• November 19th, 2011quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), philadelphia

    hey everyone, today we’ve got a field report by my good friend kevin mudrick all about the newly opened vedge restaurant in philly. the upscale establishment is all vegan and offers the kind of fine dining that makes me wanna take a trip east just to eat there. for more kevin, check out vegan brew.

    From the outside – a short block and a half from the walnut-locust subway stop. Didn’t really get any interior shots but the place is beautiful – lots of very nice wood on the walls, etc. The bar is magnificent and fancy-looking.

    The menu. Lots of small plates so you get varying tastes. Between the two of us we got 1 from the dirt list (roasted sunchokes with smoked paprika aoil), 3 “plates” (grilled seitan, steak spice seared tofu, and the wood grilled maitake), 2 “for the table” (truffled fingerling fries and crispy cauliflower), and 2 desserts (trio of ice cream & choco taco)

    The beer list is much improved over the old Horizons. Nice mix of local & belgian stuff – Rochefort 8 for instance is arguably one of the best belgian strong dark ales in the world! We chose to skip alcohol tonight as the Philly Marathon is this weekend. I didn’t take a picture of the “drinks” because I don’t really care about them.

    Complimentary bread & spicy olive oil with a pesto. Good, though I wish the bread was warm.

    Below is ruffled fingerling fries on top (good) and roasted cauliflower, kimchee cream, black vinegar on the bottom (phenomenal – one of the best appetizers I have ever had)…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Tags: , , ,
  • May 17th, 2011quarrygirllondon, more restaurants (not LA)

    manna in london really does offer vegan fine dining at its best. located at the end of a quiet street in primrose hill, the small restaurant boasts elegant surroundings, friendly service, and absolutely exceptional food. it’s the perfect spot for a romantic evening or a slap up sunday roast, just be sure to arrive with a full wallet and an empty stomach.

    homemade organic bread and hummus: a selection of breads fresh from our kitchen daily with extra virgin olive oil and homemade hummus. ₤5

    we hit up manna in february when we visited the UK, and as usual, we started with a basket of bread. it sounds simple enough, but this dish is phenomenal. soft warm dough straight from the oven to our table, served with a pot of cool chunky hummus. the perfect beginning to a perfect meal.

    organic bangers and mash: organic fennel and pumpkin seed sausages on a bed of parsnip & carrot mash served with cavalo nero on a red wine, leek & thyme jus topped with our onion rings. ₤14

    though we’ve been to manna several times and we love to try new things, we NEVER stray from the bangers and mash. we order these without fail on every visit to share, because they are so damn irresistible. the plate comes with a huge mound of fluffy whipped parsnips and carrots, topped with seasoned greens, seed-based vegan sausages, and two massive battered onion rings, all in a red wine sauce. the sausages and onion rings especially are just unbelievable—like a fancy gourmet vegan version of junk food. i would kill to have this meal available in los angeles.

    build your own meal (choice of any 4 sides): crispy marinated tofu, sauteed seasonal greens & garlic, grain of the day, bean of the day ₤14

    we also split the “build your own meal” combo, which comes with the choice of any four side dishes arranged on a plate.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Tags: , ,
  • June 16th, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, madeleine bistro

    I wish I lived closer to Madeleine Bistro (or, rather, I wish it would move closer to me).

    I’ve been known to find any excuse to be in Tarzana around brunch time on the weekends, so I can pop in and grab a donut, benedict, phillet-no-phish and a sumptuous dessert before going about my day. In fact, many people I know usually frequent Madeleine Bistro for the extensive and good value brunch menu (only served at weekends, but the lunch menu served during the week has many of the same items on it).

    This last weekend, I had occasion to celebrate a palindromic birthday and could think of no place I’d rather be than Madeleine Bistro for dinner. I teamed up with three other ravenously hungry people and we set about eating our way through the menu. After all, and statistically, I’m over 50% through my palindromic birthdays, so this was a night to celebrate.

    Hurling caution to the wind, we started out with some assorted small plates, salads and appetizers while we waited for the alcohol buzz of the organic lager and wine to settle in.

    Classic French onion soup, crouton, farmer's cheese. $7

    First-up was the “Classic French onion soup”: I’ve only ever had this type of dish once before in my life – in Paris (of all places) where I managed to find one with no meat stock in it. Well, Madeleine’s take on veganizing this dish is incredible. The soup is a hearty gathering of tangy onions and garlic in a rich sauce that one practically chews rather than sips. Sprinkles of “farmer’s cheese” on top made my day. If you’ve never had French onion soup, this is a must-have experience I can tell you.

