I have an unfairly personal bias towards Vinh Loi Tofu since I’ve known about it for years, and come multiple times a month. While I said so in my last favorites video, I have to glorify the restaurant even further! If you haven’t heard of it yet–which is a shocker–Vinh Loi is a vegan Vietnamese restaurant run by Kevin Tran, better known as the Iron Monk, who is also a devoted triathlete. How crazy is that?? A brief history lesson before the review: before Vinh Loi was born, several restaurants–Chinese, Vietnamese and Filipino–barely survived business, and Vinh Loi, which is Vietnamese and vegan, two types of cuisine that weren’t extremely well-known at the time, didn’t seem promising. But clearly, those who thought that were so proven wrong. This time I celebrated on a Thursday evening with my good friend Jessica, aka the Lexicon Lecturer, who also did a blog post about this fabulous visit! If you love books, cooking and sewing, check out her blog here!: https://lexiconlecturer.wordpress.com/ (And bonus: we’re both going veg in college and have a knack for mock meats that taste like the real deals!)
The restaurant sits in a small area in Sherman Way, not exactly tucked in a corner, with a large “Vinh Loi Tofu” sign emphasizing tofu in capitalized red letters. I’ll admit, it doesn’t look fancy-schmancy like how I typically like restaurants, but don’t underestimate this powerhouse. It’s not raved about on L.A. Times, Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. Weekly and ranks #67 on Yelp’s Top 100 for nothing. This tofu factory is the real deal.
Once I stepped inside, I almost felt like I arrived at a second home. The ambiance is lively but not overwhelmingly obnoxious. I got so caught up in the beautiful medals and pictures that I forgot a table for Jess and I was available for us! We sat down and immediately got menus, utensils and extra bowls and plates for the feast.
Though we discussed what we wanted to eat beforehand, our friendly waiter tantalized us with recommendations. Instead of the vimal soup and shiitake mushroom fried rice, we decided to be surprised with whatever was on the secret menu. Wait a minute–there’s a secret menu?? :O Literally 10 minutes later or so, we were greeted with an array of delicious fried tofu and vegan fish!
The vegan fish was so tender and flavorful! I do wish we got the eight ounce size so I could devour some more. The fried tofu was also incredible, but do add soy sauce or Sriracha for more distinction of taste. But wait, here comes the secret items! Some delicious mystery fried rice and noodle soup! The delicacies are too incredible for words, but let’s break it down by entree
First, a moment to drool at this deliciousness. Beautiful, right? I’m not one for rice as a main dish, but it’s been ages since I’ve enjoyed my last bowl of fried rice as a kid. I needed the rebirth of this memory. While I do wish the rice was a bit more crispy, the flavors were extremely well-balanced. And let’s not forget the faux beef slices smothered in teriyaki. If I could eat these all the time, I’d be in heaven.
This hearty rice dish was watered down with the surprise soup. I cannot get over how flavorful the broth was! We ordered medium, and for Jess it was too spicy but perfectly fine for my chili tolerance. If you want to be safe, you can order mild and then douse in as much Sriracha as you want when it arrives to the table. I didn’t have any of the noodles but devoured every piece of broccoli and seitan beef I could get my hands on before Jess, which was practically all of them. I wish the soup wasn’t served with the noodles, otherwise it was the best dish of the night, IMO.
We didn’t order any dessert because we were perfect satiated with our feast. I won’t say it again, because you already know I’d recommend this place to anyone. Though I’ve been here several times it’s my first visit eating from the secret menu! Maybe try to order the least popular items to the friendly servers, and then wait until they recommend the surprises! The restaurant appears modest, but it’s got so much to offer that carnivores come back hungry for more. Oh yeah, and there’s no GMOs, no MSG, and no processed shiz used in the process. That’s unbelievable. To find more information, check Vinh Loi’s website where you can find the menu, raves and a complete biography of the Iron Monk here! You will definitely thank me for recommending this place. Oh, and you bet I had leftovers.