R: Venice is home to a clutter of bustling restaurants and small cafes but none have catered exclusively to vegans--that is until now. Seed, a totally vegan, organic, macrobiotic cafe, chose the perfect Venice locale on Pacific Avenue, or perhaps the Venice spot caught the attention of chef/owner Eric Lechausser. The small cafe opened its doors November 4, 2008 and serves its animal-free specialties to a grateful clientele of eat-inners and take-outers.
Z: We joined our friends Diana, Eric, and baby Shanti for a stroll on the sunny Venice Boardwalk and a casual lunch at Seed where we were greeted by a friendly staff behind the order counter. Several laminated menus were stacked at the counter to allow a pack of potential diners time to contemplate their choices.
R: We found a number of menu temptations, placed our orders, paid at the counter, and joined our friends at the large, distressed wood community table outfitted with wooden benches. The other tables were small and were made of the same appealing, pale-hued distressed wood. We discovered all the wood tables and shelving in this casual eatery are reclaimed furnishings.
Z: The white walls, airy, high ceiling, and giant, West-facing floor-to-ceiling windows allow a cheery stream of bright light to infuse the cafe with an upbeat glow. The industrial concrete floors were painted with a mottled, warm earth tone, and reflected a clean, modern, and streamlined look. In an effort to reduce energy usage, the restaurant is outfitted with energy-efficient lighting and soy candles and uses ecologically safe "green" soaps and cleaning products. There were even two bins for the recyclable glass, plastic, and biodegradable materials.
R: We collected our orders at the counter and our utensils at the hutch near the counter and shared each of the dishes that are served in earth-friendly biodegradable or recyclable materials, reflecting Chef Eric's philosophy of sustainability and responsible business practices. Because the restaurant is considered a fast food eatery by the City of Los Angeles, only take-out containers are allowed. Diana and Eric ordered the Seed Chop Chop Salad and the Italian Soysage Panini and pooled these with our Seitan Pepper Steak, Indian Chickpea Curry, and Sweet Potato Fries, allowing us to taste more of the menu offerings.
Z: Served in a square take-out container, the Italian Soysage Panini is an excellent choice that offers tasty eats with diverse textures. The bread is warm and crisp and compliments the well-seasoned combo of soy tidbits, perfectly roasted red peppers, arugula, vegan cheese, and creamy pesto. Accompanying the sandwich was a serving of fresh, crunchy coleslaw. Perhaps, next time we'll try the Roasted Vegetable Panini or the Soyzzarella Tomato and Basil Panini.
R: I'm always impressed with a chef who can conjure up a salad with unique character. Chef Eric came through with the Seed Chop Chop Salad that was not only an eye appealing rainbow of colors, but it was also innovatively assembled. Brimming over the container were romaine, purple cabbage, cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, chunks of fried tempeh, and a sprinkling of roasted almonds. The diversity of veggies is always a welcome approach to a salad, but it was the creamy Ume-Ranch Dressing that turned the simple salad into a tasty tangy delight.
Z: Ultra sweet, crisp, and fun were three words that totally describe the Sweet Potato Fries served in a Chinese take-out carton. The portion was generous, yet the fries disappeared quickly as the four of us kept reaching for another and another. These little babies are addictive and compelling.
R: Of the three appealing Curry Bowl choices on the menu, the Indian Chickpea Curry beckoned the most. This is one hearty meal consisting of a generous serving of brown rice, a curry of lentils, chickpeas, cauliflower, and tomatoes, a salad of shredded carrots and daikon, and a lentil cracker called pappadum. On the table were three condiment shakers--shiso powder, nori flakes, and gomashio, a combination of roasted sesame seeds and sea salt for seasoning to taste. A little sprinkle of gomashio over the curry added the perfect seasoning.
Z: Everyone's favorite choice was the Seitan Pepper Steak that was deliciously smothered in a fabulous wine-reduced peppercorn sauce and served over organic brown rice. Along with the tender strips of melt-in-the-mouth seitan were crisp-tender steamed broccoli and giant carrot slices. Because each of the components of this dish was cut into large pieces, we found it challenging to eat with plastic forks but that didn't hamper us from attacking this flavorful entrée with gusto.
R: The organic macrobiotic choices on the menu offer enough diversity to invite diners to return frequently to enjoy dishes prepared with organic, locally grown produce. For those with a sweet tooth, a selection of housemade cupcakes, cookies, and truffles are displayed in the glass deli counter. The pleasant surprise is that ice cream lovers seeking an all-vegan treat, can enjoy Seed's creamy vanilla-maple Soft Serve in a cup--it's creamy to the max and totally satisfies.
Z: We didn't have the opportunity to taste the Soup of the Week or any of the appealing Burgers, which means we'll certainly be back for another of Chef Eric's tasty meals.
1604 Pacific Ave., Venice, CA 90291
Reviewed March 2009