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Vegetarians in Paradise

 Vegetarian Restaurant Review

Editor's Note, February 2009: Planet Raw, formerly Juliano's raw, has revised and updated its menu that reflects lower prices and new selections. Appetizers range from $3.89 to $9.24. Specialty Salads are between $6.47 and $15.70. Entrees $7.39 to $15.70. Desserts $6.47 to $8.31.

Editor's Note, October 2006: Since we reviewed Juliano's Raw in September 2003, Juliano has revised his menu numerous times, added many more items, and raised prices considerably. Appetizers are priced between $6.50 and $9.25. Salads fall in the $5.50 to $22.00 range while most entrees range from $12.50 to $29.00. Simple Devine Specials range from $5.50 to $9.25. Desserts are in the $9.25 to $15.95 range. The restaurant's menu can be accessed at http://www.planetraw.com

R: Daredevils who habitually indulge in extreme sports describe their experience with terms like euphoria, elation, and exhilaration. We found ourselves on a par with the daredevils as we dined at Juliano's Raw, indulged in extreme foods, and experienced similar exhilaration, elation, and euphoria.

Z: Juliano couldn't have chosen a better location, right on the northwest corner of 6th Street and Broadway in Santa Monica where there's a steady stream of traffic and pedestrians. Parking on the street was no problem when we came for a late lunch on our first visit or when we returned at 6:30 for dinner to recapture the experience on our second visit. Juliano's Raw

R: Both times we were seated immediately. On our first visit we were surprised to see the restaurant more than half full at 3:30 in the afternoon, a time when most restaurants experience a lull. Goura, who served us our late lunch, commented that this was actually a slow time, but the lunch rush was rather hectic.

Z: The décor is simple, yet modern chic, with cement floors, high ceilings, white walls, and light wood tables and chairs. The airy bright room takes in plenty of light from the huge, unadorned windows that face both streets. Juliano boasts that everything is organic, even the paint on the walls. A couple of large gold-framed mirrors and just a few abstract paintings are enough to offer interest without cluttering the atmosphere.

R: Spanning the width of the open kitchen is an attractive low, dark marble sushi-style sixteen-seat bar that faces the prep area partitioned off with clear glass. Diners sitting at the bar could watch Juliano and his team of assistants assemble each dish from a humongous display of about 60 stainless steel containers. Within this palate of steel lay a myriad of chopped, minced, sliced, and shredded colorful fruits and vegetables, sauces, flower petals, nut concoctions, and more than a little bit of magic.

Z: As each dish came to our table, one more dazzlingly colorful than the last, we regretted not having a camera with us on our first visit. Every platter was a unique and innovative art composition of raw foods. Goura, our effervescent server, was enjoying our enthusiastic reaction to the foods and returned often to ask, "What'ja think?" or "How'ja like the . . .?"

R: Since the usual food aromas drifting in the air of most restaurants were absent, Juliano created other fragrances. Scenting the air were a multitude of orchids and fragrant stargazer lilies, some on the counter, some on the tables.

Z: On both visits I noticed the music that played softly in the background. Techno was the daytime music, while new-age Enya-style strains created the intimate mood for the evening.

R: We went with another couple on our first visit and began our meal with the Salmon Sushi that arrived dressed in sesame seeds, brightly colored flower petals, and fresh herbs. A little bowl of dipping sauce composed of nama shoyu, pickled ginger, and wasabi sat in the center surrounded by the gorgeous sushi.

Z: We divided it into fourths as we did everything we ordered so we could each experience a wider variety. We've enjoyed vegan sushi of many sorts before, but never experienced a sushi so exceptional and flavorful as this combination of mock salmon pate, avocados, sprouts, vegetables, and mushrooms enrobed in traditional nori. The stand-out flavor came from the mock salmon paté made with walnuts, carrots, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and onions.

Raw Wonton R: For our entrées we ordered Raw Nirvana, "Meat 'n Potatoez," Pad Thai, and Juliano's Famous Pizza. We were dining on truly flamboyant foods, each platter comprised of a multiplicity of exotic food combinations artfully enhanced with dollops of sauces and salsas, some sweet, some spicy, and some savory.

Z: Attention was given to texture as well. Each dish was alive with crunchy items as well as creamy smatterings that dressed the top or nestled next to the quizzical looking centerpiece of the plate.

R: We better explain the meaning of quizzical. Raw foods are uniquely prepared in ways that cannot compare to anything in the world of traditional cuisine. For instance, nuts are often soaked, sprouted, and sometimes creamed in the blender or food processor to create a seed cheese that can be flavored in various ways. Grains and seeds are soaked, sprouted, combined with seasonings, and dehydrated to create crackers. Few traditional kitchens sport a dehydrator and the assembly of juicers that a raw kitchen finds essential.

Z: On our second visit we ordered Harem in the Raw, Cheezeburger and French Fries, Won Tons with Pine Nut Pate, and the Black Forest Mousse Torte. Seed cheeses comprise the base of Raw Nirvana, Harem in the Raw, and Cheezeburger. Our server, Rawshell was ever patient with our little group, four of whom were experiencing raw foods for the first time. As she set our appetizer on the table, she exclaimed, "You're gonna love this!"

R: We should mention that Rawshell adopted a new spelling for her name to reflect her conversion to a raw diet. Because these intricate, artistically expressive foods are so challenging to describe, we took a camera on our second visit to share Raw Nirvana and the Won Tons. The won ton skins were diaphanous, paper-thin slices of rutabaga, filled with a slightly spicy pine nut paté on a pool of strawberry sauce. We were completely won over.

Z: Our grand finale was the decadent Black Forest Mousse Torte, a petite but very rich serving of a creamy, whipped strawberry mousse blanketing a chocolate-flavored base of a thick, smooth blend of dates, nuts, and carob. Garnishes were many and included sliced strawberries, blueberries, shredded mango and streaks of strawberry and carob sauce on the edge of the plate.

R: The menu is quite varied and offers a full range of raw appetizers, soups, salads, dressings, pasta, entrées, sides, desserts, smoothies, and juices. Juliano plans to serve organic wines in the near future.

Raw Nirvana Z: Unfortunately, there wasn't enough room in our tummies to dazzle our senses with the likes of Rawcacino, Alien Blood, Rawzania, The Sea Witch, and Raw 'n Roll. Ah well, perhaps next time.

R: Missing on the menu was a mention of the items that are spicy. On our second visit we dined with other guests, some of whom found the dishes to be over-the-top spicy. Spicy dishes would be best indicated on the menu, so sensitive diners could choose milder ones.

Z: While prices at Juliano's are a little higher than at most vegetarian eateries, they didn't seem excessive for the labor-intensive extraordinary organic cuisine. Our appetizer, two entrées, and dessert came to $20 for each of us.

R: Before we left we took a peek at the outdoor eating area that runs the length of the building along Broadway. For quiet, intimate dining, the plant-lined patio is the ideal spot to escape the noisy crowd.

Z: As we drove away, we looked back through the restaurant window to see the giant red neon letters that spelled "raw." Facing Broadway was the purple neon sign that read "gourmet living cuisine." Those who believe that raw food couldn't possibly attain gourmet status should dine at Juliano's Raw. They will surely discover awesome cuisine.

Juliano's Raw
609 Broadway
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: 310-587-1552
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Web Address: http://www.rawrestaurant.com/

Reviewed September 2003

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