Sunday, July 31, 2011

An Adventurous Evening At Amwaj

I cannot speak highly enough of Amwaj. While this place is not Vegan, the food can easily compete in the high ranks of established Vegan restaurants. In addition, the ambiance is quite charming and greatly contributes to the flavorful food. On my last visit, my friend and I decided to dine inside, since the air had a bite to it and the interior felt even more cozy. We had a great view of the restaurant from our seats and the lighting was perfect.

While we debated about what to order on the entirely separate extensive Vegan menu, we placed an order for some Amwaj Peppers ($7).

These were so heavenly and I cannot even begin to emphasize how delicious they were. The flavoring was so exotic and unlike anything I've had in the past. The red bell peppers were soft and luscious and so juicy. They were filled with a delightful assortment of savory white beans sprinkled with a delicate seasoning. The grilled onions were perfectly sauteed, with a very slight crispiness. The dish was coated in a very sweet molasses sauce that was so scrumptious. It contrasted the stuffing beautifully. The bell peppers sopped up the sauce very well, although I found myself licking the plate to get any remnants.

Next, our entrees came out. We ordered the Chicken Almandine ($16) and Assorted Tortellini ($14). I first tried the tortellini.

This was pretty good. I found the pasta to be too soft and pillowy. It did not seem to hold together very well and lacked a successful egg replacer. The interior, nevertheless, was fantastic. It was an artichoke-sundried tomato concoction that was the perfect blend of sweet, salty and savory. The marinara sauce really took it over the top, as the chunky tomatoes were very fresh and juicy. There was also a great mixture of oil and seasonings.

Lastly, I tried the Chicken Almandine.

I also enjoyed this dish very much. Parts of the chicken were a little overcooked, thus tasted crunchy. Nevertheless, the chicken itself had such a great texture and was slightly chewy and easy to eat. It had a lovely stuffing consisting of wild rice and mixed vegetables. The almond-crusted coating tasted delicious and was very savory. It was seasoned so well and very flavorful. The mashed potatoes accompanying the dish were very creamy, with a light spice. The roasted vegetables were also very appetizing, as they were soft and delicate and well-seasoned.

Overall, I really loved the meal. Of course, Amwaj still has room to improve, especially with the consistency of their pasta dishes. However, everything is so wonderfully spiced and seasoned and the dishes truly taste unique. I am willing to make the commute for this place, as the food is consistently superb. With my $25 gift certificate, we each spent just under $11 with tax and tip. This place is normally on the pricey side, but the food is definitely worth it!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Lazy Week of Vegin' Out

I cannot profess my love for Vegan meal delivery services often enough, especially one of my favorites, Vegin' Out. If it wasn't for this amazing company, I would be living off frozen food most nights, since I lack any culinary skills. Lucky for me, Vegin' Out's food is both nutritious and delicious and is so reasonably priced. It's so nice to have food waiting for me in the fridge after a busy day that I can easily pop in the microwave for a mere 1-2 minutes and then pass it off as home cooked. Vegin' Out seems to have constant deals on Groupon-like sites and I recently purchased a voucher for $58 for a week's worth of food from Living Social. I was excited to redeem it on a week that I felt incredibly lazy, due to the heat of the summer. That week also featured enticing options that made me drool just reading the menu on Vegin' Out's website. When I received my order in the early afternoon, I dug into the bag, anxious to try everything, but willing myself to make it last 9-10 days.

I first tried the Zucchini Lemongrass soup.

The soup was very good and had a creamy consistency. The zucchini flavor was very overpowering, with the taste of lemongrass being very subtle. It had a light spice and excellent seasoning. I found it very refreshing, especially on a hot day.

Next, I tried the Oven Roasted Broccoli and Carrots.

The vegetables were soft and delectable and easy to chew. It had a very light seasoning with a mild flavor. I found it to be a little bland and lacking salt.

Next, I had the Edamame and White Beans.

This was excellent and was perfectly seasoned. It had a light coating of oil and had such great textures, from the soft, delicate edamame and white beans to the crunchy pieces of toasted peanuts. The dish was fairly salty, but had a slight sweetness to balance it out.

