• December 1st, 2010quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    hey everyone, we have a new segment on the blog called quick bites! basically if you are ever dining out anywhere and you eat an epic vegan meal (good or bad), snap a pic (with your cell or whateves) and email it to me here…and it may end up on the blog. no promises, but it’s a possibility. if you could send a little description as well, that’ll score points. the first quickbite comes to us from none other than mr. meaner, who is traveling in NYC and hit up one of our favorite spots, franchia, for dinner. here are his quick bites (i am paraphrasing!):

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  • September 22nd, 2010quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    franchia is a beautiful and serene, entirely vegan korean restaurant located on park avenue in manhattan, and it happens to be one of our favorite restaurants in NYC.

    we visited franchia back in 2008 and were big fans of their noodles and curry hot pots, so when their sushi menu came highly recommended from chloe coscarelli, we knew we had to return. ravenously hungry and fresh off our cross-country flight, we hopped in a cab and headed straight to the restaurant.

    steamed spicy kimchi dumplings. $6.95

    we started with a pot of hot sake and the steamed spicy kimchi dumplings. i love kimchi, a traditional korean dish of fermented vegetables, but unfortunately it usually contains fish. i was so excited to see it on the menu at a vegan restaurant, where i knew i was all in the clear. franchia’s dumplings did not disappoint—they were plump and filled right up with spicy and flavorful vegetables. the sake really hit the spot too, especially after our long journey.

    for my entree, i stuck to chloe’s advice and ordered 2 different sushi rolls: the mountain greens and roots roll and the seaweed salad roll. they came together on an absolutely beautifully presented platter—so pretty, i almost didn’t want to eat it.

    mountain greens and root roll. $6.50

    the mountain greens and roots roll was my favorite, the crunchy roots made the perfect center in between all the soft rice.

    seaweed salad roll. $5.50

    the seaweed salad roll was also delicious, light and very ocean-y tasting (in a good non-fishy way). there were so many other rolls that looked fantastic as well…a green tea roll, spicy tuna, and crispy tofu skin…i can’t wait to return and try them all.

    organic soba noodles: topped with a variety of vegetables and mushrooms, served with spicy sauce on the side. $12.95

    my husband, on the other hand, went with a noodle dish: organic soba noodles topped with vegetables and served with spicy sauce. he let me try some of his, and it was phenomenal. a colorful bowl filled with many asian vegetables, i couldn’t even identify them all. it was also served with side dishes of kimchi and hot sauce that i kept stealing throughout the meal.

    inside, franchia is absolutely gorgeous. it’s a dimly lit, multilevel restaurant with a calm interior that provides the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of new york city. it’s a great place to bring a date, or anyone you’d like to enjoy a peaceful fancy meal with. i know i’ll be back!

    12 Park Ave
    New York City New York 10016

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  • September 13th, 2010mr meanerLA restaurants, shin bbq (closed)

    It’s no secret that Korean BBQ restaurants are the most vegan unfriendly places on earth. There’s never anything vegetarian (let alone vegan) on the menu, and the ritualistic cooking of meat at the table in front of you can be quite disconcerting, especially if one goes with omnivorous friends who are chowing down on ribs, wings and all sorts of unspeakable animal parts.

    Vegan Korean BBQ

    Shin BBQ in Hollywood, though, has reached out to its vegan customers and offers an outstanding set of vegan options all carefully cooked separately in the kitchen. And I’m not talking about the usual mainstay of vegan Korean BBQ dining: Vegetables and rice. No, I’m talking about a full-on Korean BBQ experience where an incredibly tasty marinade is burned on to succulent proteins, combined with delicious sides to be enjoyed in an environment of relaxed, classy attention preferably with alcohol served intravenously (the best way to consume Soju, trust me).

    After being lobbied by a couple of vegan friends we opened up Shin BBQ on a sunny Saturday afternoon to check out the vegan offerings. We emailed in advance, though, to make sure that we could eat the food without it being marinaded and BBQd in meat juices. Within a few minutes of our request, we received the following reply from Mr Shin himself:

    Well, we checked again upon arriving and our server “Dan” (more on him later) was quite positive about the whole vegan thing: “Oh, yes, we have a kitchen policy for our vegetarian and vegan customers. Everything will be cooked separately – we take that very seriously.” So, we were stoked to say the least, to begin ordering vegan Korean BBQ for the first time ever. There were three firmly vegan things on the menu, and we couldn’t help but get one of each.

