Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Power of Sun Cafe

Sun Cafe is one of my favorite places, since it allows me the opportunity to eat raw and cooked food in one meal. The food is consistently delicious and leaves me feeling energized. A couple weeks ago, I dined there with a friend using my beloved $25 gift certificate. It had been several months since I had been to Sun Cafe, but the food was just as delicious. Even better, they had several enticing new options on their specials menu that I'm dying to try.

First, we had an order of the Sun Nachos ($12).

These are the most amazing nachos I've ever had and I always order this when I dine at Sun Cafe. The chips are freshly baked and crispy and layered with delicious toppings. There are various flavors of cashew cheese that ooze with flavor. There are savory bits of "chorizo" that provide a meaty taste. My favorite is the smooth guacamole, which is delicately seasoned and has a rich flavor from the avocados.

Next, we had the Mexican Pizza ($13) with kale salad.

The pizza had very similar flavorings and seasonings as the nachos. The cheese and guacamole worked perfectly together, making the dish salty and lightly spiced. The raw bread crust was my favorite, as it was crunchy and had a slightly olive taste. The kale salad was a wonderful accompaniment, with the well-massaged, slightly chewy kale, crunchy pieces of pecan and rich, creamy ranch dressing.

Lastly, we had the macaroni and cheese ($16) from the specials menu.

This was the highlight of the meal. I am a huge fan of macaroni and cheese and this dish was spot on. The pasta had a lovely doughy consistency and was soft and delectable. The cheese sauces were true perfection and were so creamy and perfectly salted. There was a wonderful nutty breading on top, which had a slightly sweet taste. There was also an addition of bacon bits interspersed, upon our request, which added a subtle smoky flavor and crunch to the dish. There was a wonderful arugula salad surrounding the macaroni and cheese, coated in a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.

Overall, I was very pleased with the meal. The food was so flavorful and delicious, despite being so healthy. I love how everything always tastes fresh and the food is prepared with care and devotion. With the discount, the meal only cost about $13 a person (with tax and tip).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Noble Dinner At Nyala

Ethiopian food is a cuisine that I discovered fairly recently, yet I have an extreme love affair with it. I find myself craving it at odd times of the day. Lucky for me, Ethiopia town is a short drive away and is packed with rows of vegan-friendly restaurants. One of my favorites that I've tried, other than the entirely vegan Rahel, is Nyala. Unlike Indian restaurants, the vegetarian menu is completely free of dairy and eggs. Unfortunately, Nyala does not make my beloved sambussas, but they do have some fabulous options.

First, they brought us a complimentary appetizer. I absolutely love free food, so this is a huge win for Nyala in my book. 

This was an Ethiopian version of hummus and pita. The bread was a little more dense than pita and sopped up the dip very well. The dip was slightly creamy and oily and had a wonderful blend of spices. 

Next, my friend and I each ordered a bowl of lentil soup ($5 each).

The portion was pretty small, but we didn't mind. The soup was very hearty and lightly spiced and had a wonderful lentil flavor.  

Next, we had a double portion of the vegetable combo ($24).

The combo had a wonderful assortment of flavors. The beans were very savory, while the split peas had a subtly sweet flavor. The collard greens were perfectly salted and had a slightly bitter taste. The salad had a tangy dressing, with a hint of citrus. The injera bread was very spongy and absorbed the flavors of the curries very well.

Overall, the meal was fantastic. We were both stuffed and had food for the next day. My craving for Ethiopian food was satisfied and I had a lovely mixture of flavors in my mouth for several hours after. With the $25 gift certificate, the meal only cost $10 per person. I cannot wait to have Ethiopian food again, whether it be at Nyala or another restaurant on the row. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Very Veggie Birthday Dinner

Veggie Grill, a lovely chain restaurant that will soon be taking the nation by storm, offers great deals. One of my favorites is the free birthday entree you receive in the mail when you sign up for their e-club. The best part of the deal is that you can pick anything on the menu and you don't have to pay a cent! For my birthday, I opted to be healthy and ordered the All Hail Kale salad with blackened tempeh ($10.50).

This salad is by far the best thing I've had at Veggie Grill. The kale is soft and well-massaged and the nuts are caramelized to perfection. There is a delectable papaya salsa, which adds a wonderful sweetness. The tempeh is cooked well and has a light crunch to it. The only complaint about the dish is that the dressing is a little overpowering and is too sweet. 

Overall, the meal was quite delicious. I truly love the concept of Veggie Grill. I highly recommend dining at Veggie Grill to satisfy omnivorous cravings and as a guilty pleasure for the week or month. Their food is reasonably priced and they offer an enjoyable experience. 

