R: Our visit to La Flor de Loto, a Mexican restaurant in Huntington Park, turned out to be quite a treasure hunt because it had recently moved. Unaware of its new location, we wandered up and down Zoe Avenue searching for it. Only in its new location on Seville Avenue between Gage and Zoe Avenues for a month and a half, the restaurant is only a few blocks from its former home. We finally arrived at our destination at 7 p.m. only to learn that was closing time.
Z: Hearing my dramatic sigh of disappointment, owner Constantino Antonio smiled, asked what we would like to eat, and pointed to several of the vegan choices pictured on the large menu with colorful photos above the counter.
R: Because Constantino was making a special accommodation, we asked him choose a different item for each of us. Soon he brought a small plate with generous spoonfuls of two vegan daily specials for us to taste. They were delicious.
Z: As we waited for our meal, we noted the simple ambience of this sizeable cafe. It was brightly lit and had the sparkle of a new restaurant made festive by the white tablecloths with red cloth toppers. The large ceramic tile floor was a light, creamy earth tone, contributing to the cafe's cheery appearance. The thought that we both shared was that this restaurant has plenty of room for a special-occasion fiesta.
R: The typical starter of tortilla chips and salsa was exceptionally tasty and hinted of a healthier version from the often mass-prepared salsa most Mexican restaurants serve. The chips did not leave that familiar greasy residue on the fingers and the salsa, too, had a less fatty quality. While the salsa was flavorful, it also had a refreshingly unique taste and texture but and had quite a kick.
Z: My chile tolerance scores a bit higher than Reuben's, so for me it really delivered what I would consider a positively happy medium. As Constantino served our heaping platters, he showed us the menu that displayed the daily specials. It was Thursday and the two vegan specials sat before us looking very inviting. Mine, the Caserola Espanola, was an eye-appealing stew of cabbage, tomatoes, and green peppers heaped over two soy chicken drumsticks hidden beneath. Also on the large oval platter were generous portions of steamed brown rice, refried black beans, and a salad of iceberg lettuce and spinach with chunks of carrots, red cabbage, cucumbers, and celery. The stew was given a special spark with an infusion of chiles. It was delicious with just the perfect level of chile heat for us gringos.
R: My platter was equally inviting with the same brown rice, refried beans, and salad accompaniments. Chiken re-Chiken was my vegan daily special, a chunky stew of carrots, green beans, green bell peppers, onions, pineapple, and large bite-size pieces of chicken-style soymeat. It was rich with flavor and a delicate sweetness from the pineapple and delivered a pleasant splash of spice for a delightful meal.
Z: We rarely order special beverages and usually request water with no ice when dining out, but when our gracious host mentioned he had made chilled Horchata and Jamaica, we couldn't resist and ordered one of each. No regrets, they were only lightly sweetened and thoroughly refreshing. Usually, sweetened beverages overpower the tastebuds and interfere with our ability to really taste the foods. Surprisingly, the beverages didn't muddle our tasting abilities in the least.
R: We recognized that though La Flor de Loto didn't have the look or even the aromas of most typical Mexican restaurants, the foods we tasted were uniquely composed and retained their natural qualities. The reason, we learned, is that Constantino is from Oaxaca, Mexico's southern tip where the cuisine takes on the style and flavors of the region. La Flor de Loto, or The Lotus Flower in English, is the owner's sixth vegetarian restaurant.
Z: Though the restaurant is vegetarian, there are always options for vegans. Chiles Rellenos is available stuffed with soya meat and vegetables, Burritos could be filled with gluten or rice and vegetables, and hungry vegans could order Pescado Vegetariano, a soy fish. Quesadilla lovers might enjoy theirs with a mushroom filling or order a crepe filled with spinach, mushrooms or soy meat. Molé was also a tempting vegan choice.
R: Even the burger crowd could order a Hamburguesa de Soya. Because few Mexican restaurants cater to vegans, it was a treat to find Mexican cuisine for those of us who would rather see our animal friends happily romping in the fields than served on a plate. And those looking to stretch the food budget will be delighted with the reasonable prices. Great food, great prices, and service with a smile--what a combination!
6531 Seville Ave., Huntington Park, CA 90255
Reviewed June 2008