Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Pure Luck Restaurant
Neighborhood: Wilshire Center
707 N Heliotrope Dr
Los Angeles, CA 90029
(323) 660-5993

Known to locals as Uck, Pure Luck is a vegan restaurant in the heart of LA's Bike District. What used to be a sushi restaurant, the owners kept the name and the old sign, hence the name Uck since the Pure and the L don't light up.

It's down the street from Orange 20 and the Bicycle Kitchen, two well-known/excellent bike shops. Chason spoke nostalgically about the time he spent here a few years ago when he would hang out at Orange 20, learn about bikes, and sometimes sell merchandise while it was still a tiny store, before it moved to its corner location.

Vegan? Maybe something I'll voluntarily eat if I were still in Boston. There were so many experimental veggie and vegan restaurants in Cambridge, MA, that it was hard not to taste something animal-free and delicious every now and again. Two notables are Grasshopper Restaurant (serving Chinese-style made with tempeh that's supposed to look like meat) and TJ Scallywaggle's Vegan Pizza & Subs, which unfortunately is now closed. I went to the pizza place once for an open mic I read about. I ordered a calzone and borrowed a guitar from the employee working, and played 'Blister in the Sun' and a Hanson song.

At Pure Luck they offer patio/entrance seating, which I'm glad we didn't take. Sitting next to the door is always a drag. It's a bonus if you need to smoke, or want the atmosphere of the street to leak in to your dinner. The corner booth is a good place for a photo op, with a wallpaper of a bamboo forest behind you. I loved the Buddha on the mantle and the pig statues on the floor.

The staff is small and friendly, and bearded gentleman with glasses and a pink-haired girl in striped shorts took our order and brought our drinks. The perk of this place is a small beer selection, and bottles of Mexicoke. I had green tea.

At one point I saw a female cook come out wearing a race hat, and I felt right at home. C-man told me that when it first opened, it was filled with grungy, dirty cyclists, and now the clientele appears cleaner, a little more yuppy, and spilling off from the nearby LA City College. People that looked like they had homework to do after their date.

I had the Tofu Pesto Sandwich--Grilled Tofu and fresh basil-spinach pesto on a rustic roll, with romaine and onions and vegan mayo. Four strips of pan-fried tofu sliced lengthwise, and I think I've never had better tofu. I don't go for the slimy texture too often, and it's hard to get a lot of flavor into it. It was a great texture between the crusty roll and unutterably delicious pesto. I couldn't believe it. No cheese! It also came with a side spinach salad with red onions and a tangy balsamic vinaigrette.

C-man ordered the Pure Luck Spring Rolls--Spinach, basil, sprouts, lime and tofu rolled up in a flour tortilla. Served fresh or fried, spicy or mild. He ordered them fresh, and with a side of sweet potato fries.

Overall I was satisfied. I wish I hadn't been in the first day of having the flu, or else I would have gotten a nice Porter or Pilsner along with my sandwich. I would return also to try some of the meat stand-ins, namely the 'jackfruit tacos.' Jackfruit looks a lot like cactus, grows in South East Asia and Mexico, and tastes like pineapple and cantaloupe, although less juicy. I bought one for six dollars from a Whole Foods in Brookline last year, and it was a taste to be acquired, much like jicama, which is mainly praised for its texture. I'd be interested to see it combined with other flavors to make it palatable. You gotta get creative when you don't eat meat and dairy! I know I would drink a lot of beer, too.

I'm pondering coming up with a rating system. "I give it three chews. I give it three bananas. Three turns of the pan. Three pinches of salt. Three cups of tea." We'll see...

Next...Spaghetti Carbonara!

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