    Classic mac 'n cheese, bacon bits. $13

    Next came the “Classic Mac ‘n’ Cheese”, a dead ringer for the non-vegan dish, but with a twist I’d never seen before: “bacon bits” that were made out of thinly sliced, crispy mushrooms. They went perfectly with the gooey cheese and chewy macaroni, leading me to rate this as one of the best vegan mac n cheeses I’ve ever eaten. And I’m something of a connoisseur by now, for sure.

    French lentil salad, chardonnay cheese, spring mix, green goddess dressing. $10

    We got a “French Lentil Salad” to share, which came with spring leaves and something called “Chardonnay Cheese”. Despite the fact that this dish looked like a phallus it was gone within seconds. I took some leaves, spicy lentils and cheese and ate them all together in one mouthfull, and without a doubt this was one of the highlights of the evening, and I’m not sure I’ve ever said that about a salad before!

    Porcini-crusted tofu scallops, shiitake-green bean ragout, carrot syrup. $13

    Continuing in the vein of small plates, we ordered the “Porcini-crusted Tofu Scallops” which were undoubtedly the most surprising dish of the night. We were treated to round, crispy tofu “scallops” in a very, rich mushroom sauce along with perfectly cooked vegetables. There were four people at the table, and we had one scallop each: left to me I’d have eaten all four and ordered another plate as well! They really were that interesting. Crispy on the outside, soft and steamy on the inside. This is right up there with the best of Executive Chef Dave Andrerson’s “how the hell do they do that?” dishes, along with the donut and souffle (of which more later).

    Red beet tartare, warm tofu cheese crouton, cucumber, balsamic glace. $13

    We also grabbed a “Beet Tartare”, which has to be one of the most astounding vegan dishes available anywhere in the world. I’ve known people travel to LA from the Bay Area and beyond, purely for a fix of this menu item. And I can see why. Cool, thinly sliced cukes, a warm fried cheese crouton topped with finely chopped red beets not only looks like a work of art, but it tastes like one too. There are few adjectives to describe this creation so, in common with the rest of the menu, I usually just advise you to get one into your life (and, by eating, out of it again real fast) as soon as you can.

    Chicken-fried seitan, mashed potatoes, gravy, vegetable medley. $13

    Surprisingly, we had room for entrees, so we ordered the “Chicken-fried seitan” for one of our guests who happened to be an omnivorous girl from The South (a tough customer for any dish with “fried” and “chicken” in its name, for sure). After eating the whole thing, she proclaimed “That might be the best Fried Chicken I’ve eaten outside of Dixie, y’all” (actually, I’m doing a caricature of what she said, but you get the idea. She liked it for sure).

    The "Bigger Macque" (two no beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese...) $11

    Although I love fine dining with nice wines and great company, a superb addition to the entrees at Madeleine’s is the “Bigger Macque”, and no matter what the occasion I always find an excuse to order one. This sandwich is a loosely based facsimile of the well known fast-food item, which has been served to billions and billions of poor bastards, but just better. In every way. You have to get one of these at some point in your life, just as I have to get one of these at some point in every visit to Madeleine’s.

    Phillet no phish (panko-crusted seitan, cheese, tartar sauce, whole wheat bun) $10

    As if by magic, the corollary to the above dish also arrived at the table: “The Philet no phish”, another cheeky take on crappy fast food, incredibly elevated to fine dining status. Yeah, I had a nibble of that too: crispy seitan, cheese and tartar sauce. Another amazing dish.

    Rustic mashed potatoes. $5

    Other things on the table at that point included a healthy portion of “Rustic Mashed Potatoes”, a perfectly cooked heap of creamy mash covered in gravy as well as a side of “Pan-roasted cauliflower”.

    Pan-roasted cauliflower. $6

    It’s safe to say that if I could make mashed potatoes or cauliflower this good, I’d probably never leave my house and would OD on the deadly cocktail of cauliflower and mash, when eaten by the ton.

    Lemon-rosemary seitan, cauliflower crepe. $13

    Our last entree of the night (we were getting pretty full by this time) was the intriguingly-named “Lemon-rosemary seitan, grilled asparagus crepe” which was like nothing I’d ever eaten before. Tangy, perfectly chewy seitan, was laid to rest on a fluffy crepe filled with creamy cauliflower. Let me tell you, the combination worked perfectly. The lemon and rosemary fired up one’s mouth, and the cool, creamy crepe rode in to save the day with a creamy after-texture and after-taste to die for.

