Category Archives: Cuisines

Restaurant Review: Sage Vegan Bistro in Echo Park

Ohhhhh man.  I am so excited about Sage in Echo Park.  The menu is a great mix of both light and indulgent items all made with good whole foods.  I am so excited that I am going to write this post despite the low quality photos (I was having some camera issues.)  I just can’t wait to share this food with you all.

On my first visit to Sage I was accompanied by two friends from out of town.  We started with the Beer Battered Zucchini with Almond Crusted Fried Cheese.  Unfortunately this was by far the weakest dish I’ve had at Sage.  I mean deep friend anything tastes good but these little zucchini slices and cheese (Daiya, I think) balls were underwhelming to say the least.  At $7.95 they are outrageously overpriced.  For perspective, the cheese balls are about the size of a golf ball.

I was sorta worried at this point about the rest of the meal.  But my fears were put to rest when the entrees came out, preceded by this simply but lovely salad:

I ordered the Green Bean and Portabella Casserole at the waitress’ suggestion.  She told me it would not be what I was expecting and she was right; It was more of a goulash than a casserole.  The menu doesn’t even mention the pasta which is one of the main components of the dish.  Whatevs–I scarfed it down like a champ, despite the inaccurate naming and description.  The gravy was so flavorific it tasted like it had been stewing for days.  I would order this again in a heartbeat.

My friend Craig cautiously ordered the Almond Ricotta Ravioli.  I say cautious because he is not the most adventurous eater and the “fennel lavender marinara” scared him.

This ended up being everyone at the table’s favorite dish.  The lavender in the sauce was an incredible touch and the cheesy filling had a great ricotta-like texture.  I definitely licked the last sauce remnants off Craig’s plate (it’s ok we go way back so I can do that.)

My other friend ordered the Smoked Soyrizo Burrito.

It’s very difficult to make a bad soyrizo burrito but this one was really elevated by the slew of components.  The sauteed jalapeno is a particularly genius inclusion.  The potato salad that came as a side was also delish.

At this point we were all totally stuffed, but that didn’t keep us from ordering a ginormous dessert.  Perhaps the most awesome thing about Sage is that it is owned by the fine folks at KindKreme, everyone’s favorite raw, vegan ice cream joint  They even have a little mini KindKreme outpost right there in the restaurant.  After sampling practically all the ice cream flavors, we ordered a waffle sundae.  I was imagining an Eggo-sized waffle but holy guacamole this thing was big.

Of course the ice cream was good (our flavors were something like mocha, coconut, and banana with chocolate swirl) but the waffle itself was incredibly fluffy.  This is an epic treat that should be atop every vegan’s To Eat list.

A mere two days later, Craig and I summoned Kirby Von Scrumptious to join us on another trip to Sage.  This time we ordered the Argentinian Bruschetta with Chimichurri appetizer.  Did I mention that you can awesomely order from either the lunch or dinner menu during dinner hours?  I wish more restaurants would let you do that.

I’m not sure what all the components were in this dish but basically it was an array of tasty things piled upon lightly toasted bread.

Craig liked his bite of the tofu burrito so much from our last visit that he ordered it on this go around.  Kirby opted for the Jack Daniels Barbecue Jackfruit.

This was a knock-out sandwich.  Our only complain is that it was too spicy.  Kirby can handle spice much better than I can but even she was chugging water the whole meal.

I went for the French Grain Bowl which is a melange of grains, lentils, and veggies.

I absolutely loved this dish.  It was simple but really flavorful.  I didn’t even bother using the orange fennel sauce (it tastes basically like straight up OJ and I didn’t want all that sweetness to drown out the other flavors.)  The artichoke puree atop the little toast was super scrumptious and I am already looking up recipes to figure out how to duplicate it.  According to Lex at the Healthy Vegans, the chef will even prepare you a fat-free version of this upon request.

In lieu of dessert, I picked up a pack of KindKreme’s raw chocolate truffles to take home.  Rich, silky, decadent, and full of super chocolate super powers..  that’s all I need to say about them…except this: BUY THESE AND PUT THEM IN SOMEONE’S EASTER BASKET.  The recipient will love you for life.

