Feast from the East has been serving their famous Chinese chicken salad since Ronald Reagan nominated Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court, becoming one of the most popular lunch restaurants in Los Angeles over that time. They serve other "Asian inspired cuisine" as well, but really, no one seems to care very much (nor should they). On the other side of our gastronomic battlefield is today's purveyor of inexpensive and wildly popular lunch salads, Tender Greens. So can this young commando take down the grizzled 80's veteran? Can Roger Moore topple Daniel Craig? Let's find out.
Feast from the East's entry is exactly what we've come to expect from a Chinese chicken salad. Sweet sesame dressing, crispy won ton strips, sliced almonds, crunchy lettuce and shredded chicken, joining together in a heaping pile on your plate, loading you up with fiber, protein and a nice dose of fats and sugars. Eating their salad, particularly inside the small and moderately depressing restaurant, is like being transported to another era in Los Angeles cuisine. It's tasty, filling and gets the job done both admirably and efficiently. What you won't find, however, is a high influx of health conscious, Pilate-loving mothers...
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...But that's because most of them are at Tender Greens, where the allure of fast-paced nutrition and high quality produce allows them to say "Well I know I came in for the happy vegan salad, but now I think I want the Chinese chicken." It still has sesame dressing, chicken (duh) and fried won tons, but the inclusion of spicy greens, shredded carrots and green pea sprouts allows you to get the familiar flavors of a Chinese chicken salad, but with all the minerals and roughage you need to eat during a hectic, modern weekday. Their version is quite large and filling too, but while the first few bites are rather satisfying, it does suffer from a lack of acid, and really, a lack of dressing, making the meal eventually a bit tiresome.
The choice between them is, in reality, a choice of personal preference. If blindfolded, the average person would no doubt prefer Feast from the East's, which is wildly comforting and wholly familiar. But the draw of a salad lunch these day comes, to many, from the nutritional benefits and low carbs. Personally, when eating something in between dinners that tend to consist of things like oozing cheese and fried guanciale, I need a salad that actually sneaks in things like, say, vitamins. But do yourself a favor and ask for a little extra dressing on the side.
Feast from the East, 949 Westwood Blvd, L.A., (310) 475-0400., Tender Greens 9523 Culver Blvd, Culver City, (310) 842-8300., as well as 8759 Santa Monica Blvd, L.A., (310) 358-1919.