    Shockingly, we found room for desert (I’m still not sure how, but Madeleine’s is one of those places I can go to, eat myself silly and feel perfectly content — never over-stuffed and certainly never needing more).

    classic cheesecake, raspberry coulis, whipped creme. $11

    We enjoyed our deserts dim-sum style, so we all had a bit of each just to prove how cosmopolitan we are. First-off was the “Classic Cheesecake”, another perfectly made dish sitting proudly on a delicious raspberry coulis with a tuft of whipped creme topping. I was told that the birthday candle was inedible — the only thing in the place I would not therefore eat.

    strawberry shortcake, almond cake, rhubabrb ice cream. $12

    I was delighted to also try the “Strawberry Shortcake”. It has strawberries. It is a cake, but this was not a short order — a huge brick of fluffy and spongy cake arrived and was consumed before our attentive server got back to the kitchen to bring our next dessert item: “Bananas Foster Split”, a tremendous triumvirate of bananas, hot fudge and whipped cream, with an order of ice cream and chocolate sauce thrown in for good measure. Another amazing dessert, another plate emptied to shining within seconds.

    Banana foster split, hot fudge, whipped creme. $10

    Finally, my favorite desert – not only of the evening, but of all time – arrived from the kitchen like an angel from a heaven: “Chocolate souffle with vanilla ice cream”. I tell you, this dish knows how to make an entrance! There are two ramekins, one containing stone cold ice cream, and the other containing a crispy-crusted chocolate souffle with gooey chocolate sauce inside. Just eat a bite of chocolate (which is oven-hot) with a bite of ice cream, and your mouth will thank you for an eternity.

    chocolate souffle, vanilla ice creme. $12

    I’m remembering my last birthday with such fondness: A three course meal, book-ended with the heretofore unattainable French Onion Soup, and rounded off with a another uniquely French creation: Chocolate Souffle is an experience to savor for a long time. As I know I and my guests also will.

    Executive Chef Dave Anderson’s creations are at the arc of vegan cuisine, second to none and lovingly prepared and served. Whatever your occasion to dine out — or even if you don’t have an occasion — you really must try Madeleine Bistro if you’ve not been yet. For a quick and informal time, show up for the weekend brunch and dine on scrambles, doughnuts or the Bigger Macque. For a family occasion or intimate dinner, make some reservations and dine away the evening with one of the best menus on this good earth, superb service and an atmosphere that only a family owned and run restaurant can deliver.

    See you there!

    Madeleine Bistro
    18621 Ventura Blvd
    Tarzana, CA 91356
    (818) 758-6971

    Hours of Operation

    Wednesday through Thursday
    Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
    Dinner: 5:00 pm – 9:30 pm

    Lunch: 11:30 am – 2:00 pm
    Dinner: 5:00pm – 10:00pm

    Brunch: 10:00am – 3:00pm
    Dinner: 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm

    Brunch: 10:00am – 3:00pm
    Dinner: 5:00 pm – 9:00 pm

    closed Monday & Tuesday

    Tags: , , ,
  • November 2nd, 2009mr meanermore restaurants (not LA), san francisco

    In a way, I feel sorry for Millennium restaurant in San Francisco. I mean, just about every vegan or vegetarian (and omnivores on occasion too) will say that Millennium has some of the best vegan cuisine in the world, and is probably North America’s finest vegan dining experience.

    Having enjoyed amazing meals at fine dining establishment Sublime in Fort Lauderdale, and the incredible Madeleine Bistro in Los Angeles, I had stratospheric expectations when I reserved a table for two at Millennium. Although the experience didn’t meet our very high expectations on a number of levels, we did have a thoroughly nice time dining on some of the most special food I’d ever eaten.

    It’s critical to make a reservation, as the place fills up hot and fast most evenings. As with anywhere this popular, you’re going to find the proprietors drawing a very fine line between retaining a pleasant environment, and packing people in like cattle. Sadly, Millennium crowds its patrons into small two-top tables, close together. There are a couple of larger booths by the entrance, but I bet you have to be Alicia Silverstone or Natalie Portman to get seated in them.

    Once you get over the cramped experience (you can literally hear every word uttered by both adjacent tables, as well as smelling the food they are eating), the menu hits you right between the eyes: on the night we were there dishes from France, Germany, Spain and Italy. And I’m not talking about paella and vegan sausages here, but full-on inventions, based on familiar European dishes, all prepared entirely vegan, non-GMO and organic.

    grilled flatbread: spring onion confit, black olives, "gorgonzola" cashew cream, dried chile flake & oregano., radicchio salad. $10.50

    grilled flatbread: spring onion confit, black olives, "gorgonzola" cashew cream, dried chile flake & oregano., radicchio salad. $10.50

    To start with, we ordered the Grilled Flatbread which was a scrumptious rendition of crispy bread, pizza-style with cool raddiccio salad, olives and a pungent, gorgonzola-style cheese. Although the tastes were interesting, this was the most unimaginative dish we had: it looked like somebody threw some vegetables on flatbread and plopped it down on the table. It reminded me of what I usually get when I order a vegan pizza from an omni pizza parlor: a selection of vegetables with no sauce or cheese on a crispy crust.

    sesame crusted oyster mushrooms: lemongrass-grapefruit-chile sambal, watermelon radish relish. $10.25

    sesame crusted oyster mushrooms: lemongrass-grapefruit-chile sambal, watermelon radish relish. $10.25

    Moving on, we ordered the Sesame-encrusted Mushrooms, which were much more up our street. This dish has been described as “the vegan calamari”, and I’m told (by people who have eaten calamari) that it mimics the taste and texture pretty well. I can’t vouch for that, but I can tell you it was the greasiest, oiliest and most scrumptious thing I’d eaten in a long time. While it might be organic this and non-GMO that it was anything other than healthy due to the thousands of calories of oily delicious madness.

