Most vegan restaurants have some kind of schtick. Whether it’s a patio built for social media, self-affirmations in menu item form, or the ability to get a colonic after you’ve eaten your kelp carbonara, it’s rarely the food that’s the main attraction. Erven, a low-key vegan spot in downtown Santa Monica, doesn’t need any of that. It’s a normal restaurant, with pretty great food that just happens to be vegan.
Erven is just a couple of blocks from the Promenade, with a space that will remind you of a fully-furnished corporate apartment. There’s an awkward lunch counter in one room, and a handful of tables and an open kitchen in the other. It’s all just a little boring. Which only means you’re even more surprised when the food here turns out to be so good.
The menu doesn’t exactly stick to one cuisine - although there’s a general Asian feel to the food, there are also a couple of pastas and even a beer-battered tofu sandwich in there as well. The soft tofu and brussels sprouts dish is the kind of thing you won’t stop thinking about and, like a lot of the food here, is interesting, super flavorful, and a welcome change from dairy replacement-heavy “healthy” food. Not everything works (the Korean ‘gnocchi’ were closer to packing peanuts in look and texture than actual gnocchi), but almost all of it does.
Erven is the kind of place you go to catch up with a friend you haven’t seen in forever and you know the experience isn’t going to turn into a reenactment of your college nights. It’s a regular restaurant, with much better than average food, and it just so happens that no animals were harmed in the making of your meal. No schtick necessary.
These are excellent. Unless you (or the person you hope to do mouth things with tonight) are anti-garlic, in which case these fritters are 100% not for you or the continuing happiness of your relationship. These come with a citrusy yuzu sauce and we wouldn’t be mad if there were more than three.
Don’t let words like sauerkraut and applesauce scare you off. Sweet and savory at the same time, these little balls of goodness are also weirdly, definitely meaty in taste.
A bowl of soft tofu with brussels sprouts, pickled garlic ponzu, lime cured onion, and popcorn sounds overly complicated. And maybe it is, but it’s also so tasty that we guarantee you will not be able to stop eating this. Order it and don’t look back.
While the cavatelli itself is kind of bland on its own, everything else on the plate ramps this up. Especially that tom yum gravy.
A fairly standard dish of roasted carrots is pumped up a bit with a tamarind sriracha and frozen coconut cream on top. This one is perfectly fine, but not essential.
This really didn’t work. The ‘gnocchi’ tasted nothing like real gnocchi and we couldn’t get past the fact that they looked like styrofoam. The sauce reminded us of our childhood grilled cheese and Campbell’s canned tomato soup days - and definitely not in a good way.