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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

R: So perfectly suited to its name, the SunPower Natural Café, (opened May 4, 2009), greets the eye with a brilliant yellow facade that stands apart from its neighboring storefronts along the busy Cahuenga Boulevard corridor in Studio City. SunPower Natural Cafe

Z: Sunny pumpkin walls and tastefully selected, dark wood furnishings create an instant warm and welcoming ambience that makes this cozy cafe not only an inviting place for informal dining but also an appealing gathering spot in the San Fernando Valley for raw fooders.

R: Though Chef Rawsheed includes both cooked and raw specialties on the menu, he has established a long-standing presence in the raw community. In this new endeavor he has partnered with Rebecca Smith and Ron Russell, combining their talents to please patrons with great-tasting delicacies and friendly service. SunPower Natural Cafe

Z: A small radio in the corner of the room tuned to the WAVE (KTWV) sends out its soft jazz sounds that add a feel-good background to the dining area that hums with a stream of patrons coming to pick up their take-out orders.

R: On the wall behind the order counter is a large, bright yellow menu board with a small blackboard on the left announcing the cafe's daily specials. Because so many of the menu items beckoned to us, we quizzed Andrea, a talented chef as well as friendly server, to help us with selections.

Z: On our first visit, we shared a cooked Mushroom Spinach Quiche, a daily special, and the Raw Pesto Pizza. Both came quickly and were served in take-out containers. Located in an area with limited parking, the cafe was designated with take-out status by the health department, which means the cafe can't serve on dishes. The partners are working to resolve the parking issue and hope to present their delicious foods on plates with silverware. SunPower Natural Cafe

R: The attractive individual Mushroom Spinach Quiche was encased in a delicious crust made of lentils and oats and wore a sprinkle of sesame seeds on the top. The flavors were well developed, pleasing, and made for a tasty entrée that comes with a side salad. We chose the Kale Salad dotted with tomatoes and pine nuts in a tangy, lightly sweetened dressing.

Z: The Raw Pesto Pizza was so good, I could be tempted to come back for a daily serving. Layered over a rich, dehydrated crust of crunchy sunflower seeds and cashews were a creamy pesto sauce, cashew cheese, chopped tomatoes, green onions, olives, and marinated mushrooms. The blend of creamy and crunchy textures and irresistible flavors was pure alchemy.

R: Our second visit produced a royal feast because we came with our friends Susi, Wayne, and Stephanie and shared everything each of us ordered. Our selections included the SunPower Burger on a Raw Green Bun with a side of Kale Salad, the Italian Sandwich with a Side of Veggies and Dipping Sauce, Four Lettuce Tacos, Carrot and Sweet Potato Quiche with a side of Hummus and Pita, and Raw Supreme Pizza. SunPower Natural Cafe

Z: Andrea, the quiche maker, produced another winner with the Carrot and Sweet Potato Quiche, a tasty duo of sunny carrots and sweet potatoes, well-seasoned and nestled into a delicious crust of lentils and oats. The side of Hummus was a tasty choice served with whole-wheat pita wedges.

R: It's obvious Chef Rawsheed knows his way around the raw pizza kitchen by creating another sensation with the Raw Supreme Pizza. Topping the crust of crunchy dehydrated sunflower seeds were layers of marinara sauce, a creamy cashew cheese, Rawsheed's outrageous "sausage," chopped tomatoes, and marinated peppers and onions. Served on a collard leaf and cut into quarters, it was visually enticing and darned good eating!

Z: The Four Lettuce Tacos were missing a touch of color because Stephanie, who hates tomatoes, asked that they be served on the side. However, the flavors were so well combined, we didn't even miss the tomatoes. The Tacos consisted of Chef Rawsheed's raw "chorizo," tomato sauce, chopped green onions, pine nuts, creamy cashew cheese and a finishing touch of ranch dressing and chopped avocado all piled onto large romaine leaves. Each bite was beguiling and bursting with flavor.

R: The Italian Sandwich came with a choice of buns. Wayne chose the Fluffy Wheat Bun that Chef Rawsheed piled high with his savory SunPower "sausage," sun-dried marinara sauce, cashew cheese, and marinated peppers and mushrooms--a true Italian delicacy that lived up to its reputation. SunPower Natural Cafe

Z: Our final feast entrée was the specialty of the house, a SunPower Burger served on a Raw Green Bun. The centerpiece sunflower seed patty was seasoned with mushrooms, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, spices and the chef's special sauce. Accompanying the patty were all the typical sandwich fixings--lettuce, tomato, pickles and onions. This entrée came with a side of the delicious Kale Salad that Chef Rawsheed said was made with extra love that day. We also ordered a side of Seitan Salad with chopped seitan, chopped celery and red onion, dressed in a creamy dill sauce.

R: Curious about some of the Cashew Shakes, we ordered the Sweet Kale Shake and the Cacao Superfood Shake. Each was uniquely different. We couldn't taste the kale in the Sweet Kale Shake, but we knew it was there because of the beautiful lime green color. It was deliciously sweet and was lovingly laced with a touch of almond extract.

Z: The Cacao Shake was an amazing blend of cashews and cacao with a flavor suggestive of an old-fashioned chocolate malt, except this was far richer, creamier, and smoother. It went down mighty easy and put big smiles on all of our faces.

R: While menu prices are not dirt cheap, they are a good value considering the organic and raw focus of the restaurant. Sandwiches range from $8 to $11; Specialty Pizzas are $10; Salads range from $5 to $11; and Shakes are $6 for the small size and $7 for the large.

Z: Each of the entrees would have been satisfying on its own, but having the opportunity to taste so many dishes at once bordered on divine gluttony. At first glance, none of the dishes looked as if it might satisfy the appetite. We were pleasantly surprised by the end of the feast. After experiencing the great food, cordial service, and affordable prices, we know we'll return often.

3711 Cahuenga Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604
Phone: 818-308-7420
Hours: Monday through Wednesday 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Thursday through Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Website: http://www.SunpowerNatural.com

Reviewed June 2009

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