Next, I had the Roasted Reds.

This was my favorite side dish and was so well-cooked and seasoned. The potatoes were very oily and were mildly spiced. The texture was perfect, as they were soft to the touch and crumbled inside my mouth.

Next, I had the Quinoa Pilaf.

I really did not enjoy this dish at all. The quinoa was too hard and did not have any flavor at all. In fact, it tasted a little bitter. The assorted vegetables were not cooked very well and were difficult to eat. This definitely could have used some spices and seasonings.

Next, I tried the entrees. Vegin' Out's strong suit is their main courses, which are all very flavorful and quite inventive.

The first entree I had was the Santa Fe Penne.

This was delicious and while I normally do not like whole wheat pasta, I really enjoyed this dish. The pasta and assorted vegetables were soft and delectable. They were generously coated in a savory sauce that seemed like a combination of a creamy pesto sauce with a touch of chipotle. The dish had a very mild spice to it.

Next, I had the Blackened Tofu Sweet Potatoes and Corn.

This dish was decent. The sweet potatoes and corn had a light spice and were beautifully seasoned. They were cooked very well and were soft and easy to chew. The tofu, however, tasted a little bland and was rubbery. It did not seem to fit the dish. I would have preferred softer, more luscious tofu chunks or perhaps some juicy pieces of seitan.

Lastly, I had the Coconut Curry Chickpeas.

I loved this dish. It was so creamy and had a lovely, mild spice. I would have preferred it to be a little spicier, but it was fine how it was. The chickpeas were very delectable and the juicy slivers of bell peppers added a slight sweetness to the dish.

Last but not least were the Chocolate Pretzel cookies.

Vegin' Out's cookies are truly the best that I've ever had. The chocolate pretzel cookie was no exception. It had a slight crunchiness reminiscent of a pretzel and was very chocolatey. It had an excellent sweetness with a slight buttery taste.

Overall, I really enjoyed my week's worth of meals. I always find myself preferring certain dishes over others, but this is a great learning experience for me for ordering in the future. The side dishes are not as outstanding as the entrees and I really wish that Vegin' Out would add more spices and flavorings to these. I would also like to see them be a little more experimental with their side dishes. In addition, some dishes do not freeze as well as others and end up becoming watery as a result. Nevertheless, I felt very satisfied after eating each dish and looked forward to every meal. I cannot wait to order more food from Vegin' Out and am seriously hoping they will be having another deal soon.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning Street Food At Native Foods

One of my favorite, completely free Vegan events is Native Food's monthly cooking demos. While I do not cook, I enjoy listening to Chef Tanya's lengthy speeches providing advice for Veganizing common comfort food items. I am sure this is extremely helpful to people who actually possess culinary skills. It is safe to say that I go more for the entertainment of feeling like I am part of a live cooking show and being able to sample the various dishes Chef Tanya makes.

This past Saturday, Chef Tanya held a cooking demo at the Culver City location, featuring Street food. I was excited to attend and made sure to bring a full appetite. Chef Tanya was charismatic as always and the food was flavorful and delicious.

The demo began with a sampling of chai tea.

The chai tea was so sweet and had a great spice to it. It had a hint of vanilla and was very creamy and milky.

Next, we had some Mexican Corn with Chipotle Mayo and Parmesan.

The corn was beautifully grilled and had a light charcoal flavor. It also was very salty. The chipotle mayo on top was very creamy with a subtle spiciness.

Next, we had some lavender lemonade.

The lemonade had a slight sweetness to it and was very refreshing. The taste of lavender was very dominant and calming.

Next, some Greek Gyros were passed around.

This was so delicious and well seasoned. It had a very savory taste, with pieces of chewy seitan and freshly cut vegetables. The tsatziki sauce added a slight sourness and was very creamy.

Next, we were given some watermelon drink to wash down the gyros.

This was very refreshing and had a slight cooling taste. It was very sweet and I love that there was a light  watermelon pulp.

