For the casual observer passing Tuk Tuk, it might seem as though there has been an accident. The front of a tuk tuk—the Thai term for rickshaw—juts from the front of the building above the awning, as though its wheel has just burst through the wall. But if that observer ventured inside, they would find neither debris nor an apologetic teleporter proclaiming that his calculations were off. Instead they would see diners seated beneath colorful wall art and hanging lamps whose shades resemble curving Möbius strips, or, according to one review from Gayot, snail shells. Then, once the adrenaline faded and reality set in, the investigating observer would be smacked by what was so obvious to everyone else: the aroma of mingling spices.
A compendium of noodle dishes, wok stir-fries, curries, and house specialties, the menu prioritizes the power of complementary ingredients. According to the same Gayot review, chef Aoi Rattanamanee has a particular knack for seasoning grilled dishes: "Chicken is marinated overnight in garlic, cilantro and black pepper, fostering deep flavor." The spicy basil fried rice mixes chili and thai basil within a vegetable medley, and the Crying Tiger beef derives its zest from garlic, galangal root, and soybean sauce. Those in search of proven staples can indulge in pad thai or one of three curry variants, whose ingredients have all simmered in a creamy coconut milk.
As a dedicated vegan, the eponymous owner of Rahel Ethiopian Veggie Cuisine, Rahel Woldmedhin, foregoes traditional meat and fish dishes for completely animal-free feasts that have helped the eatery win “Best Ethnic Vegan Restaurant” in Los Angeles Magazine. Inside the spacious dining room, forks and spoons grace the tables, though they’re not necessarily the utensils diners should turn to first. Traditionally, Ethiopian feasters scoop up their food with injera bread, and it's no different at Rahel, where the menu consists mainly of vegan wot—a hearty stew and the perfect match for the soft and spongy injera. Diners can dive into 10 types of wot, chockfull of chickpeas, lentils, and potatoes, and sip on traditional drinks, such kombucha tea or 3D—a combination of suff, telba, and besso that CBS Los Angeles calls "addicting."
At Tarascos, owner Antonio Garcia and his chefs blend the comfortable and familiar with the slightly out of the ordinary. A chalkboard-scrawled menu lists Mexican classics such as enchiladas alongside lesser-known dishes such as huaraches, large, oblong tortillas stacked with charbroiled meats. Plates of barbacoa feature the seasoned beef wrapped in maguey leaves and slow-steamed until tender. Likewise, the tap menu mixes Mexican imports such as Pacifico and Modelo Especial with Tarascos's own home-brewed organic beers.
Patrons can dine inside or outdoors on a beer garden–style patio shaded from weather and warmed with gas heaters. On the patio, Tarascos also regularly holds cooking classes, such as a tamale class that was featured on ABC 7.
When Oprah decided to begin a highly publicized 21-day vegan cleanse in 2008, she called David Anderson. David possessed a diverse culinary background, having manned kitchens all across the country—including the renowned Belvedere at the Peninsula Beverly Hills—but since 2005 had made a name for himself as a prominent vegan chef. He pitched in by giving her recipes and shipping her his organic, plant-based meals, which are somewhat legendary. VegNews co-founder Colleen Holland listed his brunch as one of her Top 12 Vegan Meals, saying his french toast Napoleon with organic fruit compote, maple syrup, and whipped cream was “forever etched in [her] mind.” Currently, David helms Madeleine Bistro, a vegan food service that specializes in catering and home delivery. Customers can sign up for the Bistro Box, a weekly home-delivery service that brings with it an ample selection of organic handcrafted foods. Using seasonal produce and plant-based proteins, he packs boxes with four distinct entrees, along with soup, salad, a sandwich, dessert, three additional sides, and grass-fed napkins. Menu items have included thai red curry with pan-roasted tofu, smoked cashew cheese with crostini, and waffles with vegan chicken. The menus are similar for catering services, which have been provided for clients such as Disney and PETA.
Scott Zwiezen, chef and owner of ELF Cafe, has a simple philosophy about food: he’ll only serve what he eats himself. This means he's extremely particular when it comes to ingredients. He partners with local farmers that grow their produce conscientiously. He ships in his favorite sheep’s feta from Bulgaria and his favorite olive oil from Spain. Zwiezen even cooks with reverse osmosis water. All of this results in a fully vegetarian, often vegan-friendly menu that guests can feel good about. And according to the Huffington Post, it tastes pretty good, too. In a February 2010 interview, Chef Speak columnist Heather Taylor noted that "humble ingredients are transformed into something rich, surprising and completely delicious." This metamorphosis is evident in an exotic risotto that springs from wild mushrooms and Acquerello carnaroli rice. Another example is the Moroccan tagine, a marriage of market-fresh vegetables and organic quinoa. Taylor also pointed out the uniting factor in Zwiezen’s style: "Above all else, he’s cooking with love and it’s impossible not to notice."
The Vegan Joint’s sunny yellow-and-white striped awning stands out on the corner of Rose Avenue and National Boulevard in Palms (multiple locations), drawing diners into the original location of this healthy restaurant that serves creative meatless dishes. The extensive menu is filled with nutritious items, ranging from breakfast foods to soups, salads, sandwiches, wraps and burgers, with an added emphasis on Thai food. The imitation meat products offered set this joint apart from the competition and include tofu, vegan fish, chicken, sausage and homemade seitan, a form of wheat gluten. As an alternative to fast food, try the “chicken” nuggets and garlic fries, or the unique “fish” wrap, filled with slices of grilled soy, avocado, lettuce, tomato, sprouts and drizzled with tahini. Diners can take a seat outside at a picnic table under the awning, or eat inside the simply-decorated space, complete with wooden chairs and tables bathed in sunshine.