I am essentially head over heels for Sage Bistro.  The only problem with my two visits there was the service was incredibly janky.  Our first night my friend ordered a soup that never showed up.  On the second night, our food took over 45 minutes to show up–including our appetizer.  This was actually quite a pain as Kirby was aching with hunger pains and I, for one, like my appetizer to come out ASAP.  But Sage just opened and I think it is a rule somewhere in the International Food Critic’s Guide to Restaurant Reviews that you can’t fault a restaurant for bad service until they have been open for over six months.

I am more than happy to give Sage some time to work out the kinks in their service.  I am dying to try their brunch which looks absolutely epic.


Brunch with Friends at Flore…the Perfect Weekend Morning

There are few things I love more than brunch at Flore.  When my friends Emily and Derek were in town from Oregon last weekend and suggested we go there with the rest of our gang, I was pumped.

My friend and I shared two dishes.  I got the Tofu Benediction with tempeh bacon as my side.  Baked tofu, tomatoes, avocado, and kale with a creamy hollandaise are served over toast (I opted for the delicious millet bread to make the dish gluten-free.)  I wonder if they make that bread in-house or if they buy it–it tastes so much like regular bread!

My friend ordered the Chicken and Waffles which comes with some sort of yummy banana waffle.  This is an ideal brunch dish as it has both the salty and the sweet going on.

Every vegan loves when their omnivore friends are shocked at how “real” meat analogues can taste, but it’s even better when said friends say this not just to placate you but because they really mean it.  My friends kept saying repeatedly how chicken-y the “chicken” is.  I was surprised when they waiter told us it isn’t made with seitan but with tofu.  Now I really don’t know how they achieve the meaty texture.

Another dish that I tried at our table was the Southwestern Tofu Scramble.  It needed a few shakes of salt and pepper, but other than that it was scrump.

I am not shy about eating the scraps of food my friends leave behind on their plates, so I think I probably cumulatively ended up eating enough food to last me the whole week.  Oops, my b!  Flore continues to impress me and my friends so I hope they keep doing what they’re doing.

Fabulo eats at The Plant in San Francisco

I will eventually get back to telling you about the rest of my Portland eats but I wanted to stop in and tell you about the incredible meal I had at The Plant in San Francisco last weekend.  I drooled over Vegan Tickles’ description of the place and have been dying to go there ever since.

My mom and I scheduled a day of hanging out in SF on our way back from an amazing weekend in Yosemite and The Plant was our first stop.  We visited the Pier 3 location which offers a beautiful view of the water.  I was pleased to hear upon being seated that The Plant’s food is local and organic whenever possible.

I started off with the kombucha of the day (kombucha of the day!  don’t you love this place already?!)  This particular day the flavor was blueberry-basil-mint.  I was told it’s made by mixing the pureed fruit and herbs with a locally-produced kombucha they keep on tap.  SLURP.  So so good.

My mom and I both opted for the “Plant Burger:” hers with sauteed mushrooms and cheese, mine with saukerkraut and (vegan) raspberry wasabi aioli.  In a word, the plant burger is incredible.  The patty is unlike any other veggie burger I’ve ever encountered.  Made from lentils, mushrooms, beets, cashews, and bulgur wheat, it is soft almost to the point of being creamy.

The beets are definitely the predominant ingredient and they take on a really meaty taste and texture.  The burger is served on sourdough toast, which I would normally find too thin for a big patty, but it worked perfectly here.  The bread was toasted just enough to give the whole thing some crunch.  The saukerkraut and aioli are a perfect combo and each should be patented, jarred, and sold to me in bulk immediately! The aioli has the exact amount of wasabi to lend some zing without being overpowering.  The dish comes with a side of salad and roasted potatoes, but really who can pay attention to those when you are stuffing this awesome burger into your face?

I was pleasantly surprised to not feel uncomfortably full after out meal.  Often homemade veggie burgers can be really dense–especially the ones that are mostly nut-based–but the plant burger definitely made me satiated without needing an immediate three hour nap.  So mom and I ambled next door to The Plant’s take-away outpost.  Mom ordered a coffee and (non-vegan) macaroon and reported they were awesome.  I ordered a little raw raspberry brownie bite.

