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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Editors' Note: On this page in our March 2003 issue we published a review of California Vegan in West Hollywood. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed.

R: Imagine opening a new restaurant on the first day of the month and seeing a steady stream of diners filling all the tables by the end of that month. Good fortune is holding hands with California Vegan, a Thai restaurant with a prime location on Sunset Blvd. between La Brea and Gardner in the Sunset Fuller strip mall.

Z: Seated along the row of blue upholstered booths flanking the huge windows facing Sunset Boulevard, we noticed the steady stream of traffic. With its very prominent outdoor sign, this all vegan restaurant was getting plenty of visibility.

R: When we arrived, the eatery didn't look terribly busy, but within the hour, all the tables were full. Toon, the restaurant's owner, along with the kitchen staff, was busily chopping, stir-frying, and assembling colorful platters in an open kitchen that spanned the length of one wall of the restaurant. Flavoring the air were aromas that combined the spicy touches of Thai chiles with traditional ingredients like coconut milk and sesame oil.

California Vegan Z: Tammy, Toon's sister, was dashing from table to table taking orders and distributing platters and bowls of Thai delicacies to the hungry diners. We turned our attention to the extensive, long, narrow menus and noticed there were 10 appetizer selections and 12 a la carte offerings along with several soups, salads, curry, noodles, sandwiches, and wraps.

R: Thai food lovers that we are, we were tempted by many of the offerings. We asked Tammy to suggest some specialties and decided to let her be our guide. Joining us that evening was Gregg who professed his love for soup. So we started with the Hot and Sour Vegetable Soup that Tammy suggested.

Z: It couldn't have been a better beginning. When she asked about our spice preference, we said, "medium," but soon discovered "medium" has many interpretations. Soon Tammy brought a large, wide bowl of clear golden broth heaped with colorful vegetables that included sliced carrots, straw mushrooms, bok choy, baby corn, onions, broccoli, and curry leaves

R: The broth was the tastiest we had encountered in our travels and the portion quite generous. However, the medium spice was cranked up a couple of notches, making our soup quite a zesty experience.

Z: Tammy, whose actual Thai name is Tang, brought us our Lentil Loaf, a mixture of cooked lentils, onions, and diced red bell peppers served as a pancake about 6-inches in diameter. The oval platter was attractively garnished with shredded green cabbage and a twisted orange slice. The delicate seasonings were quite a contrast to our "medium" spiced soup but tasted pleasant and provided good balance to our meal.

R: Another of our server's suggestions, the See Mee Noodles, was a colorful combination of stir-fried wide rice noodles with sliced carrots, red and green bell peppers, onions, and soy chicken pieces. All three of us took hearty portions and loved the distinctive touches of basil and lively spice the dish offered.

Z: Our favorite dish was the California Curry based on a traditional Thai recipe with coconut milk, diced red and green bell pepper, and crinkle cut carrot strips. Generous portions of tofu chunks and soy meat strips were included along with kaffir lime leaves that add the familiar Asian touch. The curry earns its California name from the chunks of pineapple that add bursts of fruity sweetness to the dish. Soup Birds

R: Our Steamed Brown Rice provided the perfect base for the fabulous California Curry that we spooned over the rice. We were more than full when we finished, but the flavors were so compelling we simply couldn't bear to stop until we had consumed the entire curry.

Z: The restaurant has a clean uncluttered simple décor with mirrors along the back wall and little lanterns on the ledge along the window. Modern adult contemporary music gently floated throughout the restaurant, yet didn't interfere with conversation. However, because there are no drapes or carpeting to absorb sounds, the chopping, sizzling, clunking, and clanking emanating from the kitchen did provide a little distraction.

R: For the thrifty diner there are 12 lunch specials served with spring roll, salad, and steamed brown rice for only $6.95. The $10.95 dinner special offers a choice of 12 entrees and comes with spring roll, salad, vegetable soup, and fried brown rice. All the prices are quite reasonable and the selections many, making the restaurant tempting for return visits.

Z: What made this dinner special were the welcoming smiles from Toon and Tammy and their willingness to please. We found it comforting to know there is an all vegan restaurant in the midst of Hollywood.

R: And they're not trying to hide the fact they're vegan.

California Vegan
7300 W. Sunset Blvd., #A

Reviewed December 2003

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