Healthy, delicious food in a friendly environment

Chef Ito, along with owner Mai Nguyen, create inspirational vegan dishes at Au Lac in Fountain Valley.

There isn’t anything more inviting than walking into a restaurant and being greeted by smiles and a sign that says, “Welcome Friend.”

Located in Fountain Valley off Brookhurst Street and Warner Avenue, Au Lac is a vegan restaurant that has been changing Vietnamese cuisine since 1997.

Cultivated through passion, owner Mai Nguyen strives to incorporate healthy plant-based twists on authentic Vietnamese meals for her surrounding community.

Customers flock the restaurant to get a taste of the dishes that have been so carefully constructed by love but also because of the atmosphere the employees and Nguyen herself have created.

Most are used to a waitress or waiter that have practiced their “customer voice” too many times to count and could simply care less about your needs and desires. At Au Lac, customers are greeted and served by employees who treat them not only as a friend, but as family in order to create the best experience for all.

In 2001, Chef Ito was drawn to the restaurant that Nguyen created because of the passion and love she had for a healthy lifestyle she incorporated into Au Lac. Chef Ito is mute by choice, essentially taking a vow of silence for two reasons. According to him, “speech is war,” and he also wanted to be in tune with God 24-hours a day.

Though the two couldn’t communicate verbally, they passed written notes to one another in English in order to make both their dreams come to fruition. Together they expanded the once vegetarian menu into a raw “live” menu allowing for the audience of the restaurant to grow along with it.

Arriving during dinner time on any day of the week without reservations means a 30 to 60 minute wait. The restaurant sets up a tarp in the parking lot for extra seating but that isn’t nearly enough for the traffic of customers they see in the evenings.

Diners should expect their palates to be blown away by the array of flavors for each entree they have to offer. A customer favorite is the Kung Pao chicken, which can easily serve a table of two with the amount of food it has to offer on the plate. Its pan-seared vegetables have a delicately spicy flavor which will only kick in for about a second and not have customers begging for their next gulp of water. The soy chicken used for this dish is cooked so well it can confuse anyone, vegan or not, on its true origin.

The antipasto salad is considered a “living green” salad under the menu selections and it leaves you feeling alive and ready to take on the day. It consists of a mix of spring mix greens, mushrooms, nuts tossed in balsamic vinaigrette and sprinkled with cabbage sauerkraut. The combination is so exquisitely designed that it leaves you wanting another bowl.

As waiters walk by with the food meant for other tables on their trays, diners will be left with their mouths watering and wondering when they can go back and try the simply delicious and healthy dish.

Au Lac is open every day expect Mondays and holidays for lunch from 11:33 a.m. to 3:33 p.m. and for dinner from 5:33 p.m. to 9:33 p.m. Whatever the time, customers will be received with open arms and a friendly smile.

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