Now let me prepare you, I am about to make a pretty crazy statement. Are you ready?  Here it is: The Plant’s raw raspberry cheesecake may be the best dessert I have ever had.  This is a pretty strong assertion coming from the gal who has had no shortage of insanely delicious vegan desserts over the past few years.  I simply have never had another dessert that rattled around in my brain for so long after eating it.  For days, I couldn’t get the memory of this treat’s impossibly creamy texture out of my head.  I can’t begin to imagine how they make the filling so smooth.  The raspberry flavor was pronounced but had a kick of coconut.  Simply unbelievable.  A week later, I am still swooning.  This is a must try for vegans and non-vegans alike!

Go to The Plant.  The end.

The Plant
Pier 3
San Francisco, CA  94111

New brunch items at Flore!

Madeleine Bistro is my all-time favorite vegan restaurant.  But Flore is firmly at the number two spot.  I love it because the menu really ranges from light, healthy fare to more indulgent treats, but all the while using fresh, whole foods.  I had brunch there last weekend and was excited to see a couple new items had been added to the menu since my last visit.

“The Good Morning” may seem a bit mundane to some, but to me it is totally ideal.  This dish consists of fresh fruit with soy yogurt, toast with soy butter and jam, a glass of fresh pressed orange juice, and your choice of coffee or hot tea.  Because Flore is always willing to accommodate, my server made my fruit bowl without any cantaloupe (which makes me GAG, blech) or even fruit that had come in contact with that gross, slimy melon.  For my toast I said ixnay to the butter and opted for the spelt bread.  You could also choose 6-grain, sourdough, or rye but honestly the spelt is just so perfect for toast (and is the healthiest choice) you shouldn’t even worry yourself with the other options!  The Good Morning is basic but totally hits the spot.  I must must must find out where Flore gets their jam.  It has chunks of real fruit in it (some apple I think?) and is just absolutely incredible!

My friend was eying the breakfast burrito, but I coerced her into ordering the new Biscuits and Gravy.  I’m constantly hearing about the amazing vegan biscuits and gravy at vegan restaurants in other parts of the U.S., but L.A. is seriously lacking when it comes to this southern delicacy.  Until now, that is, for I can assure you that Flore’s version is epic: two big melt-in-your-mouth biscuits smothered in creamy gravy and topped with seitan sausage.  I came very close to licking the last dregs of gravy right off the plate (and it wasn’t even mine!)  This is a must-try meal for any Angeleno vegan.

We were stuffed but I’ve been itching to try one of Flore’s raw shakes to see how it compares to the ones at Sunpower Natural Cafe, so my friend and I decided to split one.  We went for the Raw Chocolate Shake made with cacao, almonds, agave, and banana.  While it was no match for the impossibly creamy epiphany that is Sunpower’s Cacao Superfood Shake, Flore’s shake was taaaasty.  It is on the thin side, which is fine by me because unlike the cashew-packed drink at Sunpower, I don’t have to feel guilty afterward about consuming copious amounts of fat.  You can also definitely taste the banana, which I don’t prefer, but nonetheless, I chugged this cold guy back in less than 2 minutes.  I will definitely order this again to take along on strolls through the neighborhood.  It’s a perfect drink for a hot summer day.

Get ye to Flore Cafe pronto for some mega brunch action!

Oh…and stay tuned for an awesome giveaway I’ll be doing in the next day or so!

3818 W. Sunset Blvd.
LA, CA  90026

Scrumptious Specials at Hugo’s Restaurant

You know you are a food nerd when at the beginning of each month, you find yourself constantly refreshing a restaurant’s homepage in anticipation of the release of their new specials.  This is the situation in which I often find myself with Hugo’s Restaurant.  Hugo’s regular menu is rife with amazing vegan dishes, but their specials menu tends to be extra incredible.  With that in mind, the delightful Vegyogini and I set off to lunch at Hugo’s Studio City location this past weekend.

