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Soy Good for You

Soy — the staple of vegetarians and lactose-intolerants the world over. Here’s a list of everything from tofu meatballs to soy-dusted cream puffs...

Beverly Soontofu. At Beverly Soontofu, you get a simple water kimchi of white radish, and a spicy-red kimchi of white radish. The tofu casserole, soontofu, comes bubbling and sputtering, splattering the paper place mat with a fine red mist, forming a burnt crust on the rim of the red-hot cast-iron bowl in which it is served. Beverly’s soontofu is available spiked with oysters, meat, and either kimchi or small clams, or with sheets of toasted seaweed that you crumble yourself. 2717 W. Olympic Blvd., No. 108, downtown, (213) 380-1113. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days, 9:30 a.m.–10:30 p.m. Beer and wine. Lot parking. Dinner for two, food only, $14-$20. MC, V. Korean. JG ¢

Chantilly. Our favorite alternative Japanese cream puffs can be found at this gorgeous Lomita Japanese bakery that resembles a high-class Tokyo tearoom. Keiko Nojima, the chef, a local South Bay girl, followed a course of study at the California Culinary Academy with a long apprenticeship in Japan. The cream puffs are especially good — airy, eggy pastries stuffed to order with blackish, sesame-flavored whipped cream and sprinkled with a sweet powder made of caramelized soy, cream puffs that take full command. Nojima claims that sesame cream puffs are fairly common in Tokyo, but there is nothing remotely like them in Los Angeles. A Chantilly puff is a work of art. 2383 Lomita Blvd., No. 104, Lomita, (310) 257-9454. Open daily 11:30 a.m.–7 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Parking lot. MC, V. JG ¢

Dai Ho Kitchen. Dai Ho Kitchen’s spicy beef-noodle soup is an angry red brew spiked with chopped herbs, golf ball–size chunks of long-simmered meat and noodles — slithery, linguine-thick noodles, disarmingly soft, which, like all the best pasta, seem to have mastered the trick of appearing almost alive. The house-special cold appetizer of spicy tripe, pressed tofu and sliced pork shank is delicious. But Dai Ho’s version of the beef-noodle soup is on a plane of its own, a dense, stinky taste of Valhalla. 9148 Las Tunas Dr., Temple City, (626) 291-2295. Lunch Tues.–Sun. 11:30 a.m.–3 p.m.; dinner, takeout only. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. Lunch for two, food only, $11–$18. Chinese. JG ¢

Giang Nan. It has everything you could want in a modest East Chinese restaurant — a dish of pork, firm tofu and bamboo shoots, for instance, cut into precise matchsticks and stir-fried in less oil than it would take to lubricate a gnat’s bicycle, tastes of the pure, fresh flavors of its own mild ingredients, nothing more. But the soup dumplings, with or without crab, are impeccable, the bean curd with ham is delicious, and the Shanghai spring rolls are nothing short of amazing, almost liquid under their shattering golden skins. 306 N. Garfield Ave., No. A-12, Monterey Park, (626) 573-3421. Lunch Tues.–Sun. 11 a.m.–3 p.m., dinner Tues.–Sun. 5–10 p.m. No alcohol. Takeout. Lot parking. MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $14–$25. JG $

gr/eats. The standard crack about Giant Robot, even before the publication became actually beautiful and spawned an extensive bicoastal network of film festivals, art galleries, Internet sites and its own galleries and shops, was that it actually functioned better as a toy store than it did as a magazine. Now, gr/eats is the culinary outpost of Giant Robot empire. This small, chic café is furnished with Eames shell chairs and the sort of harsh, glowing light one expects to find in Prada boutiques. The music kind of rocks, mostly the kind of indie stuff you hear from musicians whose passions extend equally to Neil Diamond and Neil Young. The food at gr/eats is re-contextualized Asian-American home cooking: a quite decent pan-seared Chilean sea bass drizzled with Asian pesto and squishy, salty, fried tofu “meatballs” painted with an orangey sweet-and-sour sauce. 2050 Sawtelle Blvd., West Los Angeles, (310) 478-3242, www.gr-eats.com. Open daily noon–3 p.m. and 5:30–10 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. MC, V. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $15–$25. JG $

Lu Din Gee. Lu Din Gee, a restaurant project of popular local caterer Michelle Fan, is a few degrees off-center in its own way, dominated by an espresso machine and a display of flavored coffees, offering an illustrated menu of exotic soda pop and playing the sort of music you might expect to hear in a hip dentist’s office. There are delicious, crackly scallion pancakes here, and spicy fish balls, and shreds of dried tofu dressed with chile and soy. 1039 E. Valley Blvd., B102, San Gabriel, (626) 288-0588. Open daily 5–10 p.m. Peking-duck dinner for two or three, food only, $26.95–$35.95. Call one hour ahead for the duck entrée. Beer and wine. Takeout and catering. Lot parking. MC, V. JG $

M Café de Chaya. The kitchen lets flavor come first. Roasted tomato soup is flavored with red miso not just because the colors are similar, but because the umami-rich tang of the miso works as well with the tomato as Parmesan cheese might. As grisly as a macrobiotic club sandwich may sound, the triple-decker itself is pretty good — blackened strips of tempeh “bacon,” as crunchy and salty as well-done rashers of the real thing; lettuce and tomato, rather tart; and the sweetish goosh of soy mayonnaise is exactly right. 7119 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles, (323) 525-0588. www.mcafedechaya.com. Open daily 9 a.m.–9 p.m. AE, MC, V. Beer and wine. Limited lot parking. Takeout and delivery. Lunch or dinner for two, food only, $18–$25. JG $

Orean The Health Express. Orean is a bastion of veganism in the midst of rainforest despoilers, battling the corporate ­fast-food hordes with its vast agglomerations of textured vegetable protein, sprouted clover and soy cheese that concede nothing to a double chili-cheeseburger in sheer, trashy, sloppy bulk — the so-called African burrito is as big as a tahini-dripping Sunday Times. And if you don’t want to be seen eating ­anything so vulgar as a vegan pastrami dip in public, you can wash it down with a ginseng slush or a no-dairy root-beer float without leaving the safety and comfort of your Hummer. 817 N. Lake Ave., Pasadena, (626) 794-0861. Open seven days, 9:30 a.m.– 9 p.m. No alcohol. Lot parking. Cash only. $7-$9. Vegan. JG ¢

Yung Ho Tou Chiang. At Yung Ho Tou Chiang, the breakfast protocol is easy. You order some soymilk, then some stuff to go along with it: flaky buns stuffed with sweet, simmered turnips; steamed buns filled with spiced pork or black mushrooms; crusty fried pies stuffed with pungent messes of sautéed leek tops; steamed pork dumplings bursting with juice. The traditional accompaniment to soymilk is a long, twisted, light-as-air cruller, and Yung Ho does them well. For another buck or so, you can get the cruller smeared with a salty paste of pounded meat and wrapped inside a cylinder of sticky rice, simulating the texture of a good sushi roll. 533 W. Valley Blvd., San Gabriel, (626) 570-0860. Breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days 6:30 a.m.–6 p.m. Beer. Lot parking. Cash only. Food for two, $5–$10. Chinese. JG ¢

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Lin-Din Gee Cafe
miles

1039 E. Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776-3609

626-288-0588