Lastly, we were given Grilled Banana Satay.

This was my favorite and seemed like a hybrid entree-dessert. The grilled banana was very sweet, yet had a hint of spice and slight taste of charcoal. The taste of cinnamon was also very dominant and it was very sugary. The coconut sprinkling helped balance the flavor out, providing a slight saltiness.

Overall, I really enjoyed all the samples and the demo was very informative. I would love Native Foods to incorporate all or some of these dishes into their repertoire. Nevertheless, I look forward to trying more of their creations at the next demo.

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Eloquent Evening of Ethiopian Food

On Carmageddon weekend, my friends and I braved the streets to venture to Rahel Ethiopian in Ethiopia town. Luckily, the streets were ghost-like, as most people were too afraid to leave their homes. We also lucked out in finding metered parking right across from the restaurant, which is a rarity for that area. I was so excited to eat Ethiopian food, and even better, at an entirely Vegan restaurant. With my $25 gift certificate in hand and my stomach rumbling loudly, I prepared myself for a savory feast.

We decided to order two sambussas ($2.50 each) to start and the Millennium Special ($30) as our main course, which included an array of curries and salad on a bed of injera bread and a dessert to end the meal.

First the sambussas came out.

These were crispy and fried and so pastry-like, save for the savory, perfectly spiced interior. The sambussas reminded me so much of their Indian counterpart, the samosa and are beautifully deep fried and slightly oily as well. The only difference seems to be the interior which consists of a delectable lentil mixture and is less spicy than a samosa, although just as well seasoned.

Next, we had our beautifully presented Millennium Special.

This was so colorful and even more tasty than it looks. There was such a range of curries from the mushy lentils, to the slightly crunchy green beans to to the chewy collard greens. Everything had a very slight spice and had its own unique flavor. The dishes also had a light dusting of salt to balance out the flavor. My favorite was the pumpkin stew, which was very sweet and had a creamy consistency. I also really enjoyed the various lentil stews which were all so savory. The salad was light and refreshing and complimented the curries so well. I have a love-hate relationship with the injera bread, as it sops up the curries perfectly and has such a fantastic sponginess, yet it soon after expands in my stomach and I quickly feel over-stuffed.

Lastly, our desserts came out, which were small slivers of cheesecake.

This portion was way smaller than it has been on previous visits, which was quite disappointing. Rahel's cheesecake is not reflective of how amazing Vegan cheesecakes can be and perhaps this is because they are an Ethiopian restaurant. Nevertheless, I feel like they could easily import a decadent dessert. This cheesecake was too bitter and not very creamy.

Overall, I really enjoyed the food. We ordered so much of it and somehow managed to eat it all. I love that Rahel has such tasty food, but the menu is fairly small. I would love for them to experiment with more dishes, as it would encourage me to visit them more often. Nevertheless, each dish is quite unique, with its own spices and flavorings. The meal was very inexpensive at only $10 (with tax and tip included). I will definitely be back when I am in the mood for a mildly spicy feast.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A Pleasant Happy Hour At PF Chang's

It's not very often that I dine at chain restaurants, especially those that aren't entirely Vegan. On rare occasions, I do find myself with a carnivore friend or relative whom forces me to compromise my dietary preferences and dine at one of these restaurants. On even less occasions do I actually choose to eat there out of my own freewill. Last week, my friend on a budget once again decided to crash with me and we found ourselves contemplating a restaurant at which she could afford to dine. Moments into our conversation, a lovely email came from the PF Chang's E-club, containing a coupon for some free lettuce rolls. They had me at "free" and my friend and I immediately jumped into my car and journeyed to the PF Chang's by the Santa Monica Promenade. Luckily, we arrived in the middle of Happy Hour, which takes place daily from 3-6 pm, and were able to take advantage of even more deals.

We began with the free lettuce wraps, which we requested to be made Vegan (worth $8).

