Respect to the Temple

Last week I went out to Playa Vista to visit a long lost friend, Marisa, who I hadn’t seen since Halloween. Shameful. As we began to catch up our conversation turned to food, being that we were both hungry. Were feeling something healthy, so immediately Marisa thought of her favorite vegetarian place of all time, The Green Temple on Redondo Beach, an area that she’s known her whole life. No sooner did this come up than we were in her car on our way to the beach. Honestly, I don’t spend nearly enough time close to the water, so I was all about it. And the fact that she described this place as ruining all vegetarian food for her for life because it’s that good, how could I not be on board with this?

The minute we arrived I totally understood the allure. The restaurant is largely outdoor, with a beautiful shaded courtyard dotted with tables, filled with foliage, and housing various other little shops where one could easily drop alarming amounts of money. The entire place has a very zen feel, the kind of vibe one would absolutely expect from a SoCal establishment devoted to well being and sustainable living. The restaurant itself is tiny, with only a handful of tables and a decor that stays true to the temple theme. Boasting friendly staff and a very thoughtful menu that is not only vegetarian, but free of white sugar and processed foods (a huge bonus for anyone trying to maintain their weight), I was dually impressed with the combination of creative dishes and reasonable pricing.

Marisa had several recommendations, but at the top was their Tofu sauce, a savory gravy made from Tofu, soy sauce, and assorted spices – it’s rather indescribable. I went with “The 4 Bowl” from their smaller dishes menu, which allowed you to pick 4 ingredients from a list and put them in a bowl covered in Tofu sauce. I got small size for only $9. My bowl had broccoli, asparagus, crumbled veggie patty (house made, of course) and guacamole. It looks like a mess in the picture, but it’s really delicious and completely satisfying. If I were to go again I might get beans or mashed potatoes instead of guac, but I really wasn’t in the mood for anything terribly heavy. Marisa got one of her go-tos which was the Broccoli Pine Nut Casserole, a dish layered with yukon gold potatoes, soy cheese, broccoli, pine nuts, and tofu sauce. Really amazing texture – I actually thought I was eating a filet of fish for a minute.

We did not venture for an appetizer or dessert on this visit, but I am told they are definitely worth checking out, which I plan to do in the near future. It’s rare that someone can find a restaurant with a menu that is both uncompromisingly whole/healthy and full of a variety of flavors. Not to mention I had lunch for $10. Highly recommended for everyone, regardless of whether you’re a vegetarian. And if you’re not, come on, some more veggies could do you good.

The Green Temple
1700 S. Catalina Dr.
Redondo Beach, CA 90277 

All You Can Eat

Those of you who are regular readers of my blog know I have a deep love for Tender Greens, an outstanding restaurant chain here in SoCal serving locally farmed produce and expertly cooked local meats in a variety of euphoria-inducing salads, hot plates, sides, and specials. You also probably recall my entry from last month’s beer garden in which Tender Greens opens up their back patio for an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink feast that showcases a local brewery and a whole-roasted animal acquired from a local farm. This event, which I maintain as being one of the best values in LA at only $40 a head, happens monthly from May through October.

Well, this past Sunday was June’s beer garden, which featured a whole roasted lamb, a whole roasted king salmon, and beer from El Segundo Brewing Company. My blog entry from May clearly made some impressions as there were 9 of us in this month’s group, 6 of them first-timers. I confess this time around I was not quite as psyched out for the event being that I had a lot piled up from being sick the previous week as well as a very early job in San Diego the next morning. As my friends arrived at my apartment and we began the loud, laughter-filled, expletive-ridden walk down to the restaurant, I was immediately reminded not only why my life is so great, but why I have such love for this event. When we arrived at the patio and fell into a state of hysteria over the appetizers and beer, all my stress and doubt were expelled completely. Not only was I in heaven over the food, but I was perhaps even more thrilled to see my first-time beer garden friends equally ecstatic over their experience.

Here’s a link to the menu so you all can see what was served. Highlights for me included:

  1. the salmon. crispy skin, super moist, and the sauce they topped it with… utter perfection.
  2. mini arancini. risotto balls stuffed with lamb, rolled in bread crumbs, and deep fried …life changing
  3. the veal tongue. deep fried, salty meat on crostini. unexpected and addicting. ate no less than 5
  4. baked eggplant. layered with cheese and house made ricotta, it was heaven. I don’t even like eggplant
  5. agave caramel bars. shortbread bottom, chocolate and sea salt on top. like a twix bar on gourmet steroids. win.

But the defining moment for me was when dessert hit. We were all at the table, dying, totally full, unable to continue. Then the warm peach cobbler came out, followed by cookies, followed by caramel bars… A few minutes later I looked at the table and, despite our overeaten despair, every single person had a plate heaping with desserts. No one wussed out, no one was like “oh well I’m being good and eating only half a cookie” – no. This was not the time for restraint. This was the time to shut the fuck up and keep eating. Seeing all those full plates, I knew that these were and are my people (not that I ever really doubted it).

In summary: another triumph, another batch of faithful believers… you’re welcome, Tender Greens. ;-)

Boo! It’s Philly in SoCal

So when you hear that an Asian family has opened a restaurant on the east side of LA, you know that they’re clearly going to be serving hot, authentic, mouthwatering … cheesesteaks… ? Believe me I was just as surprised as you. But let me tell you, this is the real deal. This is far and away the best sub I’ve had since the one trip I’ve made to Philadelphia. And it makes sense since the Ahn family moved to SoCal from Philly in 1985. According to them, all their ingredients are authentic, particularly the buns they have shipped in from Philly. They even serve Tasty Cakes, which are sweet, processed, packaged, saturated fat-filled cakes, native to Philadelphia, that put Hostess and Drake’s to shame. Devilish treat. For $9.95 I got a full sized (i.e. gigantic) mushroom steak with onions and extra cheese. Heaven. Yes, I know, the real authentic Philly way is with cheese whiz, but as you can see from my photo, I’m a white American kind of guy. And you know what? I don’t feel bad about it at all. It’s the Starving Artist way. I recommend getting the bun toasted as it gets a bit soggy otherwise. For those of you who love hoagies, they make those those too. Hell, they even have veggie subs so you don’t feel bad about dragging your vegetarian friends here. Seriously, If you are any kind of sandwich lover, you should absolutely stop by, chat with the fam, and have the best cheesesteak you will ever encounter outside of Philly.

Boo’s Philly Cheesesteaks & Hoagies
4501 Fountain Ave
Los Angeles, CA 90029