Some cultures tend to eat healthier than others. In general, Asian cuisines put more emphasis on vegetables and less on meats, with their fat and cholesterol. Some Asian cuisines also emphasize more use of fresh, uncooked ingredients in many of their dishes. At Loving Hut in Ladera Ranch, the restaurant has taken this to a new level by combining a vegan concept with a menu containing mainly Vietnamese dishes. This produces an even healthier take on the Vietnamese menu, while the judicious use of popular spices and flavors means that the dishes will not lack anything in taste. In addition, Loving Hut uses the vegan version of meat, creating chicken dishes with soy protein and shrimp dishes with sea protein that give the originals a good run for the money. Indeed, most meat eaters will be satisfied by the texture, flavor and the similarity that Loving Hut's “meat and seafood” has.
Loving Hut occupies a bright, friendly location in the plaza at the corner of Crown Valley and Antonio Parkways. Service is excellent with the staff very knowledgeable about the different menu items. Informative pamphlets and a flat screen show info on vegan foods and why they are healthy as well as famous people who have embraced the vegan diet. This info, while available, is low key with no sound and does not distract the diner unless they choose to watch it.Loving Hut is an international chain with many locations in the United States and many other countries. An interesting thing, however is that even though the basic idea of healthy, vegan cuisine is common to all locations, each location can choose their own menu to stay in tune with the local area's tastes.
One of the most interesting items to start off with is one of the beverages, Kombucha2000 Fermented Tea. The tea is not made from tea leaves, but rather a yeast culture similar to what is used in the making of beer, sourdough bread and vinegar. Health benefits reportedly include boosting the immune system, relieving headaches and migraines, reducing the appetite (excellent for dieters) and relieving the pain of arthritis, along with being an energizer, anti-oxidant, rejuvenator and more. Of course, all this would be pointless if the tea did not taste good. The tea is available in ginger brew and other flavors. The ginger brew was very refreshing with a flavor similar to a good ginger beer. The 12 ounce bottle was just the right amount to drink before and during the dinner, satisfying the taste buds but not filling the stomach up. Loving Hut also has a nice range of house-made smoothies including Cranberry Cooler and Mango Tango. Finally, coffee and tea are available in cups as well as Iced Cappucino and Thai Iced Tea.
Menu items include some delicious appetizers. The Loving Hut Special Rolls are their take on the popular Vietnamese spring roll, or gỏi cuốn. The rolls are flled with rice vermicelli, tofu, lettuce and herbs and then wrapped in a rice paper wrapper. The sea protein has the look and texture of shrimp, creating a roll that looks identical to it's original form. The taste is delicious, with the fresh crunch of the vegetable and the “shrimp” adding flavor and texture. These “shrimp” are very satisfying and could probably pass muster with someone who was not told they are created from sea protein. The sea protein is essentially either sea vegetable or algae, processed to have the look and taste of whatever the equivalent protein would be. The dipping sauce is delicious, a slightly sweet, spicy and tart sauce that gives an added zing to the rolls when they are dipped in it. Their other appetizers include Crispy Rolls, similar to a fried egg roll, fried won tons, sweet potato fries and cheese bread, their version of baked crostini. Of special interest are the Jumbo Drumsticks and Golden Nuggets, vegan versions of fried chicken wings and breast nuggets.
Several salads grace the menu, but that is just the start. A wide selection of Asian inspired soups are on the menu. The Phở has a rich broth from simmering vegetables and mushrooms for a long time, yielding the deep rich flavor and color of the best phở broths. The noodles are tender, the tofu adding a contrasting texture to them and the soy proteins adding a meaty, chewy element to the soup. Accompanying the phở is the traditional plate of fresh basil, jalapeno, bean sprouts and lime. Hoisin sauce, Sriracha and chili sauces come with it to kick up the flavor if desired. Two versions of Won Ton Noodle Soup are on the menu as well.
Bún bò Huế is a highlight of Loving Hut's creativity in recreating the traditional spicy central Vietnamese soup from the country's original royal capital. If anything, Loving Hut's version is much more accessible for the average person, substituting the soy protein analogues for the standard meat elements in the original dish. Absent are some of the more unusual items in a Bún bò Huế such as pork blood cubes that tend to turn a lot of people off from trying this excellent soup.. Also in the dish are fresh oyster mushrooms, adding a nice chewiness to the dish, which features a thicker flat noodle as opposed to the thin noodles of other Vietnamese soups. Overall, the flavor of this soup is exceptional with the spicy broth providing just the right amount of heat. Of course, the traditional side plate of garnishes comes with it as well as some satay. For a spicy food fan, this is the perfect soup. Other noodle dishes include vegan versions of BBQ Noodles and Chowmein.
Entrees at the Loving Hut allow the diner to enjoy many dishes in a healthier version. A good start are the Chef's Specials. Seaweed Wraps are a do it yourself dish designed to create your own rolls. It comes with a dipping sauce, rice noodles, fresh herbs and cucumber. The platter is designed for two and makes for a fun, nutritious dinner. The Eggplant Tofu is Loving Hut's version of the popular Chinese dish, with the ingredients sautéed in a light ginger sauce. The sweet brown sauce went along well with the steamed brown rice. White rice can also be ordered with any or the dishes that include brown rice. A side of steamed vegetables is also available to order.
Another outstanding Chef's Special is called Lemongrass Sensation. In this dish, the soy protein replaces the chicken one would normally associate with a dish like this. The chunks are fried for a crispy exterior and covered with a lemongrass sauce. This is another dish where the soy protein is just as flavorful as chicken, with a similar texture. Meat eaters would be very happy with this dish. The lemongrass sauce has excellent flavor, coating each morsel with a tasty coating. On the side is the brown rice and an excellent salad with their house Au Lac sauce, named after an early kingdom north of Hanoi with the sauce a specialty of that region. The Lemongrass Sensation is a filling dish that proves that healthy food can still be delicious and satisfying.
Many other dishes are on the menu at the Loving Hut. With the vegan based menu, not only is the food healthy, but perfect for the diner on a diet who enjoys Asian foods but wants something that will not ruin their diet. It is an excellent choice for the person who enjoys meat but is looking for an option to have a meat-free meal occasionally. For dieters, it is great to help maintain staying on a diet while enjoying a nice dinner out. And for the non-dieter, it is just a good place to have a delicious, Asian inspired meal that can satisfy the taste buds completely.
27522 Antonio Parkway P2
Ladera Ranch, CA 92694
Phone: (949) 365-1077
Website: Loving Hut