• December 12th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, samosa house

    samosa house east in culver city

    as of yesterday, there is yet another takeaway indian vegetarian restaurant on the scene in culver city (on washington at overland) and it’s called samosa house east. run by the same people who are behind the quarrygirl approved original samosa house just blocks away, the east location occupies a more simple and modern space with a menu that’s similar but with a larger focus on mock meats. with ample seating and no market attached to the restaurant, samosa house east is a great alternative for on-the-go diners who don’t want to muck about with people lining up to buy groceries, etc.

    vegan samosa chat $3.50

    vegan samosa chat $3.50

    i hit up samosa house east this morning, and on their first full day of being open they were still working out some kinks but served me some damn decent food. i ordered a vegan samosa chat which consisted of a crispy fried indian pastry pocket topped with chutney, coriander sauce and curry, all for just $3.50. it was absolutely delicious. plus, the dude behind the counter told me that as of tomorrow, samosa house east will be offering a vegan soy yogurt as an alternative to all dishes that come with real yogurt. so awesome.

    when i was there, samosa house east was still setting up and didn’t have all their dishes out yet. but according to their twitter account, by the afternoon they were serving veggie fish, jackfruit, and smoked cauliflower—just to name a few things! i am so stoked that this restaurant has opened, and once they hit their stride, i think they will absolutely amazing.

    cheap, fast, delicious, meatless, takeout. i fucking dare you to find something wrong with that.

    samosa house east

    right now, this restaurant does not have a phone number and they are still getting their hours sorted out. they should be open from 11am-11pm…but don’t quote me on that.

    here is the samosa house east address, along with the original samosa house website and phone number in case you have questions!

    samosa house east
    10700 Washington Boulevard
    Culver City, CA 90232-3314
    310-398-6766

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  • November 9th, 2009mr meanerbawarchi, LA restaurants

    Some fads really bother me: Skinny jeans with Uggs, for example. Other fads have quite the opposite effect, one such being the plethora of vegetarian Indian fast food restaurants that are opening in West LA. The most recent addition to the scene is Bawarchi Indian Kitchen in Culver City, a deli-style shopfront serving up tasty Indian food mainly for the to go market.

    bawarchi vegetarian dude

    Just a few blocks from LA’s original Samosa House, Bawarchi (translation: “Chef”) offers a counter service choice of over 20 vegetarian Indian dishes, many of which are vegan. If you decide to sit in, there are a few small tables crammed together for limited seating.

    bawarchi vegetarian combination with matar koftka (vegetable balls and green peas), jeera aloo (cumin and potato), dal banjara (lentils) and pilau rice. $8

    bawarchi vegetarian combination with matar koftka (vegetable balls and green peas), jeera aloo (cumin and potato), dal banjara (lentils) and pilau rice. $8

    The best value option is the “Lunch and Dinner Special”, where you can choose a rice, 2 pieces of bread (make sure you get the roti, as the naan isn’t vegan!) and and three vegetable dishes from the buffet, a garden salad and pappadum for only $8.

    bawarchi vegetarian combination with bey koftka masala (lotus root), arbi (tarro root), oven roasted lahori jackfruit and pilau rice. $8

    bawarchi vegetarian combination with bey koftka masala (lotus root), arbi (tarro root), oven roasted lahori jackfruit and pilau rice. $8

    If you go with a friend, you can mix ‘n’ match, leaving with six different dishes, and enough salad, rice and bread to fill you up.

    channa patta (garbanzo) and makki da saag (corn and spinach) $4 each

    channa patta (garbanzo) and makki da saag (corn and spinach) $4 each

    If you’re super hungry, an extra $4 will get you a single 8oz size serving of any dish, and you can get two hot and fresh samosas for the ridiculously low price of only $3.

    vegetable samosas. 2 for $3

    vegetable samosas. 2 for $3

    On our recent visit, we got two Dinner Specials, a couple of entrees and two samosas for only $27. As you can see from the pictures, this was A LOT OF FOOD, and has lasted several days in the fridge.

    While the dishes varied in taste and flavor (some were certainly better than others), they were all consistently good, and the portions were a reasonable size for the price – though not generous by any means. What was generous, though, was the huge mound of rice and large Tawa Roti bread that we used to scoop up the food.

    Once you get your food home, you’re in culinary heaven: a place you deserve to be after the difficult process that is visiting the restaurant. From the minute you arrive in the crowded, often full, strip mall parking lot you’re in for a confusing and borderline uncomfortable experience as you negotiate barrier after barrier in your quest for food.

    First, there’s no clear indication on what you should do when you enter the restaurant. Some people were just standing by the door waiting to be shown in, while others sat down at empty tables, waiting to be served (there’s no greeter or table service that we could determine). When you get to the deli counter, a couple of servers are smiling and ready to accept your order, but there’s no clear place you’re supposed to stand for attention, so it’s a bit like ordering a pint at a pub in the UK: you hope to luck out and get noticed in the midsts of organized chaos.

