino’s pizza, a small round of raw bread covered in vegetables and a ‘cheese’ sauce. while i ended up liking my pizza in the long run, my enjoyment was overshadowed by the fact it arrived about 20 minutes later than my husband’s main course. in fact, he finished his food before i even started mine! when the pizza finally did arrive, it was delicious, albeit rather small for $12. i guess raw food is just phenomenally expensive any way you look at it, so at least this tasted really good. the crust was soft and squishy, kinda like the chimichurri appetizer, and was covered in just the right amount of herbs and vegetables. the cheese sauce was exceptionally creamy and tangy, and i couldn’t help but wonder what it would taste like on a plate of raw nachos. don’t let the picture fool you, the pizza was very small, maybe 3 or 4 inches across, i’d say the size of a medium pancake.

    jinos pizza: roma, sundried tomato, marinara, basil, melted mozzarella. $12

    jinos pizza: roma, sundried tomato, marinara, basil, melted mozzarella. $12

    au lac offers a raw dessert menu, and i was told by several people not to leave without trying the donut holes. while i was a bit skeptical of raw donut holes, these suckers definitely converted me. covered in a sugary powder, the round little treats had a distinctively nutty flavor and were filled with a thick rich syrup.

    raw donut holes. $7

    raw donut holes. $7

    i actually almost spilled the syrup all over me when biting into the first one, because i didn’t know what to expect! while my husband wasn’t a fan of the donut holes at all, i thought they were wonderful. definitely like nothing i’ve ever eaten before, i highly recommend them.

    aulac-donut-hole

    so overall, our visit to au lac was a great success, leaving us filled to the brim with healthy vegan raw and cooked food. the cuisine there is definitely unusual, as is the decor (think asian-inspired 1980s), so this place may not be for everyone. although if you have an appreciation for raw food or humanese cuisine, or if you are just in for a tasty adventure, au lac will not disappoint.

    aulac-vegan-parking

    plus, did i mention they have the coolest parking spots ever? check out the one above…reserved just for me. :)

    aulac-ext

    au lac
    16563 Brookhurst St
    Fountain Valley, CA 92708
    (714) 418-0658
    Tue-Sun. 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
    Tue-Sun. 5:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

    Tags: , , , , , , ,
  • February 19th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, xiv

    finally, finally, finally, there’s high end vegan dining available in los angeles. in a city with so many options, vegans are used to real food daily being a “fancy” place with its small portions and $17 burgers. now thanks to celebrity chef michael mina and restaurant group sbe, la vegans can dine amongst the affluent and enjoy a 5 star meal off an entirely animal-free menu at xiv on sunset boulevard.

    xiv offers a tasting menu experience, where everyone at the table orders the same thing, and several small plates are served throughout the evening. each individual plate is $8, so the bill adds up quite rapidly. like most other upscale restaurants, the xiv menu contains unspeakable dishes such as caviar parfait, crispy pork belly and even foie gras terrine. however for herbivores, xiv offers an entirely separate 100% vegan menu with 27 courses to choose from. the vegan menu isn’t available anywhere online (until now) and they only present it upon request. i don’t know why they keep it so hush hush, because it’s absolutely amazing. as of now, i think it’s la’s best kept vegan secret.

    while it’s not a habit of mine to eat at restaurants that serve the disgusting meat items mentioned above, the vegan menu at xiv is so impressive that i had to give it a try. plus, i really would like to support whole-heartedly any elitist eatery that puts such an effort towards creating an animal-free menu. my husband and i decided to hit up xiv last weekend, along with another fine couple, lex and kristin of vegan-la, who had already been to the restaurant and could show us the ropes.

    after some incredible ginger beer and hendrick’s cocktails, our table of four started with the japanese mountain caviar, which looked so much like actual caviar that lex had to assure me that it was in fact vegan.

