Z: Opened January 2014 in a small strip mall on the corner of Beverly Boulevard and Crescent Heights Avenue, Araya's Place celebrates its one-year birthday and is quickly becoming the go-to place for unique vegan specialties like Chinese leek-stuffed Vegetable Cakes or Avocado Curry, dishes not commonly found on local Thai restaurant menus.
R: We were amazed to see so many dishes flowing from the kitchen of this cozy little restaurant that seats about 28 people. We soon learned the secret. This dynamic little restaurant is family owned and operated by members of the family who grew up together sharing these tasty foods. In the late '80s Araya coaxed her sister to join her in opening a vegan restaurant in Seattle. Now that city is home to three locations. Araya's niece, Cherie, is the owner of the Los Angeles location that is operated by her with other family members.
Z: Intimate lighting with candles on each table set the mood, making diners feel instantly at home. Both sides of the small room have dark wooden banquettes, dark wood tables, and comfortable chairs. The simple wall décor features large, horizontal mirrors framed in dark wood. Soft music warms the room with eclectic sounds of jazz, pop, and Latin selections.
R: On our first visit we came with friends, Kenny, Chuck, and Marty. Our server, Kwan, guided us to some of the restaurant's most popular items. We began with Fresh Rolls, the familiar rice-paper wrappers filled with fried tofu, green leaf lettuce, basil, carrots, green onions, purple cabbage, and cilantro. Attractively served, the rolls were cut in half and placed standing on end, displaying a showy garden of leafy lettuce rising up from half of the rolls.
Z: We loved the delicious dipping sauce made from tamarind and pickled garlic and garnished with chopped peanuts. The rolls were a pleasantly fresh starter and made for some lively activity as we all raced for the dipping bowl.
R: Because it was chilly night, we agreed an order of Hot and Sour Soup might be a quick way to warm up. It truly was. Served in a traditional Thai footed soup bowl, the soup was bubbling hot and practically overflowing with chopped veggies and tofu. The broth had amazing flavor--I could almost have made a meal of it.
Z: We also ordered Drunken Mushroom, Classic Thai Snow Pea, Avocado Curry, Roti, and Vegetable Cakes, each a very unique dish, especially the Avocado Curry we had never encountered before. This curry is Araya's original creation. The abundant large chunks of avocado bathed in a thick and ultra-creamy coconut-based green curry made this an impressive entrée. Basil leaves added their pungent little touch, while chunks of red bell pepper and tofu made the dish a hearty choice.
R: Our friends Lionel and Diana joined us on our second visit to the restaurant. On both occasions we ordered Vegetable Cakes and marveled at how differently these little leek stuffed, rice flour cakes were presented. One time they were formed by pinching the dough in the center to form a pinwheel effect and blanketed in the sweet soy dipping sauce. The next time, the dough was smoothly finished, and the dipping sauce was served on the side.
Z: We also ordered Mango Salad, Pumpkin Curry, Cashew Delight, and Araya's Asparagus, each deliciously seasoned, tastefully presented, and accented with generous quantities of colorful vegetables. The Brown Rice was really brown, a delicious rice variety with pleasantly chewy texture and nutty quality.
R: We loved sipping tiny cups of decaffeinated Ginger Tea, a perfect meal accompaniment with plenty of refills at no extra cost. On a future visit we might choose Tofu Satay or Tofu Cream Cheese for starters and were tempted by the Yum Woon Sen bean thread salad. We'll find choosing a noodle dish challenging because of the many offerings.
Z: Prices are very affordable with Appetizers ranging from $7.95 to $9.95. Salads are all $8.95. Soups $9.50. Curries range from $9.95 to $13.95. Stir-fried dishes run $9.95 to $12.95. Noodle dishes $9.95 to $13.95. Fried Rice items $9.95 to $10.95. Sticky Rice Desserts are $5.75 to $5.95.
R: Although there are several vegan Thai restaurants in our city, we recognized Araya's Place as exceptional, with several menu offerings that stand apart. The strip mall offers limited parking, but there's also parking along Beverly Boulevard.
8101 1/2 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048
Reviewed February 2015