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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Dining in Paradise

In most restaurant reviews the reader sees the restaurant experience from one person's point of view. In the reviews of the Vegetarians in Paradise, the reader experiences the eatery from the point of view of two people in dialogue form. Vegetarians in Paradise brings you those two intrepid restaurant aficionados, Zel and Reuben Allen, who will take you along as they eat a swath across the Los Angeles environs.

Z: When Greens at the Beach closed last year, we were devastated. It was a restaurant with exceptional food and an environmentally sound philosophy. We were not alone in feeling the loss.

Green Temple R: Then, something wonderful happened! Two of Greens' employees, Elena and Andrea, purchased the recipes from Maurice Boudreaux, their former employer, and opened The Green Temple restaurant just a few doors away.

Z: Those who were frequent customers of Greens are now enjoying familiar dishes in a setting that transports them from Redondo Beach to several distant lands at once. We entered the restaurant through a wooden, Japanese arch painted bright red and flanked by large terra cotta pots housing a hearty growth of bamboo.

R: To our left and to our right was a small patio area with several tables for two, some outdoor heaters, and much greenery. Just above the restaurant door right under The Green Temple sign, was another sign that read "A Veggie Place." A smiling, pot-bellied statue of Buddha, with his arms uplifted, greeted us just before we entered the restaurant and inhaled the aromas of savory home cooking.

Z: Even before we reached our table, our thoughts registered a similar impression. "This place is funky," we said almost simultaneously to each other. Each of the tables featured different colors and patterns of mosaic designs and sat upon a sturdy, well designed metal base. The walls were painted in an earthy yellow, ragged, faux finish with lots of funky wall decor. The wooden floors sported oriental rugs, and on each table was an objet d'arte that looked like a lamp with a tall skinny base, but it wasn't a lamp at all. More funky!

R: I rather liked the giant, cherry red armoire that was used as a bookcase. Our own little corner niche consisted of two small benches with colorful, exotic looking pillows covered in fabric that reminded me of India. There was even a conga drum that I could have played to keep rhythm with the rap reggae music that offered an appealing background sound.

Z: Finally, we focused on the menu and were encouraged by the friendly couple sitting next to us to try the Three Bean Soup. Well, Reuben needed no further encouragement, since soup is one of his favorite comfort foods. Each of the main entrees comes with either salad or a choice of three soups and includes a slice of their homemade bread. Choices were easy. I ordered the salad with a sampling of two dressings, the Tahini and the Herb Vinaigrette, and Reuben chose the Three Bean Soup.

R: The soup came with two spoons; the salad arrived with two dressings in little metal cups. The soup lived up to its excellent reputation with its hearty thick base of lentils, black eyed peas, and lima beans and was enhanced by bits of carrots, celery and onions. The superb flavor lingered for some time. I could have made a meal of that soup which was accompanied by a thick slice of whole wheat and walnut bread.

Z: As we often do, we shared the soup. Honestly, I must agree with Reuben. I, too, could have made a meal of that soup and the bread, but our nature is to explore many different things on the menu to get a feel of the place. We also shared the generous portion of salad that consisted of deep green curly lettuce, shredded carrots, and shredded beets. The dressings were both creamy, but a bit mild for our taste. We resorted to putting them both on the salad resulting in an excess of dressing with great flavor. Next time we'll reach for the salt and pepper.

R: Andrea's special that day was a Tamale Pie with a tomato sauce and soy cheese. When I asked about the cheese, Andrea said it was vegan. However, when it arrived at the table, it somehow did not look like vegan cheese. Then I asked the tough question, "Does it have casein?" Elena, who served us, admitted it did have casein and seemed unaware that casein was not vegan. That was a disappointment, and I sent it back.

Z: We didn't go hungry, though. Both of us feasted on the entree I ordered which was the Savory Steamers. This dish included either tofu or tempeh, and when we were obviously torn between them, Andrea said we could have some of each. We liked their willingness to accommodate. We loved this dish with its base of brown rice, topped with a colorful variety of steamed veggies that included red and green cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, and green beans. Ample portions of tofu and tempeh chunks were dotted throughout, each prepared with special ingredients to bring out exceptional flavor. Over all was their famous Savory Sauce made from tofu.

R: I couldn't get enough of that sauce! It definitely deserves all the praise it receives. We found it exceptionally flavorful, smooth, creamy white, and plentiful. Their tempeh is a stand-out item that is manufactured by one of their own regular customers. Usually tempeh has a sharp flavor and chewy texture that doesn't hold a special place on my list of favorite foods. This tempeh, however, could well become one of my favorites, with its delicate flavor and tender texture.

Z: I think I could label the Savory Steamers as a dish that goes right to a man's heart! Reuben was truly a happy diner. A special feature of The Green Temple is their Dragon Shots. The seven different herbal tonics are composed of herbal combinations that can either give one an energy boost or slow one down gently. This seemed like such a unique feature we simply had to try them. I ordered the Equilibrium and Reuben chose the Vitality.

R: These arrived each in different sake pitchers with matching sake cups that were carried on individual matching trays. In each pitcher stood a chop stick to stir the beverage. It was a refreshing finish to our meal, and we sat there slowly sipping and noticing that business was good and tables were filling up.

Z: We would be remiss if we didn't mention some unique features about the restaurant, such as the cloth napkins rolled up to enclose a fork and knife, and tied with red ribbons, and their desire to serve organic foods when available. They have their own herb garden and include these herbs in their foods and beverages. They take pride in cooking with purified water in stainless steel pots, and serve their customers purified water as well.

Chef with Tray R: Other features on their menu include homemade Veggie Burgers with a variety of add-ins, Quesadillas with an interesting choice of fillings, The Bowls, each with a base of beans and different toppings, Garden Burritos, Tacos, Enchiladas, vegetarian Mushroom Walnut Loaf, and an array of Steamers. Prices are very reasonable, from $4.95 to $9.95 for the entrees.

Z: They also offer The Squeezes, juices to order, including Carrot, Beet, Parsley, and Celery or any combination of these. A special entree of the day and soup of the day offer regular customers something new to keep the menu fresh.

R: Behind the restaurant is another patio area which will become a dining area during the summer months. The Green Temple has only been open eight months but has captured the firm base of customers that knew and loved Greens in addition to attracting new diners.

Z: We must entertain you with one last mention of funky decor. The restroom, which one enters by walking through the kitchen, is a must see with its oriental rug, fabric canopy and novel wall decorations. Painted on the wall above the toilet tissue are the words, "Your gift to us is to be here. Our gift is to give you all we have." A lovely, sincere thought. We drove home along Pacific Coast Highway accompanied by a dramatic setting sun over the ocean.

The Green Temple
1700 S. Catalina Ave., Redondo Beach, CA 90277
Hours: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Closed Monday

Reviewed June /July 2000

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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