Monday, January 13, 2014

A Fantastic Dinner At Franchia

During my visit to the Big Apple to see my big sister, I ventured to Franchia, a cute Korean restaurant that is very decorative. The menu is vast and not only includes Korean specialties, but also Japanese and Chinese specialties. We had quite the feast since we were famished.

We began the meal with some appetizers. First, we had the Crispy Scallion Pancakes ($9).

These pancakes were indeed crispy and fried to perfection. The scallion flavor was very prominent and gave the pancakes a bitter flavor. The dipping sauce accompanied the dish very well, adding even more saltiness. 

Next, we had the Assorted Dumplings ($13).

These were very interesting. The dumplings were lightly fried and filled with a variety of flavors. The first ones I tried were a variety of vegetables, which were delectable and airy. The next ones were more healthy tasting, being that they were composed of kale and were more chewy. Next, I had the spicy kimchi dumplings, which had a stronger flavor but could have been even spicier. Lastly, I had the "meat" dumplings, which were very savory and the tastiest.

Next, we had the Spicy Vegan Buffalo Wings ($9).

These were decent although pretty forgettable. The texture was a bit off and they were overly chewy. I did like the sauce, however, which gave the dish a meaty flavor and had a nice kick to it. They were also quite filling, despite there only being a few of them.

Next, we had the Spicy Tuna Roll with brown rice ($6.50).

I was never much of a sushi fan, ironically, until I turned vegan. So I always get excited when a restaurant offers a vegan version. Franchia's version was spectacular. The tuna was so realistic. It had a strong fishy flavor and even embodied the mushy consistency of the real thing. The mayo on top was very creamy and had a spicy flavor. 

Lastly, for our entree we got the Vegetarian 'Duck' Stone bowl ($18).  

This dish was superb. The mock dock was very meaty and had a perfect consistency of the right amount of chewiness. The vegetables were well cooked and coated in a lovely seasoning. The Korean spices were savory with a subtle sweet flavor.

Overall, the meal was very good. Everything was tasty and still pretty light and healthy. The vegetables were very fresh tasting and the ingredients were high quality. The only negative part of the dining experience was that they were all out of dessert! I was bummed out about that, since I had raving reviews about their cheesecake. The food was pricy, but considering the restaurant's location, it's not very surprising. Luckily, I was able to use my Green Menu card for a 10% discount, which reduced the price. I cannot wait to dine there again on my next visit to NYC.

Friday, November 22, 2013

An Eventful Meal At Evo Kitchen

Evo Kitchen is a delightful restaurant that serves up some of the best pizza I've ever had. The food is all organic and the vegetables are always very fresh. They have a great variety of vegan selections to choose from and everything I've eaten there has been delicious.

On my most recent dining venture there a couple months ago, I had a pretty subpar experience, which was a huge let down. The service was very slow and the waitress made a critical mistake of putting the order in as real cheese, despite my emphasizing twice that I have a dairy allergy. I would have expected a free dessert to make up for the fact that we had to wait another twenty minutes for the new pizza to be made, but she merely comped us with some watered down beverages. When our new pizza came, I was so ravenous that I gulfed it down very quickly.

The pizza we got was the large build your own with vegan chicken, avocado and caramelized onions.

The pizza was very scrumptious. The bread was crispy, the tomato sauce was sweet with a slight tartness, and the daiya cheese was perfectly melted. The soy chicken was very savory and meaty and had a wonderful seasoning. The avocado balanced out the soy chicken with its buttery, more mellow flavor. The caramelized onions were cooked to perfection and had a nice crunch.

Despite being in a rush, we opted for a dessert to end the meal. We had the Brownie with the Vegan Sorbet.

The brownie was so moist and very decadent. It had a strong chocolate flavor and was rich and heavenly. The taste lingered on my tongue for awhile after. The coconut sorbet was very creamy and also had a luscious buttery flavor. This was a great finale and almost redeemed the horrible service.

