Ichimiann Bamboo Garden

Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
Sitting in part of an unassuming building next to a Foster’s Freeze was the most delicious bowl of soba I have ever had in my life. It may be a hyperbole, but the soba I had at Ichimiann Bamboo garden was life changing soba; I will never look at these buckwheat noodles the same ever again.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
The restaurant is very small with only a handful of 4-seat tables inside and two tables outside. There’s also a counter that faces the wall which was where I chose to sit.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
Upon entering, I was greeted by a friendly Japanese man. His English was as good as my Japanese, so we had a bit of trouble communicating. Luckily, there’s a menu with pictures on the back wall as well as a place-mat type menu in English by the cashier machine.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
I ordered the mentaiko orochi with cold thin soba noodles. It came with grated radish, mentaiko (spicy fish roe), seaweed, green onions, and the cold dipping broth already mixed in with the noodles. I mixed all the toppings together with the noodle, took a bite and it was like Orff’s O Fortuna exploded in my mouth.
Ichimiann Bamboo Garden
I’ve always been a fan of soba, but this was unlike any soba I’ve had before. The noodles were crisp and chewy without feeling underdone. I thought the broth was too salty at first, but as I ate more of the noodles, I appreciated the taste more. The radish and green onions brought a fresh, spicy bite to the broth while the mentaiko gave it a subtle umami taste. The small dish of pickles on the side was overkill, but I couldn’t stop eating them.

I couldn’t stop thinking about the noodles after lunch. Ichimiann also offers thick soba, udon, and different types of rice bowls, but I will definitely be back for more soba noodles. If you really want to appreciate the chewiness of the fresh noodles, I would suggest ordering the cold broth instead of the hot, since hot broth might negate the perfect done-ness of the noodles.

The bowl of noodles is definitely worth battling the 405 around LAX during lunch time and the price is just right too. The mentaiko orochi only cost me $6.50 (including tax, sans tip). The only inconvenience is that they’re cash only, but there’s a Well’s Fargo on the other side of the block.



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1618 Cravens Ave.
Torrance, CA 90510
(310) 328-1323
http://www.ichimiann.com

Vin Loi Tofu

Vin Loi Tofu sells a lot more than just plain old tofu. The small humble-looking restaurant has some of the best veggie pho I’ve ever had and that’s saying a lot coming from someone who grew up on the pho in the SGV.
Vin Loi Tofu
On the counter were some of these strange looking dumplings wrapped in plastic. When I asked Kevin, the owner, what they were, he was enthusiastic about them and suggested we try them after he warmed some up in the microwave. They seem to be mock-meat dumplings wrapped with tapioca-starch wrappers. The wrappers made them extremely sticky and they tended to stick to each other, but they were pretty good. It even came with vegetarian ngoc mam (fish sauce) which was a pretty good imitation of the real stuff.
Vin Loi Tofu
The BF ordered their House Special Noodles, which comes with round rice noodles and an assortment of fake meat. He ordered it spicy, but the broth didn’t seem that spicy to me. The main complaint I have about a lot of vegetarian pho-style soups is that they’re too sweet. Vin Loi Tofu’s is sweet, but there’s also enough other spices in the broth to keep me happy.
Vin Loi Tofu
I ordered the House Special Seafood soup and asked for it to be spicy. Some how, my spicy soup was a lot spicier than the boyfriend’s spicy soup, but I wasn’t complaining. Despite it being over 95 degrees outside, drinking hot spicy soup felt good. My noodles were the typical flat rice noodles that you get with Pho and the mock meats in my broth included shrimp, fish cakes, and some other unidentifiable soy meat.

The noodle soups at Vin Loi Tofu will never be as good as the pho at places like Golden Deli or Pho 79, but the soups definitely have the best vegan broth I’ve tasted out of all the other vegan/vegetarian pho places around. And their soymilk and tofu aren’t too shabby either. It’s just a shame that they’re all the way in Reseda and not closer to where I live.

The only caveat is that their mock meats may not be entirely vegan. According to the BF, there may be whey in some of the meats and while the owner doesn’t make all of them, he doesn’t seem to give a concrete answer about their ingredients.

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Vin Loi Tofu
18625 Sherman Way
Reseda, CA 91335
(818) 996-9779

Brunch @ Vault Cafe (Berkeley)

Brunch @ The VaultFinding a good place to have brunch on a Sunday is always difficult because ideally I like a place that’s both delicious and not-crowded. No one wants to wait half an hour to be seated when they’re hungry and cranky. Vault Cafe wasn’t that crowded and the food was not that bad. The service was a bit slow, but it’s probably because they only had a handful of waiters and a huge room full of tables to take care of.
Brunch @ The Vault
I ordered two eggs sunny-side up. The eggs were the perfect amount of runny and the hashbrowns were nice and crispy. I ordered them with their homemade sausage but the sausage didn’t taste all that different than store-bought sausage. I guess the texture was a little more grainy and “rustic” but if they hadn’t told me it was homemade, I wouldn’t have known.
Brunch @ The Vault
The BF ordered the tofu scramble. Other than being tofu and scrambled, it wasn’t too great. He also claims his hashbrowns were not as crispy because he ordered a vegan dish, but I doubt that’s true.

The best part of brunch was the fresh squeezed orange juice. The waitress warned us that it was pulpy and it definitely was pulpy. My straw could stand up on its own in the glass without leaning on anything. Despite the pulp, the juice was still refreshing.


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Vault Cafe
3250 Adeline St
Berkeley, CA 94703