This week, Jonathan Gold reviews Erven, chef Nick Erven’s eponymous vegan restaurant in Santa Monica. You may remember Erven from his time at the helm of beloved Koreatown restaurant Saint Martha (may it RIP). Fans of the strip mall gem can still find the popular seaweed "Doritos" with avocado and togarashi at the new restaurant, which leads the Goldster to explain that Erven wasn’t "the last chef you might have expected to run a vegan restaurant [...] but it is not where I thought his future might lie."
Be that as it may, the chef has come up with a menu of new and old favorites:
If you remember his dish of mixed cabbages in yeast broth at Saint Martha, you’ll find something like it here, enhanced with mushrooms and twisty strands of pasta. If you would rather be eating a burger, the slab of beer-battered tofu on a bun with pickles and slaw has almost all the sensations of a drippy hamburger — the sour punch, the toasty bun, and a meatiness lent by the spicy Mexican sauce manchamantel — a vegan "burger" without a hint of fake meat or animal-free cheese. [LAT]
Ultimately, J. Gold concludes with high praise for the restaurant:
Could Erven be the best vegan restaurant in Los Angeles? It’s certainly the best one that I’ve been to; clever, complex cooking that lets vegetables taste like themselves instead of analogues to forbidden products – it’s about what Mr. Erven puts in, not about what he leaves out. [LAT]
But you may want to skip dessert:
But I remain skeptical of his desserts – bean-soaking liquid is less subtle than egg whites, no matter how skillfully you whip them into a meringue, and deep-fried chocolate pudding is not a doughnut, no matter how much it may look like one. [LAT]