I am an omnivore; I enjoy eating everything. That doesn’t mean I’m unlikely to eat at a vegan or vegetarian restaurant. It doesn’t mean I like meat more than veggies. But I’m less likely to eat at a restaurant with a limited menu. I might not be interested in Salads R Us, for example.
VegeNation is not Salads R Us. It’s a full-on restaurant with a full-on menu, open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s true that there’s no meat to be found, but that seems incidental. The concept is constructed not around vegetables but on favorite street foods and snacks from all over, burgers to bao, pizza to tacos. My Little Dumplings ($5.95) are miniature umami bombs, packed with shiitake mushrooms and spinach. The deep-purple forbidden rice roll dubbed Save the Tuna ($6.95) is bright and fresh, leaving this sushi fanatic with no raw fish cravings. And for fun dessert, the chocolate tacos with salted caramel sauce ($7) sound and look a little silly, but damn, they are delicious.
The challenge for a vegan restaurant like VegeNation in its attempt to satisfy us omnivores is the same as it is for any restaurant. You’ve got to be exciting. I don’t want to eat a mediocre plate of spaghetti and meatballs at an Italian restaurant, I want the best spaghetti and meatballs. VegeNation has to bring the excitement with a different set of tools. Its spaghetti and meatballs ($11.95), by the way, is very tasty, and maybe the best example of non-meat protein replacement success. Quinoa is involved, but the winning ingredients are the fresh herbs in the “meat” and the zingy tomato sauce.
My favorite flavors here are in the collard green-wrap tacos ($10.95), the “East West” tacos ($10.95) with a corn tortilla, jackfruit and Korean barbecue sauce, and the hearty Moroccan-style tagine ($11.95). Chef Donald Lemperle and his team are smooth stylists with seasoning; a simple plate of wok sauteéd vegetables sings.
Considering how difficult it can be to find a healthy breakfast anywhere in Las Vegas, VegeNation is a great find for your mornings. Try a smoothie of young coconut, pineapple, orange and kale or a parfait of fruit, cacao granola and chia seed pudding ($8.95). I’ll take the non-breakfast breakfast sandwich of cucumber, tomato, watercress and herbed cream cheese ($8.95), because I like to eat lunch for breakfast. Omnivore, remember?
We’re all trying to eat better. It’d be so much easier to pull it off if all restaurants could make healthier fare taste as good as it does at VegeNation.
VegeNation 616 Carson Ave. #120, 702-366-8515. Sunday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.