• December 24th, 2009mr meanerbawarchi, LA restaurants, samosa house

    The plethora of vegetarian Indian kitchens in and around Culver City is a wonderful thing. I’m often known to leave work and head to Father’s Office for a Pliny The Elder or two before hitting up Samosa House (both locations) or Bawarchi for a box full of great value meatless Indian food to take home and eat in front of the TV.

    samosa house

    Frankly, the original Samosa House (which has been in Culver City for over 30 years) is quite a trek for me, and has had an historically spotty reputation for the taste of its food and quantities served. But perhaps due to competition from the newer Indian kitchens, or even the shitty blog post I wrote back in October 2008, Samosa House has transformed itself into a paragon of scrumptious food, value and excellent service. The staff are friendly and helpful when asked about vegan items, and take pride in piling your food choices into the containers with a smile. They always have a vegan bread, tasty rice and have recently added things like veggie burgers, dosas and rotating specials just to spice things up a little.

    bawarchi in culver city

    Lately, though, I’ve found myself going to Bawarchi more than Samosa House purely because it’s a couple of miles closer and (crucially!) east of the 405, meaning that I can get there much faster from where I live and work. I’d been bitten by the Bawarchi spell: closer location, exact same food offerings, smiling staff and great service that I began to wonder why I’d ever have an excuse to visit Samosa House again. Until, that is, a couple of weeks ago when I found myself running an errand closer to Samosa House so I popped in, just like the old days, and ordered a couple of combination meals to go.

    When I got home and opened up the meals, I realized that I was getting far, far more for my money at Samosa House than I was at Barwarchi. More curry, more bread, less rice (making room for more curry!), less raita (non-vegan stuff Bawarchi always manages to sneak into the bag) and the food was, frankly, better. It wasn’t as dry, tasted much fresher and had a fuller flavor without being overly saturated with spice.

    samosa house dinner combo!

    VS

    bawarchi dinner combo!

    Just to be sure, I went back to Bawarchi a couple of days ago and ordered my usual – the exact same dishes at the same price as Samosa House. This time, though, I watched the friendly bearded gentleman behind the counter spoon my food in. He was unbelievably diligent in ensuring that he put the absolute minimum of food in each compartment (except for the rice, of course, which filled 80% of the large compartment). At one point, he actually TOOK OUT some jackfruit that he put in, while all the time talking to me so I’m distracted from his hand action like the victim of some Victorian illusionist.

    bawarchi dinner combo!

    VS

    samosa house dinner combo!

    The lentil dal was probably the worst example – he put so little in the box that it only filled one regular shot glass!

    WTF, bawarchi?! ...really?

    Of course, cramming a box with rice (factually, the world’s least expensive food crop) and 25-30% less food than one’s competitors goes straight to the bottom line – and in today’s economy, who doesn’t want to keep costs under control? Exactly.

    I continued to watch him serve a couple of other customers, and I seriously think this guy has a Ph.D. in “food service cost control”: Measly portions, lots of rice and some clever slight of hand lead me to dismiss Bawarchi as a cost-driven business dealing in bait and switch techniques to the uninitiated.

    I’m going to avoid Bawarchi for a while — until they improve the portions and put their customers first. and if, like me, you’ve dumped Samosa House for Bawarchi, try switching back for a while and see the difference. I promise you, it’s worth the extra 1.65 miles however you cut it.

    stick to the samosa house

    Samosa House
    11510 W Washington Blvd.
    Culver City, CA 90066
    310-398-6766

    Bawarchi
    10408 Venice Blvd
    Culver City, CA 90232
    (310) 836-8525

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  • December 18th, 2009quarrygirldosa truck, LA restaurants

    dosa truck

    dosa truck is part of the huge twittering mobile food craze that’s hitting los angeles, but unlike the other businesses, this truck doesn’t serve meat. it specializes in all-vegetarian dosas, which are south indian-inspired crepes stuffed with various different fillings.

    vegan dosa from dosa truck

    although dosa truck does serve cheese in some of their dishes, the menu is super vegan-friendly, with all the stuff to avoid being pretty obvious (paneer, yogurt, etc). i hit up the food truck today at their stint in hollywood, and tried out 2 of their vegan dosas as well as a samosa.

    vegan dosa

    the shiva-shakti (pictured above), is a 1/2 masala and 1/2 sweet potato dosa filled with smashed curried indian potatoes. i also tried the mumbai madness, which is the same thing minus the sweet potatoes. both of these creations were amazing; the filling was fluffy and flavorful and the rice-lentil crepe was soft and crispy around the edges. these things were also stuffed with a tasty blend of tomato and coconut chutney. UPDATE: i asked the dude working the truck if the coconut chutney was vegan, and he said it was. however, a reader commented on this post saying it isn’t vegan. i am awaiting an official response from dosa truck… UPDATE #2: the owner of dosa truck just sent me an email and confirmed the coconut chutney is NOT vegan. the tomato chutney is though, so just ask for no coconut. she apologised profusely for the error. 🙁

    vegan samosa from dosa truck

    i also grabbed a samosa, the perfect little fried pocket of indian goodness. it was a great one too, with soft potatoes and juicy green peas.

    vegan samosa from dosa truck

    every bite of food i had at dosa truck was excellent, so seriously go show this vegetarian business some support! dosas are 6 bucks each, and worth every penny. and remember, no coconut chutney!

    you can get their schedule from their website.
    and be sure to follow them on twitter for updates.

