Okay, sure, so the Menu Mining series has been over for a while. But this gem is among my favorite things about living in LA, and one of the (few) redeeming qualities of working in the San Fernando Valley.
I was first introduced to Vinh Loi Tofu when I moved here from central Illinois in August 2006, and it has been a staple in my diet ever since. Owner Kevin Tran seems to be there around the clock, and he has both a friendly rapport with his regular customers and a willingness to guide new recruits to the right introductory dish for their tastes. (Noodles or soup? Spicy – not spicy?) Kevin serves up a great variety of Vietnamese-inspired vegan dishes of his own creation, featuring his own special tofu mock meats that this omnivore could happily subsist on for the rest of his days.
While I love the vegan Banh Mi subs Travis Koplow lovingly refers to as “(s)ham sandwiches,” the House Special Soup holds a very special place in my heart. Garnished (as pictured by me, gets bigger with clickage) with sprouts, peppers, and lemon, this rice noodle soup is loaded with chicken, fish, and shrimp in an amazing savory peanut broth that somehow surprises me each and every time with just how damned good it is. This menu item is one that I have a hard time veering away from, even if I do occasionally feel tempted to try out one of Kevin’s newer soups or noodle dishes, some of which he has resorted to simply naming by year – “Soup 2011,” for example. (He’s actually been getting ahead of himself – he’s already serving “Soup 2012.” Or maybe that’s supposed to indicate “end-of-the-world” soup?)
Of course the drawback for many Angelenos is that there seem to be few things worthy of venturing all the way into Reseda for. (As Mike Doughty would remind us, “We are all in some way or another going to Reseda someday to die.”) I tell you, gentle reader, the House Special soup – and Vinh Loi in general – is definitely one thing worth going to Reseda for.