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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. Toi on Sunset

R: Toi on Sunset combines the flavor of 70's decor with some of the tastiest Thai vegetarian food we've found in Los Angeles. A visit to this restaurant with its funky hanging objets d'art places you into a time warp from an era past. We almost walked past the place when we noticed what looked like a bicycle in the window. We didn't realize it was a rickshaw, the real thing!

Z: The flavor of the present was quite evident, too. Loud rhythmic rock music blared from the speakers as a friendly staff, dressed casually in jeans and T-shirts, served great Thai food. Though we went with friends who were not all vegetarians, we encountered a menu offering a broad selection for all of us.

R: Gunter, our pleasant waiter, put two tables together for the five of us and brought us menus. When we asked, he told us that Toi meant "young one." While reading the menus, we noticed we were resting our elbows on large 70's posters sandwiched between the protective glass top and the black table. All the tables were decorated this way.

Z: Alex and Helen, our two non-veg friends, began their meal with a bowl of Wonton Soup, and both ordered chicken dishes. We noticed the menu listed eleven vegetarian entrees, four vegetable dishes, two vegetarian soups, and a few salads that were totally vegetarian. A statement at the top said, "We use vegetable oil only and vegetable stock for soups. We can make almost anything vegetarian." Obviously, they are aware of today's growing vegetarian community. They also don't use preservatives or MSG. Chuck, Reuben, and I, the veg-heads, ordered Pad Ciw Tofu without Egg, Vegetarian Curry, and Eggplant, Pumpkin and Tofu. As an accompaniment to our varied dishes we asked for Brown Rice.

R: While we waited for our food, we looked around the dimly lit room and were awed by the enormous collection of wall-to-wall posters of groups such as Arrowsmith, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, and Rolling Stones. Attached to the walls were numerous mirrors and odd knickknacks. The exposed ducts hanging from the high ceilings were transformed into huge dragons with lighted tails. Suspended from the black ceiling were a large model airplane and some large indescribable monsters. You might think I came to the restaurant to discuss the decor! Actually, I found the environment so engaging, and creative, I had difficulty not focusing on new, funky stuff each time my eyes turned in another direction.

Z: The arrival of our food produced some irresistible aromas that brought instant "aahs." Our non-veg friends' Wonton Soup came in a huge bowl that provided enough soup to serve four. Our Pad Ciw Tofu with its large chunks of firm, baked tofu was delicious with its lightly sweetened sauce that enveloped the broccoli, red and green bell peppers, and flat wide rice noodles.

Soupbirds R: My favorite dish was the Vegetarian Curry that was served in a bowl with lots of soup-like curry sauce made from a base of coconut milk and chilis. Generous amounts of chopped red and green bell peppers, Napa cabbage, bamboo shoots, and broccoli in this zesty sauce kept us dipping in for more.

Z: All of us remarked about the outstanding flavor and texture of the Brown Rice that was served in a traditional, silver-like Thai metal pot with handles and a stamped design around the straight sides. The rice, we learned, was actually Thai Black Rice combined with some California brown rice. It made a perfect base for the Vegetarian Curry and would be a tasty accompaniment to any dish on the menu.

R: Whenever I see an eggplant dish on a menu, any menu, I always order it and am rarely disappointed. Another great eggplant dish came to our table that night. We loved the Eggplant, Pumpkin and Tofu served with chunks of deep fried tofu, shiitake mushrooms, green bell peppers, and chunks of sweet, fresh kabocha squash. Not only was I not disappointed, but I also place this one on my list of all-time favorite dishes. We'll have to return to sample some of the other dishes on the menu like Tom Kha Vegitofu Soup, Ginger Vegetables, Dried Chili Cashews, Pad Kra Prao Tofu, Vegi Toi Pasta, Vegi Pad Thai, and Vegi Pad Kee Mao.

Z: One of the highlights of an Asian meal is the anticipation that a great fortune will emerge from the fortune cookies served at the end. Reuben's read "Now is a lucky time for you--take a chance!" What a finish! He was delighted! Our friends who ordered the chicken dishes were just as content and commented on the generous portions. Our last encounter with the decor was the trip to the restroomča must-see-for-yourself-psychedelic pathway led to an equally psychedelic women's room.

R: If you must know, the men's room displayed graffiti that read, "Don't votečRevolt!" We can't leave you without a comment on the exceptional value this restaurant offers, great food at exceptionally reasonable prices. All three of the vegetarian entrees plus the brown rice totaled $25.55. Money goes a long way here. The same people operate Toi on Wilshire in Santa Monica.

Toi on Sunset
7505 1/2 Sunset Blvd. at Gardner, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: 323-874-8062
Hours: Open 7 days 'til 4:00 a.m.

Toi on Wilshire
1120 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 91401
Phone: 310-394-7804 and 310-394-7904
Hours: Open 7 days 'til 3 a.m.

Reviewed March 2001

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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