Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Kickin' Chinese Food At Kung Pao Bistro

In my continual quest for Chinese food that is not overly greasy nor contains the dreaded MSG, I am happy to report my discovery of a delectable restaurant that has greatly exceeded my expectations for a non-vegan Asian restaurant. Many Chinese restaurants I have tried in the past have a tendency to either sneak fish sauce into the dishes or attempt to create vegan meats that have an odd texture. A few months ago, I happened upon Kung Pao Bistro when I noticed they have an expansive vegetarian/vegan menu.  I figured I had nothing to lose by trying it and am so glad I did. I was even happier when the West Hollywood location had a deal on Living Social for $15 for $30 worth of food. I jumped at the chance to be able to dine at this amazing restaurant for half the price.

When my dining partner and I arrived around 8 pm, the restaurant was fairly crowded. The hostess told us to seat ourselves, and thus we chose a table by the door as seemed to be in the least cramped area. We looked over the menu and after much debate, we finally settled on an appetizer, soup and two entrees to spend as close to $30 as possible. The staff all know what vegan means and I specified to our waiter that everything needed to be prepared vegan. Kung Pao Bistro's vegetarian menu isn't completely vegan, as some of their mock meats contain whey, but they are very accommodating to any requests.

First, our appetizer came out. I initially ordered the pan fried vegetable dumplings which are my favorite dish I've had at Kung Pao Bistro. The server informed us they were all out of the dumplings, so instead we ordered the veggie mini drumsticks ($5.50).

These drumsticks were so delicious and completely made up for the lack of dumplings.  Each drumstick had a savory barbeque glaze coating the skin and a soft and chewy interior.  They lay on a bed of puffy, crunchy chips that had a slightly sweet taste. I really enjoyed this appetizer.

Next, we had the "small" portion of hot and sour soup ($6.50), which was really a ginormous bowl that had about ten servings in it.

This is one of the best hot and sour soups I've had in a while. The soup was dense with vegetables and tofu and was extremely spicy. My mouth was constantly burning and I found myself reaching for my cup of water quite often. Nevertheless, it was so delicious and I love spicy soup that makes my body sweat. The only problem I had with the soup is that it had way too many mushrooms that left a slight fungal aftertaste in my mouth despite doing my best to pick them out.

Lastly, our two entrees came out. We ordered the Veggie Robot Chicken ($11) and the Veggie Cashew Chicken ($9.50). Kung Pao Bistro does an extraordinary job at closely mimicking the meats and each dish seems to be almost an exact replica of its meat counterpart.

I dug into the Veggie Robot Chicken first. The sauce coating the chicken was very tangy and slightly sweet with subtle notes of garlic. It also had a hint of spiciness to it. The chicken was a little chewy but easy to eat. It had a great texture and I love that it was served as small chunks. The steamed broccoli was also delicious and was lightly seasoned.

Lastly, I tried the Veggie Cashew Chicken which was also very tasty.

This dish was very different from the Robot Chicken but complemented it really well. The chicken was smoother and also slightly chewy and was coated in a savory garlicky sauce. The sauce was very light and had a slight tanginess. The stir-fried vegetables were well cooked and very soft. There were cashews interspersed that gave the dish a nice crunch.

Overall, I really enjoyed the dinner, although I must say I am still disappointed I didn't get to have the dumplings. This is probably my favorite Chinese place in Los Angeles, vegan or not, and I am so glad they have such a massive vegan menu. They really take the time to prepare the vegan meats and it definitely shows. This is a great choice if you are craving slightly greasy Chinese food but you are sick of ordering tofu dishes. Our meal came out to $30 with the discount, including tax and tip. Considering the portions are pretty massive and quite filling, it was definitely worth it!

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