    For vegans, it’s even more tricky, as the chef (who is buried away in the kitchen) is the only person who knows what’s vegan and what isn’t. He kindly wafted into the restaurant, and individually pointed out roughly 16 out of the 20 or so dishes one by one “this is vegan, this is vegan, this is vegan… SIXTEEN TIMES”. All they really needed is some labeling to make the whole process much easier, and we had to get several reminders of what was, and was not vegan, having somewhat limited short-term memory.

    bawarchi vegetarian food

    Anyways, we ordered the following food:

    Bey Kofta Masala (Lotus Root) – An east-Asian style curry that was very sweet, with crunchy Lotus Root.
    Arbi (Tarro Root) – Similar sauce to above, but with a texture similar to well cooked carrot
    Matar Kofta (Vegetable Balls) – Mushy, crispy falafel-esque balls of vegetables in a tomatoey sauce
    Lahori (Jackfruit) – Not my cup o’tea, but seemingly everybody else’s favorite

    bawarchi jackfruit

    Jeera Aloo (Potato and Cumin curry) – Pretty much as you’d expect: Slightly salty, but could have done with more taste
    Dal Banjara (Lentil Dal) – One of the best dishes: Spicy lentils in a perfectly creamy base. I could eat a ton of this stuff, and probably will over the next few months.
    Channa Patta (Garbanzo Beans) – Fresh tasting curry with tangy sauce and perfectly cooked Garbanzo beans
    Makki Da Saag (Corn and Spinach) – Looked, and tasted like the lovechild of a can of spinach and a can of corn. Nothing to write home about.

    vegan samosa

    Samosas – The signature dish of Samosa House, and seemingly Bawarchi too. Perfectly cooked, crispy, packed with vegetable stuff and totally awesome. Even the morning after.
    The rice, bread and salad were all very nicely presented and tasted fresh.

    Along with Samosa House, the flavorings were subtle, bordering on a little bland with not enough spice and heat to any of the dishes. Having said that, though, it’s a lot of food for the price, and really is quite decent as well as very filling.

    In fact, the food was SO SIMILAR to Samosa House that we asked the server if they were related — he told us that the chef had recently left Samosa House, and is now one of the partners in Bawarchi: perhaps he took the recipes with him? Who knows….

    After you’ve been to Bawarchi once, you know what to expect next time, and can, I’m sure, bustle through the place getting exactly what you want quickly and with little fuss.

    Also, we heard that yet another Indian deli-style kitchen will be opening close by over the next few weeks. Add to that a second Samosa House location within a 5 minute drive, and we’re looking at a very interesting place to visit for Indian food lovers such as myself.

    bawarchi interior

    Good luck to Bawarchi – I’m sure that as they perfect the processes in the restaurant and branch out with new dishes things will only get better. Oh, and competition doesn’t hurt either.

    Tip: Bawarchi is slightly better value than Samosa House. Although the prices and quantities are the same, you do get an extra side salad at Bawarchi, and the Pilau-style rice with spices and vegetables rice is much better than the boring steamed basmati at Samosa House.

    bawarchi indian kitchen
    10408 Venice Blvd
    Los Angeles, California 90232
    310-836-8525
    open daily 11am-10pm

    bawarchi exterior

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  • November 4th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, samosa house

    it’s no secret that we have a checkered past with the samosa house in culver city. we’ve written two posts about them, both complaining that the food was bland and uninspired. well, i’m here to set the record straight because over the weekend we gave the restaurant another try, and walked out with a feast that was plentiful, inexpensive, and absolutely awesome tasting.

    vegetarian combination: 3 dishes, rice and 2 rotis. $7.99

    vegetarian combination: 3 dishes, rice and 2 rotis. $7.99

    as you can see from the picture above, samosa house serves one hell of a lot of food for under 8 bucks. they have a large selection of 100% vegetarian dishes, most of which are vegan…and a combo consists of 3 dishes of your choice, plus a portion of rice and 2 pieces of roti bread. on a previous visit, we complained that our meal consisted of mainly rice and not enough curry, but this time that was clearly not the case. pictured above is our first combo, overflowing with curry dishes including lotus root, soy tikka masala, and a potato & pea dish.

    lotus root curry

    all of these selections were delicious, but the stand out for me was definitely the lotus root. this stuff was cool, crisp and crunchy and coated in a perfectly-oily sauce…i can’t even tell you how much i loved it. if i could, i would get a whole tray of this stuff and eat it all. the soy tikka masala was also damn good as well, even if the lotus root did upstage it a bit in my mind. the soy clumps were moist and slightly chewy, and the sauce was rich and flavorful.

