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Vegan for the Holidays


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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Dining in Paradise



Vegan Express


R: Halfway between the Valley and Hollywood in a tiny raised foundation brick house on busy, noisy Cahuenga Blvd. is a little haven for vegan diners. It might have been someone's home sometime during the 30's, but now a bustling kitchen cooks up tasty meals in this informal café. Enter the restaurant and you're right in the tiny dining area that holds 8 tables that seat about 16 diners at any one time.

Z: Though Vegan Express doesn't have the sort of atmosphere that invites one to bring special out-of-town guests, it does offer wholesome meals with that home-cooked flavor--the kind Mom would have served--if she were a Thai vegan.

R: We walked right to the counter that was covered with shiny ultramarine blue tiles to look at the menu and place our order. Pia, the restaurant's owner, is from Bangkok and prepares dishes from her homeland. Her two friendly kitchen helpers, Nuch and Paul, also Thai, were helpful in making dinner suggestions to us.

Z: This chilly, rainy night made us yearn for a warming bowl of soup. Nuch suggested the Shiitake Soup Bowl along with Thai Yellow Curry that comes with Brown Rice. We usually aim for variety when experiencing a restaurant for the first time and ordered Cole Slaw and the Chicken Dinner too.

R: We knew this was going to be more food than any average diner could possibly consume, but next day leftovers are always welcome. Choosing a table near the door, we seated ourselves on the green patio chairs that surrounded each of the tables. The only atmosphere consisted of two plants and two framed prints of water lilies.

Chef Z: Don't forget the large reddish-brown ceramic floor tiles accented with little blue diamond-shaped tiles and the decorated ceramic tiles that bordered the open kitchen.

R: Though eight o'clock on a Sunday night may not be the busiest time for many restaurants, this little eatery was filling take-out orders rather steadily. We were the only ones dining in and enjoying the background sounds of friendly kitchen chatter in Thai, the sharp clip clip of knives chopping, and the sizzle of a hard-working wok.

Z: Our food came quickly, one dish at a time. The Shiitake Soup Bowl was generous enough for three soup aficionados and served up the comforting warmth we needed with its flavorful coconut milk base, slices of shiitake mushrooms, sliced red bell pepper, and large chunks of tofu.

R: Since we were sharing each of the dishes, we asked for extra plates and couldn't help noticing how colorful they were, each a different pattern or different solid color.

Z: The Cole Slaw, served on a glass plate was a simple mixture of shredded green cabbage, black pepper, and voluminous quantities of Vegenaise. We loved the flavor, but then, we love Vegennaise and were relieved that Pia didn't load the Cole Slaw with sugar that often dominates cole slaw.

R: The Thai Yellow Curry was mildly spiced but still had plenty of flavor with its creamy, lightly sweetened coconut milk base. Included in the colorful curry bowl were chunks of potato, cubes of tofu, green beans, red bell pepper, carrots, and wheat meat. We spooned this tasty mixture over the Brown Rice, the only kind of rice served at the restaurant.

Z: Next, we delved into the Chicken Dinner that was a robust entrée by itself, but with the rest of our humongous order we only nibbled and took the rest home. The plate was heaped with well-prepared brown rice, perfectly steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets, and sliced tofu skins that are lightly breaded and deep-fried.

R: We usually avoid ordering anything deep-fried. Besides not being healthy, deep-fried foods frequently ooze an off-flavor of oil that's been overused. Had we known, we might have ordered something else. We actually did attempt to order the Lentil Loaf, but they were all out of it. Bet one of their take-out customers got the last piece.

Z: With their all-vegan menu the restaurant offers plenty of variety for lunch and dinner with soups, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and entrée dishes. Pass on the deep-fried items and choose one of Pia's delicious Thai dishes instead.

R: You simply can't complain about the prices. Everything was reasonably priced, and portions are ample enough for hearty appetites. At certain times of the day parking might be a bit challenging, but we found space right on Cahuenga Blvd. just a few doors away from our destination.

Vegan Express
3217 Cahuenga Blvd. West, Los Angeles, CA 90046
Phone: 323-851-8837
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Inexpensive

Reviewed January 2003


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