Popular restaurant hidden on a residential street, “Organic Vegan” VegiLicious
Popular restaur...

Popular restaur...

By Keiko Fukuda

I heard that VegiLicious is an organic vegan restaurant as you can imagine from its name, and not only that, it is a Japanese restaurant. How could I resist going there? The restaurant is located in Huntington Beach, a surfers’ town. It stands quietly in a corner of a mall, about a 10 minute drive towards the ocean from the 405 Freeway. It is surrounded by relaxed residential streets away from busy streets.

I arrived at the restaurant at 2:30 in the afternoon after the peak lunch time. I saw 2 groups of people eating enjoyably. The lady who was cheerfully talking to the customers as she was serving, was Atsuko Nakao, and the gentleman who came out and talked frankly to the customers who were having desserts, was Akira Nakao. They are the Japanese married couple who run this hidden popular restaurant, and also the only working staff who does everything for the restaurant.
First, I tried their popular menu item, the Kobe BBQ Bowl. I came up with a simple question. Why Kobe beef, at a vegan restaurant? I understood after they explained to me that the meat was made from soybeans which had been developed for vegans after a series of trial and errors, and made almost as identical to the real thin-sliced grilled beef. Even though I knew that it was made with soybeans, I felt the meaty texture in my mouth. It went very well with the sweet and spicy sauce and the brown rice underneath, which gave me quite a bit of satisfaction. Not only that, the fact that “it is not meat” gave me no sense of guilt that I usually feel. The salad dressing is also house-made. They must be very passionate about the business for being so particular about organic ingredients, making everything in-house, and running the place only by themselves.

The owner, Akira-san, is a 2-time adult-class all-Japan wrestling champion. After coming to the US, he had worked at 2 Japanese restaurants as a manager before he opened this restaurant. While working, he gradually developed a desire to run his own organic vegan restaurant. I asked him the reason. He said, “While I was managing my own health as a wrestler, I actually felt myself getting over the exhaustion faster, and healthier by eating more pork than beef, more chicken than pork, more fish than chicken, and even more soybean products such as tofu and natto than fish as my main diet.” He said that he came to his senses to this eating style which he currently offers, through his own experiences.

After taking 7months to find the property, and another 10 months to build, VegiLicious finally opened in February of 2013. When you look at the menu, you see a lot of choices, and a rich variety of items; 3 rice bowl dishes including the Kobe BBQ, as many as 7 kinds of curry dishes, 1 ramen bowl, 5 combination plates, soups, salads, appetizers, sandwiches, and desserts. You can also purchase their house-made salad dressing at the store section.

Because of the way their dishes are prepared with organic-only ingredients and no additives, which takes time and labor, this married couple are the only ones working for this restaurant in order to save labor costs. “Everything, from buying, cooking, and serving, to cleaning is done by us only,” says Akira-san. Even so, the couple wears a cheerful smile, and doesn’t show any stress, maybe because of their healthy food and lifestyle they lead, and offering it to their customers. It seems like they are living in a spiral of maintaining health by the power of food despite busy work, providing satisfaction to the customers by the good food, and getting even busier. I got a strong impression that only because they do everything by themselves, their mission-like desire, to “Make people healthy and happy with organic vegan cooking”, is being conveyed directly to their customers, and the number of their fans is growing.

I asked how many customers they were attracting because of that thinking, and how many rotations they have for dinner time sales. They said, “It depends. Some spend only 15 minutes to finish, and others, like a big group for instance, could take 2 to 3 hours to enjoy the whole experience.” You can easily guess how popular they are by knowing that the wait time could be as long as 30 minutes in the waiting line to get in.









16821 Algonquin St., #103, Huntington Beach, CA


11:45am-3:00pm, 5:30pm-9:00pm

Closed Tuesdays