Food

Newsletter: Counter: Vegan new school, Casa Vega old school

Erven
Roasted carrots with coconut, crispy lentils, Thai herbs and tamarind sriracha at Erven.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

How it got to be December is anyone’s guess, but here we are, in the lull between one holiday and the next. Which means it’s a great time to take a break from baking cookies and figuring out what to get Luke Walton for Christmas, and get back to exploring this town’s complex and glorious restaurant scene.

If you need a break from heavy holiday food, maybe try Erven, the subject of Jonathan Gold’s latest review. It’s vegan, it has things called “slurpables,” and it has sauerkraut-stuffed doughnut holes. Yeah, yeah, I know, but Jonathan really liked them. Beer-battered tofu sandwiches not your thing? Then head to Casa Vega, where you can get the kind of old-school Mexican cooking that the Vega family has been making for 60 years. Or go over to the mall, yes the mall, for a fantastic bowl of ramen. Or to a new food truck from a haute cuisine chef. Fun times.

Amy Scattergood

Vegan dining

Chef Nick Erven is maybe not the guy you’d expect to open a vegan restaurant — one of his popular dishes at Saint Martha was steak tartare with oysters — but here he is in Santa Monica at Erven, a plant-based restaurant that, writes our restaurant critic, may be the best vegan place in town. “Los Angeles is at the moment smack in the age of vegetable-focused cooking,” Gold writes. Order the savory doughnut holes.

Green juice prepared by chef Nick Erven, at Erven restaurant in Santa Monica.
Green juice prepared by chef Nick Erven, at Erven restaurant in Santa Monica.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times )

60 years of enchiladas

When you can get a taco with uni or confit duck hearts at your favorite taco truck, sometimes it’s easy to overlook the old-school Mexican restaurants in this town. Food writer Jo Stougaard opens the doors of Casa Vega, which has been making enchiladas and margaritas in the San Fernando Valley for six decades. Christy Vega Fowler and her father, 82-year-old Rafael “Ray” Vega, have made sure that their family restaurant isn’t going anywhere.

Classic elote from Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks.
Classic elote from Casa Vega restaurant in Sherman Oaks.
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times )

The NoMad food truck

Among the many chefs from other cities, particularly New York, who are making their way to our horizontal town? Daniel Humm, the celebrated chef from Eleven Madison Park and NoMad, which Humm is opening in L.A. sometime next year. But before that happens, Humm is already cooking here in L.A. — he’s opened a NoMad food truck, and is making fancy burgers and hot dogs. Of course he is.

Chef Daniel Humm (right) and Will Guidara (left), co-owners of the Nomad food truck, are photographed near the truck outside of the Line Hotel in Koreatown.
Chef Daniel Humm (right) and Will Guidara (left), co-owners of the Nomad food truck, are photographed near the truck outside of the Line Hotel in Koreatown.
(Liz O. Baylen / Los Angeles Times )

Ramen in Glendale

In her weekly restaurant news column, Jenn gets details on the latest expansion of Tsujita, the great Hakata-style ramen shop on Sawtelle Boulevard. The new Tsujita is opening in Glendale’s Americana at Brand. Fantastic news for those of us who love noodles way more than shopping. (Maybe the crowds will split between Tsujita and Din Tai Fung.) In other news, chef David Lentz is closing two of his three Hungry Cat seafood restaurants; happily for us all, the original in Hollywood isn’t going anywhere.

A bowl of ramen served at Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles on Sawtelle Boulevard.
A bowl of ramen served at Tsujita LA Artisan Noodles on Sawtelle Boulevard.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times )

Jonathan Gold’s 101 Best Restaurants, the authoritative annual guide to local dining, is online for subscribers and now features his 2016 Best Restaurants. If you didn’t get a copy of the booklet, you can order one online here.

“City of Gold,” Laura Gabbert’s documentary of Jonathan Gold’s Los Angeles, is available on Amazon

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