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SF lover of LA food returning--organic? local? grass fed? sustainable?

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  • Fine Apr 15, 2010 08:36 PM
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Read with fascination a post on vegan Korean.

I'm more concerned with ethnic food that subscribes to the concepts in the caption.

There's a wonderful, mod Korean place in SF, Namu, that features all of the above. Little by little, younger folks are starting restaurants with old flavors but current commitments.

if you missed the NY Times piece on "reforming Jewish deli," track it down.

I'm not feeling quite as lonesome these days.

Anyway--please advise. We're coming down for the Renoir and plan to be in LA Sun-Wed nights in early May and will have a car.

Always willing to travel for the most interesting Chinese and Korean, and ....?

Thanks in advance.

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  1. If you haven't checked out Vihn Loi Tofu in Reseda before then it really ought to be on your list. Here's a link to one of the stories about the owner, Kevin Tran and his ideas about the restaurant and his market: http://www.vinhloitofu.com/non_gmo.html

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    Vinh Loi Tofu
    18625 Sherman Way Ste 101, Reseda, CA 91335

    9 Replies
    1. re: Servorg

      Food tastes good at Vinh Loi, but honestly, he's not careful about his ingredients to the degree the OP is talking about, or even close. On top of that, he serves a lot of heavily processed stuff. Again, I like the food here, but I think a lot of people buy into the owner's BS a little too much.

      I have a feeling in my gut that there is a very slow shift in interest within some of the Asian ethnic communities in LA, and I think this will grow more as the upper-middle class within these communities continues to grow. You see stores taking more care with the produce they're offering, etc. But, not to sound like too much of a downer, I think you will find precious few restaurants that are both authentic and that also do this kind of thing. For Viet, you've kind of got Blue Hen in Eagle Rock, but they're catering mostly to a non-Vietnamese audience, and the food is kind of meh.

      We are starting to see some places open up which are at least paying lip service to some of these trends - especially the "organic" thing. For example, Chinese food wise, Green Zone in San Gabriel. Haven't tried it ever, and their menu is a little boring, but they are at least talking the talk.

      You may also want to check out Tasty Noodle House. See this recent review:
      http://www.laweekly.com/2010-03-11/ea...

      They're under new ownership, and I believe they feature some organic chicken dishes. Check out their manifesto at the beginning of their menu. As with the other places, I'm not saying that they are completely living up to their stated goals, but it's a subtle shift in that direction.

      Not at all directly related to LA, but I would also suggest checking out some of Fuchsia Dunlop's recent writing, especially her piece about Dragonwell Manor in Hangzhou.
      http://www.fuchsiadunlop.com/writing/
      (warning - I think that particular piece won't let you view it more than once without registering).

      One other thing to keep in mind is that, while I can't speak to what percentage use pesticides, a good chunk of the specialty vegetables are grown by local farmers (the demand is mostly around here), and since Asian customers tend to like their chicken and pig to taste like, well, chicken and pig (and since these restaurants use more of the animal), I would expect that a lot of places are serving animals that are raised under somewhat better conditions than a lot of industrially raised meat animals -- even if they are technically neither pastured nor organically raised. But this is just a guess.

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      Blue Hen
      1743 Colorado Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90041

      Green Zone
      534 E Valley Blvd, San Gabriel, CA 91776

      Tasty Noodle House (Yi Pin
      )827 W. Las Tunas Dr., San Gabriel, CA 91776

      1. re: will47

        "Food tastes good at Vinh Loi, but honestly, he's not careful about his ingredients"

        Are you speaking of the tofu, Will or some other ingredients? Can you say how you know? Interested in digging into the "meat" of the story... ;-D>

        1. re: Servorg

          I'm not trying to start something here, or make any sort of claims about Vinh Loi. You snipped my quote a little too close... what I actually said is:

          "he's not careful about his ingredients to the degree the OP is talking about"

          I'm sure the soybeans for the stuff he makes himself are technically organic / non-GMO as he states on the menu (though not necessarily local or sustainable). But while I have no special knowledge of his suppliers or ingredients, plenty of the stuff he serves at the restaurant isn't made in-house, and I highly doubt that even he would claim that all of these things are made from organic ingredients. Also, I don't think he claims to consistently source local or organic ingredients in terms of the produce, noodles, soup broth ingredients, etc.

          I'm not saying that Vinh Loi isn't worth visiting; I'm just not sure it's what the OP was looking for.

          1. re: will47

            I take it then that you are assuming that, because he doesn't make everything "in-house" that he is not using mostly organic ingredients? Or a minority of the ingredients is not organic? Or? Just trying to get your perspective on why you think his restaurant would fall short of what the OP is looking for?

