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!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Recipes for the Cure

Chez Chason, Brentwood

On Thursday night I brought the fury of a serious head cold into Chason's apartment, inflicting it upon both Chason and his roommate. My head and nasal cavity were throbbing, and I tried to fend it off with OJ, ginger ale, and Nyquil. The next day I wasn't about to move, so I sat in the car while Chason went into Ralphs to buy ingredients to make his first Chicken Noodle Soup.

---à acheter---

1 Ralphs Lemon-Herb Rotisserie Chicken
3/4 lb pasta noodles of your choice
3 carrots
2 stalks celery
4 cloves garlic
1/2 yellow onion
4 tbsp Better Than Bouillon chicken base
OR 4 bouillon cubes, or granulated equivalent
2 tsp ground pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

Start 4 quarts water to boil. Add bouillon and dissolve. Chop and add carrots. Let boil. While water is boiling, mince garlic and chop the half onion, add. Reduce heat to low. Add noodles. Begin tearing pieces from the rotisserie chicken, and add to soup. Chop 2 stalks celery and add. Test noodle for doneness and serve when ready! Best served with a couple slices of a sourdough loaf.

---à noter---

When I referenced chicken noodle soup recipes online, the directions were to add 12 oz of pasta. We added the full 16 oz, which turned out to be too much, soaking up most of the broth.

Easy variations:
Bake your own chicken, to make a whole day of it, just in case you aren't sick.
use lemon and rosemary for a more mediterranean flavor. Change the starch: use rice!
The rice can sometimes make the soup a super-starchy, comforting bowl of cold-curing love.

Next...Vegan bites at Pure Luck, a former Korean resto turned cyclist hangout! (sketch below)

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brunch in Brentwood

Amandine Cafe
12225 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 979-3211

Weekend Brunch--the envy of baristas everywhere. Since I'm no longer a coffee-slinger, I had the good fortune of going out for brunch on Saturday.

Amandine Cafe, one of the shiny Wilshire breakfast joints I've seen from the car. The term amandine refers to a dish served with a garnish of almonds. The almond is my favorite nut, so I can't wait to try the almond croissant the next time I go.

We parked on the street, and entered through the rear patio. This place is small, but packed, and running speedily and efficiently. Runners and waiters and cooks whizzing by in their sleek white uniforms and caps, as we passed by the chatty diners. What a spread! Fresh baked artisan loaves and baguettes, huge danish, and delicate, buttery croissants glowing behind glass partitions, begging me to eat them. "Hey Fee. Just give me a try. You won't regret this chocolately filling," said the croissant. "No!" I shouted. "What would my boyfriend say?"

The breakfast menu is simple. French Toast served five ways and a variety of omelettes served with fruit and toast. At first Chason ordered it with the berries confiture, which is a berry reduction, essentially hot preserves, which I was excited about, but he went with the fresh strawberries intead. In addition, there are daily soup and quiche specials. Mon Dieu, I swear to you that French Toast is my favorite food in the world, but at the sight of a slice of Ham, Potato and Onion Quiche, I had to turn my head and go savory for once. I ordered my iced americano, and we found a table with a stack of plates on it. The seating was continually full. It was busy time--12:00 noon--so itd be common to see a few tables uncleared.

We waited for the food with our numbered placecards, in lieu of a paper ticket, while we looked at the humdrum photography for sale on the wall. "Third Year Photography Student," is a direct quote. Lots of out of focus bucolesque pictures of children and clouds, all for sale for more than 50 dollars.

The quiche came with a side salad of mixed greens in a mustard vinaigrette and a few cornichons. I tried one (the little French pickle). Not my thing. The quiche was chock full of cubed pieces of ham and potato, a little too much filling, I thought, and not enough egg. Once you put a fork in it, the bite fell apart. It was supposed to hang together by the layer of melted cheddar on top, but alas.

Chason's French Toast was scrumptious, better even than the donut-like French Toast they served at the Webb Schools dining hall. The strawberries were so tasty, and the texture wonderful. Slightly gooey inside, with a sugary crust. Mmm!

It was a good outing for people watching, I must confess. We sat in the vicinity of two solo diners, both hard at work with their heads buried in a book or a laptop, and next to another couple, who clearly had spent the morning cultivating other carnal pleasures.
There was a mother and her teenage son, who avoided her presence in vain, but finally talked to her over their sandwiches. There was an elderly man who unknowingly took the seat of two younger women, who I hope didn't make him move.

Most satisfying and delicious. A good amount of food. Perhaps slightly pricey, but the taste is worth the penny. I want to go back for more croissants and coffee.