• February 2nd, 2009quarrygirlakasha, LA restaurants

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    red quinoa: market vegetables & smoked tofu $12

    red quinoa: market vegetables & smoked tofu $12

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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  • November 13th, 2008quarrygirlappetizers/snacks, recipes, salads

    as you may or may not know, native foods in westwood changed their menu, and in doing so eliminated most of my favorite dishes. so after my most recent and somewhat disappointing lunch there, i decided to go home and dust off the old native foods cookbook that i’ve been meaning to put to use. it’s filled with old recipes so i figured surely it could help take me back to my happy native foods place and give me a taste of the dishes i remember.

    since native foods put the kibosh on farrah’s fatoush, my regular order and favorite dish, i decided to whip up a greek-style feast with all the cookbook had to offer. i varied it a little depending on preference and available ingredients, but i pretty much wound up with some quinoa tabouli, harry’s hummus, and a gorgeous greek salad. (btw, the cute names of the recipes make me wanna smash something.)

    quinoa tabouli, harry's hummus and the gorgeous greek with tofu feta. all from the native foods restaurant cookbook

    quinoa tabouli, harry's hummus and the gorgeous greek with tofu feta. all from the native foods restaurant cookbook

    lemme start off by saying the meal i actually wanted to make was the bali surf burger. it’s this crazy-good tempeh concoction and i couldn’t wait to get my grubby little hands on the secret. well here’s what the cookbook said:

    native foods recipe for the bali surf burger

    native foods recipe for the bali surf burger

    ok, now normally i would never post a scanned picture of recipe from a cookbook. it’s unethical. but in this case, as you can see, i’m giving nothing away. there are so many things wrong with this freaking recipe, i don’t know where to start. first off, the recipe is for a burger, but at the top right, the serving size is 2, “because you can’t eat just one!” and then the book goes on to just double all the ingredients in a really simple way. man, if i wanted 2 burgers i could figure it out for myself, trust me.

    next, this isn’t even really a recipe. it’s a list of ingredients and a dummy’s guide on how to assemble a hamburger: “spread each side with 1/2 teaspoon mayonnaise. on bottom bun, place sauteed tempeh…” whaaaaaa? seriously? i dropped 20 bucks + shipping on this cookbook and you are wasting a page telling me how to physically put a hamburger together? stop it.

    they may as well just give a tempeh recipe and be like, “this is awesome. make a burger with it if you so choose.” i don’t need a whole rundown on how to put mayo on a bun. …and not just that, but the tempeh recipe on page 65 is no big shakes either. it just tells you to go out and buy some tempeh, then sautee it. i won’t give away the “secret” or anything, but it feels like kind of a jip. basically everything with fake meat in the cookbook just provides ingredients, and then sends you to a website where you can order the soy meat products. hmmmmm. not cool.

    so i decided to make something with ingredients i could find, that actually required some preparation. bring on the greekness!

    k, lemme tell you what you’re looking at here. there’s harry’s hummus, the book describes it as a lighter hummus which doesn’t include tahini…then there’s quinoa tabouli, a blend of quinoa and parsley on a bed of greens (i omitted the mint because i didn’t have any, and used spinach instead of lettuce)…then there’s the gorgeous greek, a mixture of vegetables and tofu feta (i made it without bell peppers).

    overall, everything tasted great, but i gotta say…there was SO MUCH FREAKING OLIVE OIL. in everything! i couldn’t believe my eyes when i was reading the recipes. i decided to half the oil in everything, and even then, as i was pouring the olive oil into the measuring cup i was like, ok i gotta stop, this is gonna fucking kill me before i finish it. i calculated all the recipes together, and in total, all the dishes would have required 2 CUPS OF OIL! seriously. granted there would have been left-overs and such, so it wouldn’t have all been eaten in one sitting…but i used left than half that amount and my food was still swimmin’ in it. gross.

    my last criticism about the cookbook is that every recipe requires you to prepare something from another page. like to make the salad, i will need x amount of tofu feta, then i have to go to the tofu feta recipe page and not make the entire recipe, but figure out the right proportions to just make x. sometimes 2 or 3 times for one recipe. seriously, i’m no idiot, and scrambling around, flipping through pages and doing calculations got both tiring and mathematically taxing.

    all that aside, the recipe came out great! everything was extremely delicious, albeit pretty heavy on the oil side. the best part was for sure the tofu feta which was lemony and tart, and didn’t taste like feta at all.

    tofu feta from the native foods cookbook

    tofu feta from the native foods cookbook

    although the food was tasty, i’m gonna wait a few months before using the native foods cookbook again. it was hard work, and i think i should give it quite some time before consuming that much fat again. i mean, that’s what eating out is for!

