6 months, 5 recommendations and a short internet crawl later, I walked in to Real Food Daily on La Cienega Boulevard with my friend “J”. There’s a lot of hype surrounding this place. No matter how hard I try to convince myself & everyone around me that *I* am the most famous person in any restaurant at any given time, I can’t mask the fact that this place is frequented by actual famous people. Celebrities are photographed going in and out of RFD, and patrons travel from miles around to visit this vegan extravaganza.
I’d like to bet that if I took a poll of the 40 people there in that dining room today, there were probably only 5 real vegans among us. Using “trendiness” as the basis of this conclusion, I get the feeling that this is a haven for faux vegans who like to talk loudly about eating vegan food, about wishing they were vegetarian, or telling stories about tofu. But, what do real vegans think of the food?? If you’re a vegan who’s been to RFD, please PLEASE leave your thoughts on this in the comment box.
As a “real” vegan, I thought the menu
was not as exciting as I had expected. I was starving
when I arrived. Now that usually means that I make a very quick decision about what to order, my choice based on which words make my stomach audibly growl, but not today. I had real trouble deciding what to order. Burger? Pizza? Wrap? Tacos? I had a difficult time deciding, but the soup special sounds good. Yeah, bring me some potato leek soup – that’s always a good one.
And it was good, but a little salty and kind of thin. A big pet peeve of mine is rosemary chopped too rough… So although the flavor was acceptable, I couldn’t get past the rosemary getting stuck in my teeth, and therefore could not finish my small bowl. A glass of ice açai berry tea was a fantastic compliment to the savory soup.
I still was having a difficult time deciding on what to order for my meal, though. Nothing was jumping out at me, and it seemed like there was nothing on the menu that I couldn’t recreate at home. I don’t normally say that about vegan food when I’m out to eat, but how hard is it to make a tempeh sandwich? Or throw together a vegetable wrap? Hm… I like to be wowed when I’m out – give me something creative! Something new! Something memorable that makes me scream your name from the mountain-tops!
So I decided to try the special:
Satisfy My Soul Spicy jamaican seitan and spinach stuffed pockets, sofrito, coconut red beans and rice, kiwi papaya salsa, pan-seared plantains
I don’t normally go for seitan, but if given a compelling reason to eat it (like the promise of it being “spicy Jamaican”) I will. My plate arrived and I was actually excited to cut into the beautiful little pockets, topped with a proper dollop of the kiwi-papaya salsa. The coconut red beans & rice were topped with a bit of sauteed spinach and three pan-seared plantains.
Where to begin… let’s start with the easiest part: the plantains. Um… yeah… If these chiquitas were actual plantains, then I’ll be a monkey’s uncle. These were so bad it almost made me cry right there at the table. Pan-seared plantains should be simple – hit them with some hot oil and sear them. A little salt, and BAM! Yummy-goodness. But no. The best way I can describe these 3 pathetic logs is “banana jerky”. I ate 3 small bites from one of them, but the other two were pushed aside with the decorative stalk of cilantro draped over them like a flag over a funeral casket. I mourn for my lost plantains…
The pockets weren’t bad. They weren’t great, but they certainly weren’t offensive. They, too, were also very dry. That “proper dollop” of salsa I was initially excited about, turned out to be woefully inadequate. The pastry itself was tough, perhaps over cooked or the dough was over-worked, but the stuffing was insufficient to overshadow this deficiency. The “spicy jamaican” seitan was not spicy at all, it just was kind of there, and forget the spinach! In fact, at this point, I’m not really sure at all what was inside those pockets. And now… thinking back on this meal, I’m beginning to wonder if they even made these pockets on site.
I was very disappointed in my meal, but I wasn’t paying so I ate as much as I could. I did tell “J” each of my complaints, and she seemed understanding. “J” writes this review of her Mexico City Tacos:
While my tacos were pleasant, I too was longing for Hugo’s. The sauce on top was like vegan cheese whiz. I wish they could have just put a nice fresh salsa or spicy red sauce there.
We were offered a dessert menu
and of course, two women cannot pass up the opportunity to “just look”, appearing as if we’re toiling over the decision to infuse our bodies with pure sugar & fat, but knowing full well that we would eat one of every item on the menu if there were no consequences! We ordered lattes and shared a slice of the coconut cream tart. I can’t speak for “J”, but if I were ever on death row and told I could choose my method of execution, I would choose to be smothered in this coconut cream tart. Very well done, RFD! Next time, it might be more fun to just go for lattes and desserts.
Real Food Daily… Hm… well, obviously they get 5 sprouts for being a 100% vegan establishment. But, it was a little bit of a disappointing first experience. The menu was not very creative, in fact smacked of the kinds of food that make people think vegan food is one note; things that you couldn’t possible eat every day much less thrive on.
RFD makes me think that perhaps the best vegan food is actually to be found in the mainstream restaurants I’ve been so keen to patronize for this blog, and not in a dedicated vegan restaurant. Because today, I was thinking fondly on Sensi and Hugo’s and Vibrato…
Real Food Daily:
414 N. La Cienega Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90048
514 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401
516 Santa Monica Blvd.
Next door the RFD-Samo