Dana Slatkin

Chaya’s Vegan Japanese Minestrone

Minestrone SoupLos Angeles has always had a thriving restaurant scene, fueled by innovative chefs, abundant inspiration, and ever-curious diners. But when it comes to classic fine dining, there are only a handful of grandes dames left. It’s not that Angelenos don’t appreciate first-rate food, but they want it served with a fun, lighthearted vibe. In this town, stuffy and pompous just don’t fly any more.

One L.A. landmark has managed to keep its hip Euro-Japanese brand of haute cuisine relevant for 27 years. Chaya Brasserie, owned by the Tsunoda family, which has been operating restaurants and tea houses in Japan for almost four centuries, is constantly reinventing the sophisticated neighborhood haunt. Chaya is where my husband took me on our first date 20 years ago, and it’s still my go-to for a date night.

Last week, Executive Chef Shigefumi Tachibe stopped by the Farmgirl kitchen to teach a class on Modern Asian Fusion cuisine. This rich East-meets-West brew is a pitch-perfect example of Chaya’s brilliant urbane approach. Chef Tachibe mixes miso paste and whole oats into a simple vegetable soup, rendering it thick, silky, and intriguingly flavorful.

Everyone enjoyed this delightful Japanese take on classic minestrone. Try making it your way — by adding diced squash, zucchini, snow peas, canned beans, even cooked pasta or brown rice. It’s a delicious kind of synthesis that Chaya has perfected over time, one that goes down easy but requires plenty of love and effort for success…

…which reminds me of our first date. Thankfully, it’s still fresh…even after all these years.

Soup time? You might also like one of these:

Or, start warming up for Passover with my Homemade Matzah Ball Soup!

Kyosera knife

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Photo credit: Ventura International Trade

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