I used to scoff at vegan food. Good food just couldn’t be made without animal products. No milk? No butter? No way was that going to taste like anything but cardboard. However, a hole-in-the wall vegan restaurant on Fountain Avenue called simply, L.A. Thai Vegan, proved me wrong.
It’s an easy place to drive by. It looks like any other second-rate restaurant tucked into a mini-mall: the neon sign, writing scrawled all over the windows claiming “The Best Food,” and the like. The inside, with a strange painting of dolphins on one wall and plastic chairs tucked beneath familiarly tacky glass-topped tables is similarly ambiance-free. Fortunately, the interior design and the food are stark contrasts.
The linoleum is forgiven as I sip the Tom Ka Kai ($9.95), a popular spicy, coconut-based Thai soup in a humongous bowl, overflowing with tofu chicken (which sounds questionable, but actually tastes like chicken) mushrooms, bamboo shoots and other Thai vegetables. The fluorescent lighting is ignored as I steal some of my friend’s brown rice and yellow curry and savor its deliciousness.
The menu, beside the staple Thai foods (pad thai, curries, stir-fries), boasts a variety of wraps and burgers. However, because I don’t generally associate Thai food with “chicken” nuggets and Boca steak, I had shied away from these options. In addition to these anomalies are lentil loaves and noodle dishes (all of which sound like California variations on Thai/Asian food traditions, like pineapple fried rice.)
Because of its obscurity, L.A. Thai Vegan has some perks more well-known restaurants do not. I have been only twice, and the waitress already smiles in recognition as I walk in. The service is also great: they can alter any of their dishes (less spicy, more mushrooms) because you are their only customer. Also because you’re the only one in the restaurant, spare the couples that come in every so often to pick up their take-out orders, they didn’t mind when my friends and I burst out into laughter or split one dish four ways and didn’t leave for hours. As a Thai food snob, and a doubter of vegan food, I can guarantee you that the food is amazing and doesn’t take like the stereotypical vegan food you hear about. There are so many dishes to choose from, and none of them are tofu with tofu sauce.
4356 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, Ca 90029
Hours: Lunch from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Dinner from 4 pm – 9:30 pm.