Crustacean, the elegant Vietnamese restaurant by the An family, has undergone a refreshing revamp over the past year. Also, they’ve added many veggie-friendly dishes on their modern Vietnamese menu. As I’m always in search of vegan dining in Los Angeles, this gave me reason to reignite my love affair with the place. Known for their classic Asian fusion seafood, Crustacean now offers many vegan and gluten-free options, including a large selection of vegetable dishes.
The main dining area has plush velvet pink and gray chairs and couches that make it easier to snuggle up close to the white tablecloth, and comfy booths you could take a nap in after you feast on an array of veggies. Order up a plateful of cauliflower “fried rice” and a bowl of those irresistible garlic noodles and get cozy. Dining on the outdoor patio area is perfect for lunchtime diners to soak in the Beverly Hills vibes while swirling up some of those famous garlicky noods.
Once of the things about the interior that I was pleased to see: the underfloor koi fish pond water feature is still intact. If you were familiar with the original Crustacean interior prior to the renovation, you’d be pleased to know that they have preserved some of its past life elegance. The 20 year family-run establishment has redefined its legendary Beverly Hills locale for sure. They’ve polished every nuance of its former colonial Indochine glamour until it sparkles. Ah yes, we know that facelifts are quite common in Beverly Hills, and this celeb hot spot is looking better than ever. But looks ain’t everything. What gives this place substance is the excellent food and dedication of the family that runs it.
Chef Helene’s artfully updated the menu keeps some of the family classics (like their signature garlic noodles) and adding specialty vegan dishes, like vegan “cigar” rolls cleverly served in smoking cigar boxes, and an entirely plant-based Impossible “beef” roll to mimic its meatier counterpart, the Vietnamese beef roll. The Impossible Crispy Vegan Roll is filled with marinated cranberries, kale, haricot vert (French green beans) and Impossible Meat™ rolled inside the crispy skin. Herbivores might be fooled to think that they ordered the Vietnamese beef roll by mistake (as their meat-eating friends are eating them all). Yes, you’d totally believe that these rolls are beef, but they are completely vegan.
Among my favorite dishes were the wild mushroom wontons served with ginger and lemongrass coulis, and the hearts of palm “crab cake” served with spicy aioli. I was also quite impressed with the kung pao eggplant with Thai basil and Thai red chili gastrique, which is a lot to say, but simple to eat. I’m not much of a fan of eggplant, yet this dish won me over with its crispy texture and French fry shape. The “Karate” salad satisfied with kohlrabi in matchstick cuts, layering crunch with fine shreds of potato, enhanced with a suggestion of black truffle and garlic blossom. The Little Gems Salad refreshes the palate with breakfast radish, crispy taro, watercress, cabbage, roma tomato in an 8-herb green goddess dressing.
vegetables on the menu
Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Turmeric & Garlic Lime
Cauliflower “Fried Rice”: Riced Cauliflower, Organic Jidori Egg* (ask for tofu substitute)
Baby Spinach or Asparagus: Garlic Sauce & Chablis
Kung Pao Eggplant: Thai Basil & Thai Red Chili Gastrique
Chinese Long Bean: Haricot Vert & Wok Steeped Garlic
Wok Tossed Broccoli: Parmigiano Reggiano, Meyer Lemon & Spanish Olive Oil
Baby Bok Choy: Ginger & Shallot Sauce