Overall, the food was good as usual but the service was definitely lacking, which was a bit surprising, since they seemed very attentive during my previous visits. I think this restaurant has a lot of potential to be really great and of course I would love them to add even more vegan options! I used a living social voucher for $10 for $20 worth of food and drink, which was a pretty significant discount and made the food more reasonably priced.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

A Fierce Meal At Follow Your Heart

On a hot summery afternoon, I ventured to Follow Your Heart in Canoga Park for a scrumptious lunch. The all-vegetarian restaurant was completely packed with a lone table waiting just for me. The menu was even bigger than it was my last visit, so I was excited that I had more options (although I was also a tad overwhelmed).

I started the meal off with a refreshing shake, which was a meal in itself. I opted for the Peanut Butter Shake made vegan ($6.50).

The shake was so decadent and had a rich peanut butter flavor. It was very thick and frothy and filling. It served as a dessert replacement in having the perfect amount of sweetness and a great accompaniment  with my entree by counteracting the saltiness of my meal.

For my entree, I had the Spanakopita ($14) made vegan.

This dish was amazing. The spanakopita was fantastic and had a flaky, crispy outer layer and a savory interior. The spinach and tofu feta concoction had a creamy texture and were generously coated in Mediterranean spices. It was so flavorful and melted in my mouth as I ate it.  On the downside, the rice was a little bland, however and could have used some seasoning and the salad was dry without any dressing. The onions were also very overpowering and I felt wasteful not being able to eat all of them, since my mouth was on fire. It is such a shame that such a delectable entree was accompanied with underwhelming sides.

Overall, I felt satisfied with the meal and found the tastes lingering on my tongue for quite awhile after. I would love to see Follow Your Heart improve the Spanakopita dish as it has such potential. I used a $20 voucher that I purchased for just $8 so the meal was very reasonably priced. Follow Your Heart had raised the prices of its dishes slightly since my last visit, but it is still well worth it. The food is delicious and the portions are quite large. I cannot wait to return again and wish they would add a second location on the West Side so I could visit more often!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Charismatic Meal At Crossroads Kitchen

During my dad's visit, we ventured to the luxurious, recently opened restaurant, Crossroads, to experience their magnificent food. The restaurant has had quite the buzz and has been lauded by many celebrities and food publications. Luckily, his visit coincided with Dine LA's bi-annual Restaurant Week, so we decided to take advantage of the special pre-fix menu.

For our first course, we had the Kale Salad and Pee Wee Potato Salad.

First we tried the Kale Salad.

The salad was fantastic. The kale was well massaged and had a light, citrusy vinaigrette. The currants added a lovely sweetness to contrast the tangy dressing, while the pine nuts were a nice touch. 

Next, we had the potato salad.

This salad was a little heavier than the kale salad, but was very hearty. The dressing was fabulous and very savory, with a slight bitterness. The potatoes and green beans were well cooked and easy to chew. I also enjoyed the crunchiness of the toasted pine nuts.

For our second course, we had the Spiced Chickpeas and the Wood Roasted Okra.

First, we had the Spiced Chickpeas.

These were fantastic. The chickpeas were soft and delectable and were coated with succulent roasted tomatoes and Mediterranean seasonings. The creamy garlic whip was heavenly and took the dish to a whole other level.

Next, we had the Wood Roasted Okra.

I've never been a fan of okra, due to its overwhelming bitterness. This okra was unlike any I have tasted before. Somehow the seasonings masked the okra's pungent taste and made it taste scrumptious. It had a savory flavor and had a wonderful crunchiness as if it had been deep-fried. The peppers added a lovely heat that lingered in my mouth, until the next course was brought out.

For our third course, we had the Ragu and Scallopini Piccata.

First we tried the Ragu.

