Open in 2013 and run by Chef Akira, restaurant in Huntington Beach, California, creates beautiful and tasty organic food
I heard about VegiLicious on Facebook long before it opened, thanks to some vegan friends who somehow always know about the best new places to eat. I checked their Facebook page daily to view their progress as they were building, and was excited to finally have a meal there after their opening. Now I go regularly, and have enjoyed many of their wonderful dishes.
One of the things I most appreciate about VegiLicious is the environment. It is warm and intimate, encouraging diners to make themselves comfortable and enjoy quiet conversation. Earth tones abound, and from the beautiful needlepoint vegetable portraits on the walls to the simple wooden tables, it feels like a bit of nature is in the restaurant with you. This connection with nature is reflected in the menu, and Owner/Chef Akira Nakao works hard to create food that is organic, vegan, GMO free, and healthy.
There are many great items on the menu, but my favorite meal is the Japanese Tofu-n-Radish Salad paired with the Rich Brewed Miso Soup with Chunky Tofu and Vegetables. The Japanese Tofu-n-Radish Salad is substantial and features red leaf lettuce topped with cubed organic tofu, daikon, carrots, radishes, edamame, sunflower seeds, and croutons. It comes with a creamy sesame dressing. Ask for a gluten free version which will omit the croutons and replace the creamy sesame dressing with a light wasabi vinaigrette. Both the regular and gluten free versions are light and refreshing. The Rich Brewed Miso Soup with Chunky Tofu and Vegetables goes way beyond the plain traditional miso soup you find in many restaurants and adds tofu, daikon, sweet potato, carrots, mushrooms, seaweed, and sesame seeds. It’s richness and depth of flavor are impressive, and it’s so good I’ve actually ordered a second bowl.
Other items to try include the Tofu Curry, Baked Potato Wedges with Dairy Free Cheese Dipping Sauce, and the Creamy Sweet Corn Chowder. The curry and chowder in particular are hearty and perfect for cold nights, while the potato wedges are great to share with a friend who isn’t vegan. Gluten free items are clearly marked on the menu, and some items that aren’t gluten free can be easily modified.
Service has been exceptional each time I’ve visited VegiLicious. On quiet nights Akira is both cooking and serving the food, and even when it’s busier and there are other servers working, there hasn’t been a single time I’ve eaten that he hasn’t personally visited each table to ask about the quality of the food and overall experience in the restaurant. On the website, he shares, “You have my guarantee that you will leave happy, filled and full of the physical and mental energy you need to have a strong and healthy day.” I love the food, but it’s Akira’s personal commitment to service and making the overall experience the best that it can be that makes me want to return again and again.
The primary complaint I’ve heard about VegiLicious is in regards to portion size, but I’ve always found the portions to be reasonable. In the United States the majority of restaurants serve portions that are large to the point of being unhealthy, so it’s nice to see VegiLicious, whose focus is eating healthy, serving portion sizes that are appropriate. There are larger portion options on the menu, so if you’re someone with a bigger appetite (like me) I’d recommend spending the extra few dollars.
If you’re in Orange County, I recommend you visit VegiLicious and take the opportunity to sit down, relax, and enjoy Akira’s food. Although we are fortunate to have many vegan options in the area, few are as committed to providing truly healthy options. VegiLicious is open for lunch and dinner every day except for Tuesdays.
16821 Algonquin St., #103, Huntington Beach, CA 92649
(Located in the Huntington Harbour Mall)
(All images courtesy of VegiLicious)