Z: We must admit, the small cafe is so appealing with its bright ambience. The confusion occurs finding it in the Ventura Connection Shopping Center on the NE corner of Ventura Boulevard and De Soto Avenue. The address is listed on Ventura Boulevard, but the restaurant entrance is actually on DeSoto Avenue about 100 feet north of Ventura Boulevard.
R: Our friend, Judy, who had never eaten at a vegan restaurant, accompanied us and was excited at the thought of an all vegan menu of Thai food, a cuisine she always enjoys. We were thrilled to share this dining adventure with her and ordered items that might be comparable and familiar to a non-vegan
Z: We began our meal with Steamed Dumplings and chose entrees that would introduce our friend to items with soy chicken, soy fish, and tofu, and offer a dinner of diverse flavors and textures: Spicy Eggplant with Soy Chicken, Shiitake Curry, and Spicy Mint Noodles with Soy Fish.
R: Our plump little dumplings arrived quickly. We loved the presentation with its heap of shredded cabbage and carrots claiming the center of the small oval platter. Forming the border were the ivory-hued round dumplings looking like perky little hats. Judy was unable to identify the filling, but we could recognize tofu and bits of cooked cabbage in a base of potato. The dumplings were tasty, especially dunked into the small bowl of lightly spiced sauce that hinted at a thinned version of Hoisin.
Z: These homey little dumplings were in perfect harmony with this homey little setting where cream-colored walls sported an array of small, framed artwork. One wall was dominated with a large mural displaying free-form vine-like, black swirls with tiny leaves and occasional flowers. The mural provided a striking accent to the black tables and chairs. Plenty of light streamed in from the window facing DeSoto Avenue, making the room glow in happy mood.
R: A spice lover like Zel, Judy wore a big grin after her first bite of Spicy Eggplant with Soy Chicken. Perfectly spiced for those two fire-eaters, it was a bit bold for me, but I dove in anyway downing those long, thin slivers of fresh heat-producing ginger sautéed with strips of red and green bell peppers, onions, and chunks of Chinese eggplant. The strips of soy chicken were the topper that made this gleaming savory dish an excellent choice.
Z: We then plunged our forks into another spicy dish, this one much tamer. Spicy Mint Noodles with Soy Fish definitely delivered mint to the foreground and gave the dish a refreshing quality. The wide rice noodles were pan fried in a light savory sauce with sliced celery and red bell peppers and served with a small bowl of vegan tartar sauce. Strips of soy fish were perched on top of the noodles and might have benefited from a tumble in the savory sauce as the dish was cooking.
R: Rounding out our meal was a tasty Shiitake Curry prepared in a coconut milk base and enhanced with thin slices of shiitakes, chunks of eggplant, long slivers of bamboo shoots, and strips of red and green bell peppers along with chunks of tofu.
Z: The Spicy Eggplant and Shiitake Curry were both served with generous mounds of brown rice, providing the perfect vehicle for soaking up the tasty sauces. Just when we thought we had concluded our meal, we were surprised to see Hnoi, who had just returned from a dinner delivery. She flashed one of those winning Thai smiles and brought us Spring Rolls and the special House Fried Rice she was anxious for us to taste.
R: The House Fried Rice made a smashing presentation with its multitude of ingredients and ultra savory flavor. Buried within and cascading over the mound of chocolate colored rice were cashews, bean sprouts, onions, peas, raisins, carrots and cubes of deep fried tofu. The rice was attractively accented with oval slices of cucumbers and a fluff of cilantro topping the presentation.
Z: A generous measure of raisins made this dish exceptionally engaging. That delightful touch of fruity sweetness perfectly complemented the savory flavoring of the dish. Judy was awed by the size and diversity of the menu. She was eying the soups and salads with thoughts for her next visit. Wraps, sandwiches, burgers, and breakfast foods like burritos, pancakes, and hash browns puzzled her. These are not typical menu choices on any Thai restaurant she had encountered.
R: She was right, quickly discovering how easy it is for vegans to dine well at very reasonable prices. Appetizers and Soups range from $3.95 to $7.95, Curries are $7.95 and $8.95 while Salads run $4.95 to $7.95. Wraps and Noodle dishes are priced at $7.95 each, with Burgers and Sandwiches ranging from $4.95 to $7.95. Veggie Meat or Veggie Rice Dishes run $7.95 to $8.95. Price conscious diners can count on a delicious meal that includes appetizer and entrée between $15 and $18.
Z: Vegan Joint may become the hip new hangout in the Valley as more vegans and non-vegans discover this appealing cafe. Vegan Joint combines tasty food, excellent prices, and convenient parking just north of the restaurant on DeSoto Avenue.
R: Diners now have two convenient locations where they can sample tasty vegan Thai food--in the San Fernando Valley and West Los Angeles.
Los Angeles Location
10438 National Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90034
Reviewed August 2011