Wide-ranging vegan cuisine
I am averse to the term “mock meat” in relation to Edmonton’s few, but mighty vegan dining-out options. Given the dishes at such venues are often based on Asian cuisines that boast a prominent vein of vegetarianism, it seems totally legit to make curried this or Szechuan that with soy or mushroom protein or textured wheat gluten rather than chicken, cow or pig. No one is trying to deceive you into thinking you’re eating meat.
So rather than just being for vegans, vegan restaurants should be attractive to anyone who wants to experience the widest possible range of things you can eat, provided they do a good job of making it. The beloved Padmanadi and its Vietnamese counterpart Veggie Garden are fine examples of this style of food done well. (Vegan food purveyors like the Buckingham, the Sailin’ On food truck and Arcadia are their own category and will be held for consideration at a later date.)
Perhaps owing to its out-of-the-way location, I’d managed to overlook Loma House for a number of years. Well, no longer.
Loma House sits inconspicuously in a newish Mill Woods strip mall cheek by jowl with dentists, hair, nail and lash stylists and a psychic/astrologer. A high ceiling and storefront windows make it feel bigger than it is. The humble, but homey decor bespeaks a family-run business, and there’s an aura of meticulous cleanliness I’ve noticed in many vegan restaurants. Like vegan restaurants of its ilk, Loma House doesn’t serve alcohol.
The menu is, to say the least, sprawling, in part because of the lengthy list of appetizers, sides (which also appear to be appetizers), soups, dim sum items, clay pots, bento boxes, combo meals, entrees, desserts and house-made beverages. Four of us managed to negotiate a meal out of all that, with advice from the server about not filling up on appetizers. Good call.
We started with the enoki mushroom rolls ($7), numerous little bundles of the
spindly fungi bound by a strip of seaweed, fried in tempura batter and given a sweet-savoury drizzle. We also got roti canai ($5), the crisp-flaky fried pan bread of Malaysia, served with a coconut curry dip, in what seemed a generous portion for the money. My palate was amused.
For entrees, we ordered the red curry mutton, kung pao chicken and spicy eggplant ($13 each), which came with rice. We paid an extra $1.50 to sample the house “purple rice,” a mix of brown, black and red rice cooked with pearl barley that seemed heartier than your standard starch.
Curried vegan mutton from the late, pioneering Oriental Veggie House was my initiation into this style of vegan food many years ago and Loma House’s Thai-inspired variant got the chewy not-mutton and lightly browned potato chunks in mild, but aromatic coconut gravy, exactly right. The kung pao soy nuggets—more toothsome than they sound—were the centre of the spiciest dish, which also boasted soya sauce-imbued broccoli, carrots, peppers, mushrooms, celery and baby corn. One thing about vegans: they know how to cook vegetables.
The spicy eggplant was a touch less spicy than the kung pao, but the tender sections of stirfried Japanese aubergine still made the lips tingle, and the eponymous vegetable was carefully cooked to not get too greasy.
With mango-papaya-pineapple smoothies ($5.50) and mango bubble teas ($4.75) that should have been plenty, but we wanted to see how Loma House handled dessert. Their coconut/almond milk panna cotta ($4.50) with raspberry syrup was surpassingly creamy and not too sweet—the actual vegans at the table were suitably impressed. Likewise, the rich vegan chocolate pudding, served in a small teacup topped with a couple of fresh raspberries, was better than “dairy-free” would lead you to believe. And for $3.50, how could you not order it?
I doubt I’ll have to say much more to convince vegans to go give Loma House a try, but I hope omnivores will give it a try too. You can call it “mock meat,” but there’s no doubt it’s real, tasty food.
9142 23 Ave., 780-466-8391