The lettuce wraps were delicious and came in a very generous portion. The tofu was well cooked and chewy to resemble a meaty consistency. The sauce was very scrumptious and perfectly spiced. There was a strong taste of soy sauce with a subtle bean flavoring. The vegetables were soft and delicate to patch the crunch of assorted cashews. There was a light mixture of crispy noodles, which added even more texture to the dish. The lettuce worked perfectly as a wrap, as it tasted very fresh and was crispy and slightly chewy. It also sopped up the sauce very well.

Next, we ordered some dishes from the Happy Hour menu. We first had the Edamame Dumplings ($3.25).

These were so tiny! We could not believe they cost $1 each. Nevertheless, they were so delicious. The dumplings had a light eggy taste and were very doughy. The interior consisted of an edamame mixture with a slight ginger seasoning and a delicate sweetening of agave syrup. The dumplings had a great savory and sweet flavoring and were truly unique from any dish I've had before. I only wish there were more dumplings.

Lastly, we had some spring rolls ($3).

These were really good. The outside was flaky and crispy and the interior was filled with a delectable assortment of soft, well-seasoned and spiced vegetables. My favorite part of the dish was the sauce, which was so sweet and succulent. It had a lovely plum flavoring.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with our late lunch. PF Chang's Happy Hour honestly is not the greatest deal and the portions are way too small.  Nevertheless, I've always found their food to be very flavorful and innovative, especially in comparison to other chain restaurants. I also love that so many of their options can easily be made Vegan with a few omissions or substitutions. The lettuce wraps were my favorite part of this meal and are definitely worth the trip. Make sure you "like" the PF Chang's facebook page to receive a coupon, which is good until the end of this month.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Very Icy Deal

In the heat of summer, today only, Carvel is offering up an amazing meal that is sure to please Vegans and non-Vegans alike. For $10 you can purchase a voucher for $20 worth of ice cream, or if you are celebrating a special occasion in the near future you can buy a voucher for $50 worth of ice cream cake for only $25.

                           50% off Carvel ice cream

While I have yet to try their decadent Vegan options, I have heard only positive critiques about the richness and creaminess of the ice cream. They have a variety of flavors and toppings at the Beverly Hills location and the cakes are completely customizable. I am so glad that Carvel is offering up this deal, as their desserts are a bit pricy normally.

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Gigantic Dinner At Golden China

On a dull Sunday evening, my friend and I found ourselves having an intense craving for some greasy Chinese food, so we headed back to one of our new favorite Vegan-friendly Chinese restaurants, Golden China in Culver City. The restaurant was fairly empty as we scanned over the Vegetarian menu and contemplated what to order. While we decided, we sipped some complimentary hot tea and ice water.

First, we had some egg rolls ($5), ironically the only appetizer that is Vegan and yet tastes very eggy.

The egg rolls are perfectly deep-fried and so crispy. The vegetables inside are soft and have a light seasoning. The appetizer is salted very well, providing a great contrast with the succulent accompanying plum sauce. The rolls are so large and quite filling.

Next, we had the hot and sour soup ($6.55), which is definitely one of my favorite Chinese dishes. Similar to the egg rolls, the portion of this dish is immense and is super sized in comparison to portions at other Chinese restaurants.

The soup was very flavorful and moderately spiced. It was very chunky and loaded with soft, luscious tofu chunks and a delicate assortment of Chinese vegetables. There was a hint of soy sauce and a slight sweetness to the soup that made it distinct from hot and sour soups I've enjoyed in the past.

Next, our entrees came out. The first I tried was some Vegetable Fried Rice, sans the egg ($8).

The rice was very soft and slightly chewy with an overpowering salty flavor. The vegetables were so soft and delicate, they crumbled in my mouth almost immediately. There was a distinct taste of soy sauce so reminiscent of Chinese food. The seasonings were so good that I did not notice the lack of egg that normally dominates this dish. 

I then tried the faux Kung Pao Chicken ($11).

The faux meat was slightly chewy, with a very slight spongy texture. Nevertheless, it resembled real meat quite well in its consistency. There was a savory, salty coating of a mildy spiced beany soy sauce that was very delicious. The stir fried veggies were soft and delicate to contrast the very crunchy peanut pieces, generously interspersed throughout the dish.

