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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
 Dining in Paradise

Editors' Note: On this page in our July, 2001, issue we published a review of Lincoln Bay Restaurant in Santa Monica. We are sorry to report that this excellent restaurant has closed its doors. They will be missed. R: Lincoln Bay Restaurant in Santa Monica re-established hope that there are enlightened restaurants out there in that huge vegetarian desert, restaurants enlightened enough to include several vegetarian and vegan dishes on their menu.

Z: We were with non-vegetarian friends and were holding our breaths when they suggested we go out to dinner together. Good sports that we are, we were fully prepared to order a salad and consider that our meal. We were pleasantly surprised with the varied offerings we found. The friendly owner greeted us, helped us order, and assured us they could accommodate our vegan preferences.

R: The restaurant occupies two rooms partially separated by a wall. It's a cheerful atmosphere with black and white tile floors and original paintings on the walls, some of which are pink and some yellow.

Lincoln Bay Z: We've noticed that many vegetarian eateries are simple cafes that don't give one the experience of dining. Here we were dining. There were white cloth napkins and pink tablecloths, slightly diminished by the piece of butcher paper on top of the tablecloth, but, still, there were tablecloths.

R: As soon as we ordered, a waiter appeared with something we didn't order--a small bowl of Hummos and a basket of Pita wedges. "It's on the house," was the waiter's pleasant comment when we asked. Well, we dug right in and noticed that the pita, which can often be on the dry side, was very moist, the hummos creamy with a subtle hint of spice.

Z: Our pleasant beginning developed into some delightful taste experiences when our soups arrived. I ordered the Pureed Carrot Soup and Reuben ordered the Lentil Soup. The Carrot Soup was light and delicately flavored with a slightly spicy touch. My taste buds craved a tad more salt. A light sprinkle did the trick. The Lentil Soup, which I simply had to taste, was lighter in color than most and was quite well seasoned. It was a cool evening and the soups were wonderfully warming.

R: Our friends ordered the same soups and were equally enthusiastic. These quality soups were not out of a can but were homemade by a chef who knew just what to do with fresh ingredients.

Z: Rather than ordering an entree as we typically do, we decided to order a variety of appetizers. It turned out to be the perfect meal. Soon our waiter appeared with the Grilled Japanese Eggplant with Marinara, a lovely presentation of eggplant split down the center, perfectly grilled, and laid on a bed of succulent, light Marinara Sauce. Normally this dish comes with melted mozzarella cheese on top, but we asked for the vegan version and they accommodated.

R: If you've read our restaurant reviews in the past, you may be aware that I'm nuts about eggplant. This dish gets an A+. The only disappointment was that it was a small serving, actually designed to serve one. Now, that's a small consolation when you hunger for more! Oh, well, that left plenty of room for the other dishes. We ordered a Portabella Mushroom Salad that was not on the menu but was one of the daily specials. When we asked the waiter if it was possible to split it into two dishes, replied, "Of course."

Eggplant Z: Ooh, let me describe it - I loved it! The salad was not only beautiful but delicious as well. The base was mixed greens, topped with purple onion rings and bits of chopped fresh asparagus. Decorating the top were roasted bell pepper strips and sliced roasted portabella mushrooms, and for a color accent a wedge of tomato rested to the side. The dressing was a zesty, richly flavored Balsamic Vinaigrette.

R: Our final food adventure here was the Pikilia of Mediterranean Spreads, a platter with mounds of Hummos, Baba Ghanoush, and Fava Bean Spread garnished with strips of bell pepper to separate the sections and our favorite Calamata Olives arranged in the center. Served on one platter that we both shared with pita bread on the side, this specialty allowed us to enjoy these typical Middle Eastern foods in a typically Middle Eastern fashion.

Z: It was nearing 8 p.m. and we were hearing an occasional little tinkling of bells. Soon the lights went down, the exotic strains of Middle Eastern music filled the room, and three belly dancers, playing their finger cymbals in unison, were undulating their way around the tables.

R: Pretty soon the dancers were inviting the diners to join them including Zel who was shaking all movable parts possible. What a spectacle! This place has it all figured out. Great food, exotic entertainment, audience participation, and reasonable prices all wrapped up in a basket of pita bread.

Z: The entertainment was an unexpected surprise and had everyone who wasn't dancing clapping to the earthy rhythms of Arabic music featured on the first Sunday of each month.

R: There were other dishes on the menu that were tempting, such as the Stuffed Vegetables (bell peppers, zucchini, and tomatoes stuffed with rice), Dolmathes, and Pastas.

Z: The owner really seemed to take pride in accommodating our vegan choices, and their chef obviously had a creative flair for blending familiar Middle Eastern dishes with a touch of California cuisine.

R: While we were able to enjoy a meal that was completely vegan, our friends ordered non-vegetarian entrees and were equally pleased with their choices. Our praise goes to Lincoln Bay for presenting such varied offerings that allow vegetarians and non-vegetarians to share a delightful dining experience together.

Reviewed July 2001

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