Editors' Note: On this page in our February, 2016, issue we published a review of Eatsa in Woodland Hills. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed.
R: Just when we thought we've seen it all in Los Angeles vegan dining experiences, we discovered there IS something new under the sun. Eatsa is a new vegetarian and vegan eatery in The Village at Westfield Topanga, Woodland Hills, and is truly a new concept in fast, casual dining. From the method of placing orders to the unique delivery of the food, it's a new way to buy a meal--or is it?
Z: I love that there are always new adventures in dining, and Eatsa is certainly one that ought to catch the fancy of diners who've been yearning for healthy take-out choices. The Eatsa concept is certainly new to many Angelenos, but is somewhat reminiscent of the Automat. once popular in New York City.
R: Our first visit to The Village began with a search for a parking spot in the cavernous parking structure, then, going on a hunt for the restaurant on a drizzly evening. Located on the Topanga Canyon Boulevard side of this huge complex, the restaurant is small and doesn't look anything like a restaurant at all. This sleek, streamline, ultra modern space about 30 feet wide by 40 feet long is an awesome, high-tech food delivery system with kick-ass style!
Z: On the left wall is the colorful, pictorial menu. Along that same wall are five iPads for placing orders. Ahead is a bank of glass compartments where patrons collect their meal. Along the right wall is a clean, white counter where napkins and utensils are available.
R: We should mention this evening was planned as an Eatsa party with eleven friends who met at the restaurant to buy meals and dine in hearty Eatsa style at one friend's house nearby. This was a new adventure for everyone, especially some of the folks who were not vegetarian or vegan.
Z: We were greeted by two personable assistants who guided us through the process of ordering our dinners on iPads. The restaurant takes no cash--only credit cards to keep the process fully automated. The basic menu posted on the wall displays photos of eight different bowls brimming with bright vegetables and all containing quinoa. Each bowl lists the calories and protein content, along with the ingredients. The bowl choices consisted of Chili con Quinoa, Savory Stuffing Bowl, Bento Bowl, Burrito Bowl, No Worry Curry, Perfect Pearing Salad, The Mediterranean, and Smokehouse Salad. In addition there were three sides, House Potato Chips, Chips and Guacamole, and Seasonal Fresh Fruit.
R: With a focus on offering healthier meals, the creators of this restaurant built each bowl with a generous bed of quinoa, topped with a variety of tasty vegetables and hearty legumes.
Z: At first I was disappointed that only the Bento Bowl was vegan, the others contained dairy or egg. Then we learned there are countless vegan options by building our own bowl, but how to do that was puzzling and might discourage vegans from returning.
R: Once we inserted our credit cards into the iPads, we could see many vegan opportunities to customize a meal, including Build Your Bowl that allows patrons to create their own meal combo. The process begins with the bank of iPads standing ready to take orders once a credit card is swiped.
Z: Thank goodness, the menu offerings have plenty for vegans--it just isn't obvious until ordering from the iPad. We could have ordered one of the bowls on the menu and customized it by adding or leaving out items. We could also choose the Build Your Bowl option. I really liked that feature and took advantage of it.
R: I was curious about the Bento Bowl and ordered it as it appeared on the menu. I was totally surprised by the reasonable prices for the basic bowls--just $6.95. Zel had fun with her Build Your Bowl order. First, she chose from three varieties of quinoa, then decided on a sauce, and finally selected as many vegetables, legumes, and special toppings as she wanted.
Z: Because I chose more items than the standard bowls, my order came to $7.20--still very reasonable. As soon as Reuben placed our orders on the iPad, his name and a number appeared on a translucent glass wall above the food-delivery compartments below. We waited a brief time, only 6 minutes, then Reuben's name and number appeared in one of the delivery compartments. He tapped twice on the window and the compartment swung open automatically.
R: We never heard the sound of a sizzling skillet or knives chopping, never got a whiff of food cooking, never saw a chef, or a server. But the food arrived in large bowls heaping with wholesome, hearty, well-prepared, flavorful, plant-based foods. This is impressive high-tech dining!
Z: The Eatsa concept began when co-founders Scott Drummond and Tim Young embarked on a 2-year process of researching consumer preferences for taste. In an effort to serve their patrons foods that were healthful, environmentally sustainable, and very inexpensive, they created a fully-automated system of food preparation and delivery that kept operational costs down in order to offer high-quality plant-based foods for less than competitors.
R: Quinoa became the centerpiece of each meal because of its high protein, gluten-free content. This healthy grain contains no cholesterol and consumes only 1/30th the environmental resources associated with animal-based foods that require enormous amounts of food, water, and land.
Z: Some of our friends ordered the standard bowls, others customized their meal by building it from the options. While dining together with our group, we heard a host of favorable comments--even from the carnivores among us. The bowls offer impressively generous portions--actually more than some of us could finish.
R: We found the foods delicious, yet none of the meals were over 650 calories, nor were they swimming in fat. We were amazed and delighted with the excellent quality of the foods and the wide range of choices that kept sugar, fat, and salt to a minimum.
Z: While Eatsa in Woodland Hills is the restaurant's second location in California, it may soon become a national sensation. Because of its ease of automated ordering, excellent quality of foods, fast delivery, and its affordability, this chain may one day help to alleviate the nation's obesity problem.
R: Another feature of Eatsa's high-tech concept allows customers to order a meal from the office or car using their smart-phone special app, and the meal will be ready for pick-up on their arrival. And it only costs $6.95.
Z: We found our Eatsa experience so delightful we will certainly return for another delicious quinoa bowl. The efficiency of ordering a meal on an iPad and waiting only minutes to collect the order in a personalized glass compartment still holds us in awe. We were impressed with the whole concept. It's such an easy, inexpensive, and highly nutritious way to dine.
Reviewed February 2016