Thanks to LA chowhounds, our Bay Area group (made up of a vegan, a vegetarian, and 2 omnivores) had some good meals in the L.A. area. In the Torrance area, the nonvegans in our group managed to make it to Mishima for noodles (really good zaru soba!), and Flossie's for southern home cookin' (the fried chicken ROCKED; the side dishes of sweet potatoes and turnip greens were soggy to my taste, but maybe that is how they're supposed to be?).
We also went to House of Vege on PCH in Torrance, which was recommended as a good place for vegans. Indeed they had a huge menu, all of which was vegan, and they did a good business. The waitress recommended a very good tofu dish there -- it was basically a simmered block of tofu in a pool of a sweet, soy-based sauce, and topped by some kind of crunchy soy product(the dish was a vegetarian version of the chinese tofu dish that usually has crunchy bits of pork on top). I didn't like the "faux cashew chicken" -- I guess my personal preference in vegan food would be to have the tofu straight-up, and not pretending to be something else. I got distracted by thinking about how it really didn't taste like chicken. But the vegan in our group was delighted with all the options, and that she could have all kinds of things that are usually off-limits for her in Chinese places. I'd have to experience more items on the menu before making a judgment on this place -- I'd say the tofu dish was the only thing that I'd recommend from my meal. A note to others who might go there -- the place looks pretty awful from the outside, but inside it's actually nice, and the people who run it are very friendly and accomodating.
Outside of the South Bay, we also had a chance to go to Zankou chicken -- loved the garlic sauce. What makes it so creamy? The vegan contingent was also happy with this place and its excellent falafel plate.
We had a celebratory dinner at Sasabune on Sawtelle. It was definitely a "wow" moment for us -- the sushi was impeccable (the fish was excellent, and the rice was the way I like it -- a little soft and juicy and warm, not dried-out or crumbly). And it was one of the most convivial, friendly sushi bars I've been to. The owner and the other sushi chef regaled us with good conversation all night. The restaurant is closed on weekends because the owner dislikes it when the restaurant gets too busy! There is no sign on the restaurant, and the owner said that was because he didn't want people to just wander in. This makes him sound snooty, but I definitely got the sense that he values the process of getting to know his customers, instead of waiting on strangers each time. My advice to people who go there for the first time (if you do omakase) is to let them know your preferences up front. They definitely will give you a gaijin special (tuna, yellowtail, and more tuna, etc.) if you don't specify that you want to experience more variety.
Finally, we visited Guelguetza on Palms Blvd. for their famous mole. Our favorite item was the pork in the coloradito mole sauce -- what a great combination. The pork was absolutely meltingly tender, and that sauce -- it is the perfect all-purpose mole. The black mole was good too, but the coloradito was the one that I could imagine eating on a weekly basis. The tamales were also excellent. This place would definitely be a standby for me, if I lived in LA.
Thanks to everyone for the great recs. You have a lot of good food at your disposal!
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