This dish was very interesting. The eggplant stew was superb and I appreciated the contrasting sweet and bitter flavors of the tomatoes and kalamata olives. What made this dish so unique was the cottage cheese concoction on top, which added a wonderful nutty taste.

Next, we had the Scallopini Piccata.

I wasn't really sure what to make of this dish, but it was quite spectacular and perhaps one of the most memorable dishes of the night. The dish was purely concocted of vegetables and seemed to mimic meat almost perfectly. It was very tough and chewy and juicy. It was coated in a scrumptious gravy and had a slight tanginess. 

For our final course, we both had the Chocolate Ganache Tartlet. 

This was the perfect way to end the meal. The bite size pie was filled with a rich, decadent chocolate mousse and covered with perfectly crunchy popcorn glazed in a caramel coating. There was a slight saltiness to the dessert, which was a lovely contrast to the sugary flavors.

Overall, the meal was one of the best I've had in my life. The flavors were truly gourmet and the dishes were so inspired and unique. I appreciated that the chef used vegetables in such a creative way and limited the use of soy and gluten. The meal only cost $25 a person (not including tax and tip), which was a great deal considering how much food we were given and the quality. Ordering a la carte would have cost way more. I will definitely return to Crossroads again for an occasional splurge on scrumptious food.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Taco Tuesdays At Veggie Grill

Throughout the summer, Veggie Grill had a wonderful promotion on Tuesdays called Taco Tuesday. I ventured there a few times, since there are two Veggie Grills conveniently located to my house. I have had mixed feelings about Veggie Grill for quite some time now. I love that the food is reasonably priced (although I do think it could be more affordable) and the service is always very fast. On the other hand, the menu is uninspired and overuses Gardein products (although this is changing a bit) and the food is too greasy and heavy in sodium. Still, there are occasional times when my former omnivore comes out and desires the taste of faux meat. Luckily, this happened on a Tuesday, thus I headed to Veggie Grill in Westwood to satisfy the craving.

Since I wasn't super hungry at the time, I opted for an appetizer. I ordered my absolute favorite dish: nachos ($5).

While Veggie Grill's version is far from the best, it is still tasty and enjoyable. The chips were crunchy and the chili was very savory and hearty. The Daiya cheese was made into a creamy cheese sauce, yet retained its usual odd aftertaste. The guacamole and salsa made the dish, adding a wonderful spiciness to the nachos and balancing out the cooling "sour cream".

For just $1 more I added on the Steak Taco (which normally costs $3.50 a taco).

The taco was delectable. The faux meat was juicy and succulent. It was coated in a smoky sauce and had fantastic seasonings. The lettuce and tomatoes were crisp and crunchy and took on the flavors of the faux steak very well.

The meal at Veggie Grill was satisfying, yet left a lot to be desired. The nachos could have been more flavorful and a more innovative fake cheese could have been used (perhaps cashew cheese like Native Foods and Real Food Daily use). I also would have loved the dish to have had more seasonings. I did really enjoy the taco, however, and would definitely order that again. The meal was very inexpensive and came out to less than $7. I hope Veggie Grill does this promotion again soon.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Switching It Up At Sage Bistro

On a lovely summer night, I ventured to Echo Park to dine at one of my favorite restaurants: Sage Bistro. The food there is wonderful and so scrumptious. It is one of those places that is consistently good and they are always coming out with new items, so I never have to worry about getting bored with their selection. Since their menu is also vast, there are always plenty of options! They had just switched up their menu when I dined there, so I got to try a couple of new items.

I started the meal off with the Crispy Samosa Rolls ($8).

These were superb. They were a great fusion of spring rolls and samosas. The rolls were perfectly crispy on the outside and filled with a spiced potato and green pea concoction. I loved the mixture of Indian and Chinese seasonings. The sauces also were a fantastic compliment, especially the succulent mango aioli.

For my main dish, I ordered one of my favorites and fairly recent new addition to the menu: Butternut Squash Tacos ($12). 