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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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  • October 9th, 2009quarrygirlflore cafe (closed), LA restaurants
    flore cafe vegan soul food buffet. all you can eat. $10. (photo courtesy of cuteanddelicious.com)

    flore cafe vegan soul food buffet. all you can eat. $10. (photo courtesy of cuteanddelicious.com)

    hey los angeles vegans, we’ve got some news about one of your local restaurants and some important info about what you should be eating this weekend. it turns out flore cafe has switched up their business model a bit. they are no longer open during normal hours, and are instead bringing us a few bottomless epic vegan feasts each week for just 10 bucks a pop. coming up saturday through monday, flore cafe is hosting three vegan buffets consisting of soul food on saturday, brunch on sunday, and curry on monday. this is gonna get awesome. (btw, do not confuse flore cafe with its sister restaurant flore down the street. flore cafe is at the corner of sunset and descanso!)

    if you are wondering why the picture above is so damn lovely…it’s because i borrowed it from last week’s review of the flore cafe soul food lunch buffet on the cute and delicious blog. the post praises the buffet and asks, “What could be better than all you can eat vegan macaroni and cheese?…The cole slaw was honestly the best slaw I’ve ever had in my life…It was fresh, crunchy and sweet. So good.”

    while flore cafe is still around (they not be for long), you should really take advantage of their ten buck all you can eat deals…starting with this weekend. saturday you have the amazing soul food deal as raved about above, sunday you have the incredible brunch that we have blogged about several times before, and monday you have an all new indian dinner that sounds pretty damn exciting to me.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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  • August 4th, 2009mr meanerstores, whole foods
    basus homestyle masala at whole foods, available from TODAY at Santa Monica and Fairfax outlet

    basu’s homestyle masala at whole foods, available from TODAY at Santa Monica and Fairfax outlet

    One of my earliest memories was helping my grandmother prepare Indian food in her kitchen. I recall the brightly colored spices and the wonderful aroma while the pots bubbled away, and became hooked on the food of that nation at a very young age. Years later, I asked her for the recipe of her potato and pea vindaloo as she gave me a bewildered look and said “Well, there isn’t really a recipe. You take the ingredients, combine and cook them in the way you were shown, and hope for the best!”. You see, my grandmother lived the first 30 years of he life in India, and was taught to cook Indian food by many families in their kitchens and around their stoves.

    As an ex-pat Englishman living in Los Angeles, I’ve always missed the taste of real Indian food. West Coast Indian cuisine rarely has the depth of authenticity and complexity of flavors that Indian and British people love so much. I think it’s because there are fewer resident Indian families to share their techniques, and even fewer Indian restaurants of quality. I had even taken to creating my own curry recipe as a facsimile of what I was used to back home.

    Imagine, then, my interest when we received an invitation to a tasting at Whole Foods for a new range of vegan Indian home-style food. For sure, Whole Foods is creeping up on the vegan community in SoCal. From their early adoption of Daiya vegan cheese to an entirely new range of vegan Indian food, Whole Foods is rapidly becoming a one-stop-shop not only in the grocery department (like it always has been), but increasingly in the Prepared Foods section. Yeah, you can get a kick-ass vegan pizza and now some amazing vegan Indian food on your way home from work and at reasonable prices!

    Indian food is a combination of several things, the most important of which is the base “Masala” (meaning sauce and spices), in which one cooks the vegetables and proteins. Then there’s the carbohydrate portion, usually rice and/or bread. The key to tasty Indian food is in the Masala, which for Whole Foods is provided by Basu’s Home-style, a small family-run business headed by Basu Ghosh and his son Robin. Basu hails from Calcutta in Bengal, one of the regions of India that has the most incredible traditional food. Bengali cuisine is the intersection of aromatic spices and sweet flavors. It’s not uncommon to find raisins and even pineapples in a Bengali dish, all bathed in a glorious masala, served over rice.

    I’m delighted to let you know that Basu’s Homestyle has not only brought some amazing masalas to Southern California, but has delivered a kick-ass selection of them to Whole Foods, allowing the wizard chefs of Prepared Foods to create some amazing dishes.

    clockwise: basil vindaloo with peas and mushrooms, tofu apple masala, vegan curried beef with basil vindaloo, channa dal, peanut masala with roasted red potatoes.

    clockwise: basil vindaloo with peas and mushrooms, tofu apple masala, vegan curried beef with basil vindaloo, channa dal, peanut masala with roasted red potatoes.

