• March 17th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, mao's kitchen, pizza

    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.

    coconut curry: green beans, eggplant, tomato, broccoli, black mushroom, carrot, onion & bokchoy with choice of protein. (tofu!!) $11

    coconut curry: green beans, eggplant, tomato, broccoli, black mushroom, carrot, onion & bokchoy with choice of protein. (tofu!!) $11

    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.

    long march camp-fry: chinese cabbage, snow pea, tomato, wood-ear mushroom, white mushroom, zucchini & bean sprouts. plus tofu. $9

    long march camp-fry: chinese cabbage, snow pea, tomato, wood-ear mushroom, white mushroom, zucchini & bean sprouts. plus tofu. $9

    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.

    vegan crack: deep fried thingys. free!

    vegan crack: deep fried thingys. free!

    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 kitchen melrose

    mao's kitchen melrose

    mao’s kitchen
    7315 Melrose Ave
    Los Angeles, CA 90046
    (323) 932-9681
    open 7 days
    11am – 12am

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  • February 4th, 2009mr meanerLA restaurants, pure luck (closed)

    Do you remember the scene in Wizard of Oz where the wizard is exposed behind the curtain, and he turns out to be just some boring middle-aged man of ill repute? Well, that’s what we existentialists call a “revelation”, and BOY did I get one of those last weekend in Pure Luck. I didn’t just see behind the red curtain by the cash register, I got a glimpse behind the IRON CURTAIN into cold-war era Soviet Russia. Okay, I know you just want to hear about potato pals and how awesome the freakin’ jackfruit is, but bear with me on this.

    The RED Era of Pure Luck!

    The RED Era of Pure Luck!

    Any vegan living in LA will confirm that Pure Luck is probably the best vegan restaurant in town, has some of the nicest staff and offers an innovative Mexi/Californian-style menu that can satisfy even the most hard boiled carnivore. The same vegans will also tell you that the quality of the food is about as predictable as the middle-east peace process, and you never quite know what you’re going to get when you order something off the menu.

    I usually stick to the staple Fresh Noodle Salad, but even that simple dish (with, like four ingredients) has arrived in multiple different forms in the year or so I’ve been going there. Sometimes it’s all noodles with spinach sprinkled on top, other times it’s a 5lb bag of spinach with nary a noodle in site. Sometimes there is so much tofu I can’t handle the protein overload and other times there’s not enough tofu to feed a vegan mouse. The other dishes suffer the same fate of inconsistency, yet we vegans are so grateful to have Pure Luck around we just complain to each other yet rarely to the staff.

    Well, this weekend, I was served with an inedible Fresh Noodle Salad. Not only were the noodles hard and crunchy, but the spinach was brown at the edges and the whole thing was swimming in a sea of salty water. There were five pieces of overcooked tofu, no tortilla crunchies and the toasted peanuts had seen neither hide nor hare of a toaster, let alone any form of heat.

    Pure Luck Fresh Noodle Salad on a bad day.

    Pure Luck Fresh Noodle Salad on a bad day.

    Sadly, I had to send it back and decided to order the Pure Luck Spring rolls instead. I SWEAR they scooped out the crap in my salad bowl, wrapped it in a tortilla with a smirk on their faces, dumped the salty water on top and re-served it to me, as the rolls were no better. See below for a comparison between a good and bad day. Please note that on the bad day, the spring rolls were soggy, with the dip TIPPED INTO into them and flowing out, and barely any tofu. On the good day, however, there was tons of tofu and the spring rolls were fresh, the leaves weren’t wilted, and the sauce was served on the side. Night and day, I tell you.

    Pure Luck spring rolls, for better and for worse.

    Pure Luck spring rolls, for better and for worse.

    Coincidentally, a friend, who visited later the same afternoon, ordered the Burrito, which happened to be “95% rice” and fell apart when she tried to eat it. She’s decided to start visiting Pure Luck less often, as she’s “fed up getting crappy food, when it used to be so good.”. And, she’s the SECOND person I know who won’t order the Burrito again for the exact same reason, both served months apart.

    When I questioned our wonderfully efficient and polite server about the consistency of the food I got the most stunning revelation: “Well, because we share all the tips, the owner likes us to do different jobs here. One day I might be waiting tables, the next washing dishes and then I might be in the kitchen preparing food. I guess some of us are better than others at different things”. No shit, Sherlock.

    I mean, Pure Luck, SERIOUSLY. You have a business with paying customers, not some ideological experiment with socialist capitalism. I’ve never run a restaurant, but I know that not everybody can cook food, just as not everybody is good at dealing with people. Pure Luck needs to get a sensible rotation of kitchen staff to consistently prepare quality food as well as serve your customers with accountability.

    I know about 10 vegans who don’t go to Pure Luck as often as they would, for fear of being disappointed with a dish that’s not up to the standards they are used to. Indeed, just this last Saturday, Twitter was going crazy with people who were going to Pure Luck and complaining about the food.

    Pure Luck: you can do better. Your restaurant is quieter than it used to be, and the only consistency we’ve seen is higher prices and smaller portions. We loyal customers will vote with our feet and go elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, you are still the best vegan restaurant in town by far, but gone are my regular weekend dinner gatherings at Pure Luck with friends, shrunk now to once or twice a month…and we all remark on the inconsistency of the food. Comping a food item (has happened several times in my circle of friends) means we both lose. Your revenue goes down, and the customer doesn’t get what they ordered.

    Pure Luck should deliver reasonable consistency with its food, that’s all we are asking. Our salads/tacos/burritos/whatever should be very similar every time we order them, and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up and send stuff back to the kitchen that’s below par, even if we have waited 40 minutes for it to arrive.

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