    Tofu Steak: Firm tofu pan-seared and served with kim chee and salad. $10

    First up was the “Tofu Steak”, a chunk of extra firm tofu that had been flash charred with marinade (making it deliciously crispy on the outside, and surprisingly flavorful on the inside) served with diced kimchi and a luscious green salad, pickled beets and spicy bean shoots. Despite the size of this dish it was gone in about 5 minutes, such was the amazing tasty tofu, perfectly cooked and served.

    vegan sides

    pickled beets, cucumbers, kimchi and bean shoots

    Next up we had the signature vegan dish, “Veggie Bulogi Seitan” which I’m telling you was out of this world.

    seitan bulgogi (vegan): vegan seitan served in shin's secret marinade. $18

    Small seitan slices and onions had been marinated and barbecued in a cast iron dish, and arrived at the table still cooking and steaming right in front of our faces. Despite the fact we’d just eaten one entree, we fought over every last piece of seitan, and yet another side of kimchi, sprouts and beets arrived to help satiate our rapidly waning hunger.

    vegetable plate: a bright assortment of seasonal vegetables. $18

    Seconds after the Bulogi Seitan arrived, the most enormous plate of grilled vegetables known to man or beast arrived at the table. Layer upon layer of squash, asparagus, king oyster mushrooms and carrot were perfectly grilled and spiced for our enjoyment. And enjoy them we did. Mouthful after mouthful of seitan, tofu, vegetables and the sauces and tastes of traditional Korean BBQ rushed on in and were very much welcomed.

    Our server, Dan, was beyond perfect. He was not only knowledgable about the vegan offerings, swift on the delivery and just the right about of attentive, but he occasionally stopped by to ask how things were, and we could tell that he really cared about our experience.

    The location of Shin BBQ is very convenient, located in between Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd. and just steps away from all the fun stuff that Hollywood has on offer. Now, despite the amazing food and service, a word of caution on Shin BBQ: It is a KOREAN BARBECUE, and the majority of the customers will be eating meat, much of which will be cooked at the table in front of them. If you’re squeamish over the sights and sounds of meat preparation, be warned!

    Shin BBQ
    1600 N. Wilcox Avenue
    Los Angeles, CA 90028

    6pm -12am Tuesday – Friday
    5pm – 12am Saturday
    5pm – 10pm Sunday
    Closed Monday

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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.

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  • March 12th, 2009quarrygirlkogi, LA restaurants

    let’s just set the record straight on what us vegans can eat at the kogi truck…because the information presently available is confusing to say the least. here goes!

    if you live in los angeles, i’m sure you’ve heard of the latest food craze to sweep the city…the kogi bbq truck. kogi serves up korean/mexican fusion food on the cheap with a menu full of tacos, burritos, and daily specials. the little truck has gotten so popular in just a few months, that it has been known to draw crowds of hundreds and even run out of food. i have been wanting to try their tofu tacos since forever…so imagine my excitement when i saw on vegguide.org that they were in fact vegan.

    kogi truck roja!

    kogi truck roja!

    i ate the tacos and pretty much raved about them in a review i posted this morning. my party was ruined, however, when a very informed commenter named louise left the following in reply to my post:

    Sorry to break it to you, but you just ate a mouthful of pork fat. The tortillas Kogi uses have manteca (lard) in them. That’s one reason why the BF (vegan) never eats their regular tacos. The only vegan one they have is the one wrapped in shiso leaf.

    um…so the tofu tacos aren’t even vegetarian? that can’t be right. i messaged the kogi truck (who knew about my blog post) via twitter telling them i found out that there was in fact lard in the tortillas. they immediately replied, “U are mistaken. Im the roja manager steve. Come take a look anytime. We use canola oil” and i was like, “are you sure there’s no lard in them?” and he said, “yes.”

    to follow up on the matter, we emailed the chef and told him we’d been hearing conflicting stories about the lard, and that the truck manager was saying the tacos were vegan friendly. it’s then that we got the sad, sad news from the kogi’s very own chef roy:

    our tortilla itself contains hints of Manteca although we use canola oil…but we have a vegan taco with sesame leaf as the “tortilla”

    alright dude, thanks for being honest. but that’s fucking so nasty that i ate something containing “hints of lard”. almost immediately after i received that email, the kogi twitter account deleted its tweets saying that the tortillas contained no lard, and sent me a direct message via twitter:

    aLL the homemade corn tortiLLas are made with a touch of Manteca. The fLour tortiLLas aren’t. Hey! You can order an eggLess burrito! ^__^ (and cheeseless)

    so that settles it. what a shame. those delicious fluffy tofu tacos topped with sesame-chili salsa, romaine lettuce and cabbage tossed in korean chilli-soy vinaigrette, and cilantro-green onion-lime relish were wrapped in a tortilla contaminated with piggy fatz. as louise put it in an email to me, “It’s kind of stupid that they don’t make it a point to tell you. I don’t see the point of a tofu taco if it’s wrapped in lard. The tofu taco would have been a great option for vegetarians, but now it’s just, ‘Haha, just kidding guys. No tacos for you.'”

    sad tacos. they taste so good and vegan in the middle, but are wrapped in lard. :( :( :(

    sad tacos. they taste so good and vegan in the middle, but are wrapped in lard. 🙁 🙁 🙁

    so to take something good from this situation, at least we now know kogi does have some stuff that is vegan-friendly. i will definitely return to check out their lettuce-wrapped tofu taco, as well as their tofu burrito…minus eggs, cheese, and anything else unvegan.

