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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Dining in Paradise

In most restaurant reviews the reader sees the restaurant experience from one person's point of view. In the reviews of the Vegetarians in Paradise, the reader experiences the eatery from the point of view of two people in dialogue form. Instead of Lucy and Ricky or Sonny and Cher, Vegetarians in Paradise brings you those two intrepid restaurant afficionados, Zel and Reuben Allen, who will take you along as they eat a swath across the Los Angeles environs.

Vegetable Delight

R: It boggles my mind to read a menu that lists pork, chicken, squid, shrimp, beef, and duck at a Chinese vegan restaurant. Vegetable Delight has a menu with almost 150 items that's more like a dictionary than a typical menu.
Z: The menu was really overwhelming until our very helpful serving person gave us some excellent suggestions. We followed her advice and wound up with some exceptionally tasty items.
R: As usual, we ordered too much food and we ate more than we should and wound up taking quite a bit home.
Z: But we had a meal and then some! We actually had enough for dinner the following night. That was a treat for me, since I cook three meals a day on a regular basis.
R: Zel, the reason we had so much food left over is that you and I are not big eaters.
Z: No, but the fact that we gorged sort of equals an average appetite, don't you think?
R: I refuse to answer on the grounds that my stomach will incriminate me! Seriously, let's cut to the food.
Z: O.K., O.K. We ordered appetizers, four entrees, and steamed brown rice.
R: Yeah, but we have to tell the people what we ate. You know, details--that sort of stuff.
Z: Ahh, I love the details. I remember how we licked our fingers to savor every tasty morsel. Oh, good Lord, now I'm salivating. We started with the Assorted Appetizers for Two which included two mock shrimp, battered and deep fried, with edible tails; two Spring Rolls filled with mushrooms, gluten, carrots, and cabbage; four Crispy Wontons, deep fried; and Paper Wrapped Vegetarian Chicken made from gluten.
R: I've never eaten shrimp tails before. They looked real and they were tasty. The Paper Wrapped Vegetarian Chicken really fooled me. The chicken came in cubes and looked like barbecued pork. Very tasty, but a bit too greasy for me. All of the appetizers on the menu are marked with an asterisk which indicates they are deep fried and stir fried.
Z: Well, when it comes down to "chewing the fat," I would have to say the downside is that the whole meal was fatty--typical of Chinese cooking-- very tasty, very attractive, well prepared with lots of wholesome ingredients, but definitely way too much fat.
R: I liked the Spring Rolls, and had two sauces to dip them in. One was a standard Chinese mustard. The other was a flavorful combination of applesauce, plum sauce, and ginger. Our serving person pointed out that even the wrappers for the Spring Rolls and Wontons were eggless. The Wontons were just so-so.
Z: I agree, but let's focus on the positives. The highlight for me was the Eggplant with Basil, made with Japanese eggplants, cut lengthwise on a sort of diagonal and flavored with a delicate, lightly sweetened soy sauce. The unique feature of this dish was the many fresh basil leaves cooked with the eggplant, which imparted their pungence with perfection.
/al/vegparadise/images/ R: I liked it, too. It came to our table steaming hot. The first bite almost burned my tongue. It seemed to fly out of the wok and onto our table. I wanted to see what they would do with the dreaded tofu. (Most of our non-vegetarian friends say yuck when we mention tofu.) The delicious Home Style Tofu came in triangular shapes that reminded me of doorstops. They were deep fried, then stir fried with snow peas, slivered carrots, button mushrooms and bamboo shoots in a spicy, slightly sweet sauce. This was one of those starred items that bring color to your cheeks and clears your sinuses. I asked the serving person to make the sauce a little milder and the chef complied.
Z: Don't forget the Broccoli Veggie Chicken stir fried with lots of fresh broccoli, slivered carrots, and thinly sliced wheat gluten which is made right in their kitchen and oh, so flavorful and tender. Also, the Fresh Mushroom with Veggie Pork made with soy protein which looked like small slices of meat the size of a half apricot and a bit chewy. Tasty though. This dish had quartered buttom mushrooms, slivered carrots, bamboo shoots and snow peas in a Chinese style light barbecue-flavored sauce.
R: The dessert was simple and refreshing. A few orange slices and the obligatory fortune cookie. Mine read that I would have everything I wanted by next summer. Not a bad summer to look forward to.
Z: My first impression when we walked in was that it was simple on decor, but the floor was carpeted, there were upholstered booths along the walls with tables in the middle of the room, they had tablecloths and cloth napkins, and soft lighting. Definitely a step up from the all to frequent linoleum tile floor diner atmosphere associated with many vegetarian eateries. On the table was standard silverware rather than chop sticks, but I probably could have requested chop sticks.
R: I appreciated that the meal didn't put a dent my wallet. We got a lot of food for $32 03. We could have ordered less and still been satisfied, but we wanted to try a variety of items to get the feel of the place. Unless you live in the north San Fernando Valley, the restaurant is out of the way for most city folk, out of the high rent district in sleepy Granada Hills, but definitely worth a visit if you're in the area.
Z: I really admired the creativity in their attempt to emulate a carnivorous diet with foods that are strictly vegan. However, because so many foods were fried, I wouldn't recommend licking your fingers at this restaurant too frequently.


Vegetable Delight (Vegan) Inexpensive
17823 Chatsworth St., Granada Hills 818-360-3997
Open daily M-F ll:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., Sat. and Sun. 4:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Special luncheon menu at 4.95 per person.

Reviewed January 1999


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