    Our tasting was a smorgasbord of contrasting tastes that came together in a way rarely experienced this side of West Bengal (or East London, take your pick). From the Basil Vindaloo through the Peanut Masala with Roasted Red Potatoes, we were spell-bound with the flavors. Whole Foods even invented a “Vegan Curried Beef with Basil Vindaloo” – Indian flavors paired perfectly with Gardein, raisins and apples using Basu’s masalas.

    vegan curried beef with basil vindaloo using gardein beef strips and basu's masala

    vegan curried beef with basil vindaloo using gardein beef strips and basu's masala

    Also, I’m really impressed with the way Basu’s and the chefs at Whole Foods have taken traditional, family-style masalas and combined them with non-traditional ingredients like tofu, Gardein and apples. Truly an amazing and interesting way to create tasty vegan Indian food.

    basu-cu

    We were pleased to meet with Basu and Robin during the tasting, and hear their stories about how Basu and his family members from India perfected the masalas in his kitchen at home! They made multiple batches, tested them and modified the formula so that the sauces could be made commercially in large orders yet still have a home-style taste. They then repeated the process to “veganize” the two masalas that had non-vegan ingredients.

    image

    robin ghosh (left) and his father basu, owners of Basu's Homestyle

    About the best vegan pizza is now available in Whole Foods, and I can 100% assure you that the best Indian food in Los Angeles is now also available at your local Whole Foods for sale by the pound. Fill up that container, I promise you won’t be sorry! Whole Foods told us that the West Hollywood outlet (Santa Monica and Fairfax) is rolling out he program TODAY, and the other stores will get with the program at various stages throughout this week. If in doubt, call ahead.

    basu-foods

    Oh, and talking of pizza, Basu’s masala and chutneys are available on some specialty vegan pizzas as well. Yeah, a “basil vindaloo sauce with daiya cheese, zucchini, carrot, and fresh basil” pizza is available (think that through — what an amazing and innovative idea!)…

    vegan indian pizza: vindaloo basil masala, daiya cheese, zucchini, basil and carrot.

    vegan indian pizza: vindaloo basil masala, daiya cheese, zucchini, basil and carrot.

    as well as a “channa dal with fresh cucumber, red onion, tamarind chutney” pizza. We’re talking perfect Indian flavors, mixed with stuff we vegans love on top of a delicious pizza.

    basu-pizza2

    Basu’s mission statement says it all: “If you could visit our home in India, this is the food you would be served.”, and my grandmother was right: there is no recipe for Indian food. The only good Indian food is prepared by the family, and for the family.

    Let’s show Whole Foods and Basu’s how much we love vegan Indian food.

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  • July 17th, 2009quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), san francisco

    one restaurant that all my vegan friends in the bay area constantly rave about is cha-ya vegetarian. the san francisco casual eatery serves up fresh vegan japanese fare that tastes great and is relatively healthy. i went there when i was up in SF and i felt that the restaurant had great potential…you just gotta know what to order. the menu is absolutely huge, daunting, and in some cases unspecific. unfortunately on my visit, i felt i ordered the wrong stuff, and found myself drooling over the food being brought to the other tables. oh well, i guess this just gives me a chance to return to cha-ya, because it seemed like a really great place.

    Haru Maki ( Spring Roll) Asparagus, shitake, carrots, long beans silver noodles, and atsuage tofu rolled in rice sheet. Lightly fried and served with sweet and sour sauce (2 rolls cut into 6 pieces). $6.25

    Haru Maki ( Spring Roll) Asparagus, shitake, carrots, long beans silver noodles, and atsuage tofu rolled in rice sheet. Lightly fried and served with sweet and sour sauce (2 rolls cut into 6 pieces). $6.25

    we started out with the haru maki spring rolls which were very tasty, but a lot heavier than i expected. the fried tofu and vegetable concoction ended up being the highlight of our meal.

    Natto Fermented soy beans sushi roll. $4

    Natto Fermented soy beans sushi roll. $4

    we also ordered the fermented soy bean sushi roll, which was decent, but not very flavorful. i don’t think i would order it again.

    Soba Salad Soba noodles topped with various seasonal vegetables, sesame-oil vinaigrette dressing. $7

    Soba Salad Soba noodles topped with various seasonal vegetables, sesame-oil vinaigrette dressing. $7

    the meal took a turn when they brought out or soba salad dish. the plate of noodles was covered in a mish mash of fruit and vegetables that didn’t seem to go together at all: strawberries, onions, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and edamame. seriously who thought of this dish? does that look or sound tasty to you AT ALL?

    Cha- Ya Nabe ( Vegan Sukiyaki) Nappa cabbage, spinach, red onion, carrots, mushrooms, kabocha, broccoli, cauliflower, lotus root, zucchini, snap peas, snow peas, silver noodles, and tofu in sukiyaki broth. Served in an iron pot. $8.75

    Cha- Ya Nabe ( Vegan Sukiyaki) Nappa cabbage, spinach, red onion, carrots, mushrooms, kabocha, broccoli, cauliflower, lotus root, zucchini, snap peas, snow peas, silver noodles, and tofu in sukiyaki broth. Served in an iron pot. $8.75

    for our entree we ordered the cha-ya nabe, which turned out to be a vegetable soup in a hot pot with tofu and noodles. there was very little tofu in it, and i when ordering, i was expecting it to be more of a noodle dish than a soup. it was good, i just wasn’t prepared for it. we also got the vege-tofu curry soup (pictured below) so we wound up having two soup entrees for dinner on accident. they both kinda tasted the same, and i have to say we were pretty underwhelmed by these dishes.

