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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

veSTATION Restaurant R: Always jazzed about exploring a new vegan restaurant, vegan diners will be thrilled to discover veSTATION, a delightful Thai restaurant with a refreshingly creative menu. Opened the first week of February 2012, veSTATION is located in Sherman Oaks nestled into the middle of the popular shopping center at the northeast corner of Ventura and Van Nuys Boulevards, facing Ventura Boulevard. Visible from the street is the sign with large letters that read "vegan cuisine." Though this is a busy locale, there are plenty of parking spaces.

Z: Good feng shui-- that was our first impression when we entered the long, narrow restaurant that uses the space brilliantly and with such panache. Chef-Owner Tum Champ created the feel-good ambience of a peaceful oasis with pleasing muted, earth-green walls. The well-designed lighting gives the room a warm, soft glow, yet offers the perfect level of brightness. During daylight hours, the expansive floor-to-ceiling windows bathe the room with natural light.

veSTATION Restaurant R: Chef Tum's Asian-style décor reflects his Bangkok roots. The Thai menu lends itself to matching décor, done attractively with sleek black tables along one wall and a long, low black counter along the other. In perfect contrast are wooden chairs and backless stools with the look of light, bleached wood. I especially appreciated the mood music that stayed in the background and created an inviting comfort zone where diners could enjoy conversation.

Z: In place of familiar tall vases filled with fresh or artificial flowers, veSTATION owners chose small, black pots tastefully filled with living cactus and succulents to enhance each table, giving the room a clean, modern, nuanced appeal.

R: Everything is meticulously executed from the green paper placemats and placement of the uniquely folded, white, cloth napkins to the novel, cork-covered menu booklet. The menu offers plenty of traditional Thai dishes but also features a number of innovative items like Quinoa Sticks, Collard Asian Wrap, and Northern Thai Khao Soi.

veSTATION Restaurant
Z: We ordered Soy Satay and Japanese Gyoza for starters to share with our friends Lionel and Diana. We loved the flavors and textures and, especially, the attractive presentation of both served on long, rectangular dishes. Both dishes were accompanied by tiny, square bowls filled with dipping sauces and artfully garnished with angel-hair-thin long shreds of carrots and beets nestled into a lettuce leaf.

R: Lightly deep-fried, the six, veggie filled gyoza dumplings were deliciously delicate and perfectly enhanced with the soy vinaigrette dipping sauce. The five-serving satay, threaded on wooden skewers, consisted of long strips of soy chicken paired with a thick, well-seasoned peanut sauce that would be wonderful on everything.

Z: Lionel, a seaweed aficionado, ordered a bowl of Japanese Seaweed Soup, a light broth heaping with chunks of tofu, bok choy, napa cabbage, scallions and small translucent globes none of us had encountered before. Those mysterious globes were lotus seeds, round, firm, somewhat shiny orbs about the size of large grapes.

veSTATION Restaurant R: Royal Pad Thai, Yellow Curry, Rama Veggies, and Brown Rice were the hearty and diverse entrees we chose for sharing. Noodle lovers will love the Pad Thai with its generous serving of rice vermicelli, bean sprouts, green beans, tofu, and scallions stir-fried together in a delicious tamarind sauce and finished with a garnish of crushed peanuts. The menu lists a choice of tofu, soy chicken, soy fish, or soy steak on noodle, rice, stir-fry, and curry dishes. Our choice of soy steak added toothy robustness, but the pad Thai would have been a delight with any of the additions.

Z: Diana's favorite was the Yellow Curry. It was a winner, especially spooned over the stunning mahogany brown rice we ordered. This brown rice was a unique variety, very nutty in flavor with a delightfully chewy texture. The generous serving of curry, served in a large square bowl, held an array of potato chunks, tofu, julienne carrots, onions, chick peas, and cauliflower topped with a fluff of cilantro.

R: Rarely seen on any Thai menu we've encountered was a delicious stir-fry featuring broccoli, kale, and spinach topped with a rich, thick peanut sauce. That was our Rama Veggies, a highly nutritious dish of green vegetables prized for their excellent health benefits. Anyone on a hunt for antioxidants will definitely find them in this attractive dish.

veSTATION Restaurant Z: When our server, Jennifer, mentioned the special vegan coconut ice cream imported from Thailand, we simply had to taste it and placed one order with four spoons. Those few bites provided a satisfying sweet finish to a lovely meal. We were soon plunging our spoons into two generous scoops of delicious ice cream that was unmistakably coconut. Especially pleasing was that the ice cream was not overly sweet but totally intriguing with tidbits of jackfruit and taro.

Z: Though the restaurant opened only three weeks earlier, word has spread and business was great for a weeknight. Dishes came to the table quickly by efficient servers Jennifer, Erika, and Touch. Clearly experienced hands were in the kitchen, commandeered by Chefs Tum and Thammarat, who skillfully merge exotic Asian spices with healthy cuisine. With his focus on plant based cuisine and organic produce, Chef Tum turns his support to local farmers.

R: Both vegans and nonvegetarians will find this welcoming dining locale good value for their money. Appetizers are $6 to $8, Salads $9 to $11. Soups $6 small bowl and $10 large bowl. Noodle, Rice, Stir-fry, and Curry dishes range from $9 to $12.

Z: On our next visit, we plan to order the Quinoa Sticks, Roti Curry Dip, Tropical Paradise Salad, and Northern Thai Khao Soi--more dining delights to whet our appetites.

VeSTATION urban organic kitchen
14435 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks, CA 91423
Phone: 818-784-8388
In the Sherman Oaks Town Center
Hours: Monday through Friday 11:00 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Saturday Noon to 9:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday
Website: http://www.vestation.com

Reviewed March 2012

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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