Z: It's no surprise that Los Angeles is the chosen city for a flurry of vegan and vegan friendly restaurants that have opened in just the last few months. O'Cado in Sherman Oaks is one of the new vegan hot spots. No one region has a concentration of vegan eateries. Rather they're visibly sprawling throughout our ever-expanding city.
R: O'Cado brings a radiant shine to its new home on Ventura Boulevard and has instantly become a destination eatery with an irresistible menu of specialty small plates and a well-curated selection of wines and brews. What a joy it was to welcome this exceptional vegan restaurant to the valley scene in August 2018!
Z: Because O'Cado was open only one month, we erred in assuming hardly anyone knew about it, and we would most likely not need reservations. That was a big mistake! The place was buzzing with activity and every table, both inside and out, was occupied. What a great feeling it was to see the vegan restaurant world expanding so rapidly!
R: We didn't mind the short wait and were soon seated at one of the ten outdoor tables along the sidewalk. A comfortable banquette occupied the East wall, while sturdy chairs with padded seats accompanied the thick wooden tables. Each place was set with a cloth napkin conveniently enclosing the flatware. Our server, Rhianan, was one of the restaurant's hidden treasures--she was so personable and knowledgeable we welcomed her guidance in making menu choices and beer selections.
Z: The menu offers a mix of Mediterranean and Tex-Mex flavors, accented with a touch of California Bistro dishes that put veggies at the forefront. Included on the menu categories are Shared Plates, Salad Bowls, Tacos & Sandwiches, Toasts, and Sides along with a little note announcing that dessert would be coming soon.
R: From the Small Plates section we chose Muhammara and O'Crab Cakes, BBQ Chopped Salad from the Salad Bowls, Street Tacos from the Taco plates, and Butternut Squash & Almond Ricotta in the Toasts section. We also ordered a bottle of Le Fin Du Monde Triple Ale (End of the World Ale) to share, and our friend, Chuck, chose Boomtown Nose Job IPA. While enjoying our first sips, we learned our excellent beer received distinguished awards in Canada. Perhaps, next time we'll explore the menu further and order the Gutenburg Red Ale.
Z: The first dish to arrive at our table was the Butternut Toast consisting of thick, crisp bread topped with a flavor-infused, tofu-based ricotta. Heaping over the ricotta was a mountain of diced, roasted butternut squash. Apple cider-glazed caramelized onions were carefully placed on the very top. A garnish of toasted pepitas added a pleasant touch of crunch. The portion was so generous all three of us were able to enjoy the hearty beginning to this exceptional dining adventure.
R: We expected the BBQ Chopped Salad to be just enough for one person. Instead, our server arrived with a family-size bowl brimming with a gorgeous display of romaine and crispy tortilla strips. Embedded within the well-dressed greens were bits of pungent BBQ jackfruit, chipotle corn kernels, chopped tomato, onions, and cilantro, with a fan of sliced avocado garnishing the top. O'Cado's tasty homemade ranch dressing was irresistible!
Z: We soon became aware that at O'Cado, everything we ordered exceeded our expectations. What seemed like a simple prep, was blessed with embellishments that made each item a spectacular presentation. Our O'Crab Cakes combined a medley of jackfruit, artichoke, and faro to form the two patties. Rather than the plating onion-poppy-seed slaw on the side, the slaw became the colorful two-toned blanket covering the flavorful crab cakes. The small metal cup of dill tarter was the perfect crab cake dipping sauce.
R: Our Street Tacos offered a trio of three, soft corn tortillas filled with lightly spiced bits of jackfruit, cilantro, and onion. Given a choice of salad or French fries, we chose the fries. A duet of green accompaniments, green salsa and avocado picata, heightened the fun of choosing which to dab into the taco and which for dipping our fries.
Z: Portions were liberal and we were beginning to feel quite sated when our final item arrived. When the food is so flavorful and brings such pleasure, the theory is there's always "room for one more little tidbit." Going on that philosophy, we reached for one of the many cucumbers slices on the dish and scooped up some reddish-brown paté known as Muhammara, a unique Middle Eastern appetizer that may have originated in Aleppo, Syria and traveled throughout the Arabic countries.
R: Mildly seasoned, yet tasty, the Muhammara consisted of an unusual combination of ingredients, mainly, roasted red pepper, pomegranate paste or syrup, fine bread crumbs, and finely ground walnuts. This blend is generously seasoned with garlic, lemon juice, salt, and a touch of hot pepper to result in a delightful dip eaten with pita.
Z: While we tasted only a smattering of the menu items, we came away feeling very sure this dining spot is off to a great start and will quickly become a favorite go-to place for vegans and omnivores who simply want to enjoy delicious dishes served with panache!
R: I have a confession; I want to taste everything on the menu! But I've narrowed my list to a few must-try items for our next visit. Clearly it will take more than one visit to sample every dish, but I have my eye on the Crispy Buffalo Cauliflower and Spicy Falafel Bites.
Z: Many restaurants open only a few weeks are still developing efficient working systems with both and kitchen and wait staff. Naturally, it takes time to smooth the rough edges, sometimes even several months. Our dining adventure on a very busy Saturday night at O'Cado was delightful, seamless, and efficient, thanks to our well-trained server and exceptional kitchen staff.
R: The restaurant offers a diverse menu of gastronomic delights and generous portions at impressive prices. Shared Plates range from $8 to $14, Salad Bowls $12 to $14, Tacos and Sandwiches $13 to $14, Toasts $9, and Sides $5 to $7.
Z: Because we were visiting a restaurant located along a busy commercial section of Ventura Boulevard, we found parking a bit challenging. Luckily, we located a space on a side street two blocks away and welcomed the opportunity to stretch our legs for the short walk.
Reviewed October 2018