Sunday, June 06, 2010

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.

Loving Hut
237 S. Tustin St. # A
Orange, CA‎
(714) 464-0544‎

JuJu Pocha - Irvine


At 8:08 AM, Blogger christoofat said...

...crickets chirping.... lol

At 8:34 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...

HAH! So true! For my next magic trick, I will get all my readers to disappear! Tada!

...more crickets...

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Melissa said...


Well, I'll chime in, dammit, considering I'm, um, familiar with the food. 'Twas good. Very good! Though they really should have put some damn basil in the eggplant/tofu dish.

Oh, and I too was fascinated by the "fish sauce." It really stuck with me. So tasty and yes, quite the mystery.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger DanGarion said...

We live down the street from the Orange Loving Hut, only been there once but really liked it. We need to try it again soon. So you didn't see the video propaganda? Was the television not on?

At 10:26 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yeah, um, you had something to do with that eggplant tofu dish being at our table. Actually if you didn't order it, I would have.

It was a great dish, but you're right: some basil would've made it killer!


I think if I ever want to do vegan again, this will be the place. And yes, the TV was turned off. I'm kinda relieved actually. Joan, who took Melissa and I here, described it as bizarre. Perhaps if I'm feeling really adventurous, I'll ask them to turn it on next time. Joan mentioned there were horses?

At 6:09 PM, Blogger EatTravelEat said...

I love Vegan restaurants! But sometimes I just wonder if the stuff they used to "surprise" you is awkward stuff that you would typically not want in food!

This place looks like one of the nices Vegan restaurants I have seen so far.

At 7:58 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


"...sometimes I just wonder if the stuff they used to "surprise" you is awkward stuff that you would typically not want in food!

Makes me wonder too. But I console myself in thinking that it can't be any worse than in a Hot Pocket.

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Mary said...

Wow, those really look like shrimp. Amazing. I think I'll still stick with real shrimp though, since it's so delicious to my tastebuds.

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My aunt and uncle run a vegan restaurant! Please try it out one day! It's called Bodhi Tree, it's in Huntington Beach, and it's on Main Street. :]

At 4:29 PM, Blogger Juliet said...

Sorry I haven't been by in awhile. I've been really bad about blogging - or commenting in blogs - for awhile now.
But I have plenty of time now. I'm in the hospital on bed rest. My water broke early last week, at 30.5 weeks. I'm 31.6 now, the same point at which Xander was born. let's hope Aria stays put for a couple more weeks.

Anyway, that food looks amazing! WIs I could have some right now!

At 5:27 PM, Anonymous John Olsen said...

ha! Love the comment about paste and robots. Always find your blog entertaining and informative.

At 7:04 PM, Blogger Exile Kiss said...

Hi elmomonster,

Thanks for the review. I'm glad that you took the time to review a Vegan eatery (and one that actually tastes good). :) I can't wait to try it.

If you want to see more "magic" of Vegan cooking, the next time you're in LA, definitely give Rahel Ethiopian Restaurant a try, and Shojin, a Macrobiotic Vegan Japanese eatery. Both are delicious (and I have pics and the address on my site if you want). Enjoy~ :)

At 8:28 AM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Yep. They're quite delicious. The seasoning was spot on, but I'm a shrimp snob (I can't stand overcooked shrimp) so they won't take the place of shrimp, ever, for me...but I'll eat them again with no qualms, so long as I know.


I've heard of it! Yes, I must try it one of these days for sure. Thanks for the comment.


Ah there you are! Actually, I've been monitoring your progress on Facebook (I don't post on there because I'm a bit paranoid with it), and I hope you and Aria the best. There will be plenty of food for you when you and your new daughter come home. Rest well, my friend.


Thanks for the comment! I was kind of proud of that myself.

Exile Kiss,

That sounds really awesome. Thanks for tips, as always. I can't get my head around macrobiotic Japanese. That sounds kind of trippy, in a good way.

At 12:02 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hi elmomonster, I myself am a vegan and was looking for a way to contact you, but could not find an email address. My girlfriend and I run a new vegan food truck called Seabirds and we would love for you to come check out the food. We promise, no processed meats.

At 3:39 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Thanks for leaving me a note! I'm looking forward to trying your food. Of course, you won't know it's me.

At 9:09 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Hey, if you go to that vegan food truck, you had better bring me along!

At 4:05 PM, Blogger elmomonster said...


Oh totally! We should hit this thing together with Melissa!

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Lea @ Healthy Coconut said...

I ate at Loving Hut restaurant in San Francisco but I only tried their dessert because we were just passing by during our stroll. Thanks for this review, I will go and check them out and see for myself.


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