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Bittersweet Experience At Better Life Cuisine

My friend and I ventured to Better Life Cuisine in Santa Monica recently, only to have a fairly disappointing experience. First, when we arrived, we saw a cash only sign. Since we didn't have enough cash, we had to go to the grocery store across the street to get some. When we returned, we placed our order, only to find out that they were only doing takeout orders. We were both disappointed, as we were looking forward to enjoying their refreshing cucumber lemon water with our meal. Nevertheless, we sucked it up and ordered the food to go.

When we got back to my friend's house, we immediately dug in. First, we had the two side salads that came with the entrees. I tried some of the Asian slaw salad.

This was really good. The dressing was tangy and slightly creamy. The lettuce was very crisp and crunchy.

Next, I had the "egg" salad.

This didn't really taste like egg salad, but was still very good. It was very creamy and had a light mayo flavor. The celery pieces made it very crunchy and it had a slightly bitter taste.

Next, I had the Caprese appetizer ($11.75).

These were delicious and a great take on a caprese bruschetta. The bread was very crunchy and more like a cracker. The mozzarella slices had a wonderful texture and a lovely nutty taste. The tomatoes gave the dish a sweet flavor, contrasting the basil garnish.

Next, I had the Pizza Primavera ($12.75).

This was very good, despite having mushrooms in it. It was packed with various vegetables and had a fantastic assortment of cheeses, including cheddar, mozzarella, ricotta and parmesan. The ricotta gave the dish a rich, creamy flavor, while the cheddar added a wonderful saltiness and light spice. The pizza also had a lovely pesto sauce, which added a garlicky taste.

Next, we had the Supreme Tacos ($11.75).

This dish was pretty good. The beans were a little too bitter and overly salty. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the various toppings and they were very creamy and luscious. I especially loved the guacamole, which had a rich, avocado flavor. I wasn't a huge fan of the sour cream, as it was a little overpowering.
Lastly, we had some dessert to finish off the meal. The first of the desserts was my favorite: the cinnamon roll ($5).

This thing is amazing. It is perfectly moist and gooey and has a strong taste of cinnamon. It is coated in a wonderful, decadent vanilla sauce, which adds just the right amount of sweetness.

The other dessert we had was the carob cheesecake ($6).

This was pretty good, but could have been way better. It had a lovely chocolate taste and a creamy texture, but still had a fairly bitter taste. I would have preferred the taste to be sweeter and have a richer flavor. I really enjoyed the crunchy pieces on top.

Overall, I think the food was decent, but still could be improved. A lot of the flavors in the dishes were very similar. I would love to see Better Life be a little more experimental with their dishes. With the $25 gift certificate we used, the meal only cost about $14 a person. The food was plentiful and we had enough leftovers for the next day.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Special Lunch At Lotus Vegan

Lunch specials are some of my favorite deals and are very prevalent at Asian restaurants. In LA, since there are so many vegan (and vegan-friendly) Asian restaurants, it's so easy to enjoy a lunch special. On a sunny Monday, my friend and I dined at Lotus Vegan for lunch and took advantage of their lovely lunch special.

I opted for the pad thai with soy chicken ($8). I began the meal with a small salad, that was brought out almost immediately after ordering.

The salad was wonderful. The lettuce and cucumber pieces were very fresh and crispy. The peanut dressing was very creamy and had a rich, decadent flavor. It was very sweet, with a hint of saltiness.

Next, the entree came out, along with an accompanying spring roll.

The spring roll was fantastic. It was very flaky and crispy with a lovely vegetable mixture on the inside. The dipping sauce worked very well and had a lovely sweet, tangy flavor. The pad thai was delicious. The noodles were soft and slurpy and there was a great mixture of sweetness and spiciness. The soy chicken was a nice contrast to the noodles, as it had a slightly chewy texture and gave the dish a meaty flavor.

Overall, I really enjoyed Lotus Vegan. The food is delicious and very flavorful and the prices are reasonable. Nevertheless, the menu is very similar to pretty much every other thai place in LA, so I wouldn't dine here unless I was in the area. I'm sure I'll return, regardless, and hopefully try other items on their menu.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Some Savory Food At Streets Of India

Having eaten at many Indian places in LA, I can honestly say that Streets Of India in Encino is one of the most authentic, yet affordable Indian restaurants. Every single time I have eaten there, the food has been consistently delicious and the service has been impeccable. Not only are the prices very reasonable, but they also featured on and other groupon-like deal sites. A couple of my friends and I ventured there for dinner recently, using a $25 gift certificate.

I began the meal with an iced chai latte ($3).