Lastly, I had the faux Orange Duck ($12).

The faux duck had a more chewy texture than the soy chicken. It was also chunkier and way more dense. There was a fantastic glaze of a tangy orange sauce that was very sweet. The vegetables were very well-cooked and sopped up the sauce perfectly. The water chestnuts added a great crunchiness to the dish, which was a great compliment to the faux duck. There was also an intense spice from the scallions and chili peppers that contrasted the sweetness of the sauce very well.

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. It was truly a feast of some of my favorite traditional Chinese dishes and they were all so flavorful. I love that the food is not too oily and even better, does not contain any MSG. While I would definitely not call this food healthy, it is definitely a step up from the grease laden food so prevalent at most Chinese restaurants. With the $25 gift certificate we used, we only spent $18 a person, which included drinks, tax and tip. Not bad for such an amazing array of food!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Simple Dinner At Sage Bistro

Last week, I reunited with a friend I had not seen for a while at one of LA's newest and hottest Vegan restaurants, Sage Bistro in Silverlake. Every time I've dined there, the restaurant has always been bustling, yet the atmosphere remains relaxed and serene, representative of the bohemian area in which it is located. Since it was a Friday night, the wait was fairly long. My friend and I both felt awkward standing in the tiny waiting area, cramped between the ice cream display case and the refrigerator.

I was so excited when we were finally seated, and I immediately scanned the eclectic menu. Since the offerings are so inventive and all sound so intriguing, I found much difficulty in making a decision about what to order. I finally settled on the Soul Bowl ($10), since it had a nice variety of flavors and textures. I decided to keep the meal simple and not order an appetizer or dessert. The entrees at Sage are fairly large portions and are both filling and satisfying.

The Soul Bowl was very delicious. It contained a variety of fresh, crispy vegetables, lightly fried. There was a savory sauce delicately coating each vegetable, providing a slight spice and saltiness to the dish. There were large chunks of luscious sweet potato that were perfectly roasted and softened. The juicy tomatoes and corn provided an extra sweetness to the dish. My favorite part of the bowl was the fried macaroni and cheese balls coated in a mild spicy horseradish sauce. The macaroni and cheese was very creamy and had a slightly nutty flavor, while the horseradish added a kick to the dish. The only part of the dish that I did not enjoy was the grilled polenta. This was way overcooked and ended up tasting like crunchy, chewy plastic. It left an odd taste in my mouth.

Overall, I really enjoyed the dinner. I regret not ordering a dessert, especially after the disappointing polenta in my dish. My friend and I used a 50% off coupon from Scout Mob, which made our meal only cost $6 a person with tax and tip. It was such a great deal, considering the food is presented in an elegant manner and the ingredients are so high quality. What I enjoy about Sage Bistro most, is that the food is so tasty and is not reliant on processed ingredients. The food is truly healthy and flavorful. It not only shatters the misconception that Vegan food tastes disgusting, but shows that Vegans are classy and revel in fine dining.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Calm Evening At Cowboys And Turbans

Last week, my friend and I headed over to Silverlake to dine at a lovely Indian-Mexican fusion cafe called Cowboys And Turbans. I had been there once before and had a wonderful experience. This time, we were guided to the outdoor patio, which did not exist on my previous visit. The air was crisp and fresh and had a stillness to it, allowing both of us to feel calm and relaxed. Furthermore, this enabled us to enjoy the food even more, appreciating the variety of flavors in each dish.

Since we had a groupon voucher for $15 for $35 worth of food and drink, we ordered a lot of food, since the food is inexpensive. Luckily, we both had immense appetites and somehow were able to finish everything.

While we made up our minds about what to order, we placed an order for a Jumbo Vegetable Samosa ($4.50), which came out fairly quickly.

