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Feb 12, 2001 01:39 PM

Fine vegetarian dining?

  • s

I have decided not to eat the flesh of any animals, vertebrate or invertebrate. (Eggs and dairy I do eat.) This decision makes eating in the vast majority of Los Angeles's restaurants a bit frustrating. Nearly all Korean and Southeast Asian restaurants must be immediately ruled out, since man cannot live on sticky rice and chewing gum. The finer European and American restaurants rarely offer any vegetarian entrée besides some token "vegetarian platter." Often one has to quiz one's waiter to determine whether a soup might pass muster. It's dreadful being a vegetarian!

In San Francisco it's not so bad, since a number of excellent vegetarian resturants sprang up after Greens showed it could be done. But I am not your brown rice and wheatgrass vegetarian. I like my rice white and my wheat degermed and ground into flour.

In addition, I am not particularly fond of Indian cuisine.

Who has had luck finding excellent vegetarian entrées at the most celebrated of Los Angeles restaurants? I have in mind places like Joe's, Border Grill, Mimosa, Campanile, Spago and Lucques. I would also like to know whether Girasole, Ca'Brea, L'Angolo, Alto Palato, Chadwick, Pastis and other French, American and Italian restaurants have fine vegetarian offerings.

It's not so difficult to make extraordinary food without using animal flesh, after all. My god, do cepes, haricots verts, rosemary, freerange eggs, Humboldt Fog, fennel, broccoli rabe, cream and chard really present such a challenge? Or do chefs steer clear of vegetarian menu items because they don't feel justified charging $20 unless there's some fish, flesh or fowl there?

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  1. Joe's has an excellent prix fixe Vegetarian menu ($30 - $35). You can select any two appetizers, then Joe decides a main course to prepare for you, then you get dessert. Terrific value.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Jeff Shore

      How's the vegetarian selection at Chinois? I looked at the online menu and there was nothing (aside from the stir-fried vegetable sides) vegetarian.

      1. re: Fred

        The night of my birthday, I walked into Chinois and sat at the counter. Upon opening the menu I discovered that there was only one vegetarian item among all of the dishes offered by the restaurant--fried rice. I walked out. And ate a very nice meal at Axe. The truffles were particularly memorable.

        1. re: Sam

          Good, I'm glad you walked out of Chinois. This is why I have a problem with many vegetarians. Most, but not all, have this holier than thou attitude and feel all restaurants must go out of their way and cater to them. I particularly like how you referred to meat, by terming it 'flesh' as if trying to subtlely compare meat eaters, who are the majority mind you, to cannibals. Well I love vegetables, just about all of them, but I refuse to eat only 'ruffage' and rabbit food, especially when certain vegetarian dishes try to imitate meat dishes. I love tofu, but it is not, the universal meat substitute that so many vegatarians try to pass it off as. If you don't like it that many fine restaurants don't have a wide selection of vegetarian conscious dishes then eat at home and stop crying and complaining about it. But in closing, I'll say Patina does have a very good vegetarian tasting menu.

    2. You can actually get very good Korean vegetarian meals by requesting a Buddhist dinner. There are a number of Korean tofu restaurants around that offer vegetarian banchan and delicious soups based on mushroom, tofu, vegetables, and the obligatory hefty amount of garlic and chillies.

      1. If you don't mind trying Chinese style Vegetarian food, you should visit Tin-In Vegetarian Restaurant (Alhambra), located on Valley Blvd, between Garfield and Atlantic. They have a wide selection of dishes with non-Vegetarian names such as Kao Pao Chicken, but the meat is actually made of a mixture of tofu, wheat gluten and spices. Their steamed fish actually tastes like, well, steam fish, but the 'meat' is rolled up bean curd sheets and the 'skin' is made from sweet seaweed sheet (the same stuff you use to make sushi), topped off with fresh scallions and a tasty clear broth.

        Average price per dish is around $8, and the portion is very large.

        The restaurant has been around for more than 15 years, and they do not serve any lunch special; lunch price is the same as dinner price. Given the fierce competition in the valley, that really say something about the quality of the food.