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Truly Vegan

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As a vegan, I enjoy and prefer making my own meals. I never have to worry about what someone is putting into my food, not to mention it’s easier, cheaper, and more interesting than dining out. But when 80% of my waking hours are spent outside my home, biking around the city, I need to have options. I can only fit so much fruit in my backpack. So, I’ve begun building a mental index of my favorite vegan restaurants. And this, my first “entry,” was discovered by accident.

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Truly a wonderful place
I was biking down Hollywood a few nights ago, hungry and tired. I had accepted the fact that I wasn’t going to get a meal until I got home. But when I stopped at Bronson for a red light, I looked up and found my savior. “Truly: A Vegan Restaurant.” I skipped my way through the front door, ready for a meal. The interior was small but welcoming. Eight tables hugged the plain walls while Britney Spears played over the sound system. How romantic. Two smiling staff waited, ready to seat me. Scanning the interior, I discovered a whiteboard with the specials of the day scribbled on it in blue marker. That night, the board featured breakfast and dessert plates. My tired eyes ran across the words “blueberry and banana pancakes” and I was set. Deciding to damn the laws of breakfast, I promptly ordered my pancake dinner ($6.25) and sat down with a menu. I figured I still needed to get a drink and some real food instead of just sweets (damn you, mother.) Feeling parched, I ordered a whole coconut filled with palm juice ($3.) And for my real food: the Thai beef seitan with brown rice and steamed vegetables ($8.) To top everything off I got some fried bananas ($3) for dessert. Sometimes you just have to let yourself go. And when the occasion presents itself: go bananas.

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My helpful, smiling staff

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Specials
All my food arrived at once. I immediately dove for the palm juice. It was served in a Thai-coconut-turned-cup with the top cut off. The juice was delightfully refreshing: slightly sweet while still retaining the taste of the palm blossom from which it was derived. I downed it quickly. My server also included a spoon with the drink, and I promptly began using it to peel out the tender white flesh from the inside of the coconut. The coconut meat wasn’t dry or waxy, like one may find in baked items or candy bars. Rather, it was tender and easy to eat. Imagine fruit leather, but not quite as dry and tough. It was truly wonderful.

Turning to the pancakes, as my sugar rush was still not satisfied, I was wonderfully surprised to see slices of banana looking back at me from inside the golden-brown discs. The order included two cakes, each the size of the plate. Going at them without syrup in order to taste the natural flavors of the ingredients, I was not disappointed. In my experience with making vegan pancakes at home, the actual batter is hard to perfect. Getting it to hold together after cooking is a challenge worthy of the mightiest opponent. But this place truly got it right. It was a light fluffy cake with plenty of sponginess. The bananas were delightful as well: thick-cut and flavorful. The blueberries exploded in my mouth with a warm sourness that contrasted well with bananas. I gobbled down the second pancake with syrup in tow.

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Blueberry and banana pancakes
Finally, I reached the actual “entrée” of my meal. I had never eaten seitan before, and this dish truly was a wonderful introduction. The flavorful tofu had a unique taste to it, but was not overwhelmed with salt as I had expected. It was slightly sweet in flavor with a peppery undertone. The brown rice, broccoli, and cauliflower that came along with the dish were also fresh and well prepared. And when I poured the white mystery sauce (which I later learned was named “tahini”) over everything, there was a party in my mouth: a flavor party. And everyone was invited.

Not thinking I could fill my stomach with another bite, I spied my fried bananas at the other end of the table. At least, I assumed they were the fried bananas. They looked like spring rolls. “Spring rolls? I didn’t order this!” I thought. “My meal is ruined!” But oh how naïve I was. Picking up a roll from the plate, I noticed they were resting in a small pool of warm, sweet syrup. Interesting. Taking a bike, I found clarity. Inside was generously ripened, piping hot banana married with coconut shavings. Perfect; truly perfect. What a wonderful way to end my meal: bananas and a surprise. I downed the three rolls so fast I burned the roof of my mouth. But I didn’t care: I was in heaven by that point. Tasty, reasonably priced, vegan heaven.

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"Fried banana"
Truly: A Vegan Restaurant
5907 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028
Phone: 323-466-7533
FAX: 323-466-7958
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 11:00 1.m. to 11:00 p.m.

All photos by Max Schneller for LAist.