The samosa was very good. It was huge and quite possibly the largest samosa I've seen in my life. The pastry exterior was perfectly deep-fried and so crispy. It had a slightly sweet flavor to contrast the mildly spiced interior of soft, delicate assorted vegetables. It had a strong taste of peas and potatoes, which were very well-seasoned. The accompanying sauce was very sweet, with a slight spice.

Next, we had some Aloo Gobi tacos ($6).

These were so amazing and truly combined flavors from Indian and Mexican traditional cuisine. The taco shells were soft and lightly cooked and were filled with a delectable aloo gobi curry. The curry was mildly spicy, yet had a sweet taste. The cauliflower and potatoes were so well-seasoned and tasted so luscious. The taste of ginger was very dominant, which matched the subtle taste of sweet tomatoes beautifully.

Next, we had a Saag Tofu burrito ($11).

This burrito was also very large, and similar to the tacos, was a great representation of the combination of the best flavors from both Indian and Mexican cuisines. The burrito was well cooked, yet soft and filled with a delectably moderately spiced Indian curry. The savory, slightly chewy tofu was bathed in a tomato, ginger masala sauce that had a subtle sweetness, which prevented it from tasting too spicy. The accompanying chips provided a great crispiness that contrasted the softness of the burrito very well. I only wish there was some salsa to dip them into.

Next, we had Indian Farmer's Dal ($10).

This was also good and was the spiciest of all the dishes. The lentils were cooked perfectly and were very soft and smooth. The dish had a slight creaminess to it. There was some chewy spinach interspersed, which enhanced the texture of the dish very well. There was also a light ginger taste, which complemented the spices beautifully.

We also had some garlic naan ($3.50) made vegan to tone down the spiciness of the food a bit.

I really did not enjoy this bread and would not recommend ordering it. Despite that it was well-coated in garlic and spices, the bread somehow tasted very bland and was overly chewy. The taste of whole wheat was very dominant and the naan had a slightly bitter taste.

Overall, I really enjoyed all the food, with the exception of the naan, and found myself very full and satisfied. We had quite the feast for just $12 a person, including tax and tip. Everything was so flavorful and while many of the dishes tasted similar, they were still unique from offerings at other restaurants. I do not know of any other Indian-Mexican fusion restaurants, especially any with so many Vegan options. I will definitely be back and am hoping they will be offering up another deal soon. Regardless, the food is very affordable and a deal is unnecessary, although quite useful.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Very Cheesy Deal

Today only, Mac and Cheeza is having a deal for $10 for $20 worth of food and drink. While I've never been to this restaurant, I've heard amazing things about it from others. It's basically a build-your-own macaroni and cheese bar, where you choose the size, type of cheese, fillings and toppings. They have a soy cheese base option along with various vegetable fillings and even veggie sausage. To top it all off, you can opt to add spicy toasted walnuts.

                                50% Off Mac And Cheeza

It seriously sounds so delicious. I cannot wait to try this place. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Satisfying Cravings At California Vegan

I have a love-hate relationship with California Vegan. I really want to love the restaurant, since they promote a plant-based diet, but I have had such mixed experiences at their restaurant. At best, their food is flavorful, yet lacks innovation. There is nothing that separates them from all the other Vegan Thai restaurants transplanted throughout LA.

My last visit was mediocre, with my "chicken" entree being a little too spongy and the sauce lacking much tanginess. Nevertheless, I returned a couple weeks ago, as my friend and I had serious cravings for Thai food and Breakfast food. A little odd, I know, but sometimes my food cravings can be representative of a pregnant woman. They don't make much sense, but if I don't satisfy them, the cravings only seem to increase. We noticed the restaurant had a special deal for appetizers: buy one at $4 or two for $7. We opted to order two appetizers and share a pancake with fried chicken ($8).

First, our appetizers came out. We ordered fried wontons and tofu satay.

The wontons were delicious. They were deep-fried and very crispy. The interior was filled with a delicate assortment of soft, well-seasoned vegetables. They had a very mild spice, which worked perfectly with the accompanying sweet plum sauce.

Next, I had some tofu satay.