We ended up ordering the exact same thing right down to the substitution of fruit salad for the side caeser salad.  The Sprouted Grain Ezekial Tortilla Bowl just sounded too good to pass up.  The dish is a blend of roasted veggies with brown rice, quinoa and pico de gallo, and is all jumbled up with pipian sauce (as the menu explains, it’s a member of the mole family).  The whole grains added a nice starchy factor that bound all the veggies together.  The pipian gave the whole mix a slightly nutty flavor.

As Vegyogini pointed out, now we finally know what to do with those darn Ezekial tortillas–because anyone who has every used them knows they  don’t wrap without breaking!  Now I just need Vegyogini to duplicate this dish complete with the instructions for making the bowl itself and the ingredients in the very unique pipian.  (Vegyo–Get on that please–I need to start making this at home until Hugo’s decides to put this on their permanent menu!)

It turns out, I couldn’t stop dreaming about the other  July specials, so I went back to Hugo’s the very next day!  I ordered the Sprouted Red Lentil Eggless Omelette.  Our waitress gladly subbed some brown rice for the turmeric rice and left off the yogurt.

The “omelette” is really more of a big fluffy pancake wrapped around sauteed veggies and covered in Hugo’s own tiki masala sauce (Let it be known, I would probably eat tree bark if it were covered in that amazing masala).  I doused the rice in the uber-flavorful tomato and cilantro-mint chutneys.  This is yet another special I’d like to see on the regular menu!

The boyfriend couldn’t resist ordering the infamous Soul Food Plate.  I’ll let the menu do the talking on this one: “BBQ organic tofu steak served with vegan and gluten-free corn bread topped with cauliflower florets covered in a mushroom leek gravy. Served with sides of braised leafy greens with garlic and onions and spiced maple roasted yams.”

I was particularly impressed with the cornbread and maple yams.  The maple was not overpowering so it was the perfect level of sweetness.  The cornbread had an amazing texture, and it too was not overly sweet.  The gravy on the cauliflower was also pretty special.  I love me a good vegan gravy!  The greens and tofu steak were not very memorable–just some basic, clean food.  This dish is the perfect size to split with someone else.

Now you better race off to Hugo’s quick because you only have 2.5 days left to experience these delightful July specials.  The good news is that that means I only have to wait 2.5 days until the August specials are revealed!

P.S.  I have been an absentee blogger as of late, but I’ve really been missing it.  So please stay tuned for more frequent posts on ¡Yo Soy!

Hugo’s Restaurant
12851 Riverside Dr.
Studio City, CA  91607

Some not-so-recent birthday treats!

Well hellllooooo there!  It has been a while!  I’ll save the boring details behind my blogging absence and just sum it up by telling you I have a new job where pilot season (Feb-April) is absolute insanity.  The good news is that in the months of unemployment before I landed my new gig, I ventured out and tried a slew of new (to me) restaurants and cooked up a storm.  So let’s get down to brass tax and start off my return to blogging with my birthday food!

Now, my b-day was back in February, but I have been dreaming about the awesome food I had that day ever since!  On my actual birthday, I had only been working at my new job for fewer than 2 weeks.  I am not one to insist everyone I know make some huge deal out of my birthday, but it’s slightly depressing to be at a new place where no one even knows it’s your special day.  Add that to the fact that I always get depressed on my birthday anyway and you have one somber Liz.  But my mood picked right up after my two new bosses surprised me with…vegan cupcakes!  I barely knew these people at the time and they went out of their way to track down some cupcakes for me at Yummy Cupcakes.  It was an extremely tasty surprise.

The cupcakes were vanilla with chocolate frosting.  The cake part was a bit chewier than I am used to but the flavors and frosting were perfect.  I find a lot of vegan frostings to be too sweet but this stuff was light and fluffy and it let the chocolate shine through.  (By the way, I have since had one of Yummy Cupcakes’ cupcakes-in-a-jar and it was INCREDIBLE)

I knew exactly where I wanted to go for my birthday dinner–my newest obsession–Madeline Bistro.  However, there was no way I was gonna drive out to Tarzana at rush hour.  So I opted instead to hit the vegan Japanese joint Shojin for the first time.  I have been hearing the other vegan bloggers rave about Shojin for some time, but it was never at the top of my list to try, mostly because I didn’t think it would be that different from eating vegan options at a regular Japanese restaurant–you know, veggie rolls, noodle bowls, et cetera.  I can get those in my own neighborhood so why bother going farther for the same stuff?  Well, I am very happy I finally made it down to this hole-in-the-wall spot because the food was far above the fare you get at your standard sushi spot.

