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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

R: Imagine a Los Angeles vegan restaurant that grew and grew so successfully, it actually outgrew its space within a few short years! We are thrilled to welcome SunCafe Organic Cuisine to its new home on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, just a short distance from its previous location.

Z: What a treat it was to see how owner-chef Ron Russell and partner Rebecca Smith transformed the space of a defunct, rustic Italian restaurant into a charming and warmly inviting dining locale with attractive little nooks and crannies inside and out.

SunCafe R: I loved that we didn't need to hunt all over the neighborhood for a parking space. The cozy lot in front of the restaurant holds about 10 cars, and with the valets double-stacking, the space can hold about 19 cars. We also noted there was plenty of street parking close by.

Z: The bright yellow and red SunCafe sign tastefully perched on the sable brown lattice fencing told us we were about to enter a very special zone. Walking through the lattice gate, we entered a small, intimate lower patio with brick flooring, a unique stone sculpture, and a few tables.

R: An ornamental tree and flower-covered planter divides the lower patio from the upper deck. Strings of lights provide comfortable lighting while still providing the aura of romantic dining.

Z: We chose to dine indoors and met server-hostess Jamie who greeted us with bubbly enthusiasm. She escorted us to a table under the skylight that provided the perfect lighting for us to take these enticing food photos.

R: The restaurant was well dressed in simple elegance with rich brown wooden tables, rough-hewn wooden floors, antique olive green upholstered chairs, and varied seating to suit every mood. There were dimly lit booths for lovers, a community table for party animals, and a small room off the patio with lots of windows for those seeking a cheery ambience.

SunCafe Lentil Soup Z: It was a busy Wednesday night, yet the busboy came right over to our table to pour water from a tall bottle with an attached stopper. Our visit was during Restaurant Week, an annual event for restaurants throughout Los Angeles who choose to participate. Jamie oriented us with details of the special menu. We focused on the regular menu that changes seasonally and offers daily specials.

R: On this night we introduced the restaurant to our friend, Marty, who was very impressed with the appealing ambience, the large ceiling beams, and the meandering honeycomb wall tiles in varying earth shades.

Z: We agreed to share all the dishes and began with the daily special of Lentil Vegetable Soup. It was prepared homestyle with a flush of carrots, onions, and small chunks of green bell pepper cruising among the lentils in a light, pleasantly seasoned broth. I loved the sculptured bowls that made the soup look especially inviting.

SunCafe Kale Salad R: Having enjoyed meals at SunCafe before, we suggested sharing The Kale Colossus Salad. This salad is so enticing, no description could possibly do it justice. Not only is it exquisitely seasoned with not one, but three tantalizing dressings, but it's also assembled with a kaleidoscope of colorful ingredients that make it spectacular.

Z: I managed to divide the Colossus into three equal portions. It didn't take long before Marty began his happy exclamations with each bite. Whether he was chewing on bits of veggie chorizo, marinated mushrooms, red bell peppers, pico de gallo, raisins, massaged kale, or croutons, it was obvious he was ravishing every forkful.

SunCafe Roasted Vegetable Curry R: We asked Jamie for dinner suggestions. It was quickly apparent she was knowledgeable about the menu as she guided us toward two dinner entrees: Roasted Vegetable Curry and Mushroom & Spinach Quinoa Risotto. It was a win-win decision--both were pure delight.

Z: Roasted Vegetable Curry was served in a square, white bowl with sloping sides that added to its attractive presentation. The mild yellow curry was generously endowed with chunks of potatoes, diced carrots, tomato, spinach, and onions and served with a bowl of lime-garnished quinoa on the side.

SunCafe Roasted Mushroom Spinach Quinoa Risotto R: The curry was alive with zingy flavor and a light touch of spice. The group consensus gave this dish a happy-face thumbs up. It doesn't get better than that--except that . . .

Z: The Mushroom & Spinach Quinoa Risotto is a killer delicious dish! The cashew based sauce combined with crimini mushrooms, shallots, garlic, and baby spinach make this selection a blue ribbon choice. It's also attractively presented with a flavorful drizzle of balsamic reduction and a fluff of herbs sitting on top.

R: Although we were becoming quite satisfied halfway through the Risotto, we simply couldn't put our forks down. The cashew-enriched flavors were compelling us to continue the tasting journey until every last bit was scraped from the bowls.

Z: When Jamie asked, "Shall I tell you about our desserts?" we smiled. Of course, we came knowing we would order dessert to finish our SunCafe extravaganza on a sweet note. After we asked which dessert was most photogenic, Jamie brought us a plump slice of Cookie Dough Cheesecake. If that dessert were a Victoria's Secret model, I would have exclaimed, "She's stunning!" You get the idea.

SunCafe Cookie Dough Cheesecake R: The cheesecake truly was a breathtaking assemblage about two inches tall and prepared in two gorgeous layers with tiny chunks of cookie dough, cacao, and bits of cacao nibs throughout. Even the top and the platter were artfully drizzled with thin streams of chocolate syrup and randomly strewn cacao nibs. I must admit the cheesecake seduced me completely--it was knock-your-socks-off delicious and masterfully composed with two distinct textures--a creamy base with tiny treasures of crunchy nibs.

Z: It's funny that no matter how tasty the soup, salad, or entrée is, it's the dessert that lingers in the memory. This one is no exception and brings smiles each time we view our photo. Next time we'll explore more of Executive Chef Roi Elam's and Chef Ron's tantalizing menu items. The raw Golden Beet Linguini Pesto and Sun Pad Thai sounded very tempting, as did the Marinated Beet and Quinoa Salad and the almond cheesecake Jamie described as equally alluring.

R: SunCafe is a special dining destination that offers raw, cooked, and gluten-free items made in-house from scratch with fresh organic produce. The restaurant also sports a wide selection of wines, nine craft beers on tap, and unique cocktails. In addition to enjoying lunch and dinner items, diners may choose from a galaxy of smoothies, shakes, juices, teas, and coffees.

Z: The restaurant offers fine dining at reasonable prices. Starters range from $4 to $12, Salads $9 to $12, Burgers and Sandwiches $13 to $14, International SunCafe Favorites $12 to $14, Pizza $11 to $13, Dinner Entrees $15, Shakes and Smoothies $8 to $9, Juices $6.50 to $7.50.

SunCafe Organic Cuisine
10820 Ventura Blvd., Studio City, CA 91604
Phone: 818-927-4100
Hours: Monday through Wednesday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Thursday and Friday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Brunch: Saturday and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Reviewed August 2014

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