Editors' Note: The Springs has changed its concept since this review was written. The restaurant is no longer vegan raw. It is now vegetarian and vegan serving breakfast and lunch with beautifully prepared salads, bowls, plates, sandwiches and wraps, desserts, and fresh juice blends.
Hours: Breakfast and Lunch Daily 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
R: A vibrant oasis of delicious dining, The Springs introduces delicious vegan raw cuisine, tasteful musical entertainment, and a wellness center offering yoga plus an impressive array of healing specialties. This stunning oasis is in the heart of the burgeoning Arts District in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) and is becoming the ultra-cool go-to spot.
Z: Opened in October 2014, this charming, all raw vegan restaurant is located on Mateo Street just south of East 6th Street. The building was once a paper factory and wears the remnants of an industrial warehouse artfully transformed into a go-to place to dine and relax to the musical stylings of various bands in the evenings.
R: We took the Metro Gold Line to 1st Street and Alameda. From there, we walked to our destination to be greeted in the parking lot by two couples that had just eaten there. Both raved about the food and recommended their favorite dishes, the Rangoons and the Spicy Tuna Rolls.
Z: While we usually anticipate a new dining experience with positive thoughts, we were doubly stoked by the enthusiastic recommendations, and, indeed, we did order those two items.
R: Our delightful server, Elle, asked our water preference, filtered or fizzy, and delivered a giant bottle of water filtered by a Tensui filtration system. We asked if there was any dark beer available. Elle, our thoughtful server, responded by bringing us a sample of Chocolate Stout they had on tap. The taste convinced us we needed to share a pint.
Z: As we were making our food selections. we noted some of the unique features of the colossal room. Gray block walls and exposed ducting actually faded into the background, while our attention was drawn to tasteful furnishings in blonde wood, large block planters filled with lush plants, and soft lighting. White mottled flooring and plenty of skylights make the room pleasantly cheery and totally inviting.
Z: Our Rangoons arrived looking like very exotic, pure white butterflies with double wings--all four were lined up in immaculate order on a long, thin, white rectangular dish. Each was resting in a golden spicy chili sauce and finished with an herb garnish standing at attention.
R: Yes, they looked amazing and completely bowled me over with such a striking blend of sweet, sour, salty flavors blended within the melt-in-the-mouth creamy, nut-rich filling! We made them disappear in two bites--yet, they were the most delicious bites we had ever tasted! This is definitely a must have dish!
Z: Double that! The "butterfly wings" were actually wonton-like squares made of coconut, a concept assembled by Executive Chef Michael Falso.
R: The Spicy Tuna Rolls lived up to their excellent recommendation and consisted of a tasty assemblage of "tuna-flavored" sushi filling wrapped with nori. Inside were the mock tuna paté, cucumbers, and a cluster of red and green lettuces. The tall rolls that flanked each end were filled with a generous measure of perfectly ripe avocado. But that's not all--
R: Our entrée selection was challenging because everything on the menu whispered to us. We chose the Polenta and figured that if Chef Michael's starters were this awesome, then, everything else must be, too. It was! The dish arrived in a large bowl splashed with a plum-red cabernet reduction. Creamy raw, sweet corn, turned soft polenta, formed the plump, fluffy bed, while a generous portion of marinated Portobello slices and maitake mushrooms draped over the top. A fluff of wilted spinach garnished the very top. We couldn't have asked for a tastier entrée and nearly licked the plate clean.
Z: Because we were planning to enjoy a dessert, we didn't order another entrée and quickly discovered we were so satisfied, we really couldn't have handled a second entrée. Choosing a dessert from seven beckoning delights was really hard, truly. I was leaning toward the Gianduja Tart; Reuben was itching for the Black Forest Cake.
R: Since it's a man's world, I got my Black Forest Cake! Just teasing, but I did get the Black Forest, a chocolate enthusiast's dream. It was well named for its very, very dark chocolate raw cake enhanced with nuts to make it so ultra rich.
Z: This chocolate cake was not served the way one expects traditional cakes to be served, cut into slices or wedges. Leave it to Chef Michael to choose a unique presentation with free-form clumps of cake strewn about the dish. Voluptuous sake-infused cherries nestled between cake clumps, while petite white swirls of whipped vanilla cream stood out as accents topping some of the cake clumps.
R: Perched atop a section of cake was an egg-shaped mound of creamy "milk" chocolate ice cream dotted with a cherry on top. Making everything glisten from beneath was a hidden tart cherry sauce. It was a fabulous finish to a delicious meal!
Z: When we mentioned to friends we were going to an all-raw food restaurant, they wrinkled their noses and couldn't imagine why anyone would choose to do that. They simply haven't visited The Springs and tasted Chef Michael's innovative creations. We couldn't wait to come back!
R: During our meal we kept noticing a pleasant young man was bussing our dishes and thought he was so well trained he must be a valued employee. Turned out Jared Stein is one of the co-founders of this exceptional oasis that features not only a outstanding restaurant, but also a fresh juice, wine, and beer bar, and a wellness center featuring yoga, reiki, massage, sauna, acupuncture, and cranio-sacral therapy.
Z: Additionally, the generous space at the rear of the room encourages community gatherings and provides the perfect setting for musical performances.
R: In this comfortable ambience of understated elegance are foods that are 100% organic and all raw with nothing heated above 118 degrees F. The wines are also organic, sustainable and biodynamic from West Coast wineries. Though the restaurant is all raw vegan, they occasionally use raw honey.
Z: The Springs is not a fast food joint--far from it. Rather, it's multiple steps above and a rare gift in DTLA. Starters are $10 to $15, Salads $9 to $17, Entrées $19 to $25, Desserts $9 to $16, Savory $10 to $15, Sweets $4 to $9.
608 Mateo St., Los Angeles, CA 90021
Reviewed July 2015