    soy tikka masala

    in our second combo, we got a spinach dish, some lentils, and my personal favorite, the JACKFRUIT. i’m just gonna say it (and this may shock you), but i think samosa house’s jackfruit is even better than the stuff at pure luck. it’s hearty, yet soft…and sooooo delicious mixed with the indian seasoning. if you go to samosa house, this is the one dish you must get no matter what!

    jackfruit curry from samosa house

    while i loved the food from the samosa house on this visit, there was a secret ingredient that was needed to make it 1,000x better. you see, the place isn’t just a restaurant, but an indian market as well…so we picked up some fresh hot chillies to add to our meal at home in order to combat thee inherent mildness of the dishes. these things added loads of spice, and improved our meal greatly. if you like any kind of heat in your indian food, adding chillies is a must.

    chillies yummers

    after this great experience at samosa house, i know i will be back soon. we had more food than we could eat for just $16…and i don’t think i can go very long without some more curry-flavored jackfruit.

    the samosa house
    11510 w. washington blvd.
    culver city, ca 90066
    310-398-6766

    follow them on twitter!

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  • Okay, so we’ve already posted about the best vegan and best vegetarian restaurants in Los Angeles, but sometimes we vegans HAVE to eat in omnivorous restaurants. That’s a part of life. What’s interesting, though, is when we find meat-serving restaurants that we WANT to eat in. That’s a whole different story, and LA has a few outstanding omnivorous establishments that go out of their way to cater to vegans. Here are our favorites.

    M Cafe

    While the “M” in M Cafe probably stands for Macrobiotic, I believe it actually stands for Mmmmmmmm, which is pretty much what I murmur with every bite of this amazing food. With a totally vegan menu except for fish, M Cafe has a chic urban appeal, backed up with an A-list of ingredients (and clientele) all layered over an efficient kitchen and fair pricing, considering how great the food is. While the last year or two M Cafe’s items have been prepared by kitchen staff rather than chefs, their menu items are still some of the best in town.

    Vegan Benedict at M Cafe

    Vegan Benedict at M Cafe

    The Big Macro is arguably LA’s best vegan burger. The broccolini pepporochini is without a doubt LA’s premier broccolini, and the Vegan Benedict is constantly voted one of the “best” breakfast items on any local menu. There are plenty of vegan options at all times of the day, and the rotating menu constantly keeps one coming back for more. The deserts are out of this world, along with the very best vegan tiramisu known to humanity. Check it out!!

    Purgatory Pizza

    It’s probably inaccurate to credit Purgatory Pizza with single-handedly introducing incredible vegan pizza to LA, but we’re going to anyway. The insatiable team, formerly headed by Chef Ricky, that painstakingly worked to veganize an entire product line and food preparation process has gone from strength to strength. Purgatory was not only the first pizza place to embrace Teese (the ground-breaking alternative to Follow Your Heart Cheese), but is also the first to stock Gardein and Field Roast as toppings, and one of the first to serve Daiya (the best vegan cheese at time of posting) in SoCal.

    Vegan Chicken Pestop Pizza with Gardein and Daiya at Purgatory Pizza.

    Vegan Chicken Pestop Pizza with Gardein and Daiya at Purgatory Pizza.

    To get your Purgatory Pizza kicks (if you’re not in the delivery area), show up with a bottle of cheap wine and/or a six-pack of beer, then order your pizza to dine in. Feeling like a cross between an 80s suburban pizza joint and some kind of modern art experiment, Purgatory has a great, brightly-lit atmosphere and friendly staff to keep you entertained while you swallow slice after slice of LA’s best vegan pizza.

    Hugo’s Restaurant

    With two locations (one in West Hollywood, the other in Studio City), and a full-on meat-oriented menu, one might be surprised to find that the Hugo’s chefs have created some seriously innovative vegan cuisine. Not only do they have loads of options, but they have menu with several clearly marked animal-free alternatives, as well as dishes that can be optionally veganized. If you can get past the trendy atmosphere, long waits and constant celebrity sightings (I’ve watched the staff at the WeHo location fawn over Gabriel Byrne and Jeff Goldblum within the past few weeks) you’re in for a vegan treat.

    Tikka Masala Veggie Patties at Hugo's Restaurant

    Tikka Masala Veggie Patties at Hugo's Restaurant

    Although I’ve long been a fan of the tofu scramble, I also love the Very Green Casserole (one of the best vegan burgers I’ve ever tasted atop stewed vegetables and sauce in a pot) as well as the salads, tikka masala veggie patties, stir-frys and wraps. Make sure you specify “VEGAN” clearly when you order, while the restaurant is extremely vegan-friendly, there may be butter hiding in unsuspecting dishes.

    Toi

    Sadly, the Toi chain has contracted from two locations to just one, on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood. Thankfully the sacrificial lamb of this two-outlet chain was the Santa Monica outlet on Wilshire and not the ultimate rock and roll dining location sandwiched between Guitar Center and clothing stores most mortals are too… well… mortal to shop in. Toi has a loud, brash atmosphere with a class-based seating system (some tables suck ass, others are amazing — you ride the wind and luck of the draw depending your arrival time).

