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First Impressions

No Beefs With This Fare

December 18, 1987|RUTH REICHL

'You've got to be kidding," said the Reluctant Gourmet."You want me to eat in a vegetarian Chinese restaurant?"

"You'll like it," I assured him. It's the Fragrant Vegetable, a restaurant that has been in Monterey Park for many years. They've just opened a branch at 11859 Wilshire Blvd., in West Los Angeles. (213) 312-1442.

The RG was not convinced. But when he walked into the large, cheerful and brightly lit room, he perked up. "Look," he said, "you were wrong. They've got pepper steak and stuffed duck and spicy salt-and-pepper shrimps." His face fell when I informed him that all of these were merely mock animals--tofu, nuts and mushrooms cooked up to fool the palate.

"They don't fool me," he growled, tasting the vegetarian duck. "But don't you like it?" I urged, spearing a piece of tofu fried to resemble the crispy skin of the duck. He tasted it again, shook his head.

"I wish I were eating a hamburger," he announced.

He said it as we ate minced vegetables in a lettuce envelope (crunchy and fresh), a beautiful spinach and corn soup, even eggplant fried with chili.

"The thing I like best," he admitted, "are the deep-fried egg rolls. And I think a little pork would improve them."

So if you've got an RG in your life, I don't recommend taking him to the Fragrant Vegetable. You, on the other hand, might like it a lot.

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