A block off Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade is Erven, an unassuming, plant based restaurant, serving unique and bold flavor combinations.
I love to be surprised, and dining at Erven Restaurant was quite surprising. Erven is a plant based restaurant, and they'll tell you, they don't like to be labeled vegan since there's often a certain stigma attached to that term. That stigma can include bland, unexciting food. Luckily Los Angeles has broken that mold with several great vegan restaurants like Crossroads, Springs and Plant Food and Wine. I've written about my favorite Los Angeles vegan restaurants, and after dining at Erven Restaurant, I have one more to add to my list.
Erven took the place of Real Food Daily on Santa Monica Boulevard, just two blocks east of the Third Street Promenade. The space is odd. You walk into a carry out counter where you can pick out salads and sandwiches for take out.
Stepping through a small archway, you come to the dining room with a smattering of tables filling the angular room. There's less than 10 tables downstairs, with a handful more upstairs. The atmosphere is a bit austere with plain black wood tables, a few red tufted banquettes, and neutral beige walls with a couple of small pictures hanging. It's not a warm, cozy vibe, but the servers are warm and extremely helpful, so that helps. They do their best to make up for the lack of atmosphere.
So I wasn't expecting much from the tiny, cool space, but then I started reading the menu with my dining companions. Bitter greens falafel with apricot-ginger mostarda, dried olive and smoked paprika was listed under small plates along with a soft tofu with brussels sprouts, pickled garlic ponzu, lime cured onion and popcorn. Surprising, right?
Our waitress told us how they like to play with ingredients and different textures and temperatures at Erven. A perfect example was the beets three ways - cold, roasted and frozen into a beet sorbet. Avocado mousse brought some savory notes to the dish while the curry-almond streusel gave additional texture. Very unique and very good.
Then there was the roasted carrots, done to varying degrees with coconut sorbet, crispy lentils and a spicy homemade tamarind sriracha. That was definitely a dish I hadn't had before. There was heat from the sriracha, but that was tempered by the cool coconut and the carrots brought in a crunchy bite. These small plates, along with another half dozen are priced between $12 - 14.
There's also an under $10 snack menu that includes things like black garlic-chickpea fritters, steamed corn cakes or the sweet treat we had of lime pickled dates with Sumatran curry, pine nut and maple. Start or end your meal with that one.
Large plates include a sweet corn ravioli with pumpkin seed pesto, wakame and purslane, as well as a punchy shredded cabbage pancake with spicy eggplant, seaweed puttanesca and Erven's homemade "funyuns." They might want to think about just plating those addicting snacks. The pancake was a good item to share. It's a decent size, and the seaweed puttanesca had a great spicy salty play that was nice to mix between bites of other dishes. Yeah, it's one of those places where it's good to come with a group to share a variety of plates.
The recommended saffron rice hot pot was actually my least favorite dish. While it wasn't bad, the squash, peppers and fennel-peach sofrito just didn't come together for me. It didn't matter though, I was already full from all the previous dishes and great flavors.
Also be sure to check out the great wine list which includes Organic and Biodynamic wines. I don't know why more people aren't serving those in LA! If sulfites affect you, you definitely want to look for biodynamic wines.
I love to continue to be surprised by the creativity of the chefs in Los Angeles cooking plant based fare. Vegan or not, Erven is serving unique and interesting, quality, seasonal dishes.
514 - 516 Santa Monica Boulevard, Santa Monica