    Vege-Tofu Curry Curry soup topped with tofu, pearl onions, kabocha, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas. $8.75

    Vege-Tofu Curry Curry soup topped with tofu, pearl onions, kabocha, celery, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas. $8.75

    as we were leaving chay-a, completely full of soup, i couldn’t help but notice all the beautiful dishes on other tables that i wish i’d have ordered. colorful sushi rolls, mounds of vegetables, and plates piled high with thick noodles. how did i end up with all the liquid and a strawberry bell pepper salad?! i have friends who went there recently cha-ya recently and had a very similar experience. they ordered tons of things off the menu, and when the food arrived, everything turned out to be fried! just be sure you know what you are ordering when you dine at cha-ya.

    ah well, i guess i will just have to go back to san francisco and eat here again to set things right.

    chaya-ext

    cha-ya vegetarian
    762 Valencia St
    (between 18th St & 19th St)
    San Francisco, CA 94110

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  • June 14th, 2009mr meanergangadin, LA restaurants

    Gangadin, an Indian restaurant on Ventura Place that’s close to the intersection of Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd. would otherwise be an average Southern Californian interpretation of a Northern Indian curry house, but it smashes through a barrier of mediocrity by offering a special menu for vegans. I’m not talking about a typical vegan menu where meat is substituted for vegetables (kindly for the same price), but a REAL and seriously prepared vegan menu with a respectful kitchen and staff that are knowledgeable about what a vegan is and what we require as dietary predicates. All of this in an omnivorous environment with a cool vibe and convenient location.

    As it happens, I’m weeks away from hosting some omnivores that hail from England: recognized as the home of Indian cuisine, so following a recent post on the Quarrums, we decided to do a dry run of Gangadin so we could check out the “vegan friendly” options on the menu.

    Upon arrival, we were searching the menu for vegan items (the word “Vegan” doesn’t appear anywhere), and were planning to play the substitution game with long faces until we noticed the “ask about our vegan menu” subtitle on the front page. Upon reading that, I went to the rear of the restaurant to ask about vegan offerings (as our server was at best inattentive, at worst rude) and was handed “GANGADIN’S VEGAN MENU”, so I scuttled back to our table, and we began to order with aplomb.

    First, we had the Tofu Pakoras. In some ways, they reminded me of the vegan fish and chips at Weird Fish, as they were slabs of firm tofu fried in batter and perfectly seasoned. It’s a fact that I’ve eaten Indian food in all 13 continents (including India), and this is by far the best appetizer I’ve ever had. In fact, it was so good I was tempted to order another serving as a main dish!

    tofu pakoras: firm tofu dipped in spiced gram flour, fried. $6

    tofu pakoras: firm tofu dipped in spiced gram flour, fried. $6

    Next, we mixed it up with Aloo Gobhi (potatoes, cauliflower and vegetables)…

    aloo gobi: cauliflower and potaoes sauteed with tomatoes, ginger and spices. $10.50

    aloo gobi: cauliflower and potaoes sauteed with tomatoes, ginger and spices. $10.50

    Saag Tofu (spinach and tofu)…

    saag tofu: spinach and tofu cooked in onions and tomatoes. $10.50

    saag tofu: spinach and tofu cooked in onions and tomatoes. $10.50

    all washed down with a Vegetable Biryani (Rice, vegetables and spiced)…

    vegetable biryani: basmati rice with mixed vegetables. $6.50

    vegetable biryani: basmati rice with mixed vegetables. $6.50

    with a side order of Spinach Paratha – basically two paratha breads with steamed spinach stuffed inside and cooked in a hot Tandoor oven.

    spinach parantha: parantha stuffed with rich leafy spinach, baked in the tandoor. $3.50

    spinach parantha: parantha stuffed with rich leafy spinach, baked in the tandoor. $3.50

    The quality of the food was superb — with or without it being vegan. The spices and textures worked very well together, and the seemingly endless supply of condiments and biryani rice gave a rather filling feeling to the evening leaving us most replete in our quest for curry.

    I’ll proudly take my English friends to Gangadin, and while they enjoy their omnivorous whatevers I’ll sneak to the back and order from the vegan menu that (until now) was only available if asked for when visiting. Minor gripes like reheated potatoes and vegetables that were frozen before cooking (and, yeah, I can tell for sure) pale into insignificance with a menu like this. Gandadin might not be the best Indian restaurant in LA, but the fact it has a special vegan menu (even though it is mysteriously hidden) speaks volumes about what we vegans can expect these days in regular restaurants. here’s the vegan menu so you can see for yourself:

    gangadin-vegan-menu-1 gangadin-vegan-menu-2

    Do you know of the poet Rudyard Kipling? If so, you’ll certainly know the poem Gunga Din. It ends with “Tho’ I’ve belted you and flayed you, By the livin’ Gawd that made you, You’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!”. Kinda sums up Gangadin (sic) in many more ways than one.

    gangadin-ext

    Gangadin
    12067 Ventura Pl
    Studio City, CA 91604
    (818) 509-0722

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  • May 29th, 2009quarrygirlLA restaurants, paru's

    i have been a fan of paru’s indian vegetarian restaurant for quite some time. the entirely meat-free establishment, located on sunset in hollywood, specializes in south indian cuisine and cooks up some of the best curries i’ve had on this side of the pond.

    i have raved about them before, and as i said in my earlier post, don’t be alarmed by how sketchy this place looks on the outside; once you get buzzed in through the metal gate, the restaurant is absolutely lovely. although i have had many pleasant and delicious visits to paru’s, my meal there last week left a lot to be desired. if you haven’t been to paru’s, i still suggest you check it out, but maybe i can help you with what not to order.

