R: Encountering a name like Kale and Quinoa Vegan Café, San Fernando Valley diners know they can expect a nutritious meal but may not realize this dining destination is totally vegan. This small, cozy Thai café opened June 2016 in Studio City with owner-chef-mom Vallapa Tunbut and daughters Gabby and Patty bustling about the kitchen and providing table service.
Z: As we entered the café, aromas of Thai spices wafted from the open kitchen to welcome us for dinner. We greeted our friends, Lionel and Diana, who joined us for another dining adventure, and quickly noted the comfortable chairs with padded seats and backs that matched the faux wood tables.
R: In daytime the space is well lighted by the large windows on two sides affording a view of the strip mall along busy Ventura Boulevard. Several Edison-style droplights provide the pleasant warm glow during the dinner hours and also spotlight the numerous art photos on the wall.
Z: Because sharing dishes is ideal way to taste many dishes, we ordered several including Tofu Larb Salad, Mushroom Salad, Beef Jerky Nacho Cheesy Fries, Pumpkin Eggplant and Tofu, Spicy Green Beans with Soy Chicken, and Prime Ribs. With a menu so extensive, we found it challenging to narrow our choices to a manageable few.
R: The Beef Jerky Nacho Cheesy Fries arrived quickly with an eye-appealing presentation resembling a pyramid. At the base were the crisp fries generously drizzled with tasty homemade cashew cheese. Heaped into the center atop the fries were flavor-infused crispy soy beef slices, teriyaki-marinated and deep-fried. Adding the spicy touch were several slices of marinated jalapenos strewn over the fries that were finished with a garnish of sliced scallions. This starter was a French-fry lover's delight!
Z: I rarely order fries, but found these deliciously compelling, as did my tablemates. Tofu Larb Salad made a colorful presentation with its chunks of tofu, half-moons of red onion, shredded carrots, and traditional chopped herbs served with three large ribs of romaine. The rich flavors of cilantro, lime, and mint gave this salad distinction but the typical Thai sweet, sour, salty seasoning was a bit heavy on the sweet side for me.
R: The Mushroom Salad featured a generous portion of mushroom varieties including slices of king oyster and chopped button mushrooms, along with enoki, and shimeji. Bright cherry tomato halves, red bell pepper chunks, red onion, and slivers of carrot were tossed with cilantro and green onions in the same spicy lime dressing as the Tofu Larb Salad but enhanced with a tad more emphasis on chili spice. This salad, too, arrived with three long ribs of romaine.
Z: Some of Reuben's favorite foods include eggplant and pumpkin. This little café must have had him in mind when they offered Pumpkin Eggplant and Tofu in the specialty section of the menu. He was a happy diner that night, enjoying the ample serving of stir-fried pumpkin slices, tofu chunks, and lavender-hued Chinese eggplant accented with red bell pepper slices and green beans. Fresh basil leaves, garlic, and chili gave the dish its pungent delight.
R: The Prime Ribs make the ideal choice for those who love beefy dishes marinated and stir-fried in sweet and sour teriyaki sauce. Attractively plated on a long, rectangular dish, was the abundant serving of prime ribs taking its place at the center. Vibrant steamed broccoli and crinkle--cut carrots decorated the right side, while a bowl of well-dressed bright green kale slaw topped with walnut flanked the left.
Z: Our final selection was Spicy Green Bean, a dish of sautéed fresh green beans accented with red bell pepper, and seasoned with a tasty red curry sauce. Many of the dishes offered a choice of tofu, soy chicken, soy steak, or vegan shrimp. Lionel requested the soy chicken, adding a hearty component to the beans.
R: Our meal was a feast of brilliant colors and sweet and sour flavors, plus a touch of spice to perk up our palates. The service, provided by Patty, was excellent, warm, and attentive. Because our meal was so robust and satisfying, we agreed we would postpone a dessert of mango and sticky rice or fried banana with coconut ice cream for a future visit.
Z: The bright neon sign on the wall said, "Feed Your Soul," a sincere message the Tunbut family offers graciously. To acquire their restaurant skills, chef-mom and sister Gabby worked in other Thai restaurants in Los Angeles. Now diners can hear frequent chopping from the open kitchen and know their foods are freshly prepared just for them.
R: The menu is extensive and offers Starters ranging from $6 to $10, Salads $12 to $14, Soups $8 to $10, Noodle and Rice Dishes $12, Mains $12, Specialty Dishes $12 to $14. Also offered are Wraps and Burgers as well as Lunch Specials.
Kale & Quinoa Vegan Café
Reviewed October 2016