Mooi: Going Vegan & Raw in Echo Park
Upon entering Mooi, the new raw vegan Echo Park restaurant from former club and events promoter Stephen Hauptfuhr, you might think you've fallen down the rabbit hole, but you won't find bland rabbit food here.
The high-ceilinged corner space on Sunset Boulevard and Logan Street boasts vintage velveteen seating, ornate wood tables, cool hanging lamps and the best menus ever: old Dr. Seuss books with the selections glued into the first few pages. Though, obviously, you wont find green -- or any color-- eggs and ham here.
There are lots of flavors on these reasonably priced plates ($5 appetizers, $7-8 salads, $9-13 main dishes): nuts, seeds, seasonings and of course fruits and vegetables. Favorites include vegan ice creams (24 flavors) and starters like crunchy carrot spring rolls and sliced tomatoes with pumpkinseed pesto and tangy vinaigrette. Entrees include enchiladas in tomatillo sauce with walnut refried beans and vegetables and orange "chicken" (jack fruit) on a bed of rice-like coconut shavings.
Faux meats are a staple of many a vegan's diet, and there are plenty of restaurants in the area that cater to those who love them. Other than Cru in the Sunset Junction area (which sees an older, slightly yuppier clientele), raw is still relatively revolutionary for the area known for its taco stands, pizza joints and hot dog carts.
Mooi, which means "beautiful" in Dutch (Hauptfuhr's friend, Filip -- of Ima Robot and club DJ fame -- suggested the name) may not be what one might expect from the guy who came up with Club Radio's "skinny boy burlesque" (well, except for the skinny part; these clever concoctions are low in fat) but it's an organic transition for the chef, whose flair for gourmet raw food first drew attention via underground dinner parties at his downtown loft. These led to catering gigs and a booming packaged foods biz (desserts and entrees sold to everyone from Whole Foods to Elf).
Since the restaurant only opened the 1st of June, Hauptfuhr and his staff have been too busy to package for outside sources, but he plans on resuming once they settle in. Other plans for the near future: a Sunday brunch, a chef's tasting menu, nightly off-menu specials (which he's already playing with), and art openings in the "basement lounge." They've just begun serving Intelligentsia's Ecco brand coffee (a perfect pairing with Hauptfuhr's desserts). Currently open for lunch, Tuesday-Saturday and for dinner Wednesday-Saturday, Mooi will perk things up for the early morning coffee crowd (opening at 8 am) soon. See their website for updates.
Mooi: 1700 W. Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (213) 413-1100.