Life on the Veg: Au Lac Vegetarian Restaurant in Fountain Valley

It's unfortunate, but after a few years spent living up in Berkeley I can safely say that, here in SoCal, most restaurateurs treat veganism as more of a novelty than a lifestyle. From the premium pricing of upscale establishments such as Costa Mesa's 118 Degrees to being pierced by the gazes of a thousand headband-wearing hipsters, there always seems to be a catch to dining out.

Thankfully, Au Lac Vegetarian Restaurant in Fountain Valley, which has been dishing out delectable vegan cuisine for more than 13 years, would never dream of faking the funk. A place where you can witness the phenomenon of yuppie and hippie dining side-by-side, Au Lac offers a laid-back atmosphere and an entire second menu dedicated to raw food, making this place is a genuine wonderland for herbivores and health enthusiasts alike.


Unlike the played-out repertoire of kelp salads and bean burgers, Au Lac's pan-Asian menu offers a variety of wholesome options bursting with exotic ingredients and mouthwatering flavor. The hot and sour soup is a perfect example of this, a sumptuous blend of young bamboo shoots, carrot slivers, mushrooms and silken tofu suspended in a thick, savory broth.

At $9, this dish comes out piping hot and seasoned with absolute perfection. When combined with brown rice, there is no need to add or subtract any salt (which might explain the absence of the condiment on your table). Slightly sour with just enough spice to tickle your inner ears, the hot and sour soup is an excellent appetizer to ward off the winter chill.

Steamed in garlic sauce and then pan-seared in spices for a flavor that permeates to the core of each bite, the lemongrass “chicken” is tasty enough to satisfy even an omnivore's pallet. Slightly sweet and cooked with just the right amount of chile, this dish resembles real chicken in looks and flavor, but proudly expresses its alternative nature with the use of quotation marks around the word “chicken.” Served on a bed of lettuce, each nugget has a tender texture that is firm enough to give the feeling that you are chewing something of substance without feeling rubbery. Priced at $10, the lemongrass “chicken” happily fills a single ravenous person, or splits neatly between two for a sizable appetizer.

There are many other wondrous dishes to be had at Au Lac, including a full bar of healthy smoothies and juice infusions, so expect to visit multiple times in order to grasp the full scope of this hidden gem's awesome menu. Bring the family and dig in!

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