    Vegan Pad Thai at Toi

    Vegan Pad Thai at Toi

    Get the vegan pad thai with grilled tofu for a real treat, or the Saigon spring rolls…and make sure you request the hot sauces to dollop liberally over your food. The portions are huge, the kitchen respects us vegans, and most things on the menu can be made vegan — substitute chicken for tofu, oyster sauce for vegan oyster sauce, and you’ll get a superb meal. Take your omni friends there, and chillax the fuck out listening to rock ‘n’ roll on the speakers. Step into the parking lot at the back and you can smell weed in the air. Need we say more.

    Mama’s Hot Tamales

    OK, I’ll admit, MacArthur Park (just West of Downtown LA) has a shady reputation. Lotsa crime, lotsa drugs, lotsa pigeons, lotsa bodegas and lotsa REAL, AUTHENTIC Mexican restaurants. How glad are we vegans, then, that one of the most popular, Mama’s Hot Tamales, has a full-on vegan menu, complete with Daiya cheese, vegan sauces and all the trimmings. Did you hear that? Authentic Mexican food AND Daiya Cheese!!!! That is reason enough to make any top 5 list, as far as we’re concerned.

    Vegan Daiya Cheese Enchiladas at Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe

    Vegan Daiya Cheese Enchiladas at Mama's Hot Tamales Cafe

    At Mama’s you can enjoy all the greasy, cheesy filling Mexican food that omnivores love to death, but prepared under the supervision of Mama herself: the real deal, a Mexican señora who could not be more understanding of what a vegan is, what we need and how to prepare the food for us.

    Honorable mentions: Green Peas, XIV, Zpizza, Cafe Muse, Interim Cafe, Mani’s Bakery

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  • September 2nd, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, m café

    m-cafe-mac-cu

    i can’t remember the last time i was so damn excited about a dinner special. through friday, m cafe de chaya is offering vegan macaroni and cheese at both the melrose and culver city locations after 5pm. i have been wanting to try m cafe’s mac and cheese forever and when i finally got a chance to last night, it did not disappoint.

    for those of you who have never been to m cafe before, it’s a macrobiotic restaurant that’s almost entirely vegan, other than some dishes that clearly contain fish. they serve mostly organic whole foods and seasonal vegetables, and their meals tend to be on the healthier side. i was excited to see what they would do with a home-style dish like mac & cheese that’s usually packed with oil, grease and dairy products. i was delighted to find my take-out container filled with light but creamy noodles, crunchy bread crumbs, and loads of vegetables.

    dinner special macaroni and cheese: organic fusilli, sundried tomato, asparagus and arugula. soy cheese sauce and bread crumbs. $10.75

    dinner special macaroni and cheese: organic fusilli, sundried tomato, asparagus and arugula. soy cheese sauce and bread crumbs. $10.75

    the macaroni and cheese came with twisted noodles, a light soy cheese sauce, bread crumbs, sundried tomato, asparagus and arugula. i can’t even begin to tell you how delicious the cheesy pasta was mixed up with the sweet tomatoes. i have never had sundried tomatoes in mac & cheese before, but DUDE, it was so good. the asparagus added a nice crunch to the whole dish and provided a slightly sour offset to the tomatoes. a perfect combination for sure. i also liked that there were tons of vegetables in the dish, so i didn’t feel like i was eating a bowl of just carbs and fat. for under 11 bucks, the portion was large as well, and it had a really fine-dining taste. you pay a little more at m cafe, but they use such high-quality ingredients that it’s well worth the extra few dollars.

    m-cafe-mac-wine

    i got my macaroni and cheese to go, and enjoyed it at home with a nice glass of organic wine and a side of m cafe’s broccolini pepperocini. it really hit the spot! right now the melrose location doesn’t serve booze, but the culver city one does. so if you are dining in on the west side, grab some alcohol to go with your dinner special. 🙂

    if you like mac and cheese, i highly suggest you get to m cafe this week and try out their rendition of it. it’s healthier than all the other vegan mac and cheese in town, and it’s really delicious. they are only offering it as a dinner special through friday, but maybe if a lot of people order it (and bug them about it) they will add it to the menu. if any of y’all try it, let me know what you think.

    m-cafe-mac-take-out

    i would be so happy if they decided to stock this regularly in the deli case…they wouldn’t even have to add it as a meal, but just a side salad. come on, m cafe. please?

