Usually, the thought of eating at a vegan restaurant is enough to make me recoil in horror, visions of bowls of bland quinoa with steamed kale assaulting my brain. However, when Dine L.A. week started, the first restaurant that I thought of was Erven, a vegan restaurant in Santa Monica. Maybe it was the good reviews, or maybe it was because the chef, Nick Erven, isn’t a vegan piqued my curiosity.
At lunchtime, Erven is a counter service restaurant. For Dine L.A., the $15 lunch included a starter, sandwich and cookie. Considering that the beer-battered tofu sandwich is normally $13 on its own, this was too good of a deal to pass up. I started with the baby potato salad in a dill-tofu ranch dressing, with pickled radishes. Because I failed to read the full description, I had no idea that the dressing was made of tofu, as it tasted like a mustardy dressing.
Sauteed Mushroom Hoagie
The sauteed mushroom hoagie (which threw me off, since I was expecting a submarine-style sandwich) featured sautéed wild mushrooms with onions, green peppers and a spicy squash spread on a pretzel roll. The hoagie tasted meaty, thanks to the mushroom and spread, and I loved the soft pretzel bun.
My pesco-vegetarian husband got the broccoli chopped salad, with endives, pepperoncini, and olives in a poppy seed dressing. He enjoyed the fresh crisp vegetables and the olive flavor, commenting that his salad was more unusual than mine (not that I minded, because I preferred my potato salad).
The true star of the meal was the beer-battered tofu sandwich. Somehow, they managed to make a slab of tofu feel meaty and provided a sizable knife to slice through the thick tofu. Topped with slaw, pickles and a machamantel spread, this was a sandwich that gave one a new outlook on vegan cuisine.
Somehow, we both still had room for dessert – an oatmeal raisin cookie and a rye chocolate chip cookie.
These treats were both terrific, neither noticeably vegan in any way. The oatmeal cookie was chock full of oatmeal, coconut and raisins.
Rye flour gave the chocolate chip cookie a malty, nutty flavor, making it much more interesting that your usual chocolate chip cookie. Featuring big chunks of dark chocolate and a sprinkling of sea salt on top, the cookie was a perfect finish to our meal.
Erven’s refreshing take on vegan cuisine, focusing on local produce and using interesting flavors to highlight them, made me a believer. The next time my husband suggests a vegan restaurant, instead of asking, “Why?” I may just say, “Why not?”
Location – 514-516 Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401
Website – http://ervenrestaurant.com
Kid-Friendly – Yes
Kid’s Menu – No
Vegetarian Friendly –Yes
Vegan Friendly – Yes
Gluten-Free Options – Yes