Shojin is located in the top floor of the Little Tokyo Shopping Center.  (Aside:  The quirky little mall will always hold a dear place in my heart, as soon after I first moved to L.A., Kirby Von Scrumptious and I went on a wild day-long adventure in search of the elusive Fingerstar machine in this shopping center.  Alas, much to our dismay, the machine was out of order.  Damn you Fingerstar!!!)  Shojin is a tiny little joint but unlike much of the rest of the mall is nicely decorated.  I was pretty sure I was gonna like this place as soon as I saw that they provide magic markers for you to draw on the paper tablecloths with!

The boyfriend and I started with the Dragon Roll which was described as shitake mushrooms, avocado, BBQ seitan and avocado with sweet soy sauce.  Now, I really don’t mind the various sorts of standard vegetable rolls one can get at your usual Japanese restaurant, but it was a total treat having this decadent roll!  It definitely brought me back to my days of eating giant spicy tuna rolls and the like.  I loved how thinly sliced the seitan was.

For my entree I ordered a noodle bowl, which doesn’t appear to be on the current incarnation of the Shojin menu.  It was basically a soup with soba noodles and mountain vegetables.  I don’t know how they do it, but the broth is so rich.  I think the only veggie broth I’ve had that comes as close to it in flavor is at Pho Cafe.  This was the perfect dish for a windy February night.  It was really big, so I took half of it home.

The boyfriend ordered a dish, which also no longer appears on the menu…fresh veggies in black pepper sauce.  He loved it and I liked it.  It was a little too much like something you would get at a typical Chinese restaurant, i.e. greasy and oversalted.  I did enjoy it, but I definitely think it is one of Shojin’s lesser dishes.

For dessert, we ordered the chocolate molten lava cake with raspberry-vanilla swirl ice cream.  Right before it came out all the lights went out in the restaurant  and we were like “oh sheesh, someone didn’t pay the electric bill.”  But then our server brought out our dessert with a candle in it and got the whole restaurant to sing me happy birthday!!!  It was awesome!  And as you can see below, the dessert was personalized.  Like I said, I’m not one to ask that people make a fuss about my b-day, but I have to tell you this was such a fun experience!

As for the dessert itself…awesomesauce!!!  The molten lava cake was perfect and incredibly moist.  I must say it was far superior to Madeleine Bistro’s chocolate souffle, which is really saying something because I luuurrv Madeleine.  The ice cream was super creamy and was a perfect compliment to the chocolate.

I can’t wait to go back to Shojin.  It is an awesome little spot with great food and is such a fun place to go for a special occasion!  Maybe now that pilot season is over, I will get a chance to go there again soon!

Yummy Cupcakes
2918 W. Magnolia Blvd
Burbank, CA  91505

333 S. Alameda St. Suite 310
Los Angeles, CA 90013

Samosa Houses’s Unique Veggie Burger

Every time I find myself even remotely near Culver City, I make sure to swing by the best Indian restaurant in town–Samosa House.  Recently I had a meeting on the west side so I stopped in to try their veggie burger which has been making the rounds on the blogosphere lately.  Like most Samosa House patrons, I always opt for the combo platter and pay little attention to the other menu items.  I am so happy that Quarrygirl ventured off the beaten path to bring this little gem to our attention, because it is insanely delicious.

The burger tastes like an Indian version of a Big Mac–and I mean that in the best possible way.  It’s not a giant gourmet veggie burger like you might get at Flore or M Cafe.  It’s similar to a more pedestrian burger in size and texture.  The patty is made of potatoes and whole cashews and is slathered with a crunchy peanut concoction as well as onions, tomatoes, and spices.  There are so many layers of flavor.  I simply cannot recommend this burger enough.  If you are driving down Washington Boulevard anytime soon, you must stop in and pick one up.  And at $3.99 a pop, it shant break the bank!

Samosa House
11510 W. Washington Blvd.
Culver City, CA 90066