All the world is nuts about
Z: Attractive, bright, and sparkling with the distinct look of a new restaurant, this eatery is dressed in off-white walls with a chocolate brown wainscoting. The wooden tables and chairs have a warm cherry wood finish with droplights illuminating the tables along the mirrored wall.
R: Open since mid-February of this year, Vegan Plate is already enjoying a brisk business of diners eager to sample their extensive menu. Noting many similarities to the menu at California Vegan and Vegan Glory, we wondered if there was a family connection. Sure enough, owner Cookie, whose full Thai name is Komkai Chanprakrit, is a cousin to the Vegan Glory family.
Z: Matthew, our server, brought menus to our table along with glasses of water refreshed with slices of lemon. From a listing of nine appetizers we chose the Tofu Satay for starters and then selected two of the chef's specials, Chu Chee and P.E.T., that appealed because of their unique combinations of ingredients.
R: Our starter of five hearty skewers of marinated tofu fingers was attractively arranged on a bed of finely shredded carrots and red cabbage. Long, stout, and shiny, the tofu fingers were about one-half-inch thick and at least three inches in length. Accompanying the skewers was a bowl of creamy, lightly sweetened and medium-spiced peanut sauce along with a tiny bowl of marinated cucumber salad.
Z: The Satays, made from soft tofu, were a delight that literally melted in the mouth. Firm on the outside from the charbroiling, and seasoned with a dip in the peanut sauce, the soft tofu inside almost disintegrated on the tongue with a burst of divine flavor.
R: A winning combination, the attractive presentation of Chu Chee is reminiscent of a Thai curry with dazzling colors. Served in a deep bowl with a wide brim, the generous portion of veggie shrimp was floating in a well-seasoned, creamy, golden sauce along with strips of red and green bell peppers and a dramatic garnish of giant-size basil leaves. Thin slivers of kaffir lime leaves and a hint of sweetening punctuated the coconut milk-based sauce with its uniquely exotic flavor. We found it so irresistible we left none for next-day leftovers. It was perfect served over a delicious, multi-variety brown rice.
Z: Another of the chef's specials, the P.E.T., though uniquely named, was also a tasty entrée. Featured were thin slices of Japanese pumpkin, angle cut Chinese eggplant, and chunks of deep-fried tofu along with green bell pepper, onions, and Thai basil leaves in a light savory sauce with just a hint of chili heat. This dish, too, was served with the brown rice that wore the look of old-fashioned brown tweed.
R: With just enough room for a light dessert, we found the Rambutan Stuffed with Pineapple an ideal choice for sharing. Presented in a stemmed sherbet glass on a bed of ice were six plump, translucent white exotic fruits similar to lychees. With the first bite we encountered the stubby chunk of sweet pineapple tucked inside and found the combination a fitting conclusion to the meal.
Z: Another dessert we can recommend is the Coconut Ice Cream with Palm Seed. So tropical in nature, it nearly swept us away to Bangkok where we enjoyed similar exotic desserts in Thailand.
R: That night Matthew, the only waiter, also doubled as busboy and kept quite a pace serving the many full tables. Yet, the smile he greeted us with never left. The other smile that shined on us came from Cookie, the owner of Vegan Plate, who was enjoying a little chat with several of her patrons.
Z: Cookie, originally from a city near Bangkok, learned to cook when she was very young. She grew up cooking in her father's restaurant in Thailand, and by age 15 knew almost everything about Thai cooking. Eventually, she came to Chicago and opened a Thai restaurant before coming to California. Though she works long hours, she expresses contentment and pride in her new restaurant.
R: Vegan Plate's menu is quite diverse with its offerings of American specialties like Chicken, Fish, Cowboy, and Pepper Steak Wraps and Burgers alongside captivating Thai dishes. Tom Kah Kai is one of their seven traditional soups, with Pad Woon Zen, Orange Chicken, and Pad Thai among the dishes typical of their Thai cuisine.
Z: If you are seeking more value for your money, consider the Lunch Combinations or Dinner Combinations that include steamed brown rice, spring roll, and salad along with a hearty entrée.
R: Because the restaurant is located in a high traffic area along Ventura Boulevard in a small, busy strip mall with two other restaurants, parking is by valet only. We were fortunate to find parking on a side street. Already attracting a host of supportive diners, Vegan Plate is benefiting from the buzz throughout the local vegan community. Welcome to the neighborhood, Vegan Plate!
Reviewed April 2006