As I sat down in my relatively small but cozy booth at The Wheel of Life, the menus before me were filled with an almost overwhelming amount of options.
As a vegan, I’m used to going out to eat and being restricted to about three items or less on an otherwise meat-heavy menu, but at The Wheel of Life, an all-vegan Thai and Chinese restaurant on the other side of Irvine, the options were fantastic and appetizing, even in pictures.
As a general rule, I always bring someone with me who’s an omnivore in order to ensure that the food is generally tasty regardless of whatever slant I may have just because the food happens to be vegan, and to ensure that the soy “meats” they have are savory and full of flavor. The Wheel of Life, with most of their soy meat products made in-house, has not only the most variety I’ve ever seen at a vegan place but also the best-tasting food. Sorry Veggie Grill and Native Foods, but they got you beat here.
Between my girlfriend and me (the designated non-vegan taste tester for the evening), we ordered three different Thai dishes: som tam, tom kam kuhn and the pad see yooh, in addition to Thai tea.
The Thai tea at TWOL is delicious, with the right amount of sweetness to make it refreshing and also a nice treat before the meal. It’s worth noting that the food came out super quickly, and not at the cost of quality. The service at TWOL is fantastic, as the people who work and operate the place are super friendly and courteous as well.
The som tam was refreshing and crisp, with the papaya having a nice crunch to it — it was a nice crunch though, sort of how one would expect coleslaw to be. The other vegetables in the dish were also fresh and tasty, and it was a nice contrast with the other two dishes, which were hearty and savory.
The tom kam kuhn soup also tasted great. They served it in one of those serving dishes with the fire in the middle in order to keep it warm (excuse my ignorance if there’s a proper term for it), and the coconut milk, soy meat and vegetables that go into the soup are hearty and delicious. There was also quite a bit in the serving pot, and it was a nice go-to in conjunction with the pad see yooh.
What really impressed us both was the quality of the “beef” in the pad see yooh. It’s been several years since I’ve tasted real beef, but both my girlfriend and I were extremely impressed with how much it actually tasted like beef. The pad noodles were thick and filling, but the broccoli was a little tougher than I would have liked. However, it still tasted great and I would highly recommend the dish to anyone, vegans and omnivores alike.
All-in-all, I had a hard time thinking of anything that I didn’t like. The service is great, the food is great and it’s even better for vegans and vegetarians who aren’t used to having very many options without fear of there being any animal products in the food.
The only complaint that I have is that it can be on the pricey side, but for the quality of the food and experience I could hardly complain.
With that, The Wheel of Life has the vegan and omnivore stamp of approval, with a special recommendation for the pad see yooh and Thai tea.