Loving Hut - Orange
I like vegan restaurants like I like magic shows. They entertain me in the same way: wonderment through trickery. Even though I know I'm being fooled, in the end, I'm happy to be left scratching my head and asking "How'd they do that?"
Take for example the chicken in Loving Hut's orange chicken, though it squeaked, it chewed and tasted like chicken. I knew it wasn't chicken, but gosh darn it, how did they make it so uncanny. It tasted more like chicken than other things that are supposed to be chicken (ahem, McNuggets).
But it is also because of this that being a vegan chef is actually easier these days than being a magician. Think about it: Movie special effects, Penn and Teller, and that masked guy who gave away all the secrets have left audiences jaded and expecting more from their illusionists. Poor David Blaine's resorted to sitting atop lightpoles and such to get attention.
Vegan chefs, on the other hand, just have to do a little better than the lowest common denominator of processed foods and things that masquerade as meat.
For instance, have you tried real maple syrup after you grew up with Aunt Jemima? It's the maple syrup that tastes fake. That's the world we live in.
I think that if we continue on the path that we're on, someday, when we're forced into eating paste pushed out of a tube by our robot masters, we won't know any better.
That's not to say Loving Hut folks don't strive to overachieve with their cuisine. This worldwide vegan chain seems to be hellbent on turning us into happy non-meaters. And yes, they're doing it with more than a little bit of culinary alakazams and abracadabras (not to mention some purported video propaganda that I've yet to see.)
The sauce lubricating the tofu and eggplant stir fry tastes like oyster sauce, but has no oysters. The nuoc cham dip for the deep fried egg rolls made my head spin. How did they make fish sauce that smacks of fish without fish? Magic, that's what.
Their deep fried shrimp is sort of close to the real thing (complete with shrimp stripes), but its the diversionary tactics that make the dish. The breading, the salt and pepper, and the bright mix of onions coalesce to become a vegan dish that exceeds the sum of its (non-animal) parts.
But perhaps the most daring trick Loving Hut's managed to pull off is the pricing. It is, quite possibly, the cheapest vegan food joint in O.C. The entire meal pictured totalled about thirty dollars and sated me and my normally carnivorous dining companions.
Tada! Flash! Bang! Curtains down! Thank you, I'm here all week. Try the veal...or not.
237 S. Tustin St. # A
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