Prior to revisiting any city, I conduct a thorough search of vegan options with the purpose of identifying new restaurants that may have opened since I had last visited. This certainly was not my first visit to LA, but it is the first time I noticed an unusually named restaurant come up on the list of vegan restaurants -- The Gadarene Swine.
Why would a vegan restaurant have the word "swine" in it? I first figured it wasn't really vegan, but upon further research I found that it was mostly vegan with the occasional use of honey. So why the name? It's apparently not well described and the word "gadarene" refers to the many demons in the Gadarene men. Jesus transfers the demons into a herd of swine who then rush to the sea en masse and drown themselves. So one has to wonder how this applies to a vegan restaurant. Well, the menu indicates that the biblical tale inspired a philosophical conceit called the Gadarene Swine Fallacy saying the fallacy is the belief that, “because a group is in the right formation, it is necessarily on the right course; and conversely, of supposing that because an individual has strayed from the group and isn’t in formation, that he is off course.." If you are still confused, so am I, but please leave your philosophical interpretations in the comments below. I might interpret that to mean that just because you are an omnivore does not mean that you can not enjoy the bounty of vegetables in their purest form as the chef, Phillip Frankland Lee, is also an omnivore, but appreciates vegan cuisine so much that he has dedicated an entire restaurant to it.
The restaurant is beautiful. From the outside, it reminds me of a French chateau with its brick facade, scripted font, and outside wine garden. On the inside, it is quaint and elegant with its rustic wood tables, tree-inspired plates, and unusual artistic elements such as the rope in the box above the semi-open kitchen. It is dimly lit and perfect for a romantic evening for two. We were dining on a Sunday night at 8:30 p.m. We started with a Rosato rose sparkling wine -- quite refreshing.
Our server was pleasant and recommended we go with one of the many tasting options from which you could choose seven, nine, or 12 courses. We went with the seven-course meal. We also ordered two cocktails of which the Bangkok Dangerous was my fave. The Bangkok Dangerous made with nigori (sake), pinapple, ginger, and turmeric had a really nice spicy kick to it that was somewhat dampened by the fruit. The Hibiscus cooler made with junmai (sake), hibiscus, and lime was light, but tasted like it was missing something.
The amuse bouche consisted of Roasted Garlic and Fresh Thyme popcorn with a light dusting of sea salt. So much flavor and so little time. Lemon and Pistachio Kale Chips were also served. I felt like some of these needed more of a coating of the lemon marinade.
The first course was the Fried Olive Stuffed Olive. An interesting dish, they take Calastrano olives and stuff them with a Kalamata and sweet potato puree, then deep fry them with a lime vinaigrette. The flavors were unexpected and bold.
The second course was the Hummus made with garlic oil served with purple potatoes and tomatoes and topped with pistachios and seaweed. The tomatoes added a nice sweetness while the pistachios added crunch to a spectacular hummus dish.
The intermezzo was eggplant three ways. Over a dehydrated slice of eggplant was chopped eggplant with red onions and pickled pomegranate topped with pickled eggplant. What a delightful bite!
The third course was a shaved heirloom carrot salad infused with nutmeg
and cinnamon with sweet potato curls on the side. The emulsion of
pineapple, ginger, and fennel really made the dish for us.
The fourth course was the Strawberry Salad or strawberry tacos as the server liked to call it. This complicated compilation featured Grenada and champagne, cucumbers, white onions, and thinly sliced apples with arugula and pickled onions. Sweet and satisfying.
The fifth course was one of our favorites. The Blackened Cauliflower dish was made with lots of blackened cauliflower and romanesco with pureed white cauliflower with garlic oil, chopped chives and Thai basil. It was so damn good. The pieces sticking up are crispy slices of broccoli stalks.
The sixth course was another favorite. Maitake and shimeji mushrooms with cayenne in portobello puree with rosemary, and sweet potato chips. This dish was complexly satisfying.
The final course was a coconut pudding with maple brown sugar, streusel, and Thai basil. Very filling!
For just $50, this tasting menu was a steal. Since we shared every dish, the portions were quite light, but the pudding at the end really filled us up. The service was good, but a bit too fast. They had called us beforehand asking if we could come earlier and it was clear they wanted to go home by the time we were done. We felt the dishes arrived too quickly generally. But despite that, we felt our server was very knowledgeable about the dishes and was quite attentive and the food was spectacular. This is one of my new favorites in LA! Oh, and I've heard this chef is currently competing on Top Chef so you can watch him there as well.
The Gadarene Swine
11266 Ventura Boulevard
Studio City, CA 91804