    japanese mountain caviar. shaved radish, onion caramel. $8

    japanese mountain caviar. shaved radish, onion caramel. $8

    i’m still not sure exactly what japanese caviar is made of, but it’s one of the tastiest and most unique vegan dishes i’ve ever tried. it looks eerily like fish and even has a salty taste, but it’s so light and fluffy, i swear it will win you over. the plate was both delicious and well-presented and came garnished with delicate and fresh asian vegetables.

    cauliflower tempura. passion fruit, edamame, almonds. $8

    cauliflower tempura. passion fruit, edamame, almonds. $8

    for a second course, we chose the cauliflower tempura, which really was incredible. it had a very distinct taste that none of us could put our finger on, until kristin exclaimed, “oh my god, this tastes EXACTLY like cheetos!” sure enough, she was right. that old-school cheesy flavor came rushing back to my brain and i tasted it in a whole new way. these were like fancy little fried califlower cheetos. totally insane.

    salt & pepper bok choy. glass noodles, carrots, sprouts, ginger. $8

    salt & pepper bok choy. glass noodles, carrots, sprouts, ginger. $8

    next up was the salt and pepper bok choy. that maybe seemed a bit boring by the description, but i gotta tell you it was unbelievable. the baby bok choy was light, fragile and seasoned to perfection atop the thinnest and most delicious glass noodles.

    pine nut terrine. cranberry, cardamom, flatbread. $8

    pine nut terrine. cranberry, cardamom, flatbread. $8

    the next course, and quite possibly my favorite, was the pine nut terrine. this dish consisted of a small nutty block along with crisp sheets of flatbread and a cranberry sauce. a high-class pb & j sandwich, if you will.

    sushi cake with greens (in place of grilled fennel) $8

    sushi cake with greens (in place of grilled fennel) $8

    our next dish was supposed to be the grilled fennel with curry and sea beans. unfortunately, they were out of that but supplied us instead with a delicious broccoli sushi cake with chillies and greens. the little rice patty was incredibly tasty, and the sauteed chillies added a definite punch of heat.

    hen of the wood mushrooms. broccoli, macaroni pasta. $8

    hen of the wood mushrooms. broccoli, macaroni pasta. $8

    we next ordered the hen of the wood mushrooms. this was absolutely divine! the mushrooms, broccoli, and fried little bits of god-know-what-were all cooked absolutely perfectly.

    stuffed brussels sprouts. onion, shitake, huckleberry. $8

    stuffed brussels sprouts. onion, shitake, huckleberry. $8

    for our last course we had the stuffed brussels sprouts. these came with a fine mix of vegetables, and were stuffed with some truly incredible and savory insides. you can’t really see it in the picture, but the little brussels sprouts were absolutely tiny and so perfectly filled, so much skill must have gone into the preparation.

    chocolate leather dessert. $8

    chocolate leather dessert. $8

    when it came time to order dessert, we really didn’t care for the options advertised on the menu. the two choices consisted of mostly fruit, and we were in the mood for something a bit more decadent. lex asked the waiter if the chef could make us something vegan and extremely chocolatey. of course xiv came up with some of the best sweet-tooth-satisfying stuff i’ve ever had.

    dessert-cu

    the chocolate leather consisted of long strips of luscious confection sliced into thin and malleable sheets. this was all drizzled with creamy caramel sauce and garnished with a thick chocolate ball that burst out with flavor the moment it was crunched. seriously. one of the best fucking desserts i’ve ever tasted.

    the food at xiv is absolutely mind-blowing, so naturally the prices are as well. our 8 course vegan meal along with cocktails ended up costing the four of us a whopping $360. while that may sound like a lot, i can tell you it was definitely worth it. i mean, just have a look at the menu:

    xiv-vegan-menu

    to all my los angeles vegan friends, i really can’t recommend xiv highly enough. the quality and ambience are completely unmatched. such skill goes into preparing each dish, and the food is created by a truly masterful chef. the atmosphere and service are also incredible, as you would expect from an extremely high end sbe establishment.

    so make a special occasion out of it, throw caution to the wind, and head to xiv for an extremely high caliber vegan tasting session. now we too can finally enjoy a 5 star dining experience like all our meat-eating friends.

    Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
  • December 10th, 2008quarrygirlLA restaurants, vinh loi tofu

    the best tofu you will ever eat lives in reseda.

    fried tofu (lemongrass and chili) $1.25

    fried tofu (lemongrass and chili) $1.25

    it is a good time to be a vegan and live in the san fernando valley. they’ve got everything over there. follow your heart, madeleine’s bistro, hugo’s tacos and a slew of vegan thai huts. i didn’t think the valley could possibly offer anything better than all of that. well, i was wrong. after months of putting it off because i didn’t want to make the drive to reseda, i finally checked out the 100% vegan vietnamese restaurant and tofu factory, vinh loi tofu.

    you see, foodeater over at to live and eat in la (the vegan blog i frequent most) had been singing the praises of this place forever. she has gone on and on about the noodles, soups, sandwiches, even the non-GMO soy beans. i kind of took it all with a grain of salt, thinking, how good could some vegan asian food be….right? i get plenty of that! well, i was wrong. all the stuff she said was 100% true. vinh loi tofu is an odd gem in an a huge sea of fried udon, faux meat and salty broth. i can’t possibly describe to you how fucking good it is.

    it’s the kind of food that you start chomping on with another person and for the next half hour the conversation is littered with outbursts like, “no, really this is so fucking good,” “….i know, right? god this is amazing,” “wow, this food is much better than i thought would be…” and then various chewing noises.

    the best thing i tasted from vinh loi tofu was of course the tofu itself. created in the tofu factory within the restaurant by the mad scientists/chefs/magicians, the soybean concoction that vinh loi comes up with is utterly perfect. and when they fry it up with lemongrass and chili for just a buck 25, it’s enough to have you on your bloody knees begging for more.

    but that’s just the tofu. they have tons of other drool-worthy dishes on the big, vegan, vietnamese menu. stuff that looks like run-o-the-mill asian foodz like noodles, soups and rice dishes are completely reinvented.

    house special duck soup: yellow noodles with bean curd seasoned in a duck broth. $8.50

    house special duck soup: yellow noodles with bean curd seasoned in a duck broth. $8.50

    the duck soup (everything is totally vegan, so need to even ask) was insanely delicious. flavorful meat with delicately cooked noodles, swimming in a savory broth. garnished with fresh vegetables, this garlicky and spicy dish was honestly i think the best soup i’ve ever had. seriously, it’s true! i know you won’t believe me…unless you’ve had it as well.

    same goes for the stir-fried udon noodles. cooked up in the most scrumptious sauce, covered with thick faux meat and fresh chilis, this dish packed so much flavor and so much heat. i really don’t think we knew what we were getting into. a fight went down and spoonful was divided until the bitter end.

    stir-fried udon: wheat noodles stir-fried with chicken or beef, tofu and vegetables. $9

    stir-fried udon: wheat noodles stir-fried with chicken or beef, tofu and vegetables. $9

    and, ummm….not to sound like a broken record, but the veggie spring rolls were also the best ever.

    veggie spring rolls (3): green leaves and shredded fried tofu wrapped in rice paper. served with coconut sauce. $4

    veggie spring rolls (3): green leaves and shredded fried tofu wrapped in rice paper. served with coconut sauce. $4

    most spring rolls have a clear, thin and moist skin. not these. the wrappers on these were thick, tough and stretchy. the vegetables were crisp and the fried tofu was all kinds of wow. 3 of these could easily be a meal on their own. they are also packed with a lot more food than most rolls. all the ingredients must be shoved in so tight, because there is so damn much inside.

    seriously, if you are a vegan in los angeles you can’t say shit about anything until you’ve tried vinh loi tofu. they take a cuisine (vegan asian food) that is usually so meh, and they make it spectacular. i don’t think i’ve ever in my life eaten soup, noodles, spring rolls, or tofu that has gotten me so enthusiastic. i mean, i love talking shit on restaurants. but i just can’t with vinh loi tofu. there is nothing negative to say.

    even the owner, kevin tran was working the counter when we went in. chatting away to customers and answering all kinds of questions about the food, he was more friendly and helpful than any restaurant owner i’ve ever seen in action.

