Saturday, August 6, 2011

Vinh Loi Tofu excels in the valley

In Van Nuys for a quick overnight I am psyched to find a vegan restaurant so close to the airport.  I have no idea why I haven't found this place before because "find" is the operative word.  I sat next to a couple who were not vegans and said they came there every Tuesday for dinner because they just loved the food.  Now I know what they were talking about.  Kevin Tran has done a remarkable job of putting a flavor explosion into his food.  The walls are covered with pictures of dishes and I must admit, I love to order by picture.  

The restaurant is small with maybe 12 tables. It's a bright and happy place.  I was both confused and awed when I walked in.  That my be my general state of mind but I love it when I see a big sign that says, "ORDER HERE!"  I didn't see such a sign so had to do the uncool thing and ask, "Do you have table service or do I order here."  

They do have table service so if you see a spot, take it.  I discussed with my waitress what I wanted and the heat level.  I settled on extra hot American which probably translated to mild Vietnamese.  The chefs got it wrong and made the food mildly spicy but this was a lucky break for me.  I got a small dab of the house special hot sauce.  According to Kevin, the other hot chili sauces offered to diners were to him, merely ketchup.  This stuff was the real deal.  And I was warned to take it easy.  It was, (and I don't use this word lightly), awesome.  This stuff made you stand up and take notice!  Perfect.  And since I asked to buy some Kevin gave me a small container since it's not for sale!  Then he queried me about how I was going to get this stuff through security and I told him I was the Captain and it was a private jet.  At this point he took the sauce back ... and brought me a huge container filled to the brim.  This will last me 6 months at least if I used it every day.

Small corner space.  You're heading the wrong way on Sherman Way to see it.  I had to turn around when the GPS said I passed it.
You can see the pics on the wall.  
There are just so many options and choices here that it really was comforting to have my waitress help with the ordering.  The food was delicious, which is easy to say, with many levels of texture and flavors.  Heat levels coming out of the kitchen were under-estimated which is good for those with delicate palates.  You can always add more heat but once added to a dish you're not going to remove it.  What is nice is that the flavors stood on their own and didn't NEED anything else.  It's just the way I like it.

With a backdrop of menu item pictures, my server and I discussed quantity, type and heat of my dinner.
Behind the plant are shelves of vegan sauces.  Oyster, chili, hoisin, etc.  On the wall are Kevin's race numbers.  He is known as "Tofu Robot."  His bike is against the wall but you can't see it from here.  There are also fridge cases out of sight to the left stocked with all sorts of mock meats.
Vietnamese Spring Rolls with Spam, peanut sauce and Kevin's secret house hot sauce.  "Just a dab'll do ya!"
This dish wasn't on the menu but was ordered by my waitress for me.  It was an Udon base with veggies and tofu and mock duck.  I had to force myself to stop eating it.  It had a sweet sauce and with the special hot sauce was just perfect.
A side shot of the spring roll.  There was no scrimping of ingredients here.  This portion was huge and there was a ton of fake meat along with crisp veggies and vermicelli noodles.
For lunch the next day I ordered 2 sandwiches to go.  I could have just had the leftovers but wanted to try something else.  I got the Tuna and the spam.  I love the spam.  It was like eating the spring roll but with a perfect sandwich bread.  The tuna was of course mock and had a seaweed wrap around the outside.  It was good but I would go with the spam if I had to make a choice.  All I have to say is someone should make this a vacation destination.  Nice work Kevin.
A "Spam" sandwich.  I want to move to Reseda.

Vinh Loi Tofu on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Cadry said...

Isn't Vinh Loi awesome? Kevin is always so helpful and friendly, and I like it that he makes his own tofu and soy milk on site. Everything there tastes so fresh. Great stuff!