South Lake Avenue Appreciation Week wraps up today at VeggieGrill, a west coast chain serving meatless fare in a bright and airy fast-casual setting. My mom, who occasionally abstains from meat based on the Buddhist calendar, and I came in for a weekday lunch.
After placing our order at the front counter, we snagged a table and plopped down our number (and bums). I gathered a few condiments from near the drinks station just in case any additional seasoning was needed. Blandness is sadness.
The first dish to arrive at the table was the “Chill Out Wings” ($6.95), battered and deep-fried wheat gluten served with house-made ranch and roasted pepper sauce. Both Mom and I were big fans of the crisp-golden seitan rods. She dipped hers in ranch dressing, while the roasted red pepper sauce was more my speed.
Continue reading ‘Veggie Grill – Pasadena’
While driving home from dinner at Gracias Madre last week, my mind kept coming back to the idea of comfort zones. Namely, how my food comfort zone is calibrated a lot differently than other people’s. I feel perfectly at ease in a dingy restaurant where no English is spoken and offals are served, but take me to a fancy vegan joint in a ritzy part of town, and I feel a little like a fish out of water.
One man’s comfort zone is another’s uncharted course.
I stepped squarely out of my element for a taste of Gracias Madre, a much-buzzed-about and beautifully appointed restaurant specializing in vegan Mexican fare. Chef Chandra Gilbert opened the first Gracias Madre in San Francisco in 2009 along with Café Gratitude founders Matthew and Terces Engelhart. She formerly worked at Alice Waters’ now-closed Café Fanny in Berkeley and Cowgirl Creamery and Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.
The restaurant sources its organic produce exclusively from Be Love Farm in Vacaville, as well as from local farmers markets.
While my dining companions Diana and Valentina sipped spicy cocktails to start, I began with a cool glass of horchata ($5.50). Made of almond milk instead of the traditional rice milk, the agua fresca had a thicker consistency than I was expecting. Considering that horchata is naturally vegan, I found the ingredient swap unnecessary, especially since the end product wasn’t nearly as refreshing.
Continue reading ‘Gracias Madre – Los Angeles (West Hollywood)’
Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se, which literally means “from the streets of Mumbai,” is the only restaurant in Los Angeles specializing in Mumbai-style street food. Here in this nondescript dining room in a nondescript strip mall in Little India, former software engineer Sailesh Shah and his wife, Shruti, prepare sweet and savory snacks from their hometown, and the results are fantastic.
The completely vegetarian menu lists close to one hundred Maharashtrian delicacies. Taking a cue from Miles Clements’ article in the L.A. Times, The Astronomer and I stuck to the quintessential street food offerings on our visit. Or at least we tried to…
To drink, a tall cup of sweet yet tangy piyush, a cooling beverage made from yogurt, saffron, cardamom, pistachios, and almonds that takes three days to prepare. Every sip was delightful to the nth degree.
Continue reading ‘Mumbai Ki Galliyon Se – Artesia’
Dining at a single restaurant on five different occassions in the span of two months has got to be some sort of record for me. While this type of behavior is generally considered quite normal, it’s really very notable in my world because food blogging tends to discourage restaurant monogamy—there’s always something newer, more exciting, or tastier just around the corner.
Hà Tiên Quán in San Gabriel has reeled in my promiscuous dining ways with its tremendous Vietnamese cooking. The restaurant’s lineup of regional noodle soups never fails to warm and satisfy, while the vegetarian fare packs a wallop of flavor.
With nearly every Vietnamese restaurant in town serving up the usual pho, vermicelli rice noodles, and and banh mi, it’s been a breath of fresh air diving head first into Hà Tiên’s anything-but-predictable menu. Best of all, I’m constantly tasting new dishes that I didn’t grow up with or encounter while living in Vietnam. This place is my edible playground.
The family behind the restaurant is comprised of Larry Ta, his wife Thu Trang, and their daughter Carolyn. Thu heads up the kitchen, while Carolyn and Larry greet, seat, and tend to customers. Both Larry and Thu are from Ha Tien, a city on the western end of the Mekong Delta near the Cambodian border. Hà Tiên Quán opened its doors last October.
Continue reading ‘Hà Tiên Quán – San Gabriel’