    bonda: 2 spicy potato balls. $4.50

    bonda: 2 spicy potato balls. $4.50

    for our recent dinner, my husband and i started with the spicy potato balls known as bonda. although only one is pictured above, the order came with two and the balls were pretty sizable. the appetizer was absolutely delicious, i have nothing to complain about here, as it ended up being the high point of our meal. super crispy and fried on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside, and littered with little chunks of spicy jalapeno. plus, the dipping sauce the ballz came with was insane. paru’s is very knowledgeable about veganism, and when we told them we were vegan they said they would take care of us. however the green sauce the potato balls came with was so delicious and creamy, i was convinced it was dairy-based. our friendly waiter laughed when i questioned him, assuring us it was coconut milk, and that that almost all of paru’s dishes were dairy-free. phew.

    punjab glory: poori, vegetable curry, peas & rice, papad, (no raitha). $12.95

    punjab glory: poori, vegetable curry, peas & rice, papad, (no raitha). $12.95

    as a main dish, my husband got the punjab glory, which was basically 3 little pots of curry with a tray of breads and a huge mound of rice. knowing we were vegans, they kindly left off the side of raitha. you see, this dish was pretty good, but for $13 it just seemed like an awful lot of carbs. we are used to getting a few side orders which are 8 bucks each, and then splitting a side order of rice. while that can turn out to be a little more expensive, at least you get a lot of curry. i mean, look at the picture, do you see how much rice, bread and sauce that is? the actual curry only took up about 25% of the plate. at the end of the meal, all the curry was gone (there being about 5 or 6 bites of each of the 3 types), and almost all the rice and bread were left over. i think we will definitely stick to ordering side dishes in the future, like we did in my more complimentary post about paru’s.

    yogi's delight: indo-American combination bringing you chickpeas curry on a bed of beans and sprouts, topped with onions, tomatoes, cucumber, and other vegetables, plus paratha. $12.95

    yogi's delight: indo-American combination bringing you chickpeas curry on a bed of beans and sprouts, topped with onions, tomatoes, cucumber, and other vegetables, plus paratha. $12.95

    my main dish is where it all kind of fell apart. i ordered yogi’s delight, which appeared from the menu description to be a light chickpea curry with vegetables and bread. imagine my shock when it arrived and was just a huge ice berg lettuce salad. ummm…the menu description didn’t even mention lettuce!! i thought i was getting a chickpea curry on a bed of beans, topped with onions. instead i got a bed of lettuce with cold chickpeas on top. there was nothing ‘curry’ like about this thing. even for a salad, it wasn’t good. oh and here’s the real kicker: it was also filled with unadvertised bell peppers, which i absolutely hate. gah! and for $13?!? talk about adding insult to injury. i managed to pick around and eat some of the chickpeas off, plus i helped myself to my husband’s never ending supply of rice and bread.

    so there you have it, go eat at paru’s because some of their stuff is absolutely amazing. just avoid yogi’s delight like it’s the plague, and be sure to order side dishes if you want a decent amount of curry. i hear the dosas are great too, but i have yet to try them. when i do, you’ll be sure to hear about it.

    paru’s indian vegetarian restaurant
    5140 W Sunset Blvd
    Los Angeles, CA 90027
    (323) 661-7600

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  • it was a super eco-friendly day in los angeles as hippies, vegans and all around earth lovers gathered to partake in worldfest, “a solar-powered celebration of music, the environment, animals and humanity.” basically a big grassy field in the valley was fenced off and people were charged 7 bucks (+ $5 for parking) to hear to jam bands, listen to animal activist speakers, and have the opportunity to purchase a wide variety of all vegan food and alcohol. i went for a couple hours today and didn’t spend much time with the speakers or the music…i did get my fill of food though, and that’s what i’m here to tell ya about.

    wordfest vegan corn dog. $3.50

    wordfest vegan corn dog. $3.50

    between the two of us, my husband and i murdered a lot of vegan goodies. one of my favorites was a corn dog offered up by a stand selling field roast sausages, tofurky links, curly fries and vegan burgers. the corn dog was a standard veggie dog turned spectacular with corn batter and a deep fryer. this was nothing like your out-of-the-freezer family meal corn dogs…this thing was just like the old school hot dog on a stick meals i used to get at my local mall. the batter formed a crispy and almost burnt layer on the outside which surrounded fluffy moist corn bread and finally a plump and juicy soy dog. this totally brought back childhood memories.

    worldfest-corndog2

    we also tried the vegan chicken curry from the bodhi tree stand, which was excellent. the bodhi tree is a vegetarian restaurant located in huntington beach, and after eating their curry, i know i will be making a trip there very soon. the sauce was sweet with a perfectly subtle spiciness, and the soy meat was thick and juicy. all the vegetables were fresh and well-prepared as well, and they had so many other appetizing dishes i didn’t even get to try.

    bodhi tree vegan curry chicken. $7

    bodhi tree vegan curry chicken. $7

    the chicken sandwich from follow your heart was another high point of the festival—at only 5 bucks it was a total steal, considering it was huge and came with a side of greens and potato salad. we interrogated the booth about the ingredients in the bun (normal follow your heart buns contain honey), and they ensured us that not only were these special vegan buns ordered just for worldfest, but that their restaurant buns may soon no longer contain honey either! (we will try to keep you posted on that.) aside from the bun, the sandwich was awesome and extremely well priced. the bbq sauce was mild and tangy, not overwhelmingly sweet, and the slices of soy meat were thick and hearty. the potato salad was on point as well: soft and creamy yet not too full of vegenaise. total perfection.

