Ah, diners. Who doesn’t love the ability to order pancakes with a caesar salad, anytime, day or night? But what if you want some Larb and Palak Paneer? Some Yakitori and Bulgogi? What do you do if you really want Indian but your date has a hankering for Thai? Compromise?! Not in West Hollywood, you don’t. Fresheast, a pan-asian fast-casual restaurant accommodates a variety of palettes, vegans, carnivores & celiacs (salad or quinoa can be subbed-in), and your car (parking in the Pavillions lot!). It may not be open twenty-four hours in a row (though 3 am is basically all night in LA) and it may not have a counter to sit at, but it does have a juice bar, locally sourced produce, and environmentally friendly materials.
The menu on-line doesn’t show it, but most items on it can be made vegan by substituting lightly fried tofu– in-store there’s a helpful little vegan symbol next to those dishes. Here’s a run down of my mega-lunch there, rated on a Moods Of Buddha scale.
fresheast Juice: $3.95
Orange, lemon, apple, cucumber, spinach, kale, red beets
I do not believe vegetables should be in desert or in a drinking glass, so this is not something I would ever order ordinarily, but I wasn’t feeling brave enough to try the cantaloupe based Melonade, as I don’t enjoy Listeria. It was pretty good though, once I let it settle, with the spinach and kale being undetectable and the beety citrusness shining through.
Red Lentil Soup: $3.95
This was, by far, the most delicious part of the meal. It was bursting with flavor, thick, hearty, hot and yum! I’d go there just for a bowl.
Spicy Garlic Noodles: $8.95
Wheat noodles, seasonal vegtables, garlic, cilantro, sesame oil, chili garlic sauce
2nd place winner. The noodles were flavorful and not too spicy to scare away a mouth wimp. Definitely tasted like a healthier, fresher version of your average noodle dish.
Palak Paneer: $8.95
Spinach, fenugreek leaves, paneer cheese or tofu, yogurt (or not), red lentil dal, brown rice
I eat Indian food enough to know that Paneer means both ‘cheese’ and ‘move-on, little lady’, so this was fun. A little bland for my taste though, or maybe I just don’t care for fenugreek.
Green Coconut Water Curry: $9.95
Jidori Chicken (read: tofu), thai green curry, onion, brown rice
I love all the ingredients that comprise this dish, but the dish itself was not so loveable. Water curry? Why would you use flavorless, evaporating water when you could use coconut milk? I don’t get it. Also, way off on the rice to protein ratio.
Indian Vegetable Curry: $8.95
fresh seasonal vegetables, onion, tomato, red lentil dal, brown rice
This was my least favorite of the feast. It tasted the way mold smells, even though it was fresh. ‘Nuff said. That said, everything went through me just fine, and I’ve heard rumors that those negative reviews on yelp are spiteful acts of fired employees. Party foul.
fresheast was good, and the lengths that the owner and chef go to in order to be so vegan friendly and thoughtful are laudable, but in this new & improved highly competitive world of vegan eating, they need to go a step or two further. First, they need to double up on the spices and seasonings in their sauces the same way the do in their soup. Then, they need to marinate the tofu in said sauces overnight. If the tofu has more flavor, so will the entree as a whole, and they need it. Right now, each one’s soy just tasted like plain fried tofu. I don’t walk around naked, and neither should my tofu. Dress them up the same way the interior of the restaurant is (all feng shui’d and modern and pretty) and this place will be on all the Best Of lists.