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POOR LITTLE VEGAN

He's got no beef with steakhouse's sides

January 31, 2008|August Brown

ORDERING three sides of sauteed vegetables at renowned West Hollywood steakhouse Jar is an awkward enough experience for a wayward vegan. But when a member of the Disney-branded tween-emo band the Jonas Brothers makes smoldering love eyes at your date from an adjacent table (presumably because he thinks he could out-alpha-male you), the meal should by all rights be a journey to the end of one's dignity.

Fortunately, eating vegan at Jar (and enjoying it) is much easier than deterring chiseled adolescent pop stars from casting wolf looks at your lady. With a bit of creative resolve, one can assemble a patchwork of inventive side-dish greenery that bests many vegetarian-only spots around town, all while getting out for half the price of a slice of cow.

Jar, the high-end chophouse project from Suzanne Tracht, takes the idea of the stout dark-wood steak institution in a more well-lighted, suave and generous direction. This even carries over to those who want nothing to do with the house specialties. The wait staff at Jar takes vegan disclaimers with nary an arched eyebrow (they had me pegged for one around the time we ordered our quite delicious mint juleps), and are well-versed in how to bend recipes or steer you toward safe options. Only in Los Angeles will a steakhouse waiter with forearms the size of tree limbs remember that a sorbet made with refined sugar is off-limits, or that Jar's garlic fries are cooked in the same oil as its clams, and will warn you.

But the real surprise is how many dishes are in play for the meat-averse. Tamarind-laced fried rice is a hearty centerpiece for smoky water spinach with chili peppers or pea tendrils dripping with garlic. The Japanese purple yams (minus creme fraiche) are a savory update to the popular pan-Asian street food, and even the salad (usually a palate-cleansing afterthought in most places) comes brushed with a garlic vinaigrette that, while deterring make-outs, turns a perfunctory dish into a memorable one.

Of course, Jar is and will always be an altar to the kind of filets you only get to try when your dad is in town and picking up the check (or, perhaps, when your band's manager-overlord is celebrating your sellout of the Gibson Amphitheatre). But if the Westside winds of fate should drag you away from Real Food Daily, Jar ranks among the city's best in not only accommodating vegetarians, but darn near thrilling them with extra effort and no condescension.

Jar, 8225 Beverly Blvd., (323) 655-6566

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-- August.Brown@latimes.com

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