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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

R: When we heard that Miranda McGill, original owner of downtown L.A.'s Tierra Café, had at last opened Flore, we foodies beat a path to Silverlake to slake our curiosity. Having enjoyed her downtown specialties, we awaited the restaurant's opening for several months. Now we understand why it took so long. Trying to continue day-to-day operations downtown while preparing a second location that needed intensive renovation, Miranda decided to make Flore her sole focus. Tierra Café is under new ownership and is still a vegan restaurant. Flore Restaurant

Z: The talented Miranda is quite the do-it-yourselfer who took on daunting tasks that included painting, tile work, and a host of needed repairs. The result is an exciting distillation of a down-to-earth, crusty old deli married with a fertile, hip, and totally vegan diner. It's cozy enough to be ultra friendly with the 30-somethings at the next table or to tuck your nose into a book and veg out.

R: With the warm weather holding well into the evenings, we noticed the few outside tables were filled with deli diners busily munching while sharing chitchat. Once inside, we were instantly drawn to the tall glass deli case that sprawled the length of the long, narrow restaurant. Opposite the case were small tables-for-two along the ultra glossy, pale yellow wall. The floor is a no-frills well-worn cement surface.

Z: You won't find a quiet romantic niche with subdued lighting at this bustling hub, but you'll have no trouble getting into the groove of the place with its background sounds of eclectic music, a noisy fan, and a steady whir of kitchen machinery. Brightly contrasting the pastel walls are the orange chairs and dark walnut wooden tables. It's a happening vegan joint!

Flore Restaurant R: A strange coincidence brought our attention to the James Bond music just as Katie, our adorable blond server with an Aussie accent, greeted us with order pad in hand. When she said they were out of the Cantaloupe Blueberry Gazpacho, we expressed our disappointment. But her sweet smile and apparent influence in the kitchen made a sparkling white bowl of the chilled purple soup appear at our table within minutes.

Z: Deliciously merged were a sweet combo of blueberries, a hint of tomato, and bits of fresh avocado forming the backdrop for the large chunks of floating cantaloupe and strawberry slices. This tasty, well-chilled soup is one of Flore's raw menu offerings.

R: There's no shortage of great choices. I ordered the Tempeh Reuben--couldn't resist! Besides, the cute diner at the next table gave it an enthusiastic thumbs up. Good thing I was hungry--it's a humongous sandwich! Generously layered and grilled on gigantic, sliced organic corn rye bread are thin strips of tempeh topped with sauerkraut and enhanced with tofu cheese and cashew cheese. It's moist, delicious, and completely satisfying. Given the options of potato salad, side salad, or fruit to accompany the sandwich, I went completely deli--it had to be the potato salad.

Z: Reuben thoroughly enjoyed his namesake sandwich, but my taste buds craved more sauerkraut. That aside, it was perfect! My choice was the Tempeh Tu-No Melt on organic seeded six-grain bread, another collossal-size sandwich tastefully composed of tempeh salad with just enough crunch from celery to provide a little touch of toothiness. Also tucked into the sandwich were heaps of robust radish sprouts and a generous schmear of cashew cream. This delight was also grilled, the warmth encouraging the flavors to intensify. Both our sandwiches were attractively served with garnishes of cucumber slices and shredded carrots on a large leaf of curly lettuce.

Flore Restaurant R: Veering away from the sandwich choices, our friend, Chuck ordered the stunning Eastsider Tacos from the entrée choices. Arranged in sections on a large oval platter were two tacos filled with savory flavored seitan and typical trimmings of shredded lettuce and chopped tomatoes, along with creamy cashew cheese.

Z: It was the vast array of taco accompaniments that impressed us--steamed brown rice, radish sprouts, chopped tomatoes, pico de gallo, and a small condiment cup of cilantro cream. And that's not all. A hearty bowl of tasty black beans was served on the side. Clearly, portions of everything at Flore are generous--at this restaurant patrons can find exceptional value for their money.

R: Katie returned to our table regularly to check on our needs and filled our water glasses from a pitcher sporting a number of bright green sprigs of mint leaves. One leaf excaped and garnished my water glass, giving the water a hint of refreshing mint essence.

Z: Feeling curious, we peered into the deli case at the end of our meal. To accompany our sandwiches we could have had other salads like the quinoa salad or the beet and portobello salad or even the colorful fruit salad. There were a number of tempting dessert choices like a Wheat-free, Gluten-free Carrot Cake, Chocolate Cake, Tofu Cheesecake or Cupcakes--perhaps next time. Those jumbo sandwiches left us totally sated.

R: On a return visit we came with our friends Eric and Diana for brunch served only on weekends. Arriving at 10:30 that morning, we noticed the crowd gathering outside the restaurant and had to wait for one of the few tables large enough to accommodate the four of us. With this dining experience we savored four of the restaurant's brunch specialties. The Tomato Basil Omelette is a gorgeous, thick vegan creation of fuffy tofu stuffed with soy mozzarella, tomato, and basil and accompanied by a fruit cup.

Flore Restaurant Z: Go for the Breakfast Burrito--it's a voluptuous winner stuffed with tasty tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, potatoes, cashew cheese, and avocado. The four huge, one-inch-thick pieces of Cranberry Walnut French Toast were perfectly browned but a little on the dry side. A larger caraffe of maple syrup might have done the trick. The Blueberry Buckwheat Bliss pancakes were also attractive, but were a bit dry. Many of the brunch dishes came with a choice of fresh fruit, tempeh bacon, or potatoes.

R: For lighter fare, Flore offers a number of salads or four unique "Small Plates." Other sandwich offerings include The Flore Burger, Club Sandwich, Potrabella Panini, B.L.T.A., and two wraps. Entrees lean to Southwestern dishes like Southwestern Seitan Quesadilla, Jicama Tacos, and Burrito Flore. There are also three special pizzas: Roasted Vegetable, Tomato Basil, or Tempeh Bacon and Mushroom. Fresh juice combos are numerous, while hot and iced tea and a number of organic hot or iced coffee choices complete the vast array of offerings.

R: Consistently, the menu offerings are well prepareed, and portions are more than ample to satisfy a hearty appetite. On both visits the restaurant was filled with happy patrons who were enjoying the excellent food and service. Flore is as good as it gets for deli dining--truly an inspired comfort zone where everything is so totally vegan the servers are not allowed to wear non-vegan apparel in the restaurant.

3818 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026
Phone: 323-953-0611
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Closed Monday

Reviewed November 2007

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