    m cafe de chaya
    7119 Melrose Avenue
    Hollywood, CA 90046
    323.525.0588

    9343 Culver Boulevard
    Culver City, CA 90232
    310.838.4300

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  • August 5th, 2009quarrygirlgreen peas, LA restaurants
    gardein chicken sandwich: gardein chicken breast marinated w/ rosemary garlic & lemon juice, baby spinach, fresh tomato, cucumber, daiya cheese and vegenaise. $6.99

    gardein chicken sandwich: gardein chicken breast marinated w/ rosemary garlic & lemon juice, baby spinach, fresh tomato, cucumber, daiya cheese and vegenaise. $6.99

    while the westside has lots of perks like money, beaches and prius-driving environmentalists, one thing it has been lacking for quite some time is quality vegan-friendly restaurants….especially in culver city. sure, for a while they’ve had m cafe, tender greens and akasha…but there hasn’t been a place to get a huge, cheap, satisfying vegan meal…until now. green peas casual food is a new cafe that opened in late june and offers loads of vegan options including sandwiches, salads, quesadillas, and even pizzas.

    we checked out green peas recently and were quite impressed with the quality of food, low prices, and friendly staff. the first thing we ordered was the gardein chicken sandwich, a thick ciabatta roll topped with gardein chicken breast, melty daiya cheese and fresh vegetables. the sandwich originally came with bell peppers, and when we asked for them to be left off, the dude at the counter suggested we replace them with any other vegetable. see that? nice, helpful service? most places will just omit ingredients without offering to replace them.

    the sandwich itself was huge and awesome. it came with a large side salad of dark leafy greens, and was absolutely packed with vegetables, gardein and daiya. i couldn’t believe this thing was only $6.99. at most vegan places, a sandwich this good with a side would be around $11-$12. what a score!

    green-peas-sandwichcu

    we also ordered the vegan pizza which came piled with grilled vegetables and daiya cheese. even though the menu at green peas describes it as soy cheese, rest assured, this stuff was definitely daiya. again, we got this without bell peppers and opted for sundried tomatoes instead. now you can’t really tell by the picture, but this pizza was massvie…enough for 2 people and only $7.99. i love that so many places are serving daiya now, we are truly spoiled in los angeles when it comes to vegan pizza.

    vegetable pizza: grilled carrots, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, grilled red onions and daiya cheese. $7.99

    vegetable pizza: grilled carrots, grilled zucchini, grilled eggplant, grilled red onions and daiya cheese. $7.99

    the vibe at green peas is upscale casual. everything is super clean and well-presented, but you order at the counter and seat yourself. the food comes out rapidly, i’d we went from ordering to eating in less than ten minutes.

    green-peas-counter

    green-peas-int

    so westside vegans, head over to green peas as soon as you can. fill up on gardein packed sandwiches, daiya covered pizzas, quesadillas, salads and tofu scrambles. everything on the menu is under ten bucks, the portions are huge, and the food is fucking delicious. definitely one of my new faves.

    green-peas-ext

    green peas
    4437 Sepulveda Blvd
    Culver City, CA 90230
    (310) 397-9815
    6am-10pm

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  • July 10th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, m café

    for vegans in los angeles, m cafe is definitely one of the best places to grab a bite to eat. the macrobiotic eatery has 3 locations around town (melrose, beverly hills, and culver city), and is almost entirely vegan, other than menu items clearly containing fish. i’ve always loved m cafe’s meals, but recently the culver city restaurant gave me two more reasons to dine there—they added a beer and tapas menu.

    organic beer. $5

    organic beer. $5

    i hit up m cafe on the west side with fellow vegan blogger happy herbivore and her husband, and everyone was delighted with the alcohol and food options. there was organic beer and wine to choose from, and we settled on a few bottles from the north coast brewing company. i went with the cru d’or, a belgian style dubble, which was pretty strong with a good flavor.

    crispy asparagus: fresh asparagus spears lightly breaded and fried, served with homemade spicy yuzu vegenaise. $5.25

    crispy asparagus: fresh asparagus spears lightly breaded and fried, served with homemade spicy yuzu vegenaise. $5.25

    we also shared the crispy asparagus from the tapas menu, which was tasty albeit a little too fried for us. i mean, it tasted really good, but it probably wasn’t good for me. the vegenaise it came with was on point, super creamy with just enough spice to give it a kick, yet not be overwhelming. other vegan tapas options included hummus crudite as well as seitan bruschetta.

    m-cafe-tapas-cu

    for my main course, i ordered the panino margarita, a pressed sandwich filled with pesto, soy cheese and sliced tomatoes. this thing was definitely tasty, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the big macro or bi bim bop. the pesto was delicious, but vegan cheese wasn’t quite melted. for my side, i ordered the white bean salad which was excellent and i highly recommend. it was delicious and filling with loads of creamy beans, huge tomato chunks, and fresh basil leaves.

    panino margarita: fresh tomato, soy mozzarella & basil-almond pesto on our house-baked focaccia, grilled hot & crisp to order. $11.45 served with a white bean deli salad.

    panino margarita: fresh tomato, soy mozzarella & basil-almond pesto on our house-baked focaccia, grilled hot & crisp to order. $11.45 served with a white bean deli salad.

    so if you like beer, macrobiotic food and vegan tapas, give the m cafe in culver city a try. as of now, only the west side location is offering alcohol and appetizers, but hopefully the other locations will start serving this stuff as well.

    m cafe de chaya
    9343 Culver Boulevard
    Culver City, CA 90232

    Sunday thru Thursday
    9:00 am – 9:00 pm
    Friday & Saturday
    9:00 am – 10:00 pm
    (the tapas are served from 4pm until close.)

