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Vegan Surprise

Loving Hut's food is tasty — you'll never guess where it came from.

I wasn't in the mood for frozen food that day, though. I ordered a bowl of Exquisite Curry and some Golden Wontons. My dining companion decided to live adventurously and ordered the BBQ Baguette (Loving Hut's version of beef banh mi) and the Golden Rolls. The back of Loving Hut's menu features an emphasis on freshly squeezed juices of all kinds, so I threw in an order for an Orange Joy — fresh orange and cranberry juice topped with jasmine petals — as well.

The Golden Rolls (fried spring rolls) came stuffed with carrots, cabbage, onions, mushrooms and — to my great enthusiasm — taro. The Golden Wontons had a different assortment of vegetables inside, including leeks and celery, and were wrapped up in the same sort of bubbly egg-roll skin that made me wax nostalgic about the veggie egg rolls at the late, lamented Ming's. Both the rolls and the wontons were surprisingly excellent, and better than any spring rolls I've previously had. They set the bar for an astonishingly good meal to follow.

My Exquisite Curry turned out to be a bowl of traditional massamun curry, served with carrots, potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli and nuggets of soy protein. It's best not to look at the latter, as they have the disturbing visual effect of looking like something that was scraped out of a uterus. The only downside to the creamy, slightly spicy curry was that it was served over soggy vermicelli noodles. A bowl of jasmine rice on the side would have permanently endeared the dish to me.

All splendid: sushi, wontons and an ­Orange Joy.
Troy Fields
All splendid: sushi, wontons and an ­Orange Joy.

Location Info

Map

Loving Hut

2825 S. Kirkwood
Houston, TX 77082

Category: Restaurant > Health

Region: Outer Loop - SW

Details

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

Golden Rolls: $2.50

Golden Wontons: $3.99

Arigato Sushi: $3.99

Exquisite Curry: $6.50

BBQ Baguette: $3.99

Blissful Fried Rice: $5.99

GO-GREEN Deluxe: $6.50

Orange Joy: $2.99

Loving Hut

2825 S. Kirkwood,

281-531-8882.

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My dining companion's beef banh mi was the biggest surprise of the meal. The textured soy protein made to resemble strips of grilled beef was amazing: Eaten within the context of the sandwich — which also came with a healthy amount of mushrooms, tomatoes, pickles and a spread of vegan mayonnaise (regular mayo isn't vegan, after all) — they would have fooled all but the most discriminating palates. The egg-free bread, too, was astonishingly good despite having no binder to hold it together. Because of this, the crackly top of the bread substituted quite well for crusty French bread. My friend inhaled his banh mi in a matter of minutes.

He enjoyed his food so much, in fact, that he ordered a container of Sweet & Sour Divine (sweet and sour "chicken") to go, with an eye to having it for lunch the next day, but ate the entire thing on the way home. For my part, I seriously contemplated ordering the sweetly refreshing Orange Joy by the gallon: "I want to drink this every single morning for breakfast," I announced, sucking the last of the juice down.
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On the fateful visit with my ­parents, the food stumbled a bit.

Although my father inhaled his Blissful Fried Rice (veggie fried rice studded with soy protein, tofu, carrots, peas, onions and too much cilantro), I found it bland and in desperate need of something, anything, to perk it up. "I'm bringing some Bragg's liquid aminos next time," my mother quipped. "That would be perfect together."

My mother's SAVE-PLANET Curry was nearly identical to the Exquisite Curry I'd had a few days ago, except that it was 55 cents more. That extra cost included "Indian bread" as promised on the menu, but which ended up being the same egg-free bread used in the fake banh mi. The bread — much like I imagine the beef in the banh mi to be — was not good on its own, and the curry was much blander than it had been only a few days prior.

On the other hand, the faux sushi we ordered as an appetizer was splendid. Sticky rice wrapped in seaweed and filled with pickles, carrots and soy protein was made even better by the tangy wasabi sauce that accompanied it. It tasted exactly like real wasabi — not like horseradish with green food coloring added — a feat that I'm not quite sure how Loving Hut accomplished.

The saving grace of the meal was my GO-GREEN Deluxe, a plate of steamed snow peas and "shrimp" in a slightly sweet brown sauce served alongside a bowl of steamed brown rice. The "shrimp" was actually silken soy protein shaped and painted (yes, painted, with food coloring) to resemble the tiny sea creatures. It even had a similar texture and, all things considered, was pretty good. The bright-green snow peas provided a welcome crunchy texture, and the nutty brown rice tied the entire meal together remarkably well.

Although the meal was passable (I really enjoyed my dish, but I'm far more amenable to vegan food than most), I fear it will be the first and last time my parents eat at Loving Hut. In fact, I fear that most people will go once and never return. There simply isn't enough variety on the menu to attract and keep customers unless they're already devoted vegetarians or vegans. And out here, those people are few and far between.

But maybe I'll be proven wrong. Maybe west Houston can sustain a healthy, ­vegetarian-focused restaurant out in the dueling wilds of Alief and Royal Oaks. And so what if you're funding a cult every time you eat here? At least the food is good.

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