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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review
Jerry Yu

Vegetable Restaurant R: What surprises we had when we walked into Vegetable, one of the newest vegan restaurants that opened in Studio City on Cahuenga Boulevard just west of Lankershim Boulevard. We knew this dining spot, opened in April 2015, was in the same space once occupied by SunCafé, a delightful vegan restaurant that moved a few blocks west on Ventura Boulevard.

Z: Chef-Owner Jerry Yu clearly displayed his artistic talents by transforming the space so dramatically we didn't even recognize it was once the well-known SunCafé he used to manage.

Vegetable Restaurant R: The L-shaped restaurant has considerably more seating with reclaimed wooden booths and tables of varying lengths and heights We felt instantly at home in the warm, inviting ambience. Another surprise is that Chef Jerry created all those wood furnishings with discards from wooden palates turned into interior and exterior planters and vegetable crates for storage. He transformed used, painted wooden panels into tables and booths for comfortable dining.

Z: Our server, Shannon, was so bubbly and knowledgeable about the menu she actually added a joyful edge to our dining experience. Vegetable specializes in little plates, a fun and adventurous way of dining on a wide variety of shared dishes rather than the standard 3-course meal. The table setting consisted of jumbo cloth napkins rolled up with flatware inside.

R: Although the menu features dishes under the section headings Snack, Soup, Vegetable, Salad, and Plate, the items are not necessarily served in that order. Because the kitchen doesn't use heat lamps, the dishes are brought directly to the table steaming hot or well chilled in random order as soon as they are prepared. It actually worked out quite well--not knowing which dish will arrive added a spark of mystery.

Z: When we spotted the Butternut Squash Toast listed under Snack, we asked Shannon to put that order in to the kitchen first before we made our other selections. We completed our order with Sautéed Baby Portobello Mushroom, Hand Massaged Red Kale Salad, Mac & Cheese, and Saffron-infused Savory Corn Cake.

Vegetable Restaurant Vegetable Restaurant
R: The Butternut Squash Toast was a glorious celebration of flavors and glistening colors that sent my brain into foodie ecstasy with the first bite. Spread onto two large wedges of grilled sourdough bread was butternut squash puree flavored with roasted garlic. Topping the squash were red and yellow baby tomato halves sprinkled with a divine seasoning mixture of herbs, crushed red pepper, and sea salt.

Z: This item is a winning choice that delivers a prize package of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors rushing all into the mouth at once. We came with our friend Lisa who agreed it was so exceptional we could almost have made a meal of this dish alone.

R: Next to arrive was the Hand-Massaged Red Kale piled into a peak and beautifully garnished with cascading slices of paper-thin watermelon radish, slivers of pickled shallot, and crunchy gluten-free croutons. The salad was an attractive and photogenic presentation but the dressing missed a bit on flavor.

Vegetable Restaurant Z: We loved the ultra-creamy, gluten-free Mac & Cheese made with large quinoa pasta shells bathed in a garlicky cashew cheese sauce. Topping the dish was a garnish of baby tomato halves and a generous sprinkle of crumbled garlic and walnut bits. Served in a small, white, rectangular casserole with handles, the pasta offered a pleasantly chewy texture, and the sauce delivered a welcome hint of spice.

R: While we were enjoying the mellow music of the 1940s and the comfortable glow of old-fashioned Edison-style lighting, our noses perked up with the scent of the arriving Saffron-infused Corn Cakes. This is the dish that captured our hearts!

Z: It was easy to wax passionately about this stunning creation of two corn cake rectangles slathered with a smoky sriracha aioli and drizzled with an exceptional balsamic reduction. Beneath the corn cakes was a spicy chickpea and sweet onion brothy stew of luxurious flavor that contributed the perfect blend of sweet, salty, and spicy seasonings.

R: And, that's not all! A tiny fluff of kiwi and Serrano pepper pico de gallo and another fluff of salty garlic lacinto kale accompanied this scrumptious and innovatively conceived memorable dish.

Vegetable Restaurant Z: Although the portions are quite generous for "little plates," we decided to add one more dish--the Sautéed Baby Portobello Mushrooms. No regrets. The mushrooms were perfectly sautéed in a balsamic reduction with sweet onions and garnished with chives. Mushrooms lovers will want to add these plump, juicy, delightfully chewy, and delicious 'shrooms to their choices.

R: To conclude our meal with a sweet tidbit, we ordered the Blondie with house-made Peanut Butter Ice Cream and discovered a blondie of exceptional lightness. It was crisp on the outside and pleasingly soft inside with a little crunch from bits of walnuts--a perfect finish to an exciting meal filled with a host of taste adventures.

Vegetable Restaurant Z: We simply can't end this review without mentioning the unique and skillfully drawn vegetable designs on the giant chalkboard dominating one wall. The artist also added a touch of humor with the handlebar mustache on the carrot riding a velocipede, the old-fashioned bicycle with the giant front wheel.

R: Chef Jerry came out of the kitchen to say hello and filled us in on details about the history of the restaurant. Regular diners will appreciate the frequently changing menu items that keep the dining experience fresh and enjoyable.

Z: Metered parking is available on the street. Snacks range from $5 to $11, Soup is $6, Vegetables $8 to $9, Salad $11 to $12, Plates $11 to $18.

3711 Cahuenga Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 91604
Phone: 818-754-1149
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Closed Sunday
Website: http://www.vegetablela.com

Reviewed January 2016

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