The name was a little deceiving, as it was more of a blended drink than an iced tea. It was very sweet and delicious, although it could have been more frothy. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and washed down the meal quite well.

Next, our appetizer came out. We ordered the Samosa Plate ($4).

This normally comes with two samosas, but they were nice enough to give us three smaller samosas to make it easier for us to eat. The samosas were wonderfully fried and crispy, but the interior being perfectly spiced and having a lovely blend of peas and potatoes. The accompanying sauces worked very well, adding a light sweetness and extra spice.

Next, we had the Jackfruit Masala ($8).

I am a huge fan of jackfruit and seriously wish I could eat this stuff every day. The texture and very soft and luscious, with a savory, meaty flavor. The sauce was fairly spicy and had a light tomato flavor.

Next, we had the Vegetable Korma ($8).

The vegetable korma was also amazing. The vegetables were perfectly cooked and were soft to the bite. The sauce was so scrumptious and had a wonderfully sweet tomato flavor. It was very creamy and had a subtle taste of coconut milk.

Next, we had the Gobi Manchurian ($9).

This dish took the meal over the top. The cauliflower  and onion pieces were coated in a tempura-like batter and fried to crispy perfection. They were coated in a sweet and tangy glaze that tasted of a combination of soy sauce and tomatoes. This dish was the spiciest and left my mouth on fire.

Each dish came with a choice of rice or dal. With two of the dishes, we opted for rice, while the last, we chose the dal.

The dal was a wonderful accompaniment and was very soupy. It seemed to be more of a lentil soup than a side order of curry. It was very well-seasoned and had a mild spice.

Lastly, we had Paratha bread ($2).

Paratha is somewhere between a side dish and a dessert. The bread is lightly fried and has a slightly sweet flavor. It is covered in a thin layer of oil and is soft and delectable and easy to eat. The crust has a slightly crispy texture, almost mimicking pizza.

Overall, I loved the meal. I wish we had ordered some faux meat, as that is what differentiates Streets Of India from any ordinary Indian restaurant. Still, everything we ordered was delicious and flavorful. We all found ourselves stuffed and found that we ordered just the right amount of food. The meal was also very inexpensive at under $9 a person.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Beautiful Dinner At Bella Luna

Not often do I find an Italian restaurant that has vegan options, especially in the Boston area. I was surprised to discover Bella Luna and Milky Way Lounge, a lovely space that doubles as an elegant dining room and at night, transforms into a lounge/dance club for college students to get their drink on. I first heard of the restaurant through the Boston Dining Cards, which they offer a $10 discount, but have also seen various Groupon deals. I had one of my last meals here during my recent trip to Boston and am happy to report that the food and service was top-notch. My hope is that they will expand their vegan options, since the dishes we tried were very delicious.

We started with the Mediterranean Mezze Plate ($8).

This was a lovely assortment and a healthy way to begin the meal. The hummus was a little thicker than I am used to, but still had a wonderful, decadent taste and was very creamy. The eggplant escalavida had a slightly tangy flavor and was very savory. It was thinner than the hummus and spread more easily on the pita bread. I am a huge fan of olives, so I was pleased to be able to eat these oil-soaked goodies. They left a fantastic bitter flavor in my mouth, which was a perfect contrast of my entree. 

For my entree, I ordered the vegan special of the day, which was a Butternut Squash Risotto ($16).

This dish was amazing. The risotto was perfectly cooked and had a soft, doughy texture. The butternut squash gave the dish a sweet flavor and each piece was so juicy. There was a wonderful mixture of spices and basil to contrast the sweetness of the butternut squash. The sauce was slightly creamy and had a subtle taste of white wine.

Unfortunately, Bella Luna did not have any vegan desserts, so the meal felt a little incomplete. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the meal. Everything was so flavorful and well-prepared. Bella Luna also offers vegan pizza with daiya cheese, so I'm hoping to try that on my next visit. With the dining card, we saved $10, which is a pretty significant discount.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Ravenous Meal At Red Lentil

On a chilly winter night, I ventured to Watertown, MA to dine at a lovely vegetarian restaurant called Red Lentil. The food at this establishment is top-notch and always hits the spot. They offer a range of food from pretty much every cuisine, from Indian to Italian to Mexican. They also use a large assortment of vegetables and meat substitutes, along with wonderful spices and sauces. Luckily, Red Lentil is featured on the Boston Dining Cards and we received a $10 off discount in the stack of cards we received, when we ordered it for $20. 

We began with the Gobi Manchurian ($8).

This appetizer is amazing. The cauliflower is deep fried and coated in a luscious batter. The sauce is so scrumptious and is slightly sweet and tangy with a subtle chili flavor. The onions and green peppers are soft and flavorful.