            I reread the OP's post and am just not sure how "pure" he is trying to get from what he wrote. I guess I saw the OP's list (organic? local? grass fed? sustainable? ) as not having to be all those things at any one place we could think of, but rather a place that might have some of those requirements (even if they lacked some of the others).

            1. re: Servorg

              Correct. Since he doesn't *claim* that anything besides the soybeans he uses for his house-made stuff is organic, I have no reason to assume that anything else is. Based on the packages and ingredients I have seen, I am pretty sure that at least the packaged imported stuff he uses (noodles, fried onions, fake meat) is not organic or made from organic ingredients. I don't know anything about his suppliers for fresh produce.

              If you look at his menu at:
              http://www.vinhloitofu.com/menu.htm
              you will see that the only items listed as "organic" are a couple of cakes and the (teabag) green tea. He may be using organic soybeans for his house-made soy products now, but the website only specifies non-GMO.

              1. re: will47

                Will, I gave him a call and he said that all of his soy product is both organic and non GMO but the veggies he uses/serves may (when he can get them) or may not be organic. So, that means what? Not sure but at least the OP would go in (or not) with complete information.

                1. re: Servorg

                  Just to be clear, he is claiming that *all* of his processed fake-meat products that he doesn't make are organic and non-GMO, or only that the soybeans he uses for the tofu and soy milk he makes in-house are?

                  I would be extremely, extremely surprised if the imported mock meats are organic.

                  1. re: will47

                    As far as I know it's the latter and not the former. But I didn't go into that level of specificity with him on the phone (although he was very gracious about answering the questions I did ask him - which impressed me).

              2. re: Servorg

                Yes, that was what I meant. Some preferable to none!

      2. Not ethnic, but might want to consider Forage.
        www.foragela.com

        1. ps - Not quite sure which post you're talking about about vegan Korean - can you elaborate more on this?

          5 Replies
          1. re: will47

            As soon as I get a chance I'll try to locate it. I think I just put Korean in the search engine for C-H, LA.

            Thanks everyone for your kindness and efforts to come up with leads.

            What about high-end places?

            Last time I raised this issue on this board--a year ago--folks kept saying they saw certain chefs regularly shopping at farmers' markets, to which I said that's great for those who 1. can recognize chefs 2. live there 3. happen to be at the right FM at the right moment, but for the vast majority, it's nice to see some sort of commitment on web sites/menus.

            1. re: Fine

              I actually remember this thread from last year and would say that it's still the case that in LA, there's much less of an emphasis than in SF on listing the provenance of ingredients on menus. I think, and in many cases know though, that the vast majority of high end local chefs source from the FM's. In fact, I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find a chef at that level that doesn't source there just because that's where the best produce in town is sold.

            2. re: will47

              Any Korean vegan recs?
              I have a vegan sister who will be visiting for the holidays and am looking for recommendations for a vegan-friendly Korean restaurant. By "vegan-friendly," I mean that they have a decent variety of vegan dishes -- not just, say, bibimbap. They can also serve dishes with meat, but I would exclude any restaurant that specializes in meat, such as BBQ places, chicken places or that goat restaurant on Vermont for that matter. Ideal location would be Koreatown but I'm flexible on that. Thanks.

              Permalink | Report | Reply
              houndofmusic Nov 30, 2009 01:12PM

              1. re: Fine

                Oh - I remember that thread. Just wasn't sure that's what you were talking about.

                1. re: Fine

                  A great new K-town place that may somewhat fit your bill (but not vegan) is Soban on Olympic.

                  Home style Korean food at a much higher level than your usual K-town joint with mostly Korean clients: ingredients are fresher, flavors are bold yet restrain, just the right balance of salty, sweet and spiceness with just the right touch of oil. Owner is a warm lady from Southern part of Korea, which is famous for the soybean (miso) paste.

                  Their famous dishes are Spicy Short Rib Stew (Kalbi Jim), and braised Black Cod, and panchan is excellent. Many people ordered their miso plate with vegetables & bimbimbap, both are vegan.

                  Soban
                  4001 W. Olympic Blvd.
                  Los Angeles, CA 90019
                  (323) 936-9106

                  As for Chinese Food in SGV, the restaurant trends mirror the fact that going organic etc is NOT all the rage in China right now, so it'll be hard press to find a place that fit your description. The only place that may mildly fit your description is Shufeng Garden, serving up excellent Chengdu style Sichuan food but with a whole lot more restrain in execution while sacrificing none of the flavors.

                  Shufeng Garden
                  140 W. Valley Blvd.
                  Suite 211
                  San Gabriel, CA 91776

              2. you might want to check out Ramen California:

                http://www.ramencalifornia.net/

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                Ramen California
                24231 Crenshaw Blvd, Torrance, CA 90505