R: Very vegan friendly and deliciously brunchable on Sunday, Savyon Café, opened its doors in October 2010 to introduce its tasty Mediterranean cuisine to diners hip to the healthy offerings.
Z: Sandwiched between a pizza restaurant and Jerry's Garden, both with blazing gigantic signs, Savyon was a little challenging to spot as we drove down West Pico Blvd. Look for the row of outdoor umbrellas and several outdoor tables, and you'll have arrived at your destination.
R: Israeli born chef-owner Savi Meged offers a diverse menu that provides many options for vegan dining. Eager to please his patrons, he is now in the process of creating a separate, all-vegan menu to respond to requests from the vegan community in the neighborhood. He is also savvy to the needs of those with dietary restrictions and allergies and will gladly provide substitutions. For now, many of the dishes can easily become vegan with tiny tweaks and a very willing chef.
Z: The ambience is simple and unadorned except for the vases of lovely fresh flowers on each table. Plans are in the works to add some cheery touches to the long, spacious dining room that provides plenty of seating. The tables are attractive, high resin-finished and framed with deep, cherry-hued wood that carries over to the comfortable chairs. Large windows and French doors facing the street bring in ample light during the day, while a couple of chandeliers supply the nighttime lighting.
R: Perusing the menu, we noted many items in green ink. These are vegan friendly choices that say we are welcome here. We might have chosen the Quinoa Plate, but they had run out of the popular quinoa cake, a specialty of the chef. Gal Friday, manager, and server Danette said Savi was in a kitchen groove and suggested we order the Savyon Sampler and the Falafel Plate. Those two choices would be more than enough to satisfy us and our friend, Chuck, who joined us for this dining adventure.
Z: Arriving first was the Falafel Plate where hummus took its place in the center of the platter, surrounded by a cluster of roasted potato chunks and a generous assemblage of crisp-fried falafel. The clusters were divided by servings of roasted and marinated bell peppers. Completing the selection were pita and a dish of Israeli salad composed of finely chopped tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers with oil and lemon dressing.
R: We used to think that all hummus and falafel were seasoned the same at every Middle Eastern restaurant, but the now defunct Hummus King taught us regional styles in the Middle East vary greatly, highlighting different herbs and seasoning combinations. Savyon's style features subtle seasonings in both the hummus and falafel, placing the garbanzo flavor into the foreground. Chef Savi's falafel was uniquely light and airy, a delightful take on the traditionally heavier style.
Z: The Savyon Sampler provided yet another dimension to hummus by adding an accent of chopped cashews and olive oil in the center. A stunning platter served on a square dish bordered with fresh orange slices, it contained so many items nestled together we could only guess the plate was actually white. The sampler is a dish that truly shows off Savi's deep passion for the multitude of delicious vegetable salads that have become an integral part of Israeli cuisine.
R: Corralling the cashew-accented hummus were standing slices of cucumber, surrounded by a killer, smoky-flavored, fire-roasted eggplant salad--my favorite salad on the platter. There were sweet marinated beets laced with a pleasant, unexpected hint of spice, roasted vegetable salad, creamy baba ganoush, green beans cooked with well seasoned, lightly spiced tomato sauce, bright red grape-tomato salad, marinated roasted peppers, a tasty ratatouille, and stuffed grape leaves with a tangy, lemony filling.
Z: A platter of pita and a backdrop of soft classical music completed the experience. Danette emphasized the sampler platter varies daily depending on which salads the chef prepares. "At least two of the items in this dish will change daily," she says.
R: Savi urged us to come back for his special, Gourmet Vegan Sunday Brunch Buffet featuring an impressive 20 different items for only $10.99 including dessert! From 11:30 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon, vegans fill every table, spill out onto the outdoor tables, and even take up seating in Jerry's Garden next door to feast on this buffet extravaganza. Guess we'll have to join the Sunday crowd, too! Because Savi is finding the Sunday buffet so successful, he decided to offer a Saturday buffet with different dishes from the Sunday buffet, featuring mostly gourmet vegan items along with some vegetarian choices as well.
Z: Other vegan menu offerings include a selection of Paninis, Salads, and Variety Plates with a Mediterranean touch. Americans craving a vegan burger can order the Veggie Burger or Quinoa Burger, a Jumbo Dog, Chili Dog, or Hummus Dog with an array of side salads.
R: Prices are very reasonable. The Sunday Brunch is only $10.99, Vegan Paninis are $7.99 to $8.99, Gourmet Salads are $7.99 to $8.99 and $2.00 extra to add a Quinoa Burger, Variety Plates are $10.99. Soup of the day $4.50 to $6.50.
Z: Savi and manager, Danette, are cordial hosts and enjoy taking time to chat with the patrons. We asked about the name Savyon and learned it's an Israeli daisy, a resilient flower that pops up all over. Being resilient is Savi's mantra, as he continues to create yet more options for his growing vegan clientele. Diners will definitely find this dining spot good value for money with its generous servings, tasty food, and friendly service.
Reviewed June 2011