Next, I had the Pistachio and Herb Encrusted Tofu With Corn Cake ($14.50).

This dish was phenomenal. The tofu was lightly fried and slightly crispy, with a wonderful pistachio flavor. It was lightly spiced and had a lovely seasoning. The corn cake was a fantastic addition, having a sweet flavor and had a delectable texture. The greens on top were easy to chew and had a light seasoning that gave it a bitter taste. The sauces took the dish over the top, adding both sweet and spicy flavors.

Next, I tried my mom's dish. She got the pizza special made vegan ($15).

This pizza was delicious. It had a lovely assortment of vegetables and savory pieces of sausage. The daiya cheese was perfectly melted and coated in a light seasoning. The bread had a wonderful crispy texture.

I really enjoyed the meal. I'm sad we didn't get dessert, as Red Lentil's desserts are phenomenal. The meal was fairly cheap, with the discount. I highly recommend dining at Red Lentil if you're in the Boston area. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Very Chinese Christmas At Grasshopper

On Christmas Eve, I dined with my family at Grasshopper Vegan Restaurant in Allston, MA. This is one of my favorite places to eat in Boston and I was excited my entire non-vegan family agreed to go there. Despite it being a technical holiday, we were able to use a $25 gift certificate, which greatly reduced the price. Also, since there were five of us, we ordered a ton of food and I was able to try more of Grasshopper's amazing offerings.

We began the meal a round of hot and sour soups ($4 each).

This is seriously the best hot and sour soup I've had. It is so tangy and has a lovely assortment of soft tofu pieces and chewy savory faux pork strips. The consistency is very chunky, yet is still slurpy.

Next, we had the House Special Assorted Appetizers ($9).

I am a huge fan of this, as it pretty much covers every type of of appetizer. There are the soft, luscious vermicelli rolls that have a light licorice flavor. In contrast, there are the fried spring rolls and bean cakes, which are crispy on the outside and soft and delectable on the inside.

We also had an order of fried wontons ($5), which were also included in the assorted appetizers.

The wontons were wonderful. They were crispy and crunchy on the outside, with a savory meaty filling inside. The interior was soft and doughy, which was a lovely contrast to the exterior.

Next, we had some chicken fingers ($5), mostly to please my chicken-obsessed brother.

These had the consistency and texture of corn dogs, with the flavor of chicken. The outside was spongy, while the interior was slightly chewy. These were enjoyable and fun to eat.

Next, our entrees came out. First, I tried the "Beef" Lomein ($9.50).

I haven't had lomein in years, since my stomach can't handle the grease laden dish. Nevertheless, I was excited to try Grasshopper's version, since their dishes are not nearly as greasy as other Chinese restaurants. I really loved this dish and am so happy I tried it. It was not greasy at all. The soft, slurpy noodles were lightly coated in a beany sauce and stirfried with a lovely assortment of vegetables. The beef chunks were very authentic in both taste and consistency.

Next, I tried The No Name ($12.45).

This is one of my favorite dishes at Grasshopper. The "chicken" was slightly chewy and closely resembles the real thing. The vegetables were well-cooked and easy to chew. The sauce was the best part of the dish, as it was sweet and tangy and sopped up the "chicken" and vegetables perfectly. It was so scrumptious, I found myself wanting to lick the plate afterward.

Lastly, I tried the Braised Spicy Tofu and Assorted Seitans Hot Pot in a Clay Hot Pot with Pineapple and Lemon Grass ($10.50).

I also thoroughly enjoyed this dish. It had such a wonderful assortment of textures, from the soft, crumbly tofu pieces to the slightly chewy seitan slices. The sauce was very spicy with sweet, succulent undertones. The lemongrass and pineapple flavors really complimented one another and this dish really demonstrated the amazing skills of the Grasshopper chefs.

I loved the meal and was so happy to spend my Christmas Eve with my family, eating such delicious food. Grasshopper is a true winner and I'm glad they've survived for so long. With the discount, the meal ended up costing less than $10 a person. Quite a steal!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Tremendous Meal At True Bistro

Recently, I discovered a restaurant discount program called Boston Dining Cards. A complete deck of dining cards can be purchased online for only $20 and includes $10 gift cards to various restaurants. Many of the restaurants included are vegan or vegan-friendly. I was excited to see that many of my favorite restaurants were included in the deck and if I used them at more than three restaurants, I would profit from the cards. The first restaurant I used the $10 gift card at was True Bistro, an elegant restaurant in Somerville, MA. I've only dined at this restaurant twice, and it is already my favorite vegan restaurant in Boston.

