Bodhi on Pico: Say hi to Thai

Nathaniel Kukurudz, Managing Editor

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No one will argue that it’s easy to limit oneself to only kosher restaurants, especially since it seems that 95 percent of them in Los Angeles lie between a certain Mobil gas station and a mortuary on Pico Boulevard. So you can imagine my joy when something totally unique opens.

Bodhi restaurant (closer to the gas station than to the mortuary), which opened four months ago, is situated next door to the long-lived Chick N’ Chow kosher fast food restaurant, and calls itself “Thai Kosher Vegetarian and Vegan Kitchen.”  And while I would have never stepped in if it weren’t for this review – I am usually not the type of person that passes up real meat for fake meat – I was gladly surprised at what I found.

My first impression as I stepped in on a recent Sunday night was of the emptiness of the place and the fact that the manager, or perhaps the owner, was sitting at a table with a stack of papers while typing on his laptop right in front of the guests. But then I looked around the small restaurant — about 10 tables — and appreciated the dark ambiance and wallpaper depicting a scene of nature. I decided to forgive the owner for his lack of professionalism, so as to not be biased the entire evening.

A charming waiter quickly brought me a menu, which I found to be very eclectic. There were the traditional Thai foods, such as pad Thai, curries and rice dishes, and American foods such as burritos and burgers to appeal to a wider audience. After spending a long time deciding what I’d order as my first vegan dish in a restaurant, I chose the Tempting Garlic Tempeh dinner special ($11), with dumplings to start. I inquired of the waiter why this special was more expensive then the other items on the menu (all about nine dollars), and after several missed attempts at answering me, I finally understood that he was trying to tell me that it came with brown rice. This language barrier made it more fun, and served as a great reminder that I was in a somewhat authentic Thai restaurant.

The food arrived fairly quickly and it, too, was better than I expected. The dumplings were cooked perfectly – not too rubbery. But what really surprised me was the Garlic Tempeh. I cannot remember the last time when I loved an assortment of vegetables more.

Tempeh means deep-fried fermented soybeans; it was served with grilled potatoes and steamed vegetables smothered in a delectable garlic sauce. There was an abundance of taste in my mouth as I ate each spoonful. The sauce was a little too sweet, but the opulence of rich flavors balanced it out. And the fact that it was all vegan made it all the better. Who knew that one doesn’t need either meat or milk to have a great dish?

Overall, I don’t think I could have landed in a better restaurant for my first vegan experience. Now that I realize the great potential of vegan food, I believe that Bodhi will be successful in this neighborhood. Just imagine ordering a side of succulent vegetables from this restaurant to add to your own home-cooked steak (at least it’s partly vegan…)! Bodhi will surely serve as an escapade, although not a fancy one, for the deprived souls confined to dining out within a single block.

In fact, I predict that if the owner gets rid of his laptop while in the restaurant, his business won’t find itself in the mortuary down the street for a long time to come.

4 stars.

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