Z: And it's no wonder. Owner, Buk Lertvichuhath, is part of a vegan Thai family that thrives on the restaurant business. Cousin Toon is owner of California Vegan in Hollywood. His mother, Pia, opened and operated Vegan Express in Los Angeles for several years before selling the restaurant. Aunt Somsri and Uncle Boonchai are the chefs at Vegan Glory and were busily chopping and stir-frying in the kitchen.
R: It was heartening to see this totally vegan eatery doing a brisk business only 18 days after opening. Obviously, word was spreading quickly. Located on the northeast corner of Beverly Blvd. and Orlando, the mid-size Thai café is the end store in a busy strip mall with a small parking lot. The restaurant offers free valet parking for lunch.
Z: We were meeting friends and arrived early, giving us an opportunity to orient ourselves to the restaurant's many offerings. Jade, our very amiable server, took our order for a small pot of Green Tea to sip while we perused the extensive and varied menu.
R: Distracting us were the sounds of sizzling stir-fry woks, the rapid thuds of the chopping board, and the irresistible, pungent aromas emanating from the kitchen and whizzing past us as dishes were delivered to other tables.
Z: Colorful, heaping salad platters were served at the next table. Because we appreciate well-prepared salads, we couldn't help noticing the tempting and fresh looking Papaya Salad and the Green Power Salad. Perhaps our next visit will include one of them.
R: The appetizer section features some familiar dishes like Spring Rolls, Mee Krob, and Tofu Satay along with unique items we've never encountered. Our curiosity piqued when we read descriptions for Crown of Glory, Golden Tofu, and Freshy Rolls.
Z: Unable to resist, we had to experience the Crown of Glory and were delighted that we did. Arranged on a small platter were seven miniature cups in the shape of little rosettes. These were made of paper-thin, lightly fried, kamut-based dough filled with a colorful combination of corn, peas, carrots, and diced tofu. Well seasoned with a light, delicately sweetened sauce, these conversation-piece starters were a great choice.
R: The four of us decided on a hearty, a la carte entrée selection that included Tom Yum Soup, Yellow Curry with Seitan, See-ew with Pepper Steak, and Cashew Nuts with Soy Chicken. We noticed the bright smiles on the servers matched the ambience of the brightly lit café. Light colored tile floors, off-white walls, and light colored wooden tables and chairs add to the cheery, yet simple, atmosphere. During the day, the café is filled with bright sunlight streaming in from their nearly floor-to-ceiling windows on both outside walls.
Z: For those who enjoy counter dining, there were five stools that faced the partly open kitchen. At the end of the counter were a small golden Buddha, a vase of fresh flowers, and a bowl of ripe oranges that added an inviting touch.
R: The Tom Yum Soup is a large bowl that held just the perfect four servings of tangy, flavorful lemongrass broth along with large chunks of tofu, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Lending authenticity to the soup were the familiar, floating, inedible Thai seasonings--curry leaves, angle-sliced chunks of lemongrass, and a slice of woody, dried galangal root.
Z: Florets of perfectly cooked broccoli dotted the See-ew, the platter of wide rice noodles stir-fried with soy-based strips of pepper steak. While the overall flavor was mellow-sweet, we could detect a hint of savory flavors and feel the mild warmth of Thai chiles on the tongue. Delicately seasoned, the See-ew is an ideal dish for those with timid palates.
R: The Yellow Curry was a classic blend of medium-spiced Thai curry in a coconut milk base and heaped with strips of chewy seitan, crinkle cut carrots, chunks of tender potatoes, and chopped onions. Accompanying the curry is an exceptional variety of brown rice deeper in color and richer in flavor and texture than the typical short-grain brown rice we often encounter.
Z: My favorite entrée was the Cashew Nuts stir-fry. Each of the a la carte items came with brown rice and included a choice of soy chicken, pepper steak, seitan, soy fish, or tofu. This dish offered a satisfying complexity of savory flavors, crunchy textures, vivid colors, and a well-measured dose of spicy chilis.
R: I really appreciated the colorful array of veggies that included angle cut celery, strips of green bell pepper, crinkle-cut carrot strips, slices of water chestnuts, whole cashews, strips of soy chicken, and a generous sprinkling of those tiny Thai red chilis.
Z: We were not even thinking about dessert, but Jade was so enthusiastic about the homemade Coconut Ice Cream with Palm Seed and the Banana Spring Rolls that we succumbed and ordered one of each. Our first few mouthfuls brought a few surprises. Kernels of sweet corn and little bits of veggie that resembled green beans were imbedded in the creamy coconut ice cream that melted delightfully on the tongue.
R: The extraordinary accompaniments to the Coconut Ice Cream were the unique, sweet, chewy palm seeds that consisted of several colorless, translucent, gelatinous orbs surrounding the multiple scoops of ice cream. The palm seeds were so tasty, I could easily have made a dessert of these.
Z: The two Banana Spring Rolls were cut in half and provided us a stand-out finish. Rice paper wrappers layered with sweetened, shredded coconut were rolled around small fresh bananas and then deep-fried, resulting in a truly wonderful marriage of fruity tropical flavors!
R: Diners preferring a hearty meal rather than a la carte can order a number of lunch or dinner combinations that include steamed brown rice, spring roll, salad, and soup of the day. In addition to the ample Thai dishes, the restaurant offers Wraps that envelope soy chicken, seitan, soy pepper steak, or soy fish along with a selection of veggie trimmings in chapati bread. Six different Burgers can be topped with the familiar lettuce and tomato fixings in addition to avocado or vegan cheddar cheese.
Z: What we experienced was a delightful repast, a very smoothly run operation, good value, and excellent service with many smiles. Vegan Glory does it right! Obviously, Buk inherited his family's restaurant genes.
Reviewed February 2005