We began the meal with some marinated olives ($4).

They were soaked in oil and had a wonderful bitter flavor. It was the perfect way to start a meal.

Next, I tried some of my mom's soup. It was some sort of lentil concoction.

This was delicious. The soup had a savory flavor and a bit of a kick to it. The sour cream was smooth and cooling against the roughness of the chunky soup.

Next, I tried some of my dad's salad. He ordered the Grilled Romaine Heart salad ($7).

This didn't really seem like a salad to me, but more of an assortment of veggies and beans. The grilled romaine hearts had a citrusy, mustardy flavor and had a lovely tartness. The lentils worked perfectly on the crunchy toasted bread pieces and made for a hearty bruschetta.

Next, I had the House Made French Fries ($6), which my dad described as "the best french fries in the world".

These were so soft and delectable, with just a slight crunchiness. They were not too greasy, but instead were lightly coated in a truffle oil. They had the perfect amount of spice and seasoning that made them flavorful, yet not overpowering.

Next, I tried some of my mom's Ravioli ($8).

The ravioli was delicious. The pillowy pasta was filled with a succulent and smooth butternut squash concoction. The cashew creme sauce was very scrumptious and was rich and creamy. The walnuts added a wonderful crunch, that contrasted the soft, doughy ravioli pieces.

Next, I tried some of my brother's meal: the Seitan Piccata ($17).

I didn't get to try the seitan, since my brother devoured it, which I assume meant that it was very good. I did eat the mashed potatoes and seared rapini, though, and found them to be very enjoyable. The mashed potatoes were very creamy and had a subtle cheesy flavor. The rapini was also very good and had a wonderful seasoning. It had a bitter flavor and was well-cooked.

Lastly, I had my own dish: the Phyllo Purse ($16).

This dish was out of this world amazing. The purse was very delightful, from the crispy, flaky phyllo dough to the savory chunks of seitan and sweet winter squash fillings. The purse was surrounded by a spicy, slightly chocolaty green mole sauce, which had a tangy flavor. The dish looked so beautiful and was decorated with arugula and pepitas.

I loved the meal and felt like I was in heaven afterwards. My taste buds and stomach had not felt this happy in so long. True Bistro is such a great way to have an exquisite dining experience without breaking the bank. The portions are very large and reasonably priced. With the dining card, we saved $10, which was a significant discount. I cannot wait to return.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Indian Meets American At Pronti Bistro

When I first heard about the newly opened Indian-American fast food restaurant, I didn't believe there was any way they would have vegan options. American cuisine is one of the least vegan-friendly and the restaurant is located in Needham, MA, a small suburban town with absolutely no vegan demand. I was thus surprised when the owner promptly responded to my inquiry of options, declaring that the prontis can easily be made vegan.

The main attraction of the restaurant is the made-to-order prontis that begin with a vegetable or meat base and is customized with the addition of vegetables and sauces, all wrapped in paratha bread. It is essentially an Indian version of Subway. Not only are the parathas inexpensive, but the restaurant offers many coupons and is even featured on My brother and I purchased a $10 gift certificate for $1, which required a minimum spending of $20. Thus, we both ordered prontis along with a soup ($10 each).

First, my lentil soup came out.

The soup was very savory and had a strong bean flavor. It was moderately spicy. The vegetables were soft and delicate and easy to chew. The soup was hearty and a great way to start the meal. It came with pieces of paratha that sopped up the soup very well.

Next, I had the main attraction: the Amritsar Pronti, which has a base of chickpea curry. I added bell peppers, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and black olives. I opted for the sweet tamarind sauce as a chutney.

The pronti was exquisite. I wasn't sure what to expect from it, but it was absolutely divine. The chickpea curry was so flavorful and had a lovely kick to it. It had strong flavors of tomato and ginger. The vegetables were very crisp and crunchy and a great contrast to the soft, well-cooked chickpea concoction. The sweet tamarind sauce worked well to balance out the spiciness of the curry and made the pronti even more enjoyable. The paratha bread worked perfectly as a wrap, as it had a soft, flaky texture and sopped up the sauces so well. The accompanying salad was wonderful and was coated in a light, citrusy vinaigrette. The pronti normally comes with a dessert, but since the dessert was not vegan, the chef added more salad instead.

Pronti Bistro is such a cute place and I'm so glad I found out about it. The staff there are surprisingly knowledgeable about veganism and do their best to be accommodating. The pronti was so flavorful and even better, a healthy option. I love that this place is fast food, yet doesn't taste greasy at all. The atmosphere was very casual and fun. With the discount, we only paid about $12 total for our meals.