These were very well-cooked and were lightly fried, but still retained a soft, delectable texture. They had a seasoning which made then taste very savory and meaty. There was also a slight charcoal taste from being cooked on a grill. The peanut dipping sauce was my favorite part of the dish and was tasted so luscious and decadent. The sauce was very sweet, with a slight spice and the taste of peanut was very dominant. I also loved the accompanying cucumber salad which consisted of crunchy cucumber, onion and carrot pieces coated in a marvelous light, sweet dressing.

Lastly, I had the pancake with crispy chicken.

The pancake was pretty good. The inside was soft and moist, while the outside was overcooked and crispy. The butter and maple syrup added a sweetness that the pancake lacked. It seemed that there was not enough sugar in the pancake as the flavor was fairly bland. The crispy chicken had a great texture and was in fact, very crispy, although it lacked much seasoning. I would probably not order this dish again.

Overall, I really enjoyed the appetizers. They were the highlight of the meal for me and if I return, I will probably only order appetizers. Nevertheless, somehow all my food cravings were satisfied on this visit. The food was quite tasty, although more spices and seasonings would not hurt. The portions were quite large and the food was filling. With tax and tip, we each spent about $9, which was a pretty good deal. My hope is that the service and food will improve before my next visit, but I know this is unlikely to occur.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Free Dynamite Rolls At Shojin!

Today through Wednesday, Shojin, located in downtown LA, is offering up free dynamite rolls (worth $11), with the purchase of any item on their menu. While I have never tried the dynamite rolls, I have heard amazing things about the dish and it is even listed on their menu as one of their most popular items. It is basically a spicy tuna roll coated in spicy mayo and scallions.

Shojin is one of my favorite Vegan restaurants and their food is so delicious and flavorful. The prices are fairly reasonable, considering how high quality their food is. I definitely recommend taking advantage of this deal and trying Shojin's eclectic, inventive offerings. They even provide free validated parking, which seriously eases the stress of having to drive in LA.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Keeping A Budget At Leaf Organics

A couple weeks ago, my friend stayed with me. We contemplated where to eat, since she is on a tight budget and cannot afford to pay more than $10 for a meal. I suggested Leaf Organics in Culver City, as I have had great experiences there and the food is consistently good. It is also very inexpensive when using a $25 gift certificate. My friend has been Vegan for longer than I have, yet surprisingly, she never had raw food, other than fruit and salad, of course. I knew I had to take her there and fortunately, she really enjoyed it. I was proud to pop her raw food cherry.

First, we had an assortment of appetizers called Raw And Roll Sampler ($8.50). It was a sampler plate of Leaf's various raw appetizers.

The assortment had such a great variety of flavors. The sushi had a smooth interior and had a slightly nutty taste, but was very spicy. It was salted very well to resemble tuna. The dips were all so smooth and creamy and also had a nutty flavor. The guacamole had the sweetest flavor and the hummus had a slight taste of tahini, although the taste of cashews were quite dominant. The cashew kreme cheese was my favorite, having a rich flavor with a slight sweetness and subtle saltiness that balanced it perfectly. The corn and kale chips complimented the dips very well and were very crunchy, with a light seasoning.

Next, our entrees came out. We ordered the raw Falafel Burger ($10) and Holy Moly Guacamole Wrap ($11).  First, we split the Falafel Burger in two, which was quite a challenge. 

The burger was filled with fresh, crispy vegetables coated in a slightly tangy tahini sauce. It was very flavorful. The bread was a little odd and difficult to eat, as it had a very hard texture. I prefer my bread to be soft, so this was a little off putting. The accompanying salad was very similar to the interior of the burger and was also very fresh tasting. However, the salad was a bit dry and needed more dressing. The pickled beets were delicious, as always, and were soft and slightly sweet. 

Next, we had the Holy Moly Guacamole Wrap.

This wrap is probably the best thing I've had at Leaf, which is why I am so happy I ordered it again. The vegetables were very crunchy and were coated in a smooth, decadent guacamole. This wrap just oozed with the delectable dip and the taste lingered in my mouth for a longtime after. 

