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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Real Food Daily R: Real Food Daily has gone woodsy and wildly earthy and has landed in the midst of posh Pasadena with the opening of its third location on Del Mar Boulevard at Lake Avenue at the end of May 2012.

Z: Away from the hustle and frenzied traffic noise of Old Town Pasadena, the restaurant is in a more serene locale that offers a warm, welcoming vegan dining spot. A spacious, partially open patio is just a step off the sidewalk and features walls of varied wood décor, wooden tables, and appealing metal wall sculptures with tasteful leaf designs.

Real Food Daily R: A cordial greeter posted at the entrance to the patio welcomed us with a smile and friendly conversation. Once inside, we noticed the artistry in wood on not only each of the walls but also as ceiling décor that meanders with the shape of the dining area.

Z: I liked the roomy dining area because it was not just one large room with rows of tables. The space was somewhat L-shaped and offered delightful seating variety: booths, banquettes, separate tables, and even a community table. Attractive wooden tables were set with tan-colored recycled paper napkins and high-quality flatware that felt wonderfully weighty in the hand.

Real Food Daily R: No splashes of wild colors were visible on these walls--only soft, muted earth tones complimented with soft lighting that offered a comfortable, warm glow. The overall impression is that the ambience was well planned to give patrons the feeling of contemporary California with forward-thinking architecture. Real Food Daily in Pasadena is a perfect match for the neoteric.

Z: Neoteric? There you go again flaunting your fancy vocabulary! One of the best assets any restaurant can have is a well-informed, pleasant wait staff. High marks go to Katie, our excellent server who was delightful, helpful, and willing to go out of her way to make our experience pleasing. Katie, blonde and bubbly, offered some excellent suggestions to help us navigate the extensive menu and even brought us samples of the delicious soup special of the day--a well-seasoned, thick black bean soup with jalapeno cream.

Real Food Daily R: We came to the restaurant with our friend, Judy, and arrived very hungry. Katie suggested we start with Not-Chos, RFD's take on traditional Nachos but a million times better. The dish was an instant hit, especially with the extra seitan chunks of Taco Mix that made this appetizer a heartier meal starter.

Z: The Not-Chos were a stunning example of California-Mexican cuisine. Piled over a mound of crisp, baked tortilla chips were generous quantities of black beans, diced tomatoes and onions, sliced rings of green onions, salsa, and a heap of deliciously green guacamole crowning the "mountain." But that's not all. Sprinkled over the chips was melted cheese, while artful drizzles of vegan sour cream added the delectable finishing touch.

Real Food Daily R: The menu offers a broad array of appetizers, soups, salads, unique dressings, main dishes, sandwiches, wraps, and juices and beverages. In addition, there are macrobiotic plates that offer diners the opportunity to select from a variety of components to compose a meal.

Z: We concentrated our choices and ordered from The Seasonal Specials Section that lists about six entrees that change with the season. We selected Momma Mia Wotta Lasagna, Fly Away With Me Tonight, and Southwestern Fajita Chop with Chipotle Ranch Dressing and asked Katie to bring us extra small plates so we could share the entrees.

R: My Lasagna was quite a departure from the traditional Italian dish and stood tall on the large shallow bowl. Between the pasta layers were perfectly roasted zucchini, mushrooms, carrots, and green bell peppers nestled in the tofu cheese. A tasty tomato sauce smothered the top, while two pesto-spattered crostini and a well-dressed arugula and shaved fennel salad completed the meal.

Real Food Daily
Z: Judy's Southwestern Fajita Chop was another tall mountain heaped over a large square platter. At the base was torn romaine lettuce with casually arranged diced tomatoes, black beans, diced onions and green bell peppers. Climbing high in the center of the mound were several thickly cut strips of exceptionally tasty housemade seitan and tomato wedges. Crisp and thin tortilla slivers garnished the top and loosely cascaded down the hill that was glazed with a flavorful, and seriously zesty chipotle dressing.

R: Zel's choice, the Fly Away, made a show-stopping presentation in its large, white shallow bowl. Aside from the delightful flavors, the dish was well designed with not only dazzling color contrast, but also dynamic flavor contrast. Coconut red beans and rice formed the tasty bedding while three giant-size, round seitan patties lay stately over the rice.

Real Food Daily Z: I loved the thick, melt-in-the-mouth creamy, light green arugula pesto that dressed the seitan patties so elegantly. Forming a bright orange ring around the perimeter were roasted diced sweet potatoes with mojo verde sauce just visible at the edges. The knockout punch to this dish is the knoll of thinly slivered, deep fried beets that offered a dramatic, sweet crunch accent to the other softer textured components. I loved this dish for its exceptional creativity and great flavor.

R: We couldn't help noticing the colorful dishes served at our neighboring table and asked if we could take a few photos. No one minded and even encouraged us to chat and take as many photos as we liked. One dish was the Macrobiotic Dinner with a beautiful array of vegetables, seaweed, and brown rice. The TV Dinner consisted of a thick slice of tempeh vegetable loaf with mashed potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable medley. Chopped seasonal vegetables, sliced avocado, and mixed greens made the Farmhouse Chop a gorgeous salad choice.

Z: We simply couldn't leave without a sweet finish. After thoroughly examining the menu and the dessert case filled with an array of beautifully garnished desserts, we decided to share one piece of Marble "Tofu Chz" Cake that was just as killer-delicious as it looked. We loved the firm texture of the vanilla cheesecake and the luscious chocolate marble filling that tasted wonderfully fruity.

Real Food Daily R: Because our dining experience was a delight, we will certainly return to this Pasadena location of Real Food Daily, possibly for a delicious Sunday Brunch served from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.. The menu is varied enough to offer many items to try in future visits. We place a high value on good service and can't praise our server enough for her attentiveness and warm personality. She said it was must that we come back for the housemade tempeh bacon. Though the noise level is somewhat moderate, we could still enjoy our pleasant dinner conversation.

Z: Certified organic produce, specially filtered water, some gluten-free and nut-free dishes are some menu examples that show the restaurant is anxious to please. Starters are priced from $8.95 to $11.75, Soups $3.95 for a cup, $5.25 for a bowl, Salads range from $7.95 to $14.75, Main Courses $12.95 to $14.25, Sandwiches and Wraps $10.75 to $14.75, Macrobiotic meals range from $7.95 to $13.95. Sunday Brunch and Breakfast items are priced from $8.95 to $14.95.

Real Food Daily Organic Vegan Cuisine
899 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91106
Phone: 6726-844-8900
Hours: Daily 11:30 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sunday Brunch 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Website: http://www.realfood.com

Reviewed July 2012

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