    So, awash with flatbread and oil, our entrees arrived very, very quickly, leading to a theme I note about us feeling somewhat rushed. Cramped in + rushed = more $ for the proprietors…. Just sayin’. Oh and talking about that, Millennium charges $1 per person for a glass of tap water. That’s plain greedy!

    almond and black pepper crusted portobello: sesame, sea palm & scallion barley cake, saffron, IPA & french lentil sugo, seared jerusalem artichokes, carrot & escarole, spring garlic-sage tahini cream, parsley-meyer lemon salad. $23.95

    almond and black pepper crusted portobello: sesame, sea palm & scallion barley cake, saffron, IPA & french lentil sugo, seared jerusalem artichokes, carrot & escarole, spring garlic-sage tahini cream, parsley-meyer lemon salad. $23.95

    As luck would have it, I am also greedy, otherwise there’s no way I could have polished off the entrees. I plumped for the Almond and Black Pepper Portobello, a dish which took rather uninteresting (but sexily named ingredients) and delivered an intersection of tastes that were downright amazing. I found myself picking at bits of the food so I could enjoy each texture and flavor in and of itself, then scooping up a cross-section of the goods to get the mashup to my taste buds as fast as possible.

    mushroom and walnut strudel: flaky pastry crust, green garlic mashed potatoes, seared asparagus, herbed green peppercorn cashew cream, blood orange and black olive relish. $23.9

    mushroom and walnut strudel: flaky pastry crust, green garlic mashed potatoes, seared asparagus, herbed green peppercorn cashew cream, blood orange and black olive relish. $23.9

    Our other entree was Mushroom and Walnut Strudel, a sort-of pastry chimichanga crammed full of walnuts, mushrooms (yeah, pretty much everything on the menu was based around mushrooms) floating in a cashew cream sauce with an incredible olive and mushroom relish. Seriously, this is one of the most amazing things I’ve ever eaten: crispy, decadent, filling. Words really defy this dish, other than it had more of the consistency of a dessert, like a cannoli, but without the sweet.

    Talking of dessert, as our tubby tummies were about to explode we made a pact NOT to order dessert UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Well, that was until the people NEXT to us ordered dessert. Once I laid eyes on what they had, I knew I had to have it. I feebly muttered: “errr, one of those, please….” as I pointed to the next table when the server asked if we were ready for the check (like I said, they were rushing us).

    vegan chocolate midnite pie

    vegan chocolate midnite pie

    Within about 11 seconds, something called a Chocolate Midnight Pie arrived on our table and was gone in not many more seconds. I can’t really describe its creamy chocolatey taste in any words, so I’m going to let you look at the picture, and can reinforce that the dish was at least 14X better than it looks.

    After the obligatory bottle of organic wine, our bill was well into car payment territory, but we felt that it wasn’t quite worth every penny. The obvious intent to turn many tables quickly really spoiled what would otherwise have been a perfect dining experience. The menu combines the exquisite with the mundane, and the descriptions really don’t give you much of a clue about what you’ll actually get. Add to that some rushed servers, and this place isn’t too friendly.

    millennium interior

    Also of note is that Millennium is in the lobby of a Best Western hotel, on the edge of Tenderloin: basically, Downtown San Francsico’s Skid Row. If you go West or South from the restaurant you’re walking through some pretty bad urban decay complete with all the trimmings: aggressive homeless people, syringes, toothless crackheads and all sorts of bodily ejected solids in your way.

    millennium in san francisco

    It was just our luck that we walked to Millennium from the south and west, so we were treated to several interesting run-ins with street-folk, and as we approached the restaurant watched somebody taking a noisy shit against the wall on the west side. After ducking into the restaurant, I was half-way through my meal when I realized the defecating gentleman (or his defecation, at least) was within about six feet of where I was eating.

    homeless dude chillin' on the other side of our table at millennium

    Millennium will risk your life with a dodgy journey, fleece you for every penny it can get from you, and pack you in like vegan sardines in a recycled, non-GMO can. I’d probably be back there in a heartbeat, though.

    580 Geary St
    San Francisco, CA 94102-1650
    (415) 345-3900

    Tags: , , , ,