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  • October 29th, 2008quarrygirlLA restaurants, pure luck (closed)

    not long ago, i was blogging away and bitching about things that had been taken off the menu at my all-time favorite restaurant, pure luck (namely the curry fries). a couple days later, a dude who i assume was the owner, ben, was kind enough to leave a comment on my post detailing why certain items had been deleted from the menu, and describing some of the tasty new additions that they had made way for.

    of course, i took it upon myself to get over to pure luck several times over the past few weeks and try all of the new dishes they had to offer so i could report back to you all. the additions ranged from awesome, to meh, to sucky…and i’m bringing you pix and descriptions for each one. overall, i think it’s great that pure luck expanded their menu, and i highly urge you to head over and get some of the new shit.

    first, check out ben’s original comments to set it all up.

    on why he abolished things like my beloved curry fries:

    The short answer is that the kitchen at Pure Luck is probably smaller than your bathroom. Really tiny. We had a bunch of new stuff we wanted to put on the menu, so we had to remove a few things.

    on the new menu deets, stuff that’s gone, and stuff that’s gone that they can still make:

    New stuff:
    1. Fire Grilled Beet Salad. My new favorite.
    2. Quinoa Paloma. I won’t bother trying to describe this one, because when I do, it sounds like diet food. It is super healthy, but more importantly, it’s tasty. Ask for a sample.
    3. Vegan Fish tacos and burritos.

    1. All pasta and gnocchi dishes.*
    2. Curry fries.

    Note that we still have gnocchi on the menu in the form of “Potato Pals” (fried gnocchi) and we still have fresh pesto for the Tofu Pesto Sandwich, so we can still do the pesto gnocchi from the old menu.

    thanks, ben. all very good to know. we here at quarrygirl sincerely appreciate your comments, and i’m sure i speak for the readers as well.

    obviously ben had some good reasons for changing up pure luck’s offerings and left some mouth-watering descriptions of what the new menu has to offer. i was immediately compelled to chow down every new dish and bring it back home to you guys. here’s what i found:

    baja taco combo: 2 of our delicious veggie "fish" tacos with your choice of side. $10

    baja taco combo: 2 of our delicious veggie "fish" tacos with your choice of side. $10

    first up, whoa whoa whoa whoa WHOA, the baja taco combo is off the bloody hook. whatever pure luck has done to re-invent fish is the same thing they did to re-invent carnitas. jackfruit has got nothin’ on this battered-tofu-fish substitute. wowie. unfortunately, i imagine it’s a harder sell “fish” than “carnitas” or “pulled pork”, though. for some reason, vegans and omnivores alike seem repelled at the idea of fake fish, myself included! to this day, i’ve never had a soy shrimp because the thought of it scares the fuck out of me. i was even reticent to order these succulent tacos, but i did it for you guys so i could write about it. lemme tell ya, it was best gustatory decision i ever made. i wonder what else i have been missing out on by being afraid of faux-fish and other meat impersonators. these tacos were INSANE. some maddening tofuey concoction was lightly breaded and fried into the perfect crunchy but juicy protein source, oozing with flavor and complete scrumptiousness. nothing was “too fishy tasting” and nothing was gross about it. plus, there was this crazy-good creamy white sauce, i guess it was a tartar-inspired condiment (though i don’t remember what the “real thing” tastes like). all i know is this goes great with crunchy tofu, hot sauce, and fresh vegetables. vegan perfection! i think this is the most genius dish pure luck has ever come up with…BETTER THAN CARNITAS…and man i love me some jackfruit. i even gave a bite to my husband who abhors any fake fish, almost as much as the real thing, and he was offering to finish my tacos for me two minutes later.

    the rating for the baja tacos is AWESOME RADICAL beyond belief. order them, and under all plausible vegan circumstances, you will not be sorry.

    ben, dude, you should have talked this dish up more in your comment, or provided a description. it is legendary! i still know people who are too freaked out to order fake fish, and if any of you are reading this, shut the fuck up and try these tacos!!!!!!!!!!!!

