When the evening started out one rainy night a couple of weeks ago I had big plans to try a new vegan restaurant in downtown Palo Alto. Named Loving Hut, it is like many of the other vegan restaurants around the Bay Area: fairly low key, and very focused on Asian-style cuisine with faux meat readily available. The S.O. and I were meeting another couple who had agreed to drive all the way down from San Francisco in the rain to eat vegan food with me. I was pretty excited.
You can imagine my shock and dismay when a little hand-written sign in the window told me that Loving Hut had decided to close early that day. This on a Saturday night!
My friends were already waiting at the bar in Lavanda Restaurant on the corner of university and Emerson, a half block from Loving Hut.
Feeling a bit put out and not a lot like walking around in the rain I asked the hostess at Lavanda if they could accommodate a vegan. Two minutes with the chef, and she was back...of course they could take care of me. And she said the absolute magic words: he can make a vegan version of the risotto.
So, instead of a quick bite in more of a lunch deli type environment, we sat down for a lovely dinner in a much more genteel environment.
Soon I was happily imbibing a nice Syrah and chowing down on an Heirloom Beet Salad (sans Goat Cheese on my case). One of my dining companions ordered the Persimmon Salad, so I got my first bite ever of that fruit. It was very tasty...not so different from the beets, actually. Good enough that I'm inspired to find some persimmons to try to cook with myself.
My salad was followed by the promised Risotto, in this case a Butternut Squash Risotto, which was a new one on me. Whereas I remember typical risottos to be fairly heavy (due, no doubt, to copious amounts of butter and cream), vegan risottos are usually just as savory but half as heavy. This was no exception, and the bright orange color of the diced squash also brightened up the visual presentation in a way that risotto usually doesn't have. I confess to eating every bite, yet not feeling regretful 20 minutes later, only deeply satisfied.
Finally, Lavanda does include vegan sorbets on their dessert menu, so I was even able to close out the meal with a sweet nothing.
Lavanda proves the point: Ask and ye shall receive. A really fine restaurant does not mind going off menu to satisfy a customer. That is my story, and I'm sticking to it!