    PLUS, owner kevin tran was even sporting a shirt picturing the webmaster of quarrygirl.com, the one and only tofu robot. we knew we were in good hands. here is a spy iphone pic to prove it:

    kevin tran, owner of vinh loi tofu wearing a shirt picturing tofu robot, the mascot of quarrygirl.com

    kevin tran, owner of vinh loi tofu wearing a shirt picturing tofu robot, the mascot of quarrygirl.com

    so no matter where you live in la, vegans, make the bloody drive to vinh loi tofu. they are in the valley, so of course, they are located in a strip mall. kevin excitedly told us though, that they were planning on opening a restaurant in silver lake. oh how awesome that would be. we can only hope.

    vinh loi tofu
    18625 Sherman Way #101
    Reseda, CA 91335
    (818) 996-9779

    Tags: , , , , , ,
  • November 8th, 2008quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    quarrygirl’s tour of nyc continues! in this installment, we’re here to tell you all about a cozy little chinese joint in manhattan called zen palate.

    you see, here in los angeles when you hear “vegan asian food”, you probably think of one of the 975,000 vegan thai restaurants that are so popular here. well, nyc is packed full of vegan options that aren’t thai food: chinese, korean, malaysian, you name it! what a relief.

    granted these places are usually a lot more expensive than the thai ones i’m used to here in la, it’s usually pretty easy to sneak in on a lunch special and get a fixed price meal for not a lot of money. zen palate, a semi-fancy chinese vegetarian restaurant located right in the hustle and bustle of midtown, has a pretty good deal going where during the day, you can get an appetizer, rice and a tasty entree for just under ten bucks. plus, the menu has tons of vegan options and anything that contains dairy or eggs is clearly marked. my husband and i had to check it out.

    shredded melody (with taro spring rolls and rice): shredded soy protein stir-fried with celery, carrots, zucchini, & pine nuts in a light garlic sauce. $9.50

    shredded melody (with taro spring rolls and rice): shredded soy protein stir-fried with celery, carrots, zucchini, & pine nuts in a light garlic sauce. $9.50

    my husband ordered the shredded melody, which was definitely the favorite at the table. it had so many vegetables, delicious and garlicky sauce with thin strips of soy meat. plus, it came with pine nuts…which i love and have never ever eaten an asian dish. seriously, so good. the taro rolls were delicious as well, albeit fried and pretty unhealthy tasting.

    i opted for the tofu delight, because i love black bean sauce, and it was pretty good as well.

    tofu delight (with taro spring rolls and rice): soft tofu with zucchini & tomatoes in a black bean sauce. $9.50

    tofu delight (with taro spring rolls and rice): soft tofu with zucchini & tomatoes in a black bean sauce. $9.50

    the tofu was soft and silken, but cooked sooooo nicely. i think they must have fried it, because the outside got kinda crispy and developed a bit of a skin, but the inside stayed fluffy and white. the black bean sauce was delicious as well, and perfectly coated the yummy array of vegetables. so lovely to have vegan chinese food for a change, and not have to worry about anything icky like fish stock or even cross-contamination. :)

    overall, zen palate was lovely. judging by the menu, it may be a bit pricey for dinner, but their lunch specials are a deal and a half! the service is great as well, they were happy to accommodate my obsessive orders that nothing contain bell peppers, and they were quite knowledgeable about veganism upfront about their ingredients. plus the food came out in like 5 minutes….now that i like!

    so check out zen palate when you visit nyc for some fast, tasty, no-brainer chinese food. ahhhhh, such a welcome rest from all this los angeles thai fare. :D

    Tags: , , , , ,