    follow your heart vegan chicken bbq sandwich with potato salad. $5

    follow your heart vegan chicken bbq sandwich with potato salad. $5

    for dessert, we rounded off the feasting with some maggie mudd ice cream all the way from san francisco. they offered a whopping bowl filled up with ice cream, chocolate sauce, nuts, sprinkles and whipped cream (ALL VEGAN) for just $7. it came with the choice of three flavors, but i stuck to two: memphis mudd pie (coffee flavor with chocolate cookies, fudge swirl and whiskey) and tarmack (chocolate peanut butter flavor with chocolate cookies and peanut butter swirl). the ice cream itself was extremely decadent, and it came with the most amazing toppings….this has to be the best old-fashioned dessert i’ve had since i was a child. no vegan ice cream has anything on maggie mudd; this stuff was so good, i’m considering a move to SF.

    big bowl: tarmack and memphis mudd ice cream topped with whipped cream, nuts, chocolate sauce and sprinkles

    big bowl: tarmack and memphis mudd ice cream topped with whipped cream, nuts, chocolate sauce and sprinkles

    to top it all off, worldfest had a bad ass beer garden serving up $5 pints of lagunitas ipa and $10 bottles of double ipa. that made coachella’s beer garden look like a total shithole. i’m telling you, this beer was off the chain. not only was it well priced, this stuff was hoppy and flavorful as hell…i’d be stoked to get brew this good in a bar, so imagine how thrilled i was to drink it at a sweaty festival in the valley.

    lagunitas double ipa

    lagunitas double ipa

    although i did try a lot of great stuff at worldfest this year, i can only eat so much…so naturally i missed out on tons of vendors. i wanna give some shout outs to places that looked delicious, yet i was way too stuffed to try. to name a few: luscious organic desserts, c’est la v bakeshop, friedel caribbean cuisine and sunpower cafe. the frankenstand was also supposed to make an appearance, but to everyone’s dismay, ended up cancelling. basically what i am trying to say is, even with all the ridiculously tasty vegan food i got to eat today, it was still just the tip of the iceberg. worldfest is apparently THE PLACE to get your vegan eats on—i’m talking several entirely animal-free stands with stuff ranging from salads, to burgers, to fried foods, to desserts including ice cream, cookies, funnel cakes, and cobbler.

    word to the wise: save up for worldfest 2010. the amazing food will make all the bitchy fees and unhealthy calories worth it. i’ve never seen so much food i can eat in one place, it made me feel like an omnivore…in a good way!

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  • April 18th, 2009quarrygirlcoachella, venues

    hey vegans, quarrygirl here reporting from coachella. yesterday in between drinking $7 beers, watching morrissey, and waiting in line for the bathroom, i was running around snapping vegan options all over the festival with my iphone. i wrote a quick post from my phone but had to delete it upon finding out that some of the stuff i suggested contained honey. so here is the updated info on vegan coachella 2009:

    the best spot for vegan food is definitely inside the vip area. there you have luscious organic desserts selling a kick-ass selection of vegan cupcakes, plus a raw vegan stand called jenny’s. i had a cupcake from luscious and it totally blew my mind. more to come on that later.

    luscious organic desserts

    luscious organic desserts

    jenny's raw organic

    jenny's raw organic

    if you don’t have vip access, never fear…you can get food in the dining area across from the dance tents. over there they have sweet leaf, an almost all vegan organic stand…except there is honey in all their dressings. so grab a wrap or salad at sweet leaf…just get it with no sauce or dressing. there is also a mexican stand called leno’s that uses no lard and a curry/mex stand called cowboys and turbans that sells vegan tofu masala. there’s also a middle eastern stand where you can get a falafel sandwich and some garlic fries.

    sweet leaf

    sweet leaf

    leno's lard free mexican

    leno's lard free mexican

    cowboys and turbans

    cowboys and turbans

    so that’s it for now. if you are at coachella this weekend, i hope you enjoy the festival and that this helps you find somewhere to eat!

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  • 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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  • March 8th, 2009mr meanerholy cow, LA restaurants

    Well, not IN the Beverly Center, but right across the street across from Souplantation on 3rd St., just East of La Cienega. Holy Cow is an honest to goodness fast-food style Indian eat-in/carry-out kitchen with a range of veg and non-veg offerings. As is common with many Southern-Indian restaurants there’s no beef on the bill of fayre (probably due to quasi-Hindi leanings of its owners) which leaves an extra-large gap in the menu for vegetarian food, much of which is either naturally vegan or can be made as such.

    vegan take-out dinner from holy cow

    vegan take-out dinner from holy cow

    On our recent visit, we rolled up at 8pm on a Saturday evening, and made that classic mistake: allowing cell a couple of ‘phone babbling people to go into the restaurant ahead of us. By the time they’d figured out what they wanted to eat, changed it three times, and had any number of ‘phone conversations with friends about the menu selections, we’d been standing by the counter for a good 10 minutes. However, the experience was rather educational as we deduced the gang in front of us were somewhat observant Jewish people, most particular to ensure that there was no dairy in anything they ordered – in this way, we got a good grounder of what could, and could not be, veganized without having to go through a big Q&A with the person taking the order.