    second on deck, a much-needed new addition to the salad family at pure luck, the quinoa paloma. what self-respecting vegan doesn’t bust a nut over quinoa, right? it’s healthy, it’s full of protein, it tastes great and it has less calories than rice or noodles. quinoa rocks. this salad had potential written all over it, and it….um…kind of delivered. it was OK. ben described it as “super healthy, and more importantly, tasty.” i’d describe it as “healthy, and more importantly, more expensive” than the old favorite salads. this salad wasn’t bad…it just wasn’t great. i was really missing some of that protein that pure luck is famous for. some of the incredible grilled tofu from the fresh noodle salad (i still can’t figure out how they do it!) or some of the notorious jackfruit from the spinach salad. the quinoa paloma had none of this. PLUS, it cost 2 bux more than the other salads. hmmm. it was definitely good, just missing that UMPH. oh, and it came with unadvertised almonds (such is the consistency of pure luck), that i only assume added more calories, fat, and un-healthiness to the salad than i expected. see for yourself. again, not a bad salad. just not as good as the other offerings.

    overall rating: meh meh meh meh meh, probably really neato if you like quinoa and cilantro. nice dressing.

    quinoa paloma: quinoa, steamed with a savory mushroom and onion mix, and topped with a tart and refreshing red cabbage dressing. $10

    quinoa paloma: quinoa, steamed with a savory mushroom and onion mix, and topped with a tart and refreshing red cabbage dressing. $10

    next up, the salad i had been anticipating, ben’s new favorite, turned out to be quite a disappointment. the grilled beet salad…well…i’m hoping i got it on a bad day. i feel it just isn’t right to utter a bad word about pure luck, especially since they are the OMG BEST restaurant of all time, but ben’s new favorite was totally icky when it arrived on my table. the fire-grilled beets tasted like beety wood chips. i don’t know if they were cooked or burned, or what. they were thick, hard and chunky. i had to chew through them steadily before they were swallow-able. eventually i gave up and left about half of them in what looked like a blood-soaked bowl. to pure luck’s…er…defense?…the chefs are chronically inconsistent. i mean, i’ve gotten the fresh noodle salad with no noodles, the soup has been cold, the potato pals have arrived with the wrong sauce, etc. i am hoping that on this one occasion, the beet salad tasted like total ass because someone screwed it up upstream. it may be ben’s new favorite, but the one i got was pure uck. go eat it for yourself though…chances are, i coulda easily had it on an off night. with so many other fantastic things on the menu, though…i don’t see the point, myself, in ordering it again.

    i give it a sucky rating from my one experience. hopefully i’m wrong.

    grilled beet salad: fire grilled beets and onions over a bed of fresh spinach, topped with our homemade orange-beet dressing, and toasted almonds. $10

    grilled beet salad: fire grilled beets and onions over a bed of fresh spinach, topped with our homemade orange-beet dressing, and toasted almonds. $10

    lastly, i bring you the burrito of all burritos: the baja! this meal, like the baja tacos is too fucking great to describe. better than all the other pure luck burritos combined, this takes the amazing tofu “fish” and throws it in with a tad of spanish rice, hot salsa, decadent creamy sauce and thick vegetables. most restaurant burritos are just way too massive and intimidating, but this one was the perfect size and full of pure awesome shit. i got it with the side salad, but i’m sure some sweet potato fries would make a great partner as well.

    baja burrito: our veggie "fish" wrapped in a flour tortilla with rice, cabbage and salsa. served with your choice of side. $10

    baja burrito: our veggie "fish" wrapped in a flour tortilla with rice, cabbage and salsa. served with your choice of side. $10

    a little heartier than the tacos, this burrito makes for the perfect meal when you are feeling extra hungry. i love how pure luck double grills the tortillas of their burritos making them easy to hold and a little crispy around the edges. again, all you people who are intimidated by fake fish, put your fears aside and EAT THIS. it is soooooOOOOOOOOOoooooooOOOOOOo good.

    overall rating on the baja burrito is off the fucking hook scrumptious. i am making myself hungry as i type.

    of course, pure luck still has the same impressive draught beer selection. however, they now offer 18oz servings of premium brews for just 5 bucks. their variety of craftsman, stone, and other selections at such a low price is unmatched in los angeles. most self-respecting bars will charge $6-$7 for beers this big and this good.

    in other news, pure luck now has a back patio with some cute and comfy looking furniture. i’ve not sat out there since they re-did it, but the outdoor area is usually bustling and appears to be quite pleasant. as the weather cools down, it becomes a more and more appealing place to sit. well done, pure luck!

    overall, the new menu at pure luck is a very welcome change. i will always miss the curry fries, such is the luck with subjectiveness. maybe they weren’t selling or something. and i support the new menu items, although they are across the board $10, 2 bucks more than comparable older items (don’t think we didn’t fucking notice THAT, pure luck!!!!). the menu changes are overall super cool, and while i don’t really love the new salads, it is nice to see more healthy crap on a menu overflowing with fried appetizers and massive sandwiches. i never thought i’d say this, but the fake fish makes it all worthwhile. a completely new taste, i can’t really describe it or urge you enough to check it out.

    go go go go go 2 pure luck!

