Editors' Note: On this page in our February 2016 issue we published a review of Elovate. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed.
Z: We lucky Angelenos now have yet another great vegan restaurant to enjoy exceptional dining. Chef Roberto Martin brings a warm touch to Elovate Kitchen & Juicery, a charmer he opened in Santa Monica in September 2015. The menu is versatile enough for casual dining as well as special-occasion celebrations,
R: While the restaurant's formal address is on Ocean Avenue, the entrance is on Olympic Boulevard, between Ocean and Main Street, with convenient underground parking. How fortunate to have available parking in bustling Santa Monica!
Z: To the left of the entrance is a large patio with seating for up to 50 people--an appealing ambience with comfortable banquettes and tables to enjoy outdoor dining in warm weather.
R: The restaurant inside is L-shaped with a variety of seating styles for every comfort. The gorgeous, long, wooden bar has tall barstools with well-padded backs and a staff that can whip up fresh organic juices, signature cocktails, or a glass of wine or beer.
R: Dean praised the Ceviche Nachos and Maitake Mushroom Skewers so highly, we chose them from the appetizer section. Perusing the Mains, we decided on the Crabless Cakes and added Handmade Burger from the Handhelds section.
Z: Our server said we had come early enough for Happy Hour and could order the bar appetizers as well. With that encouragement, we added Buffalo Wings and Taquitos to our starters and were ready to share a delightful meal with our friends Cynthia and David, who are easing their way into the vegan fold.
R: First to arrive were the Ceviche Nachos, a dish that stirred the visual and olfactory senses with highly aromatic seasonings, bright colors, and lively flavors. Served on a large, white dish were crisp taco chips strewn with a diced medley of hearts of palm, artichokes, tomatoes, and cilantro. The veg combo was marinated in lime juice and attractively drizzled with a lightly spiced chipotle aioli. It was a delicious blast of savory and tangy flavors
Z: And, don't forget the Ceviche was accompanied with a tiny ramekin brimming with escabeche, the spicy marinated pickled vegetables that featured thin-sliced onions, carrot matchsticks, and sliced jalapenos. The pickles were ideal for pampering us lively spice lovers, but spice wimps will want to opt out.
R: Served in a small, rectangular ramekin were the Buffalo Wings nestled between a cluster of tall carrot sticks and a tiny cup of ranch dressing. The four "wings" were flavorful little "tenders" and dished up a medium punch of heat.
Z: Taquitos were fried crisply, filled with seasoned potatoes, and attractively garnished with stripes of red bell pepper sauce and a creamy, cheesy sauce. Garnishing the top was a fluff of finely shredded cabbage--an attractive presentation and fun crunching with every bite.
R: As we munched and licked our appetizer fingers, we took a moment to enjoy the ambience that consisted of large windows on two sides. The wooden flooring with an attractive herringbone design, called my attention to the attractive wood on the long bar. Painted white tabletops and plenty of drop lights gave the room a pleasant bath of warm light--enough that we could read the menu easily. The room is spacious, yet cozy and inviting,
Z: One of our favorite dishes was the Maitake Mushroom Skewers that resembled a parade of mushrooms marching up and down a heaping stack of finely shredded coleslaw. The mushrooms had a pleasant, toothy texture and were richly flavored after a stint in the ancho chile marinade before a robust grilling. The grilling contributed a delicious smoky quality we all enjoyed. The final touch was a lightly seasoned lime-green chimichurri sauce peeking out from under the coleslaw--it was the perfect garnish.
R: Agreed, those mushrooms were so flavorful, they've been pleasantly swirling in my brain ever since. It was a beautifully conceived dish. Chef Roberto's Handmade Burger was also exceptional. Made of black beans, farro, and shiitakes, the patty was juicy, tender, and flavor-infused. The usual accompaniments of lettuce, tomatoes, thousand-island dressing, and pickles filled the uniquely firm-textured bun. This was definitely not the traditional fluffy hamburger bun.
Z: I liked the bun because it was a little more dense and smaller than the typical airy, jumbo size--a positive departure from the ordinary. A familiar companion, french fried potatoes filled the remaining space on the platter. I'm not usually a fan of french fries, but those Kennebec potatoes from Idaho sure made some nice, crisp fries. Of course, the chef added a magic sprinkle of seasonings to make those little fries zing! Following tradition was a little cup of ketchup accompanied on the plate for dunking the 'taters.
R: Another two -thumbs-up choice was the Crabbless Cakes, an eye-appealing main dish with a sun-drenched dazzle of color. This creation was built around a generous portion of tasty coleslaw. Cuddled up against the slaw were two Crabbless Cakes, half-dressed in a golden sauce that cascaded onto the plate in a thick, creamy pool. The cakes were soft on the inside, crisp outside, and richly infused with flavors reminiscent of the real thing.
Z: And that's not all! There were roasted veggies that included fingerlings, carrots, and zucchini in an arrangement flanking the corners of the plate.
R: Now, here's my favorite part--dessert! I noticed that whenever I mention dessert, I quickly get a lot of attention. Everybody was ready for a sweet finish. With our server's help we were able to pamper our cravings with two desserts, Black Beast and the Coconut Magic Bar. I never would have thought to build a vegan dessert with something that resembled an Oreo cookie, but here it was--a thin bar made from Newman's Own oreo-style cookies, chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut flakes with a perky scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream on top.
Z: It was a brilliant dessert! We loved that it was sweet, but not excessively. The dessert featured chocolate chips, but they were not overdone either. This one's a keeper!
R: We concluded with the Black Beast, a tantalizing, irresistible, and awesome flourless chocolate cake with a nutty crust. The "cake" was lounging on a thin pool of raspberry sauce that added just a hint of tanginess to each bite. Making this an ultra-rich indulgent treat was a winning trio of espresso, cacao, and tofu. What a meal!
Z: Meeting the delightful Chef Roberto, we had a chance to ask him about his experience working as a personal chef to Ellen DeGeneres and partner Portia de Rossi. What they asked of him provided the challenge that made him toss out things he learned at the Culinary Institute of America. He began developing vegan versions of typical American comfort foods and learning to adopt the vegan lifestyle. He generously revealed the ingredients in the desserts while enjoying our praise.
R: While chatting with the chef we told him it was our server, Dean, who made our dinner an exceptional experience. Dean's many suggestions, good humor, and helpful nature made him an excellent menu guide and that helped to make our meal a delicious experience.
Z: In addition to offering delicious and innovative foods, the restaurant has convenient, underground parking. Considering the menu has 100% organic, locally sourced produce, expect to pay in accordance. Starters range from $10 to $16, Handhelds $14 to $15, Bowls, $14, Soups $6, Salads $6 to $14, Mains $16 to $19, Desserts $8 to $9 with ice cream at $4 a scoop.
Elovate Vegan Kitchen & Juicery
Reviewed February 2016