    When it was finally our turn, a very nice Indian gentleman of some stature and presence politely engaged with us, helping guide our choices. As is common with West Coast outlets like this (especially Indian), ordering a “dinner” is excellent value. For only a couple of bucks more than an a-la-carte single main dish one can get a appetizer, main dish, side of vegetables, rice and bread. Sadly for us, the naan bread contained eggs, so we had to order a-la-carte, even though a better economic decision might have been to order the dinner and trash the naan bread. But that’s not very vegan, now is it?

    vegetarian samosas: crisp turnovers filled with potatoes and peas. $3.95

    vegetarian samosas: crisp turnovers filled with potatoes and peas. $3.95

    We started off with two Vegetable Samosas – at only $3.95 they were exceptional value and extremely tasty, being freshly prepared in the kitchen when our order was taken.

    holy-cow-samosa-cu

    They had that crispy outside with hot steamy inside that is so unique to this dish. The nearest thing is a Chimichanga – that decadent Mexican-style deep-fried burrito, but I’d rather a samosa any day!

    aloo gobi: potato and cauliflower cooked with herb and spices $6.95...and saag tofu: pureed spinach with tofu and spices. $6.95. plus rice!$2.95

    aloo gobi: potato and cauliflower cooked with herb and spices $6.95...and saag tofu: pureed spinach with tofu and spices. $6.95. plus rice!$2.95

    I have a complete weakness for Potato and Cauliflower curries, particularly the Aloo Gobi which, if done right, can be a sublime dish. There’s something about the intersection of basic ingredients like vegetables, spices and oils that Indian cuisine does so well, and Holy Cow’s rendition holds up to the highest standards.

    Our other entrée was Saag Aloo with Tofu – basically pureed spinach (spinach haters stop reading this paragraph now!) with chunky potatoes, spices and small, firm tofu pieces. This can very much be a hit or miss dish in many Indian restaurants because the cooking times of everything vary so much – seconds for the spinach, but 30 minutes or more for the potatoes and tofu, so a juggling act in the kitchen is needed to pull this delicate dish off to perfection – and whomever was back-stage at Holy Cow knows exactly how to make Saag Aloo happen: the end result being perfection.

    Finally, we ordered White Rice, which was a bit misleading (albeit in a good way), because the rice was actually cooked in herbs and spices, including turmeric, which gave it a yellowy look and, spicy flavor that complemented the food perfectly.

    So, bottom line, Holy Cow was a GREAT, inexpensive Indian take-away very much in the tradition of my homeland in England where you can take home the curry or sit in a brightly lit restaurant and eat it there. Holy Cow has the ambience of a vegan Thai restaurant, but the food is so much better.

    With convenient parking, incredibly polite and helpful staff as well as completely above-average food, you can’t go wrong. The only competition is Samosa House, which is distant competition both in miles to travel (it’s in Culver City) and taste of the food.

    Thanks for being there, Holy Cow, and thanks for understanding about vegans and our standards. We’ll be regular customers.

    holy cow

    holy cow

    holy cow
    8474 W 3rd St
    Los Angeles, CA 90048
    (323) 852-8900

    monday – friday
    11:30am-9pm
    sat and sun
    5pm-9pm

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  • February 16th, 2009quarrygirlliverpool, more restaurants (not LA)

    on our recent trip to england, we spent one day and one night in liverpool. being the birthplace of the beatles, we just had to pay the city a visit…and of course, we were on the lookout for good vegan food while we were there. you know veganism is spreading like wildfire when this even this grey, industrial, port city in england has its very own website dedicated to vegetarian and vegan life. scouseveg.co.uk was a valuable resource for us while staying in liverpool, and it lead us to a very lovely all vegetarian and very vegan-friendly restaurant called the egg cafe.

    the egg cafe in liverpool.

    the egg cafe in liverpool.

    the egg cafe is a sweet little vegetarian lunch spot with a rotating menu of daily specials, and several vegan offerings. there was so much to choose from when we were there, from sandwiches and curries to soups and desserts. we started the meal off with a bowl of vegan creamed cauliflower soup and a large slice of garlic bread.

    soup and garlic bread £3.25

    soup and garlic bread £3.25

    although everything we ended up ordering at the egg cafe was tasty, the soup and garlic bread combo was definitely the highlight of the meal. both were vegan, but both were incredibly rich and delicious. the soup was extremely creamy, and the bread was all thick and fluffy. plus, it was fresh and pipin’ hot, and the garlic and buttery spread on it was amazing. probably the best vegan garlic bread i’ve ever had.

    egg-cafe-bread

    for a main meal, i ordered the hummus combination, which came with homemade hummus, pita bread, salad and pasta on the side.

    fresh hummus £3.95

    fresh hummus £3.95

    the fresh hummus plate really hit the spot, and i can’t fault it…however it did taste like something i could make at home. next time i visit the egg, i will go order something a little more special, like one of the vegan hot dishes. the hummus was creamy and covered in really great seasonings, definitely a great lunch if you are looking for something light. i didn’t touch the salad because it had bell peppers in it (which i HATE), but my husband tells me it was really good.

    my husband went for a curry-inspired dish: the vegan tandori mushrooms with creamy sauce.

