Z: And it looked like Los Angelenos were just as excited about the new Native Foods restaurant as Chef Tanya who was sporting a humongous grin on preview weekend. All the tables in the spacious dining area were full; more people were lined up to place orders at the counter: and even some of the outdoor tables under the heaters were occupied on that cool evening.
R: The familiar menu, bursting with several new items, is stirring vegans in this community with a wave of exuberance. Word travels through cyberspace at atomic speed, and although the restaurant just barely opened, it was experiencing a dizzying flurry of activity in this cool locale. A colorful menu board near the door announces the daily soup special, while other giant-size posted menus list sandwich or beverage specials in attractive multicolor lettering.
Z: Our friends, Lionel and Diana, joined us and were thrilled to discover this all-vegan dining spot with such a diverse menu. We placed our orders and made a point of selecting different items so we could share bits and bites. Our foods were served so quickly, we began to imagine magicians in the kitchen creating dishes with a mere wave of their wands.
R: Once again I was lured into ordering a Reuben. It's rather fitting and, yes, it seems I've made a practice of opting for my namesake sandwich. Always in search of the "perfect Reuben," I was amazed at how Tanya's Classic Deli Reuben emulates the taste and texture of real corned beef using a base of beet-colored homemade seitan on grilled marbled rye bread. Resembling the old-fashioned Jewish-deli-style sandwich, this Reuben is piled with a voluptuous filling and a generous lashing of Native Horseradish Cream and sauerkraut. Accompanying my sandwich were pods of edamame and a garnish of sliced pickles piled onto each sandwich half. Curious about the Nuevo Native Chili, I ordered a bowl that was accompanied with a thick hunk of homemade cornbread. Again, downright delicious!
Z: The bites I took evoked a delicious reminiscence of my BV (before vegan) days, though I would have loved a little more sauerkraut. I ordered Chef Tanya's Original Wasabi Bean Burger heaped onto a giant whole-grain bun. A winner, this burger is made with two kinds of beans, quinoa, seitan, a splash of seasonings and topped with melt-in-the-mouth caramelized onions, along with familiar fixings like lettuce, tomato, and cucumber. The total killer-delicious finishing touch to this creation is the wasabi-spiked mayo. My order was also accompanied by a pile of bright green edamame pods. It's easy to recommend this burger--every succulent bite sent me into gastronomic heaven!
R: Our friend Lionel found it challenging to decide which of the tempting Earth Bowls to order. He settled on the Gandhi Bowl that arrived with two generous pieces of Native Foods famous homemade blackened tempeh standing tall like fully opened ship sails. Beneath was a bed of brown rice layered with kale, steamed vegetables, a flavorful curry sauce, and a garnish of cranberries and green onions. Lionel didn't stop until the bowl was completely empty!
Z: Diana ordered a bowl of the Daily Special soup--Fiesta Vegetable, a well-flavored broth with plenty of veggies to make it a hearty and delicious soup. She and Lionel both ordered fries--her choice was Crispy Sweet Potato Fries, while Lionel's was Native Seasoned Fries. Filling out the meal were our drinks: cups of agave sweetened Hot Chai, a Watermelon Fresca, and Native Ice Tea.
R: The desserts we shared included a creamy Chocolate Love Pie in an almond crust and garnished with chopped almonds, Cheesecake in a ginger granola crust, garnished with a mound of blueberries, and Peanut Butter Parfait, a whipped, ultra light and creamy peanut butter base with a surprise filling at the bottom we later discovered was Boogie Bar crumbles and chocolate chips. That fabulous parfait was totally intoxicating!
Z: Native Foods specializes in comfort food done exceptionally well and as Chef Tanya would say, "chef-crafted" from scratch from 100% plant-based foods, organic when possible. Chef Tanya began preparing homemade tempeh in her first Native Foods restaurant in Palm Springs about 1994. Now she also prepares seitan from scratch in many flavors, while her Native Chicken is made from "free-range soy, wheat, and pea protein."
R: The service is exceptional. From the order counter to the fast delivery of our meal to the bussing of the dishes, everyone wore a smile and handled the tasks with pleasant efficiency.
Z: The stand-out feature of this restaurant is the exceptional value for money. It's easy to stretch the dollars with hearty meals priced under $10. Earth Bowls are $8.95 to $9.95, Seasonal Selections are $8.95 to $9.95, Handholds $7.95 to $9.95, Entrée Salads $7.95 to $9.95, Starters and Sides $2.95 to $7.95, Desserts all $2.95.
R: You can even enjoy a well-priced glass of wine or beer that's organic and natural, and comes from local wineries or brew houses. Beers are $3.95, while wines are $4.95 a glass, $21 for the bottle.
Reviewed December 2010