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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Dining in Paradise

Editors' Note: On this page in our December, 1999, issue we published a review of Mother Earth restaurant in Los Angeles. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed.

In most restaurant reviews the reader sees the restaurant experience from one person's point of view. In the reviews of the Vegetarians in Paradise, the reader experiences the eatery from the point of view of two people in dialogue form. Vegetarians in Paradise brings you those two intrepid restaurant aficionados, Zel and Reuben Allen, who will take you along as they eat a swath across the Los Angeles environs.

Mother Earth R: Mother Earth Restaurant is a real find, a westside Los Angeles dining experience which combines European style cooking with California vegan cuisine. It's the best of both worlds.

Z: There was a warmth about the atmosphere created with its sections of brick walls and alternating beveled mirrors. On each of the brick sections was a wall planter of fresh pothos nestled into a woven basket container. Owner Gertrude Bula greeted us with her friendly smile and escorted us to a table in the middle of the restaurant.

R: We noticed that although the menu is not strictly vegetarian, there is clearly an impressive vegetarian influence. I counted 15 vegetarian entrees. Gertrude told us that she developed these vegetarian (mostly vegan) dishes because she never had a taste for meat, even as a child growing up in Poland. She's willing to accommodate almost any dietary need and is very tuned in to vegan faire. Her menu offers full dinners as well as ala carte dishes, beautiful salads with interesting dressings, and desserts that include Fresh Fruit Medley, Apple Strudel, and Homemade Carrot Cake.

Z: Gertrude certainly is an example of how her vegetarian diet contributes to a youthful appearance and boundless energy. She works 14 to 16 hours a day, prepares many of the dishes herself, keeps the place sparkling, and still has the vitality to greet diners while looking as if she had just stepped from the cover of a magazine.

R: The weather had turned cold. and we both felt like warming up with a soup. I ordered the Lentil Soup while Zel chose the Spinach Soup. For my entree I was tempted by the Eggplant Parmesan made with vegan cheese melted on top.

Z: I love dishes that incorporate seasonal foods, so I ordered the Stuffed Acorn Squash. Very shortly Gertrude brought us a basket of homemade whole wheat rolls with raisins and walnuts and the cup of chamomile tea I ordered. I found the rolls tasty, but a bit dry. I much prefer breads to be quite moist.

R: The soups arrived with the bowls sitting on a doily-covered saucer. Nice touch, as was the gray tablecloth, cloth napkins, and bread and butter plate. We felt like we were truly dining. My Lentil Soup was extremely tasty with bits of carrots, onions, and tomatoes. This is my kind of soup, steaming hot and almost as thick as a chili.

Z: My bowl of Spinach Soup was a deliciously thick puree of complex flavors with spinach dominating. Gertrude revealed her secret of adding many other vegetables to create a soup of bold flavors without the use of salt or sugar. We learned that she uses neither salt nor sugar in any of her recipes.

R: While waiting for our entrées to arrive, I noticed a dance floor in the middle of the room and a raised DJ platform along the wall near the dance floor. On Friday and Saturday nights the restaurant takes on a lively atmosphere featuring music and dance.

Z: I noticed a buffet set-up close to the front of the restaurant. That's for their $5.95 all-you-can-eat lunch buffet. They offer two entrees along with several side dishes for their weekday buffet. Sounds like an excellent meal for the budget minded.

R: My Eggplant Parmesan was steaming hot and had one of the most delicious sauces I had ever eaten. Zel couldn't stop reaching over to my dish and dipping her spoon into it. All the dishes here are freshly made to order, not prepared in advance as in many other restaurants. The layered eggplant slices were juicy and had a natural sweetness; the tofu slices were plentiful; there were sliced mushrooms throughout, and all were smothered in a slightly spicy sauce that deserves to be called something much more than marinara. This entrée was served in an oval casserole and topped with melted vegan cheese. On the side were steamed carrots, zucchini, and broccoli. When Gertrude returned, she was surprised to see my empty dish!

Z: If the menu featured photographs of each of the dishes, this one would have won a prize. The Stuffed Acorn Squash consisted of a half squash, filled with tofu chunks, and topped with a heaping mound of shredded vegetables in autumn colors. There were carrots, red cabbage, zucchini, and broccoli. The dish was enhanced by a Coconut Milk Curry Sauce that gave it the finishing touch with a delicate sweetness and just the right touch of spice. The dinners include a choice of potatoes, brown rice, or linguini marinara. I chose the brown rice, a winner of a choice. This is no ordinary brown rice, but rather a mixture of dark brown and black rice with exceptional flavor and texture. On the side were steamed carrots, zucchini, and broccoli. I was in paradise! What more could anyone desire?

R: The servings were generous, and ordinarily we would have eaten only half and brought the rest home. That night, we enjoyed the flavors so much, we simply ate on and on.

Z: Gertrude takes great pride in her food preparation as well as pleasing customers, which she has done in her restaurant for 15 years. She uses only fresh organic produce which she herself shops for twice a week.

R: On the budget side, it was a very reasonable meal, with dinners ranging from $8.95 to $9.50. The Ala Carte dinners ranged from $5.95 for Stuffed Baked Potato, Pasta Primavera, and Fried Tofu to $7.45 for Stuffed Cabbage Rolls with Vegetables. The Cabbage Rolls are one of Gertrude's specialties.

Mother Earth Restaurant
11277 National Blvd. at Sawtelle, Los Angeles, CA 90064
Open Tuesday through Saturday
Lunch ll:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Dinner 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday

Reviewed December 1999

Click here for past Dining in Paradise reviews

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