Wednesday, April 28, 2010 at 6:53 p.m.
Hainam Grilled Rice
Only three months new, The Loving Hut in Orange is busy serving up a menu packed to capacity with healthy, hearty and 100 percent vegan offerings. If you don't mind having your meal served with a side order of vegetarian and spiritual propaganda, then the price and quality of the food definitely make this place worth a venture. If you do, then the "Vegetarian Wall of Fame" just might be enough to put you off your lunch.
More on this kooky (but delicious) eatery after the jump!
Walking into the Loving Hut can be a little intimidating with the "Vegan & Vegetarian Elite" staring down at you from the far-right wall. Framed pictures of stars like Ellen Degeneres, Leonardo DiCaprio and Natalie Portman surround a plaque that addresses diners with two sentences:
"These smart, beautiful, talented people are vegetarian. Why aren't you?"
Near the cashier is cubby lined with shelves carrying your standard promotional pamphlets for vegetarian living. They're not nearly as graphic as the pamphlets Native Foods carried for a while, which depicted graphic images of inhumane farming practices, so you can look through them without worrying about loosing your lunch.
You can also grab a free booklet listing vegetarian and vegan dining establishments throughout the US, which isn't a bad thing at all. There's just one thing that seems a little extra fishy. Who the hell is Supreme Master Ching Hai?
Every document besides the menu has her name printed somewhere on its pages. If you dig a little deeper, you'll find a booklet entitled, The Key of Immediate Enlightenment, with said "Master's" face peering up from its cover.
As it turns out, the self-titled "Master" Ching Hai
is an international spiritual leader and entrepreneur who claims to be the reincarnation of Buddha. If that doesn't impress you, then grab another pamphlet showing how many politicians and celebrities she has been photographed with, and maybe that will.
To give the Loving Hut credit where it's deserved, the employees don't force their ideals upon you or berate you on the negative effects of meat consumption (like the owner of The Wheel of Life has been known to do). The food is also scrumptious, and that's what matters most, right?
Just look at the picture above. The caramel-colored glaze on the soy-protein "chicken" of the Hainam grilled rice is just as delicious as it looks. Simultaneously crisp and moist, the chicken gives a pleasant crunch when you bite into it and has absolutely no trace of stringiness that tends to be present in lower quality soy proteins. The savory seasoning penetrates the chicken making the ginger sauce that comes on the side completely optional. The rice is also amazing. It is slightly sticky and seemingly grilled in a bowl, which leaves it with a slightly chewy texture and smokey flavor. Don't be distracted by the default choice of lemon grass chicken. Give this dish a shot and you won't be sorry. At $6.75 it's also a heck of a deal.
Golden Noodle Soup
If you're feeling for something soupy, the golden noodle is a decent choice. The dish is subtly seasoned and filled to capacity with egg-free golden noodles and fresh veggies. The flavor caters more toward sensitive palates, so if you're looking for an explosion of spices you had best choose another soup. On the plus side, the golden noodle is easy on the stomach and packs on those vitamins with heaping helpings of broccoli, bok choy, carrots and cabbage. A small costs $5.50 and if you ask you can get a couple wontons thrown in there on the house!
For an appetizer or snack, the golden nuggets are absolutely wonderful. $5.50 buys you a basket of battered and seasoned-soy protein, deep fried to a delightful crunch. The dipping sauce is house made and unbelievably rich for a product that doesn't contain eggs or dairy. The base is comprised of soy milk, sugar, oil and vinegar, whipped and then seasoned according to whatever the chef fancies. This particular sauce contains mustard and is fit for a basket of belgian fries.
Chocolate Banana and Coconut Cake
To pack it all down, go for a slice of their delicious chocolate banana coconut cake. For $3.50 you get a sizable slice of moist and fluffy goodness. All pastries are baked in-house and daily and come in varieties such as the above, carrot cake, cheese cake, german chocolate cake and the more exotic pandan leaf cake. This monster of a desert defies all vegan stereotypes and automatically comes boxed to-go for a quick exit if you find yourself too stuffed to conquer the cake.
In conclusion, if you're into great food at affordable prices, The Loving Hut is well worth a shot. Just don't bring along any skeptical omnivores, especially if they spook when exposed to fringe religions or ideological assertion.
The Loving Hut
237 S. Tustin St.
Orange, CA 92888
Mon-Sat: 10 a.m - 8 p.m.