Lastly, we had some dessert to finish the meal off. We opted for the mango cheesecake ($6.50). Leaf reduced the price of their cheesecakes from $8 to $6.50, along with giving a slightly smaller portion. Nevertheless, the dessert was very satisfying.

The cheesecake was very sweet and had a rich, fruity flavor. It was very creamy and had a perfect consistency. There was a sorbet-like interior, which worked perfectly with the smooth, delectably sweet cashew kreme cheese concoction. The mango syrup was a great addition, adding even more flavor and texture to the dessert. The cheesecake tasted very natural and was not too sugary at all. 

Overall, we really enjoyed our meal and with the gift certificate, we each paid about $9 with tax and tip. I was so relieved that we met my friend's tight budget and got a generous amount of high quality, raw food. I could tell she was pleased, as we left the restaurant, and both our stomachs were very happy. It was great to introduce my friend to raw food and show her the immense power it has on our bodies. It was even better to show her that it is possible to eat delicious, healthy food, without spending much money. I cannot wait to return to Leaf, and even more, I cannot wait to introduce others to this amazing place. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Decadent Buffet At Doomie's Home Cookin'

One of my favorite Vegetarian restaurants, Doomie's Home Cookin' sadly had an electrical fire a few weeks ago. When I heard of the news, I was devastated, fearing that I would never enjoy their delicious food again. I was so excited when they announced an all-you-can-eat buffet on the fourth of July. I immediately cleared my calendar to ensure I would make it. Doomie's has such amazing comfort food that pleases both carnivores and herbivores alike and brings a sense of nostalgia to the diner.

My friends and I arrived at the buffet a little after 4 pm, and there was already what seemed like a never ending line. We waited about 45 minutes before we were finally admitted to the buffet and I am pleased to say it was definitely worth it. There was such a great variety of food and it was all very scrumptious. Unfortunately, we missed the taquitos, which I had been dreaming about all day. Nevertheless, the food lived up to my high expectations and everything was very tasty.

For my first plate, I had some salad, coleslaw and a creamy pesto pasta.

The salad was great and was coated in a creamy dressing that was very sweet but had a subtle tanginess. My favorite, of course, was the pasta in a pesto sauce, which tasted very garlicky and was so creamy. I found myself wanting more of this, but every time it came out, there was a swarm of people rushing to the buffet line, attacking one another for the chance at more deliciousness.

My next plate consisted of some dirty "chorizo" rice, a fruit cocktail, fennel glazed carrots, sloppy joe's, and pot roast.

This plate was comfort food at its best. It had such an assortment of flavors, from the sweet pieces of luscious fruit and sugary glazed carrots to the savory, meaty sloppy joes. The rice was also fantastic, with juicy chorizo pieces that were perfectly seasoned. The pot roast had a smooth, thick gravy that was beautifully salted and seemed to match the flavor of its meaty counterpart well.

Next, I had one of my favorite dishes from Doomie's, capellini in pink sauce.

The sauce was so rich and creamy, with a strong taste of tomatoes. It was sweet and heavenly. There were also chunks of delectable, juicy tomato that made the pasta dish even more amazing. In addition, there were small pieces of onion, that gave the dish a slight bitterness, contrasting the sweetness perfectly.

While I missed out on a lot of the dishes, I did get some leftovers on Wednesday night. The most memorable dish I had was the Southern-style macaroni and cheese, along with the hamburger helper macaroni and cheese.

This was so creamy and tasted very cheesy. Doomie's mimics the non-Vegan dish so perfectly that I would never guess it was actually Vegan. They perfectly capture the saltiness and richness of the cheese sauce. The hamburger helper gave the macaroni a more meaty flavor, and the chewy texture complimented the soft macaroni very well.

I am so glad Doomie's had this buffet and even though I didn't get to try a lot of the offerings, I still fully enjoyed myself. My stomach felt happy, although a bit weighed down by the oil from all the food. It was such a great deal and only cost $10 for a ton of delicious food. I really hope Doomie's has another buffet soon. My stomach is growling just thinking about it.