I just finished eating one of the finest vegan meals of my life at Madeleine Bistro in Tarzana (of all places). While there are many delicious animal-friendly restaurants, there haven’t been any on par with Manhattan’s many fine veg restaurants, or even San Francisco’s Millennium. I haven’t been to many of those, since I’m not that well-traveled or well-heeled, but I certainly have rued that L.A. was lacking in an establishment that could at least be the peer of those restaurants.
Proprietors David and Molly Anderson opened the Bistro with an eye toward letting the ingredients dictate the menu, rather than getting locked into some sort of box. David’s experience as an executive chef at Real Food Daily has clearly served him well (you have taste what he can do with seitan), but being out on his own has allowed him to draw on influences like Wolfgang Puck, whose various restaurants serve disparate cuisine unified by adventure, quality, and attention to detail, and have been host to many a fine chef. This is the start of what I hope will become a trend in L.A., particularly as veganism finds its way out of its niche.
It’s nice to finally have an animal-friendly restaurant of this ilk in L.A. For those that can afford its relatively high (but by no means Juliano-style outrageous) prices, it is well worth the trek to find this nearly invisible restaurant on Ventura Blvd. The tacky neon strips seem a holdover from a previous tenant, and many of them don’t work. They certainly do not hint at the warm, tasteful, but not ostentatious interior makeover you’ll find after parking on the street nearby and heading in. No valet parking – at least, not yet – saves you about $5 over dining out for a similarly upscale experience, which is good news for my humble means. I found a spot on the street right out front, and used the valet money at dessert time to splurge on cannoli, which I haven’t had since well before going vegan over five years ago. The cannoli was served with a sprinkling of berries, which were organic, as is I believe everything they serve, making their prices seem all the more reasonable.
While I had a $2 green tea, a variety of wines were also available by the glass from around $8. Two entrees – including their most expensive, a $16 portobella mushroom filet mignon – along with two teas and the cannoli ran only $42. While this firmly establishes Madeleine Bistro as a special occasion restaurant on my budget, it easily supplants all my previous choices for anniversaries and the like, and makes me excited about dining out at a vegan restaurant again.
And don’t get the idea that this place is posh or pretentious. David and Molly are as nice and personal as can be, and the overall dining experience tonight was made very comfortable by their presence in the dining room. Our server, Hop, was attentive and helpful, certainly a far cry from the burn ’em and turn ’em atmosphere of RFD. Hop, if I remember correctly, was vegetarian 20 years, and has been vegan for 6, so it’s nice to have him there to attend the needs of guests, especially people who might be less familiar with vegan cuisine and what veganism is all about. For us vegans, it’s nice to go to a restaurant where the menu and the service is all oriented to your philosophy, and that is yet another great reason to pay a visit.
Organic Vegan Cuisine
18621 Ventura Blvd.
Tarzana, CA 91356
(Exit 101 at Reseda and turn West on Ventura, N. side of street)
Hours of Operation:
Tuesday through Thursday: 5:30pm – 9:30pm
Friday and Saturday: 5:30pm – 10:00pm
Tuesday through Friday: 11:30m – 2:30pm
Sunday Brunch: (beginning Sunday, June 12th)
Sunday: 10:00am – 3:00pm