Stop 1 in the Chinese Food Challenge was Happy Veggie located in Redondo Beach. Just a few yards away from Hermosa Beach, I would drive by this place for years but never made it in. So naturally this was my first choice for the challenge. I already knew that this was a vegetarian restaurant coming in but I didn’t know what else to expect.
The first thing I noticed upon walking in was how bright the restaurant was. Light brown furniture and a typical Asian decor of bamboo set the tone. A fairly small yet roomy dining area, it was a perfect spot for a casual lunch or dinner. I was immediately greeted and picked a seat of my choice.
The server gave me a water without question and handed me a menu. She didn’t introduce herself but was friendly. I saw many soy products on the menu. To be honest, I was expecting all veggie items and the thought of soy meat products didn’t even come to mind. I was actually trying to avoid eating soy meat due to a bad experience I had in college when I went vegetarian for Lent. At the same time, I know that I have a high metabolism & I would end up just as hungry as I was when I arrived if I ate nothing but veggies. So I ordered the Mongolian (soy) Beef off the lunch special menu which is served from 11am-3pm and comes with steamed rice and soup of the day.
Vegan Pumpkin Soup at Happy Veggie in Redondo Beach, CA
Up first shortly after the order was entered was some vegan pumpkin soup which I found to be a good balance between creamy and light. I could really taste the pumpkin that was accompanied by a very light kick from the pepper. The soup was of a good portion. Enough to whet my appetite but not too much to make me full. It was a soup that isn’t found in your typical Chinese restaurant which is what made it unique.
The server was proactive throughout the meal, giving me condiments of pepper & soy sauce before the meal arrived as well as refilling my water before I asked. The Mongolian Beef arrived as I was wrapping up the last few sips of my soup. The first thing that I noticed was how generous of a portion it was. Another thing I noticed, and maybe you omnivores can relate, is how “meat like” the soy meat looked. I know that may seem frivolous but to me, if it’s a meat substitute, it should at least look the part which it did.
Mongolian Beef at Happy Veggie in Redondo Beach, CA utilizing soy meat
I found the black bean sauce in the dish to be a bit tangy for my taste. I noticed that the tanginess was stronger on the soy meat. I did find the soy meat very spongy in texture. I know it wasn’t real meat & maybe I just had to get used to a different texture. However, the texture was the only thing I wasn’t too fond of with the meat. Other than that, the taste wasn’t bad at all. The veggies were also cooked up to par as well. The steamed rice was reminiscent of rice at traditional Chinese restaurants in that it was a sticky rice. For some reason I found that comforting, maybe because that’s something I’ve always associated Chinese food with.
Finally it was time to settle the bill or so I thought. When I gave the server my debit card, she informed me that they couldn’t charge my card since I ordered $7.00 and change for food. This wasn’t noted anywhere on the menu or by the cash register & I was a little irked by that. So I ordered a vegan chocolate mousse to meet the balance since I didn’t have any cash on me.
Vegan Chocolate Mousse from Happy Veggie in Redondo Beach, CA
If the taste of the mousse was as good as it looked, things would be great. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case. I found the whipped cream to be very tart to the point where my gums felt like they were stinging a bit. The mousse was also very bland and had an aftertaste of beans. Sadly this wasn’t the way I wanted to end my meal. If I had known about the $10 minimum charge on debit cards, I would have brought cash with me & not have wasted my money on this.
All in all, despite the friendly service and clean restaurant, I don’t think I’ll be returning. Yes I didn’t feel too full or bloated after my meal which was a plus but I think I’ll be sticking to regular Chinese food. However if you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may like this place more than I did. Average menu price is $10. There’s plenty of parking at Happy Veggie since it’s located in a strip mall.