    tandori mushrooms £4.95

    tandori mushrooms £4.95

    the white yogurty sauce was so convincing, we had to go double check it was vegan! all of it was quite excellent. the tandori mushrooms were plump and well seasoned. they were bright red and had the same flavor as tandori chicken of the same color. they also came with pita and side salads. it all wrapped up very nicely as a curry mushroom sandwich.

    overall, the egg cafe was a great find. all the food was good, and some of it was downright excellent. for vegans in liverpool, this place is a must visit. the atmosphere is pretty awesome too. you order at the counter and then sit at a long communal table. it isn’t crowded or uncomfortable though, and the decorations are fun and colorful. there’s no alcohol license, but feel free to byob!

    interior of the egg cafe in liverpool.

    interior of the egg cafe in liverpool.

    the egg is located up two flights of stairs, and the sign is on the ground. so be sure not to miss it! look out for the trippy purple building.

    egg-cafe-ext

    the egg cafe
    2nd Floor, 16-18 Newington
    Liverpool L1 4ED
    Tel: 0151 707 2755

    oh, and by the way…any vegetarian restaurant with this on the wall is okay in my book. i love liverpool.

    beatles decorations at the egg cafe in liverpool. i particularly love the picture of paul.

    beatles decorations at the egg cafe in liverpool. i particularly love the picture of paul.

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  • February 10th, 2009mr meanerlondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    Let me take you back to May 1992. Early one morning I arrived at my place of work in Camden Town, London to see my best friend and colleague of many years standing outside smoking a cigarette. The puffing away wasn’t surprising (heck, everybody smoked then, including me) but the fact that he was sobbing into a handkerchief was of some concern. Upon careful questioning, he told me that his childhood and adult icon, Marlene Dietrich, had passed away the evening before. If you could have seen Michael’s apartment back then, you could not have missed the carefully framed Dietrich posters adorning the minimalist walls, upstaged only by provocative paintings entitled things like “nude male in the snow” and “a man. studied from multiple angles.”

    So there I was, in the early 90s with my devastated, vegetarian, gay best friend and colleague who really needed to be cheered up. I decided I was going to take him somewhere really nice for dinner, and set about researching a good place for us to go. I eventually settled on The Gate which at that time was one of very few vegetarian restaurants in London and wasn’t too many tube stops from our place of work. Not only that, The Gate had just won a national award and had been voted the “best vegetarian restaurant in London” as it has many times since.

    Yeah, it was expensive, but it’s not every day that Marlene Dietrich passes away so I decided to splurge and treat Michael to a dinner he would not forget. Several courses, a number of beers and two bottles of wine later he was much more pleased with himself and life in general, as was I. To this day, I don’t recall what food we ate, but it was absolutely sublime. Probably not vegan, but I was just a vegetarian then, so the mere fact that stuff wasn’t made with chicken stock was more than enough for me.

    the gate interior

    the gate interior

    Fast forwarding 17 years to last week, the wife and I happened to be in West London where The Gate is located, and I couldn’t resist wandering past to see if we could get a table. After all, the place would probably be packed at 7pm but it would be nice at least to see inside and remember the old days (The Gate is located in an old community hall/church that was tastefully reconstructed for high-end dining, so the architecture alone is worth a visit).

    Well, we arrived and the place was empty. There was even some music playing loudly from the kitchen that was turned down just after we walked in. Let’s not forget, the UK is in a major recession now and so $75 a head upscale restaurants probably are not that popular. Regardless, we were seated at a tiny two-top table, served warm bread and handed two large menus (which if opened up together were actually larger than our table) that were stuffed full of amazing sounding dishes.

    It was only after extensive scanning of the options on the menu that we discovered (after ordering a $50 bottle of wine, I might add, after which it’s impossible to leave a restaurant) that the amazing sounding stuff all had milk, eggs, cheese, cream or yoghurt in them. There were only three vegan options on the menu, one of which was an appetizer. OK, so it was a vegetarian restaurant, and had I been one, as I was 17 years ago, I would have dined like a king. Again. HOWEVER, The Gate is NOT for vegans. Don’t go there if you’re vegan. The dairy glorification on the menu of “home cultured yogurt” and “creamy sauce” was enough to make me fly back to LA and get a bad noodle salad from Pure Luck.

    So, we ordered what we could and enjoyed having this cavernous restaurant to ourselves. The appetizer was a plate of steamed new potatoes and miscellaneous vegetables that was perfectly cooked and well presented. Our main dishes were Red Thai Coconut Curry and Sweet Potato Tortillas which were of high quality and extremely tasty. However, the limited vegan options and exorbitantly high prices ($23 for my coconut curry, and that’s with an exchange rate advantageous to the dollar) meant that we left feeling ripped off (the total bill was just under $100), and still hungry.

    excellent new potato appetizer from the gate.

    excellent new potato appetizer from the gate.

    meh and pricey tortilla dish from the gate.

    meh and pricey tortilla dish from the gate.

    blah expensive curry from the gate.

    blah expensive curry from the gate.

    The Gate certainly isn’t what it was all those years ago, probably because I’m older, a vegan, drink less and don’t have a recently bereaved friend to console. Although I’m not entirely to blame – The Gate makes no apologies about being vegetarian and clearly caters to vegans as an afterthought. If you don’t eat animal products, this is definitely a place to skip.

    the gate. don't bother.

    the gate. don't bother.

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