5/29/2018 Lavash (Clintonville)

The Columbus Veg Community continued our relentless food tour of Columbus tonight with Lavash Cafe. Consistently voted among the best Mediterranean/Middle Eastern cuisine in the city, and known for its many vegan options, Lavash delivers the goods. A light, open space greeted us with a spacious side room decorated with evocative Middle Eastern murals. Friendly and knowledgeable counter staff made ordering easy and were given a buzzer while we found our table. No sooner had we sat down than the buzzer went off. Now that’s fast food! And so much better than the other kind.

We started with the Lentil Soup. Sauteed red split peas, onions, garlic, olive oil, and spices (cumin?), this filling bowl could seriously feed two: warm, tasty, and even better with a squeeze from the provided lemon wedge.

Soft, chewy, comforting Pita Bread accompanied the meal. Made fresh, half of it went home with us there was so much.

Next came the Fatayer, a savory Middle Eastern pie. Of two vegan versions, we chose the spinach and were not disappointed. This was mixed with sumac, spices (Za’atar?), and olive oil and wrapped in a baked homemade dough. It just might be the perfect finger food. So yummy! This came accompanied by two kinds of Middle Eastern pickles: cucumber and something resembling a large radish slice, they added a nice salty dimension to the flavors.

Finally we dove into the Lavash Combo: Falafel, Hummus, Tabouleh, and Stuffed Grape Leaves.

The Falafel was perfect: crispy brown on the outside, tender and tasty on the inside. Made of ground chick peas, parsley, onions, and spices, it’s served with sesame-based (and vegan) tahini sauce.

The Hummus was good, though I prefer more garlic and lemon in mine. Not a large
portion, it did come with one Kalamata olive, which always adds a nice flavor.

The Tabouleh was just right: fresh, green parsley, tomatoes, onion, cracked wheat and mint, dressed with lemon and olive oil, you can taste the health in it. And with healthy food this tasty, you can’t go wrong.

The lemony Stuffed Grape Leaves had a nice texture and the filling of rice, parsley, onion, tomatoes, bell pepper and spices were a nice counterpoint and complement to all the other flavors.

I decided to treat myself to a Pina Colada Smoothie. Frosty and sweet, it was so creamy I couldn’t believe it was vegan, but they said it was, so I’m guessing it’s from coconut milk. Just remember to ask for the vegan version or you may get whipped cream.

The menu is clearly-marked with a V for vegan, though there were some discrepancies between the website and the menu for a few items (Falafel Sandwich and Veggie Combo Sandwich). You may want to ask for clarification for those. Unfortunately the Baba Ghanoush is not vegan. Apparently they had made it the traditional way, but then perplexingly started adding dairy to it. There is always a vegetarian soup of the day and today’s was Lemon Cauliflower, but it was unfortunately not vegan. You will want to ask whether “vegetarian” means “vegan” or not. 

One nice touch to Lavash are the ceramic plates and stainless ware: friendlier to the environment and making for a more enjoyable dining experience. The place was hopping at 7pm and there was a line for some time, so I’m glad to see business is brisk. Lavash earns its loyal following. The food is delicious and healthy, vegan options are plenty, and the atmosphere is welcoming and enjoyable. Every time I eat here I tell myself “I need to eat here more often”. And so I shall.

5/16/18 Sun Tong Luck (Carriage Place Shopping Center)

Sun Tong Luck is a special place. Owners Helena and Frank are passionate about providing tasty, healthy food with a sincere smile, and the whole crew embrace this philosophy. Your first thought might be, “It’s in a shopping center” but you would be underestimating the food and experience. The place is spare, clean, and modest, and those are all good things. The food is out of this world. As evidenced by the history on the menu (read it) the path to the current incarnation shows the rich background on how they got here. And the many accolades over the years testify that this is not your generic Chinese restaurant. Disclaimer: I am not a huge Chinese food fan. I can normally take it or leave it. After eating at Sun Tong Luck, I’m a believer.

Their extensive vegan menu options (in a standalone section and sprinkled throughout the menu, some not marked as such) are enough to bring me back again and again. I only wish they were closer to my hovel in the Short North. I can see I’ll be taking more trips to Bethel Rd. just to keep trying new things. We were greeted warmly and studied the menu as we planned out our meal. The staff was helpful and patiently and knowledgeably answered all our vegan questions. The amount of food we received was enough to feed a small vegan
army (peaceful, of course).