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  • March 30th, 2009quarrygirlalibi room, kogi, LA restaurants

    if you follow this blog, you probably read about the vegan dramz that occurred a few weeks ago in regards to the kogi taco truck. the korean/mexican-style bbq is definitely the latest food fad to hit los angeles, and there can be up to two hour waits and a shortage of grub wherever the trucks decide to make an appearance. i queued up for like 45 minutes just to get a tofu taco which i assumed was vegan, only to find out that it almost was….other than “traces of lard” in the corn tortilla…after i’d already eaten it.

    i wrote a post about my kogi experience, which kicked up a minor stir…but it didn’t stop the la vegan drinks crew from organizing a meetup at the alibi room in culver city, the new brick and mortar home to the kogi taco truck cuisine. vegan drinks were arranged for saturday, march 28, with the selling point being that the word “vegan” is in fact on the kogi menu at the alibi (they offer a vegan taco wrapped in a leaf), plus the chef promised to create a “vegan special” just to appease our crew. i gotta admit, it was a pretty ballsy move on the part of vegan drinks. afterall, “kogi” means “meat” in korean and this is a place that has been known to have conflicting stories about the contents of their food. on the other hand, kogi is the latest culinary craze sweeping the town…why shouldn’t we vegans get to enjoy it as well? plus the alibi room is a hip bar with tons of vegan beer and a parking lot. having the vegan drinks meetup revolve around this controversial cuisine was obviously a good idea, because like 80 fucking vegans showed up!

    the place was jam packed, with vegans and meat-eaters alike…you could tell the alibi must fill to capacity even without a huge vegan party taking over the place. when we left, there was seriously a wait to get in. what is it with la and these bloody fads…once la foodies get wind of one, there really is no stopping them! anyways, on to the food!

    vegan sesame leaf tacos with tofu and asian pear. $5

    vegan sesame leaf tacos with tofu and asian pear. $5

    we started with the one and only main dish on kogi’s alibi menu that comes vegan as is: the vegan sesame leaf tacos. these tacos aren’t listed on the mobile kogi taco truck menu…but who knows, maybe they could make them for you if you ask. either way, they are always available at the alibi. they tasted pretty similar to the normal tofu tacos wrapped in lard, except these were wrapped in a delicate shiso leaf instead. the insides were a little bit sweeter than the normal tacos, and there was just a hint of hot sauce. they were pretty tasty, i just gotta admit i’m not a huge fan of eating tacos or burritos wrapped in leaves. i would have much preferred these to come in vegan corn tortillas, but oh well.

    vegan special of the night and tofu burrito after the jump.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • March 24th, 2009quarrygirlcasa de tree (closed), LA restaurants

    so a few months ago, i wrote about this new little japanese/french vegan deli/bakery that opened up in west los angeles on motor avenue called casa de tree. at the time of posting, the restaurant was the sister to the recently-closed torrance location, and didn’t offer a full menu yet…just a pay-by-weight salad and hot food bar with a few blackboard specials to choose from each day.

    3 months later, i am happy to announce that the west la casa de tree has expanded their menu and lowered their prices. these changes aren’t even reflected on the casa de tree website yet (most of the online info is out of date), so pay close attention to the prices and the menu that i will post below. not just that, but they wave before us the promise of their torrance location re-opening soon, which would be great news for the vegan community.

    i had the awesome opportunity to catch up at casa de tree with like-minded herbivores last weekend for an oh-so-fun and sporadic happycow.net meeting. now for all you vegan angelenos who want to know about these meetings in the future…just join happycow, leave some reviews, and specify that you want in on all the vegan shindig info for your area. this site is a great place to meet other veg-heads and stay abreast of all vegan/vegetarian-goings ons in yer area.

    that being said, the husband and i decided to have a slap-up feast, starting with the curry donut to share. as of recently, casa de tree offers several pastries…some savory and some sweet. so whether you are in the mood for an appetizer or dessert, they will definitely find a way to loosen your waistline.

    curry donut: vegan curry paste inside crunchy bread crumbed dough. $2.50

    curry donut: vegan curry paste inside crunchy bread crumbed dough. $2.50

    the curry donut was nothing short of exceptional. seriously, even though it took a bit long for them to heat it up behind the counter, one bite of it immediately launched casa de tree into the category of “favorite vegan restaurants, ever”. and that’s a bold statement. it was fried with little crumby edges…all crispy on the outside and fluffy in the middle. not just that, but it was ooooooooOOOOOOooozing with salty and chunky curry goodness.

