R: We were tickled to learn Chef Jenny Ross was planning to bring 118 Degrees, her all-raw restaurant in Orange County, to its new home in the San Fernando Valley. We offer a cordial welcome to Chef Jenny, her friendly staff, and the charming restaurant that opened in January 2016. Located on Ventura Boulevard in Tarzana, just a few doors away from the giant Whole Foods Market and its convenient parking structure below, this restaurant offers an impressive menu of delicious raw foods.
Z: Those curious about the restaurant's name will learn that nothing on the menu is heated above 118 degrees, preserving each food's valuable enzymes and nutrients that heating above that temperature would degrade. Joining Chef Jenny in this endeavor are Sharyn Wynters and Annie Carradine
R: The restaurant is set back from the sidewalk to offer a large, attractive covered patio and has two giant heaters to keep outdoor diners warm during the cooler months. A long, tall, community table with high-backed stools dominates the center of the patio, while dark wooden banquettes line both walls. The patio walls are dotted with small planters filled with fresh herbs. Beautiful granite tiles in soft shades of brown line the patio flooring and complements the soft, pleasant lighting.
Z: Once inside, we were drawn to the right wall lined with sections of imitation microgreens interspersed with gorgeous antique, gold-framed mirrors and attractive, original paintings of flowers.
R: I was jazzed when I noticed the banquettes were lined with imitation grass along with small black cushions to give a warm and inviting indoor-outdoor impression.
Z: Most appealing were the commanding, light wooden tables made of wormwood that contrasted the dark woods throughout the restaurant. The tables were unusually thick, attractively grained, and specially fashioned by the Amish. Sturdy, white wooden chairs provided the remaining seating. Combined, the indoor and outdoor seating accommodates 62 diners. Adding pleasantry to the ambience were the warm notes of soft jazz playing in the background.
R: Erin, our smiling and helpful server, greeted us with miniature cups of Berry Blastoff, a tasty, and ultra-thick mixed berry smoothie with banana, coconut, and apple juice. The restaurant boasts the food is organic, non-GMO, wheat-free, soy-free, and dairy-free. And, of course, nothing is heated above 118 degrees.
Z: We were delighted Erin was willing to offer tasty suggestions from the extensive menu. We began our foray into the world of Chef Jenny's raw cuisine with Pesto Rolls, Florentine Lasagna, and the Trio of Enchiladas, not realizing how hearty a serving each one was.
R: The Pesto Rolls arrived in stunning glory on a long, white, rectangular dish--breathtaking is actually a better description of our first impression. Imagine six three-inch-tall plump rolls standing on end and clustered together, their wrappers formed of pesto-flavored coconut meat. The voluptuous rolls were stuffed with a julienne of zucchini and red bell pepper and sliced, marinated mushrooms and interspersed with a creamy macadamia ricotta.
Z: It was the presentation that simply dazzled the eye. Towering about two inches above the wrappers was the colorful medley of vegetables piled high and topped with an irresistible, savory marinara sauce made of nuts and tomato. The garnish consisted of slivered collard greens snaking across the top of the rolls. A purple baby orchid perched at the end of the dish added the perfect finishing touch.
R: This is a must order dish--hands down delicious. Do come with friends because the Pesto Rolls are one of the sharing plates. One of these rolls makes a great starter and still leaves room to enjoy more tasty dishes.
Z: Our Florentine Lasagna is another innovative construction. This one is composed of layers of sliced, marinated Portobello mushrooms, creamy macadamia ricotta, and savory basil marinara sauce dotted with bits of julienne red bell pepper. The multitude of layers made this a composition standing about three inches tall. The final layer was slathered with a generous topping of the orange-hued marinara that cascaded down the sides and pooled onto the dish. A cluster of shirred greens and a baby orchid garnished the lasagna, making this a very inviting dish.
R: We were curious about the soup that came to the table next to us, so Erin brought us a cup of the Curry Ramen with Konaberry Kelp Noodles. The soup was delicately warmed, but not above 118 degrees, and sported a touch of lively spice provided by a pinch of cayenne. The miso and curry broth was delicately flavored and was piled with enoki and maitake mushrooms, strips of celery, spinach leaves, carrots, green onions, and marinated red bell peppers. The translucent kelp noodles, hidden at the bottom of the cup, had a smooth, slippery texture. The usual serving comes in a very large bowl that would be plenty for two people to share.
Z: Our final dish was the Trio of Enchiladas and what a jolly little fiesta they were! Each enchilada had a different outer wrapping and different fillings to provide the trio of sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors. The coconut wrap was filled with shredded marinated carrots and zucchini and drizzled with a sweet macadamia sauce. The spicy enchilada wore a basil coconut wrap and a tasty filling sauced with tomatillo salsa. Drizzled over the top was a brightly colored fajita sauce looking like a gleaming orange sunset.
R: My favorite was the tangy enchilada with the flax wrap and avocado lime drizzle over the top. All three contained macadamia cheese but were seasoned differently. Nestled on the plate among the enchiladas sat a richly flavored Caesar Side Salad with an Avocado Dressing.
Z: When our server mentioned dessert, we said, 'Of course!" Honestly, we had enjoyed a very hearty meal and were more than sated. But our curiosity whetted our sweet tooth. It was only fitting that we should order the Dessert Trio following the Trio of Enchiladas! We feasted on sweet bites of Apple Fig Cookie, Banana Butter Pie, and Apple Cobbler and brought home an indulgent dessert nibble for the next day. The Cobbler is sweetened with an ingredient new to us--yacon. Made from the roots of the yacon plant, it is grown in the Andes Mountains.
R: There were many more temptations on the menu, but we'll have to save those for a future visit. We found portions very generous and perfect for sharing. It was Chef Jenny's desire to "send people out the door a little lighter and brighter." Her mantra, written on the wall above the deli case read, "Eat well, live well, be well"
Z: Though there is a lovely selection of biodynamic wine, organic beer, sake-based and non-alcoholic cocktails, delicious and fruity kombucha, fresh juices, and smoothies, we opted for water to keep our taste buds fully receptive for tasting. Beer enthusiasts will appreciate the artisinal beer on tap that's imported from Italy, while wine lovers will enjoy sparkling Fizzante to arrive soon!
R: Raw food preparation employs many techniques new and unfamiliar in traditional food preparation and classic cooking. Chef Jenny offers "uncooking classes" and shares the intricacies of preparing foods not heated above 118 degrees.
Z: The extensive menu is inviting, the dishes delicious and eye appealing. Small Bite Specialties & Soups $8.50 to $12, Rolls, Dippers & Sharing Plates $9 to $13, Tapas Salads $7 to $8.50, Entrée Salads $11 to $12, Dinner Entrées $9 to $21, Desserts $9 to $15, Juices $5 to $6, Smoothies $6 to $9.