If you frequent the many vegan restaurants in Los Angeles, you may find the welcoming ease of this particular vegetarian eatery, aptly named Vegetable, quite refreshing. You won’t be schooled by hipster vegan waiters wearing man buns or pink-haired waitresses asking if you want hemp or chia seeds with that. Instead, wholesome food is presented on a legible menu that doesn’t require you to have to Google ingredients before deciding upon a dish. It’s perfectly okay to want toast without avocado or bread with gluten here. Yes, you can dine with your gluten-free vegan friends and savor a real grilled cheese sandwich without having to explain yourself, since they will be too distracted by enjoying the flavor of their own meal to care anyway. At Vegetable, there is something for everyone, it’s just done in a vegetarian way.
Chef Jerry Yu, Taiwanese-born and Los Angeles raised, took over the existing space that was previously Sun Cafe. A skilled woodworker, he built the interior himself using reclaimed wood, and created the cozy interior of Vegetable. His menu is appealing without pretense or fancy buzz word ingredients. You will find the vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and all-organic menu quite pleasing to the senses with offerings like cheesy fingerling potatoes with nacho cashew cheese sauce, butternut squash toast on house made grilled ciabatta bread, and the carnivore-curious Western “bacon” sliders made with grilled shiitake mushrooms and smoked carrot “bacon” strips. Chef Jerry does not use any mock meats in his cooking. His approach to vegetarian cuisine is creating food that is meant to be enjoyed for what it is, rather than what it pretends to be.
The butternut squash toast is a spin on the ever-trendy avocado toast. A thick layer of creamy butternut squash and roasted garlic is spread upon grilled ciabatta bread (made in-house), baby heirloom tomatoes, fried leeks, garnished with sea salt and fresh oregano, and sprinkled with chili flakes. It’s easy to eat, not fussy, and pleases the palate. For vegan and gluten-free options, you find they accommodate, and if you want the actual cheddar and butter version of mac and cheese, you can have it.
The Alfredo sauce is good whether it’s vegan (made with cashews) or dairy-based, and it’s the perfect pairing for roasted broccoli. The spring pea and mixed fungi pasta is made with a medley of maitake, beech, shiitake and cremini mushrooms, fresh sweet English peas, whole roasted garlic, all swirled together in a mushroom butter cream sauce, topped parmesan and black pepper. You can have the pasta with real butter and cheese, or have it made completely vegan.
The saffron-infused pan-seared savory corn cake is a flavorful dish served with sautéed garlic kale, spicy chickpea and sweet onion stew, mango and serrano pepper pico de gallo, with balsamic reduction and smoked sriracha aioli. I know that’s quite a mouthful, however, the many flavors mingle cohesively and you’ll keep digging your fork in for more. The corn cake (polenta) has a creamy center with a crisp outer layer from the sear of the pan.
It was too dark to photograph the desserts after our meal, but the olive oil lemon curd with cornmeal cake and coconut whipped cream served in a mason jar was light and not too sweet, with plenty of textures both creamy and crumbly. Chef Jerry shared his childhood love of peanut butter ice cream and gave us a scoop of his own house made on the side. It tasted just like dairy ice cream, yet it was entirely vegan. I did not resist. My secret love of peanut butter was revealed, so I had a spoonful or two and confided in my craving. Next visit, we will try the lunch menu. I’m pretty sure peanut butter ice cream will again be my choice for dessert.
Vegetable, 3711 Cahuenga Blvd. Studio City, CA 91604