Hugo’s Restaurant recently updated their menu, adding a number of unique vegan dishes to their already herbivore-friendly line-up. I’ve been making my way through the ones that have intrigued me and so far, as expected from Hugo’s, they’ve all been delicious. They’ve also added little symbols to their menu indicating what’s vegetarian or vegan, as well as what can be made vegan (they have vegan cheese which you can substitute on most of the cheesy dishes). The symbols are very helpful and take the guesswork out of knowing what’s vegan and what’s not. Good move, Hugonauts!
Note that we’re talking about the Hugo’s in Studio City (I’ve not yet been to the West Hollywood location), though they both have the same menu.
I’m just going to start this off with a bang because this is my favorite of all the new stuff so far. The Tika Masala Vegetable Patties are “made of organic sprouted mung bean, organic brown rice, assorted fresh vegetables, mushrooms, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, herbs & spices. Covered with an Indian inspired sauce of tomatoes, onions and spices. Served with turmeric rice, leafy greens and cilantro mint chutney”.
Wow, so good… the patties were perfectly crispy yet delicate, just right for sopping up the thick and piquant sauce. I love whatever spices they use in there, exotic but not overpowering. The cooks at Hugo’s really do have a special way with vegetables and greens, while simply done they’re cooked just right, always crispy and fresh tasting, never wilted or mushy. My only complaint about these yummy greens would be that I would have liked more. While the Indian inspiration was definitely in this dish, it had it’s own thing going on, tasting both exceedingly decadent while light & healthy at the same time. Excellent! So much more good stuff awaits…
Here’s a peek at Hugo’s New American Veggie Burger, a “combination of organic sprouted mung bean, organic brown rice, assorted fresh vegetables, mushrooms, pumpkin & sunflower seeds, herbs & spices. Covered with an Indian inspired sauce of tomatoes, onions and spices, fried crispy”. Hey, doesn’t that sound familiar? I didn’t realize until writing this that the veggie burger is the same pattie as used in the Tika Masala dish above. Interesting… but hey, it’s all good, because both of these dishes are great in their own way.
The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, Veganaise, and your choice of their various toppings. As shown above I got it with their tasty grilled green chilies, as well as the grilled onions which I forgot to have them leave off… easily picked off after photo op. The burger really is in there under all those toppings, and it’s very tasty. In this version it was a more softer type of pattie, which is why it got so smushed down in the photo… check out this very different version below that showed up the next time I ordered this same burger…
This time around the pattie was fried to much more of a crisp (it’s not burned, just a bit dark in the photo) and the texture was a more solid with a nice chew to it…. good stuff. You’ll notice this time around I added guacamole to the grilled chili party, and whoever put this version together went wild with the Veganaise. Obviously two different people cooked these on different days, I liked it both ways.
Ah yes, the tamales. The Tamale Plate comes with “two tamales filled with a blend of vegetables, soy chorizo, sauteed peppers, onions & potato. Covered with tomatillo sauce and mozzarella cheese. Served with garlic spinach and a zucchini, corn, roasted red pepper medley”. Substitute the real cheese for their vegan mozzarella or just leave the cheese off like I did and you’ve got a vegan feast. I must admit that when it was first placed in front of me, I gave a little gasp because it looks just like two pieces of salmon! Doesn’t it? But no, thankfully no beautiful fish were needlessly killed for my meal… this case of mistaken identity turned out to be just that, and I heartily dug into my tasty corn tamales.
Here’s an up close and personal view of the inside. The combination of the delicious soyrizo and the equally delicious tomatillo sauce is a hit… there’s a nice sweetness from the corn being set off just right by the spiciness of the salsa. As you can see in the first picture of this dish, the sides that came with it were not what was described in the menu, but their rice is always good as are their vegetable sides, so I was just as happy with what I got.
This next dish, which is on their current breakfast specials menu, was really great too, though I messed up and got something that wasn’t vegan. This is the Roasted Beet Casserole which is a combination of beets and leafy greens, with “onions and garlic in a carrot ginger sauce topped with crispy potato pancake croutons and crumbled Gorgonzola cheese”. This sounded so tasty, I figured without the cheese it would be vegan so I ordered it. I didn’t stop to think that potato pancakes are usually not vegan… I was imagining more along the lines of hash browns and like a dolt I ignored the handy-dandy symbol key which I just finished telling you was so helpful (it’s only helpful if you’re actually paying attention). When this arrived it looked gorgeous and I dug right in. It didn’t even cross my mind until later when my mother who I’d been dining with wondered aloud how they managed to make the potato pancakes stick together without eggs. I thought about it for a second, then the big DUH of it all hit me… these were not vegan hash browns, they’re real latkes made with eggs. Crap.
Well, you can’t win ‘em all. Vegans, don’t get the potato topping (have them sub the vegan cheese for you or just leave it off). Vegetarians and the rest of you rowdy lot, eat this one up because it’s a really nice change of pace for breakfast or brunch (they serve breakfast til 4pm so you could even call it lunch or early dinner!). I’ll definitely have this one again, minus the one non-vegan fatal flaw of it all.
Finally, what a better way to wrap up a big giant post of vegan meals than with a big giant vegan dessert. Currently on the specials menu is the Best Vegan New York Style Chocolate Cheesecake Ever. That’s its official name. Described as: “An incredibly smooth blend of nutritious white sweet potato, cashews, organic agave and lemon zest. Filled high inside a crust made of coconut, nuts and spices. Topped with coca powder”. I had this to-go, and you can see they even packed it up for me with a nice splash of chocolate sauce. Très chic.
It was really, really delicious and this photo does not do justice to the size of this slice they gave me, it could have easily satisfied three people. It was super rich and thick, with a chewy, sticky crust. To be honest, I don’t think it passes as a cheesecake, the texture is too thick for that and it doesn’t have that sour cheesiness to it that real cheesecake (or good fake ones) has. That said, it’s wonderful. There’s this heady, intoxicating something to it that gives off a hint of… oh I don’t know, it reminded me of rum, though there’s no alcohol in there. Maybe it was some kind of magic pulled off between the coconut and the spices, but whatever it was, it really works. This was a hardcore dessert that I’m willing to bet would be enjoyed by both cheesecake lovers and dark chocolate cake fans alike.
All in all, Hugo’s was already a top-notch joint… with the addition of all their exciting new dishes, it’s just that much better. The best part is there’s even more great sounding new stuff on the menu that I have not tried yet… Tofu Mole anyone? Or how does the Black Bean Chili Casserole strike you? Not in the mood? Then have a Hippie Hemp Seed Black Rice Salad or the vegan soup of the day.
A little birdie also just let me in on the fact that Hugo’s has free WiFi, excellent news if like me, you’re attempting to be less of a shut-in. Here’s to free internet and full bellies for all!