By Emma Gallegos
One World Vegetarian Cuisine wants you to stop eating meat, and it has effectively staged a one-restaurant, multipronged campaign to that end.
You’ve been warned.
One World is a surprisingly serene sit-down restaurant tucked away in a West Covina strip mall next to a barbecue place selling “broasted” chicken.
A hedge in front of a small outdoor patio blocks out the view of the bustling Westfield complex across the street. A water fountain and piped-in music from Enya drowns out ambient noise. The bright-eyed waitstaff doesn’t look like any of them has ever shown up to work with a hangover.
Above the bamboo-lined booths inside, a hallowed pantheon of vegetarian saints – Alicia Silverstone, Paul McCartney, Leonardo da Vinci, Christy Turlington – watches over. The campaign sort of sneaks up on you like that: These smart, beautiful, insanely talented people are vegetarians – why aren’t you?
In one corner, a waitress explains to an already-converted patron how to make pancakes without eggs. The food here, after all, is not only vegetarian, but vegan. The Heaven on Earth Latte ($2.75) was made with a fluffy, slightly sweet soy cream, the heaven that tops the earthly, bitter coffee, all in a delicate wine glass.
No detail is spared in this campaign, whose most convincing tactic is, of course, the food itself.
The Indian curry ($5.50), with cubes of tofu, was made creamy and spicy with an emphasis on fresh, crisp vegetables rather than something that had been stewing in a pot all day. The curried and crisp bell peppers, zucchini, potatoes and scallions were served with brown rice as a part of the combo, preceded by a bowl of vegetable soup made with equally crisp ingredients in a clear, spicy broth. It was simple, crisp, healthy and not a bad deal, either.
Because the waitstaff brings out complimentary, freshly roasted warm peanuts, I could have done without an appetizer. But I sprang for the spring rolls ($3.75) served with the usual peanut sauce and the less usual meat substitute. The rolls tasted like almost anything else I’ve had and I almost didn’t notice the substitute, which was mild, had a hint of barbeque and might have been broasted.
At the end was the hard-sell. In my bill, I received an insert from Supreme Master Ching Hai that urged the halt of meat-eating to save the ice caps.
Scores of meat-eating commenters on the Web site Yelp – who sound like they’ve been tricked into eating a bad cut of tofurky one too many times – swear that, no, this vegetarian place is actually good.
I was less surprised that a vegan restaurant managed to make something appetizing – restaurants like this and even vegetarian icons like Alicia Silverstone are more common west of the 605 Freeway. I was just pleased to find a healthy, reasonable lunch in an unassuming strip mall just a hedge away from food court fare.
And who knows? One World might be a great place to nurse a hangover.
One World Vegetarian Cuisine, 178 S. Glendora Ave., West Covina, (626) 917-2727.