This new Santa Monica spot is just way better than a weird little massage parlor/teak furniture store turned takeout Thai restaurant should be. The bf and I used to joke about the ridiculousness of the place all of a sudden announcing itself as a restaurant, and yet one day, hungry for a healthy, quick and cheap lunch, I was compelled by an unknown force to go into Thai Vegan. I have been frequenting the place since then, and everything I have had here, without exception, is delicious. My first sampling of Thai Vegan’s fare was the pad thai with tofu and vegetables. I was starving, and ate until my stomach hurt, but still barely finished half of the steaming heap of squishy rice noodles with that sweet orange sauce, peanuts, carrots, broccoli, cabbage, and of course tofu. Thai flavors happen to lend themselves particularly well to vegan cuisine--authentic Thai curry is made with coconut milk anyway, so nothing is sacrificed in the translation. The curry at Thai Vegan happens to be excellent, sweet and complex and not too thick, packed with veggies and soft tofu. I ask for the curry extra spicy and order a side of brown rice, a huge scoop of multi-hued, wild rice that is always perfectly cooked. With the $5 curry, the entire lunch comes out to $7 flat, and it’s honestly enough to feed two people. Two spring roll-esque fresh vegetable wraps the size of burritos with thick, sweet, spicy peanut sauce are $5. Eating the wraps is like biting into a salad of freshly picked herbs. Full of cucumber, lettuce, tofu, basil and mint, they come wrapped in a chewy rice paper roll, and dipped in the peanut sauce they make the perfect crisp, fresh lunch. The prices here are astoundingly low. All curries are $5. Noodle dishes are $7. Thai iced tea, $2. They also have fried rice dishes and tofu wraps, satays and soups, green papaya salad and wonderful mango sticky rice. Everything is $7 or less.
I’m not suggesting that Thai Vegan is the new Jitlada. It’s not that the flavors are particularly unique in terms of the Thai places around town, even among Thai on the West side. You obviously aren’t going to find any odd delicacies like fish kidney curry (though the smell alone of that dish is enough to provoke my gag reflex). But the freshness of the food, the surprising complexity of the curries, and the spot-on execution of all of the dishes are refreshingly delightful. There are a few wooden tables and benches where you can sit and eat if you prefer not to take your food out. Perhaps you would like a convenient Thai massage to aid digestion after your meal--only $39/hr. It’s like a refreshing spa day at one of those cheap Korean spas downtown, only without the mandatory nudity.