    for those of you vegans who aren’t phased and want to give this inventive cuisine a try…but don’t feel like queuing up and want to drink alcohol while you eat your korean/mex, kogi has taken over the kitchen at the alibi room in culver city monday-saturday from 6pm to midnite. their vegan stuff is available there as well, and if you call in advance, they say they can whip you up some extra vegan specialties.

    in fact, lex over at vegan-la has talked to the chef and even arranged a “vegan drinks” session with alcohol and loads of kogi food at the alibi on march 28th. for more info on that, check out the vegan drinks site.

    the way kogi seasoned their tofu tacos was nothing short of incredible…they truly blend flavors to create a really unique and delicious taste. i’m willing to bury the hatchet and try something that i know is vegan for sure, from the chef’s mouth.

    for up to date times and locations of the kogi trucks, and for just some all around entertainment, follow kogibbq on twitter. also check out their website for more info.

    hit up kogi when you can, and get there early to avoid the lines! i know i will be back. just don’t eat any fucking corn tortillas!! YUCK. oh, and don’t believe everything you read on vegguide or on twitter.

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  • November 4th, 2008quarrygirlmore restaurants (not LA), NYC

    quarrygirl eats nyc continues! more vegan-ness from our recent trip to manhattan.

    franchia is a fancy schmancy 100% vegan korean restaurant in manhattan, which is a sister restaurant to the even fancier schmancier gourmet restaurant, hangawi. judging by the prices at franchia alone, you’d never guess that this was the lower-rung, cheaper of the two (my entree alone was $18). but the food was delicious and healthy tasting, the atmosphere elegant & traditional, yet clean & modern, and the service was beyond attentive. plus, it’s located on park avenue, which i’m sure drives the prices up. overall, the extra bit of money was well spent and we left feeling perfectly replete and re-energized at the same time.

    when we arrived at franchia, the husband and i were full of three beers each from a local irish bar and feeling the drag of our recent 5 hour flight and various airport delays. we were thrilled when we peered through the windows and saw the vast, relaxing, beautifully decorated tea house beckoning us. we were escorted upstairs by a very kind host and seated at a quiet table in a dimly-lit section of the restaurant.

    needing food immediately, we quickly ordered the vermicelli spring rolls, which proved to be an excellent choice.

    vermicilli spring rolls: $8.95

    vermicilli spring rolls: $8.95

    as you probably know, great dinner ambiance usually makes for shitty photos. the food doesn’t have a chance of coming out in focus with all that moody lighting goin’ on. so bear with me and trust that it was amazing. the spring rolls came in a set of four with a tangy dipping sauce and a beautiful little radish cut up to look like a flower. although these were fried, they were still quite light. the skin was very delicate and thin, and the innards consisted of silky soft noodles and tender vegetables. they were just what we needed after the day we’d had!

    my husband, being a noodle and broccoli fan opted for the spicy franchia noodles. we both agreed that they were pretty tasty.

    spicy franchia noodles: $14.95

    spicy franchia noodles: $14.95

    the spicy noodles weren’t actually that spicy, but then again i drink hot sauce by the bottle, so the fact i needed to ask for some extra shouldn’t be a surprise. the portion was small and dainty, especially for $15, but the quality of the ingredients made up for it. the noodle dish was covered in fresh, beautiful-tasting vegetables such as thick broccoli, succulent mushrooms, and even juicy tomatoes. the perfect blend of flavors and gourmet taste justified the price and puny-ness. for all you la-ers, this place totally reminded me of shojin, a fancy japanese vegan restaurant located in downtown los angeles. if you dig shojin, you’ll love franchia.

    i opted for something a little more saucy and full of fake meat: the vegetarian curry hot pot. this turned out being by far the favorite dish on the table, and that’s a good thing because there was plenty to share with my husband.

    vegetarian curry hot pot: $17.95

    vegetarian curry hot pot: $17.95

    the hot pot was a scrumptious dish in a big stone container that was still sizzlin’ and bubblin’ away when it arrived at our table. filled to the top with the most rich and delicious curry sauce, it also boasted numerous vegetables and tons of protein, including both fake chicken and tofu. spooned out on top of a fluffy plate of white rice, this dish was absolutely divine. thick vegetables, tons of chunky chicken, soft tofu and incredible creamy sauce…it couldn’t get much better. the sauce was the perfect combo of hot spicey-ness, curry flavor and tomato undertones. i think it’s safe to say this is the best non-indian style curry i’ve ever had. our meals also came with a plate of kimchi for the table, which was so delicious, i forgot to get a picture of it! oops.

    so, the bottom line is: for upscale dining in nyc, franchia definitely delivers. you won’t leave this place feeling stuffed or guilty, you will just leave feeling relaxed with some delicious quality food in your belly. you pay a little extra for fancy atmosphere, central location, and awesome ingredients. in my opinion, it’s well worth it.

    sweet table at franchia. we opted for the more traditional chairs, but i still thought this was lovely.

    sweet table at franchia. we opted for the more traditional chairs, but i still thought this was lovely.

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