Z: Chef Dave and Molly Anderson of the recently closed Madeline Bistro in Tarzana partnered with David Jarrett to switch gears from upscale dining to a more relaxed, easy-going style of serving tasty food to hungry vegans.
R: The first thing to greet the eyes is the blast of bright gelato colors in the unique copper-toned deli case facing the door. We peeked through the large, floor-to-ceiling windows to catch a glimpse of the tempting gelato display and the comfy corner complete with counter, bar stools, and tables where patrons can relax and enjoy the tasty treats! There was no guessing what we were having for dessert! After we reluctantly stopped eyeing the gelato, we meandered past the dessert display case to the order counter.
Z: The wall behind the order counter features two blackboard menus--one "Sweet," the other "Savory." The Sweet menu lists four sizes of the 14 gelato and sorbet flavors, with varieties changing daily. Looking at the gelato case, we noticed there was plenty of room to expand the flavor selection as demand peaks.
R: Also awaiting those with a sweet tooth are carrot cake cookie sandwiches, luscious, creamy fruit-topped cheesecake, organic scones, and a selection of cookies that change daily. The easy-to-read Savory menu lists the sandwiches, salads, and sides, along with prices.
R: Eco-savvy diners will also appreciate the ambience that features reclaimed wooden-top tables and the innovative array of variegated wooden strips that line the lower portion of the wall. Warm green tones make the ideal background for abstract original oils that dominate the upper wall. The soffit sports a deeper accent green with indirect lighting giving the open space an inviting warm glow, accented by unique drop-lights hovering over the tables.
Z: The three of us placed our orders and sat down at one of the tables along the wall. Our friend Chuck ordered the Maddy Mac, Chef Dave's classic bistro burger assembled and delivered by the chef himself. The sandwich is a tall, very handsome assemblage of housemade cheese, lettuce, pickles, onions and a hearty burger formed from braised cremimi mushrooms, tempeh, and brown rice. The exceptional bread is generously slathered with Thousand Island dressing. Everything is packed into a thick, crunchy-topped boulart sandwich roll that comes from a Canadian bakery. If the impressive Maddy Mac were an athletic, muscle-bound celebrity, it might be named The Dwayne Johnson Burger, or "The Rock Favorite."
R: I agree it was definitely a man-sized sandwich, and what it needed was a man-sized mound of potato salad with an olive on top. We asked the chef to cut the sandwiches into portions so we could each taste the different varieties. Most unique and very ecological is the no-frills, minimal-waste serving style. The sandwiches arrive on metal trays lined with a sheet of parchment. The foods sit directly on the parchment, which becomes the only source of waste entering the landfill. Savvy indeed!
Z: I was curious about the Chickpea Salad Melt, a mountain of a sandwich stuffed with tuna-style chickpea salad, mayo, cheese, lettuce, and a thick slice of tomato. It's very messy and falls apart, but it's utterly delicious and worth the challenge. We were calling it the 10-napkin special. I should have removed the top portion of the roll and eaten it as an open-faced sandwich.
R: The newest addition to the Maddy's sandwich list is the Eggplant, Sun-Dried Tomato layered with slices of grilled eggplant, grilled onions, sun-dried tomatoes, pickled onions, lettuce and tomato. Loved the very moist and well-seasoned eggplant, my favorite veggie, and juicy grilled onions that sported a hint of spice. We agreed this sandwich was our fave--seems nothing beats grilled veggies in a sandwich.
Z: It certainly was a winning combination. We should mention each sandwich comes with a small scoop of red potato-chive salad that's also available as a side. Other sides include eggless tofu, coleslaw, and chickpea salad.
R: Before delving into gelato land, we dug into our Grilled Seitan Caesar Salad consisting of the traditional pieces of romaine lettuce creatively topped with a generous portion of strips of delicious grilled seitan. The seitan is outstanding with a pleasantly chewy texture and flavorful seasonings. The Caesar dressing was a little bland for my taste, and where was the vegan Parmesan?
Z: We had barely finished our last bites of salad when the gelato began paging us urgently. Dutifully, and without wasting a precious moment, we peered into the gelato case to narrow our choices to just four flavors in the smallest-size cups. After pondering and sampling, we decided on Peanut Butter Chunk, Cookies n' Cream, Mint Chip, and Santa Rosa Plum Sorbetto, made from plums just picked the day before. That small size serving is actually perfect for enjoying more than one flavor. David noticed we were singularly focused on the gelato and suggested we give the Santa Rosa Plum Sorbetto a try. Glad we did! It was outstanding and, surprisingly, just as satisfying as the gelato.
R: Because Chef Dave is aware of patrons with allergies to soy and various nuts, he prepares a variety of gelato flavors with an almond base, some from soy, and some with a base of coconut.
Z: Here's the lowdown on the prices: Panini-style sandwiches and Salads $9 to $11, Sides $4 and $5, Desserts $2 to $5, Gelato and Sorbetto $2 to $6 for cups, gluten-free waffle cones $1.50, Pints $10, Beverages $2 to $6.
R: We loved the friendly, cool, and casual ambience and look forward to dropping in now and then for cordial greeting and a succulent, giant-size, fully packed, sandwich--perhaps a side of chickpea salad, red potato-chive salad, or coleslaw, too. Or we'll stop in just for some creamy gelato. Deciding on which flavor or flavors will always be a monumental challenge.
10893 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064
Reviewed August 2013