    casa-de-tree-curry-donut-inside

    for my entree, i decided to order off the newly-introduced fixed menu. as i said, last time i went to casa de tree i was limited to the pay-by-weight buffet option, so on my recent trip i couldn’t help but test out one of the MANY BURGERS AND SANDWICHES they are now offering daily. not just that, but the meals are cheaper than they were even at the original torrance location. damn, i was having a fantasy menu field day when deciding what to order, there was so much awesomeness. i eventually settled on the katsu sandwich, which was a great choice.

    katsu sandwich: homemade organic seitan katsu, cabbage, mustard and italian miso sauce. served with salad and side dish. $8.95

    katsu sandwich: homemade organic seitan katsu, cabbage, mustard and italian miso sauce. served with salad and side dish. $8.95

    although it took way too long to arrive (maybe it just felt that way because all my fellow diners went with the buffet option), the katsu sandwich was totally worth it, and was a bargain at $8.95 with a salad and a side dish. the bread was remarkably soft and porous, the cabbage was fresh and crispy, the mustard was hot and tangy, and above all the seitan was crispy and just fatty enough. it was a sinful yet healthy tasting food, if you can imagine that…truly the best of both worlds. it came with a light and well-prepared salad as well as a cold and a creamy noodle dish which was packed with flavor. i’d order this again in a jiffy…after exploring the other amazing sounding sandwich and burger options, of course…

    casa-de-tree-seitan-sandwich-cu

    sticking to tradition, my husband went with with the pay-by-weight buffet option, which is probably the most obvious thing to do at casa de tree (it isn’t exactly clear when you walk in that they have a proper menu). since our last visit, the restaurant has lowered their price to $7.99 per pound, the exact same price as whole foods, but with much MUCH better shit. he filled up on loads of salad, sushi, tofu steak hamburgers, deep fried jalapenos, vegetable gyoza, and potato cakes. it really is a little self-serve vegan paradise. just be aware that it will cost you!

    vegan buffet: $7.99 per pound.

    vegan buffet: $7.99 per pound.

    the buffet is a great option if you are feeling up for eating samples of 15 different things, but i think in the future i will order off the newly-available set menu at casa de tree. they really give you a lot of food for the (now lower) price, and although it takes a while longer, it is so worth it.

    check out the menu i’ve posted below. as i said, the items AND prices are different than the ones listed on the casa de tree website, which is well old and useless. also please note that casa de tree is CASH ONLY. if you come prepared with enough cash to foot the bill, this could easily be the best restaurant in los angeles. if you fill up on heavy shit from the buffet and get overcharged, then have to run to the atm…this could leave you with a very bad taste in your mouth. i hope my little hints will help you make the best of your experience.

    casa-de-tree-menu-1 casa-de-tree-menu-2

    casa de tree
    3741 motor ave.
    Los Angeles, CA 90034
    310.784.0455

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  • February 2nd, 2009quarrygirlakasha, LA restaurants

    if you are a los angeles foodie or lover of fine dining, you are probably familiar with dineLA restaurant week. it’s a big event that everyone talks about, where upper-tier joints offer their food at discount prices to showcase their best dishes and get you hooked. the proper explanation from dineLA’s website goes like this:

    dineLA Restaurant Week is a two-week dining event established to introduce diners to the vast array of restaurants in neighborhoods throughout LA County. Local foodies and visitors to LA will have the opportunity to enjoy a selection of specially priced three-course meals from some of LA’s best restaurants during this dining event.

    a 3 course prix fixe menu from a snazzy restaurant? sign me up. for most los angelers, dineLA is a bloody great deal, because it makes pricey (and meat-heavy) restos like stk and katsuya available to the masses. but what about us vegans? luckily, this year there is a 5 star dining, and very vegan friendly option: akasha in culver city.

    akasha is a really swish new-american-style restaurant/bar/bakery with tons of vegan options that aren’t even advertised as vegan on the menu. however, all the servers are quite knowledgeable about veganism and very happy to accommodate and explain what contains no animal products. i’d say 80% of the vegetarian dishes are vegan, and the other 20% can be easily modified. imagine my excitement when i saw that akasha was taking part in the dineLA restaurant week, and that for just $22 i could experience their exquisite vegan 3 course lunch.

    i headed over with one of my vegan pals and we had a slap up, shameless meal. while the dineLA akasha menu wasn’t vegan in its entirety, every course had at least one vegan option, all of which were superb. to start with, we each ordered the grilled artichoke.