Starting with the Hot & Sour Soup (ask to have it and the Wonton Soup made vegan) was a great taste adventure. Not too spicy hot but quite pleasantly sour, the flavors get your taste buds going. The temperature was also hot and forces you to slow down as you try to inhale it. Tofu, carrots, bean sprouts, and scallions plus a sesame taste add up to one yummy soup.

The Vegetable Spring Roll (vegan though not listed as such) was a good accompaniment to the other flavors: appropriately crispy and filled mostly with cabbage (?) there were no other obvious vegetables, but it was still good.

The cold Sesame Noodles were a home run: substantial noodles covered with a delicious spicy not-too-sweet peanut sauce sprinkled with sesame seeds–just right, filling and addictive.

The Vegan Pho was not on the menu and was a special feature this week, as well as frequently on Meatless Mondays. Get it if you can! I’d never had pho before, but the interplay of the tofu, noodles, bean sprouts, scallions, and broth, topped with cilantro and mint, is a winner.

Tofu is the word at Sun Tong Luck, and you can’t go wrong with it. In this spirit, the Curry Tofu was not too hot and a faithful version of the Indian spice with tofu, carrots, broccoli, peas (always organic) and cabbage over fried rice (ask for it vegan). We were also informed all the sugar used in the restaurant is organic.

The Cashew Tofu was similar and similarly tasty. Everything is in-your-face (in-your-mouth?) fresh and the plentiful cashews hike up the flavor and texture profile.

The Vegan Tofu Phad Thai is something to write home about. If you’ve been avoiding Thai food because of its ubiquitous fish sauce, this is your dish. The translucent noodles are just the right chewy elastic texture, filled with peanutty flavor and covered with ground peanuts, surrounded by tofu, just-right broccoli, bean sprouts, carrots and lime slices, it doesn’t get much better than this.

The Sweet & Sour Tofu was just that: a lot of crispy tofu, fried rice, and a flavorful, balanced sweet & sour sauce that makes you keep eating it, even if you’re full. Pineapple and carrot slices hide underneath and add to the textures.

Finally the Vegan Lo Mein was a tasty rendition of that dish with hearty noodles, fresh broccoli, carrots, cabbage, peas, and a tasty brown sauce.

The sure sign of a good meal is when you’ve eaten your fill of a multitude of tasty dishes and even though you’re full, you want to keep eating! Whatever that special ingredient is, I’d say it’s quality, healthful food, expertly prepared, and served with a sincerity and enthusiasm that can be hard to find in the restaurant world. This should be a go-to restaurant for vegans (and non-vegans!) all over Central Ohio looking to whet their Asian food craving.

4/26/18 Loving Hut (Reynoldsburg)

Loving Hut is always a special experience. When you walk through the doors you are greeted by friendly staff, fresh greens (the kind you eat and the decorative kind), and delicious all-vegan food. We came with a healthy appetite and were not disappointed. 

To start things off we had the Spicy Nuggets. Glazed a dark golden color, the Buffalo BBQ sauce was just the right amount of spice and the “crispy soy protein” texture was amazing. Accompanied by a creamy dressing (mustardy vegan mayo) and raw broccoli, this is the way you want to start a meal.

Once our tastebuds were piqued, the Potato & Kale Soup kept the flavor coming. This soup was seriously worth the 25 minute drive from the Short North. With three kinds of potatoes including sweet potatoes, fresh green kale, and a creamy base that is impossible to describe and impossible not to like, it also had carrots, celery, and onions. I could eat this all day

To make things even more amazing, the BBQ Sandwich was the perfect accompaniment. Pro tip: alternate bites of soup with the sandwich for the coup de grace. The sandwich is soy protein on sourdough with onion, coleslaw and mayo, grilled a la panini. Wonderfully textured, it’s slightly sweet and not too barbecue-y, and very tasty and substantial.

The Thai Curry is a complex entree: strips of soy protein (billed as a patty) over brown rice with a side curry creamy (coconut milk?) soup of potatoes, carrots, broccoli, zucchini, snow peas, and apples on top. Another tasty, filling dish.

To finish things off, we indulged in the Chocolate Mousse Cake: a light confection of chocolate cake covered with whipped cream and drizzled with chocolate, it had a subtle raspberry accompaniment that set off the sweetness with a little tart. We left happy and full, sure to return. One of the best vegan meccas in Columbus!

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