Categories: Cuisines (by Specialty), Bakery/Patisserie, BBQ, Cajun/Creole, Coffee/Tea/Desserts, Deli, Diner, Healthy/Organic, Late Night/24 Hours, Pizza, Sandwiches/Burgers/Hot Dogs, Seafood, Soul/Southern, Vegetarian/Vegan
Cafe Flourish is, sadly, closed... all the worse because the review was written by our dear friend Carol.
Her original review can be read here.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan )
Café Flourish is a new kid on the Mid-Wilshire block and a much welcome one to Los Angeles vegans and vegetarians. Sure, you can't swing a toy stuffed cat without hitting a vegan Thai restaurant, but not only do even vegetarians get tired of Thai food, some of the restaurants are a little questionable in their veganness.*
The restaurant is a small space with four very cozy tables inside and two long benches outside, encouraging conversation with your neighbor without forcing it on them. It's clean yet warm in design, with the exception of a rather odd moss wall hanging against one small wall, but don't let that, or the crunchy-hippy food names and order makers put you off.** This is vegan comfort food that omnivores will love.
Truth is, when my boyfriend Lee and I go, we each always get the same thing: I crave the BLTA and he's got the hots for the vegan reuben. Mind you, everything looks absolutely scrumptious (one of these days I'm going to have to try the SMac 'N" Cheese), but when you've got perfection in a sandwich, it's hard to cheat on it for a BBQ pizza.
The BLTA is smoky tempeh bacon, roma tomatoes, red leaf lettuce and avocado with a spicy vegannaise on half-toasted white bread. Sounds absurdly simple, but the top notch ingredients take the sandwich from average to, "Ohwowohwowohwow, that's so damned good!"
Okay, so no one who's ever had bacon is going to be fooled into thinking that the crunchy stuff inside is bacon, but it doesn't have to taste like bacon to be good. And this stuff is good. The tempeh is deep in flavor and crispy in texture, its taste marrying well with the bright roma tomatoes, the liquid crunch of the red leaf lettuce and the creamy, rich avocadoes. The spicy vegannaise gives just a touch of heat - a perfect accompaniment.
But the bread brings it all together. My bread preference tends to fall along hearty grain breads and robust ryes and sourdoughs, but using half-toasted white bread is a stroke of brilliance. The toasted inside keeps the sandwich from devolving into a soggy mess, while the soft outside provides a nice texture contrast for your mouth and doesn't overwhelm the subtle balance inside as heartier bread might. Delicate, filling and just a tad zesty, this is a sandwich you could take home to meet mama.
Lee's got a thing for the vegan reuben, which I've enjoyed, but wasn't as won over as he was. I love rye bread and sauerkraut, but those flavors were too subtle for what should be a full bodied sandwich, I felt the avocado competed with the dressing and the texture of the tempeh here didn't quite work for me. Don't get me wrong, it's still a damned good sandwich. But I won't be giving up my BLTA any time soon.
As for sides, I haven't tried anything besides the quinoa tabbouleh. The fantastically fresh ingredients just leap on your tongue and do a happy little flavor dance. Quinoa is hard to cook well, but Café Flourish has got it down. Combine that with finely chopped pine nuts, parsley, green onions, tiny currants and a light fresh dressing and you won't even look at other sides.
There are various non-alcoholic drinks and desserts available. I recently had an Oreo cupcake that was fluffy, rich and moist and which I will be craving again. Parking is available on Wilshire and the side streets, but make sure to check the signs and feed the meters - it's an anti-gridlock area, which means no parking during designated times of the day.
* Neither oyster sauce nor casein (a milk product commonly found in soy cheeses) are vegan. Some "vegan" Thai places don't seem get this concept.
* * The BLTA's real name is "Be Love, Thanks & Abundance" and the order markers that are given say such things as, "You are Abundant!" I love that kind of thing, but it may annoy people who aren't as hippie-granola as I am. Trust me, the food is where it's at.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Beverly Hills/Wilshire )
The original review for Green Leaves can be read here.
There has been controversy between vegan customers, who naturally and rightfully prefer their food entirely devoid of animal products, and some restaurants (especially ones focusing on vegetarian/vegan Thai cuisine) who, knowingly or unknowingly, served products with stuff like casein or egg. Green Leaves had planted itself thoroughly in the middle, with apparently damning results. Read about the initial testing process at the ever-vigilant quarrygirl.
Green Leaves has been confrontational about it toward those who press the issue, even going so far as to briefly post a certificate of truth-in-menu, which was removed when it was found to be inauthentic.
I don't know why the resistance is so forceful; if one claims to be a vegan eatery, one should use only certain ingredients regardless of cost, and change them if they discover that an ingredient doesn't qualify (some restaurants have done this, as they were not aware of an ingredient's non-vegan status and honestly wanted to correct this).
This means, of course, that you are in the right to refuse to patronize Green Leaves, and many of my friends do. For the sake of comprehensiveness, I'm keeping the review available, but with the caveat that Green Leaves is not the most popular of places. It may have always been vegan, or have updated its menu and is now completely vegan, according to sources, but it might also have heavy-shouldered lawyers who don't write English at all well, either.
( Categories: Cuisines (by Region), Vegetarian/Vegan, Los Feliz/Silver Lake/Echo Park, Thai )