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  • September 2nd, 2008quarrygirlLA restaurants, veggie grill

    as i’m sure you know, yesterday was a holiday. it was labor day here in the u.s., and even though it’s kind of a bullshit holiday when people like to actually go out (rather than sit home with their families worshipping god or whatever), most of my favorite vegan restaurants decided to close for the day. lame! so imagine how stoked i was when i phoned the veggie grill and found out they were open! we decided to grab a few beers in nearby redondo beach, and hit up the veggie grill for some take-out on the way back home. for a quick, vegan holiday meal when everywhere else was shut, this was a pretty tasty find.

    chop-chop chef: chopped romaine, tempeh, veggie-steak, chillin' chickin, green onion, roasted corn salsa with a chipotle ranch dressing. $9.95

    chop-chop chef: chopped romaine, tempeh, veggie-steak, chillin' chickin, green onion, roasted corn salsa with a chipotle ranch dressing. $9.95

    we also got the v-burger (which i didn’t bother snapping because you’ve already seen it here) and started off with an order of steamin’ kale.

    steamin' kale: organic kale with ginger-miso dressing and roasted sesame seeds. $3.95

    steamin' kale: organic kale with ginger-miso dressing and roasted sesame seeds. $3.95

    as i’ve said before, the veggie grill is full of hidden charges. adding mushroom or avocado to a burger is an extra $1.50. getting salad instead of slaw as a side is an extra $1.95. if you want FRIES with your burger, that’s an extra $2.25! it’s all pretty ridiculous. by the time we shelled out the extra 2 bucks to swap out the slaw for salad, our entire order cost $26.85 before tip.

    $26.85…that’s kind of a lot. it’s right up there with m café, yet the veggie grill doesn’t deliver anywhere near the same quality of food. don’t get me wrong, my lunch was absolutely delicious…but was it really worth almost $30? i mean, the salad was full of crunchy white lettuce bones, nothing like the soft and dark leafy greens that fill the bowls over at m café.

    that being said, the salad was packed full of tasty protein. the tempeh was definitely my favorite. the veggie-steak and chillin’ chickin were good too—they tasted almost exactly like morningstar farms starter strips, which i’m a fan of. i didn’t eat the side of chipotle ranch, instead i used some awesome and healthy dressing that my dad brought me when he visited over the weekend. it went perfectly with the salad, the green onions and sesame really complimented each other. the BEST thing about the salad, though, was it came (as all veggie grill salads do) infused with a hearty scoop of quinoa. i love quinoa, and i don’t think you can really go wrong adding it to anything. i don’t know why anyone eats rice anymore, when they could eat those little white blobs of protein instead.

    in the end, the veggie grill salad really hit the spot. not to mention the delicious kale and its amazing miso dressing. i am so glad they were open on labor day. if only they weren’t so damn expensive. oh well, being a vegan and saving the world isn’t cheap…but it sure is worth it.

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  • July 24th, 2008quarrygirlLA restaurants, native foods

    especially after eating this amazing bowl at native foods.

    greek gyro at native foods
    steamed veggies, quinoa, creamy garlic lemon sauce, peppered seitan, hummus and grilled flatbread. $9.85

    i really consider myself a seitan connoisseur—i like only the best shit and i am very hard to please. i’ve never found a homemade seitan recipe that lives up to my standards, and i am super picky about the brands i buy in the store. so of course i was a wee bit skeptical when ordering what sounded like a delicious seitan bowl at native foods. luckily, they stepped up to the challenge and made the best seitan dish i’ve ever eaten. and it was smothered in the tastiest, creamiest, hummus-iest sauce. delicious.

    greek gyro at native foods

    peppery and flavorful, this seitan is gonna be very hard to beat. definitely the best dish i’ve ever ordered at native foods. and as an added bonus, the bowl comes with protein-laden quinoa instead of rice. i loved every last bite.

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