These were very delicious. The kale was soft and well-massaged. It was coated in a creamy, savory cheese sauce that had a lovely chipotle flavor. The sweet, juicy butternut squash was a great contrast to the spicy sauce.

My mom had the Butternut Squash Ravioli ($14).

This was fantastic and totally not what I was expecting. The ravioli pieces were huge and were very thick. They were filled with a rich, luscious butternut cream filling. The sauteed kale was similar to that in my dish and was very easy to chew. The pesto sauce really took the dish over the top, adding a bitter, garlic flavor.

For dessert, we shared a small brownie sundae ($10).

This sundae was magnificent. Although the ice cream was not as creamy as I prefer, it was still very decadent. There was a great mixture of chocolate and coffee flavors from the ice cream and a wonderful salty caramel sauce to balance everything out. The chocolate chips were very crunchy and had a sweet taste.

Overall, the meal was excellent. Everything was so flavorful and I enjoyed the uniqueness of the menu items. Since I used my Green Menu card, I got a 10% off discount, which took a few dollars off the bill. I will definitely return to Sage again very soon and am excited that they will be opening soon in Culver City, which is way closer!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

A Steamy Meal At Sun Cafe

During my mom's visit to LA, we ventured to the steamy valley to dine at Sun Cafe in Studio City before seeing a musical. We were a little pressed for time, since we had a show to catch, but that didn't stop us from fully appreciating the scrumptious food Sun Cafe has to offer. 

We began the meal with two complimentary Lettuce Leaf Tacos, which I received by presenting my Green Menu card. These are normally valued at $2 a piece.

These tacos were fantastic and great to have during the hot summer in the valley. The lettuce was very crisp and absorbed the flavors of the taco very well. The "chorizo" was very juicy and meaty, while the avocado was soft and succulent. The cashew cheese added a lovely saltiness and was so creamy, while the basil ranch was very cooling and balanced out the spiciness the salsa and "chorizo". The pecan pieces were a nice touch and added an extra nutty flavor.

Next, our entrees were brought out. I had one of my favorites: Mac & Cheese ($14).

This is hands down one of the best macaroni and cheeses I've had in my life, vegan or not. As a former cheese addict, I appreciated the nutty, tangy flavor of the sauce, which had the perfect amount of creaminess to mimic the real thing. I was also surprised that this was gluten-free, using quinoa pasta as the base. This definitely had the soft, doughy texture of wheat pasta and no weird aftertaste that many gluten-free pastas typically have. The pecan cheese really took the dish over the top, adding a wonderful taste and texture to the dish. I also found the accompanying salad to be quite enjoyable. The lettuce tasted fresh and the bitterness was complimented by the subtly sweet, refreshing vinaigrette. 

My mom ordered the Cutlets & Sweet Potato Mash ($16) for her entree, which she really enjoyed. She gave me some to try.

This dish was superb. The seitan cutlets were tender and juicy and seemed like a close replica of steak. They were coated in a sweet and tangy orange sherry sauce. What was even better, was the balsamic glaze on top of the sauce, which added a slight tartness. The sweet potato mash was so heavenly. It was very light and airy and whipped to perfection. 

For dessert, we shared the Cookie Dough Cheesecake ($8).

The cheesecake was delicious and a great way to end the meal. It was very dense and had a rich chocolate flavor. It had a lovely combination of bitter and sweet tastes. I appreciated this, since I don't particularly enjoy desserts that are too artificially sweet. This in fact was more natural tasting than the desserts I typically have at restaurants.

Overall, the meal was fabulous. I enjoyed everything we had. I love that Sun Cafe takes traditional comfort food and puts a healthy spin on it. I never would have realized the seitan and mac and cheese were in fact good for me, since they definitely didn't taste it. While the meal was on the expensive side, it was very filling and worth the money. I appreciated getting the free lettuce tacos, which took a few dollars off the bill. I will definitely return to Sun Cafe in the future.