    grilled artichoke with smoked paprika aioli. (usually $9)

    grilled artichoke with smoked paprika aioli. (usually $9)

    considering my 3 course meal was capped out at $22, i was so stoked to be ordering a $9 appetizer as my first course. not just that, but the quality and awesomeness of the dish were overwhelming. two huge steaming artichokes boasting the most soft and edible stems, along with fleshy and succulent dripping leaves…not to mention the mildly spicy aioli (yep, that was vegan as well) that added a hot kick and creamy texture to every bite. plus, the fine, fine artichokes were served on a bed of delicate wild arugula. this appetizer was all around impressive. 

    for the second course, we both ordered the only vegan-friendly main…the punjabi mung beans and rice with no raita.

    punjabi mung beans and rice: local greens, tandoori flatbread, tomato chutney. (usually $14)

    punjabi mung beans and rice: local greens, tandoori flatbread, tomato chutney. (usually $14)

    the vegetables were really special, shriveled yet tender carrots and soft cauliflower. the mung bean dish itself was fluffy and delicate, bursting with the most delicious curry flavors. the flatbread was covered in chunky onion slices, and tasted like it came fresh out the oven. everything rocked. i don’t know why anyone would want to add icky raita to this already perfect dish.

    akasha-punjabi-mung-beans-cu

    for a dessert, we decided to sample 3 scoops of akasha’s vegan ice cream. they had a soy-based vanilla ice cream and a chocolate flavored gelato. i went for 2 scoops gelato and one scoop of soy.

    choice of 2 housemade ice creams. (usually $8)

    choice of 2 housemade ice creams. (usually $8)

    while all the ice cream was exceptional, the chocolate gelato really stood out. the soy vanilla was frigid and hard, almost refusing to budge and melt in my mouth. the chocolate on the other hand, was melty and perfect, cold yet still extremely creamy. 

    akasha-ice-cream-cu

    while that pretty much does it for akasha’s super affordable dineLA lunch deal, i also had a chance to visit the restaurant for a normal dinner. while it wasn’t the same incredible bargain as the lunch special, the food was just as good, and i wasn’t limited by a fixed menu. i hit up the akasha dinner scene with the same vegan friend, and this time we shared everything. with one appetizer, two mains, and one dessert between us, we left the restaurant with our seams bursting.

    cannelinni bean hummus: truffle sea salt, onion pizza bread, marinated olives. $8

    cannelinni bean hummus: truffle sea salt, onion pizza bread, marinated olives. $8

    we started off with the hummus plate and were totally blown away. like the flat bread, the pizza bread was covered in crispy little onions, and baked to absolute perfection. the hummus was thick and just oily enough, and the little plump olives were fresh as can be. yum yum yummmmm.

    we also shared the shitake, roasted squash and basil pizza.

    shiitake, roasted squash and basil: caramelized onion, eggplant, tomato and truffle sea salt. $12

    shiitake, roasted squash and basil: caramelized onion, eggplant, tomato and truffle sea salt. $12

    in true akasha form, this pizza doesn’t advertise itself as being vegan, although it is. the plate comes completely without any form of cheese (imitation or genuine), yet the pie is so tasty in its own right, the dairy will never be missed. fresh tomatoes, squash and eggplant piled atop a chalky and chewy crust make for the ultimate pizza without even the thought of cheese.

    we also split the red quinoa, also inherently vegan, with smoked tofu…my favorite dish i’ve tried at akasha so far.

    red quinoa: market vegetables & smoked tofu $12

    red quinoa: market vegetables & smoked tofu $12

    this stuff came with the same delicate and shriveled carrots as the mung bean lunch special, plus some very flavorful quinoa and juicy tofu. it was seasoned so well in fact, that when biting into the tofu, i was hit by several different flavors—salty, gingery, and spicy—one right after the other. i highly recommend trying this out.

    for dessert, we splurged on the salty chocolate tart, and it was incredible.

    salty chocolate tart: big tree farms sea salt, caramel, pecans, soy vanilla creme. $9

    salty chocolate tart: big tree farms sea salt, caramel, pecans, soy vanilla creme. $9

    the sweet and savory combo paired perfectly, and the caramel sauce drizzled over the top and soy creme were both amazing. even though there are so many vegan desserts to choose from at akasha, i don’t think any of them could possibly top this salty chocolatey goodness.

    so los angeles vegans, if you want a fancy vegan meal and aren’t against paying a little extra, hit up akasha. the restaurant truly is stunning—beautifully decorated with plenty of delicious and organic vegan options.

    and frugal vegans, if you want the experience but don’t feel like paying a ton of money, get to akasha by friday february 6th for lunch…you can enjoy their 3 course dineLA menu for only $22! they also have a prix fixe dinner menu for $34, but it isn’t quite as vegan-friendly.

    either way, i hope you end up trying out akasha. it’s a great place to take carnivores and a great place to celebrate a special occasion–fancy, tasty and something for everyone!

    akasha
    9543 culver blvd.
    culver city, CA 90232
    310 845 1700

    $22 dineLA vegan lunch menu available until friday, february 6!

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