All the world is nuts about
Editors' Note: On this page in our June 2010 issue we published a review of Veggie World in Monterey Park. We are sorry to report this restaurant has closed its doors.
Z: I also noticed the restaurant had a comfortable acoustic level that allowed us to converse easily with our friend, Stephanie, without shouting across the table. It was a delight to hear the background sounds of softly flowing Vietnamese music. Immersed in the Oriental trappings and overheard conversations of other Asian diners, we could easily imagine we were no longer in Los Angeles, but rather visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
R: Daryl escorted us to a comfortable table along one wall and left us briefly to peruse the menu. He returned shortly and smiled pleasantly as we flooded him with questions. This tall, personable, and very knowledgeable man turned out to be the owner who patiently guided us through our selections.
Z: His wife, Natalie, is the chef and creates some rather unique dishes we had not encountered in any other Vietnamese restaurant. Daryl made many suggestions including the exceptional Vietnamese Combination Sour Soup. We also chose Ha Noi's Style Vermicelli, Sautéed Mixed Vegetable, Tofu Lemongrass, and Rice and Clay Pot.
R: We had a few minutes to enjoy the ambience that was enhanced by softly muted lighting. Even though the restaurant is enormous, it still retains a warm inviting comfort. Several giant size round tables occupy the center of the room where large groups gather for family dinners. Glass tops cover the tablecloths, while each place is set with a paper placemat. Careful attention is paid to small details that provide a feeling of welcome to patrons. Even fresh flowers are placed on each table to add a touch of beauty and color.
Z: Our Vietnamese Combination Soup arrived steaming hot in a large metal bowl placed over a heated unit. It was literally bubbling. We spooned generous portions into our bowls that came with Chinese-style soup spoons and noticed there was enough left for another generous serving. The clear broth was well seasoned and sported a light touch of spice. Veggie lovers would definitely find pleasure in this selection that contains uniquely sliced okra, along with mushrooms, bean sprouts, tofu, tomato bits, pineapple chunks, veggie shrimp, and veggie squid. The veggies were delightfully crisp, making each spoonful a tasty experience.
R: The Rice and Clay Pot stands out as an innovative approach to serving rice. We chose brown rice instead of white. What greeted our eyes was a clay pot about six inches in diameter filled about two-thirds full with rice. The surprise seasonings were concealed underneath and delivered a treasure of exotic flavors as we spooned servings onto our plates. Hidden beneath the rice was a delicious mélange of sizzling minced bamboo shoots, carrots, mushrooms, and minced ginger bathed in sweet and savory seasonings.
Z: Our favorite dish was the Tofu Lemongrass that Natalie prepares by first hand-chopping the lemongrass until finely minced. She then sautées the lemongrass until golden brown and places it on top of generous slices of deep fried soft tofu. The combination of textures and flavors is ultra compelling to the last bite.
R: The Ha Noi's Style Vermicelli was an attractive presentation that featured a sumptuous mound of fresh sprigs of basil, Thai basil, mint and green leaf lettuce alongside the vermicelli. In a separate bowl on the plate was an assortment of well-seasoned bite-size slices of tofu and veggie meats in a delicately flavored, lightly sweetened sauce.
Z: What did not snap, crackle, and pop like the other dishes was the Sautéed Mixed Vegetables, but the abundant variety was enjoyable and rounded out the meal that afforded us some tasty leftovers.
R: Daryl and Natalie Bach follow Buddhist tradition and prepare their foods without onions or garlic, yet the dishes did not suffer from lack of flavor. Instead, we found the food aromatic and brilliantly prepared.
Z: The finishing touch to the meal was the unexpected complimentary dessert. Lying across a tiny bowl was an innocent-looking, deep fried roll about three inches long. It was the well-conceived surprise tucked inside that sealed our admiration for this vivacious chef. Our first bite revealed the deliciously sweet bouquet of nirvana from the medley of banana, sesame, and fresh coconut, ending our meal with the memory of sweetness.
R: Other menu choices include a selection of Pho, Veggie Fish, a variety of Spring Rolls, fried and rice paper wrapped, Curries, Black Sesame Mochi Balls in Ginger Broth, and a number of Chinese/Vietnamese stir-fry dishes.
Z: After we expressed our praises to Daryl, he brought Natalie out of the kitchen. Ebullient and personable, she was eager to tell us she prepares her food with organic ingredients and filters the water for purity. With a joyful smile and a starry twinkle in her eye, she said she flavors her food with a good measure of love. Experiencing the tasty food and attractive presentations, we realized she and her husband had plenty of restaurant experience. Natalie had gained her restaurant wings in a former restaurant she operated in Rosemead.
R: Delicious dishes, attractive presentation, lovely ambience, and good service make Veggie World an appealing dining destination. One might expect this elegant restaurant to charge elegant prices, but, instead, we found prices reasonable and felt we had received excellent value for our money.
Reviewed June 2010