R: The bright, avocado green, stand-alone building along Washington Blvd. made our quest for Leaf Cuisine a snap. We guessed that oasis of brilliant green just had to be the right place. Our hunch was right.
Z: Once inside, we were engulfed in Mother Nature's favorite color--green, and lots of it. Upon entering we noted the room was informally divided into two areas. On the left is a cozy niche where diners place their orders at the high counter or sit at the tall stools to enjoy their meals while watching the bustling activity in the kitchen.
R: Toward the right side is the dining area. The informal café is simplicity itself with several white formica tables and white chairs, a planter of green spiky horsetail rush, and a single painting of a palm leaf silhouette.
Z: The focus is clearly on the wholesome raw food featured here. The sizable menu posted on the wall behind the counter offers plenty of variety, making Leaf Cuisine a place where one could return to explore new items. Daily specials also enhance the café's offerings.
R: Kelly, our cheerful server, order taker, and food preparer eagerly guided us with helpful suggestions. For our starter, we settled on the Mediterranean Lentil Soup, one of the daily specials. Our entrées included the Bombay Burrito and the Trinity Sampler.
Z: While waiting for our dinner, we noticed the room was filled with light from the huge windows that face Washington Blvd. Between the light from the windows and the intense yellow-green walls, we could easily come here for a tasty meal and raise our seratonin levels at the same time.
R: Our soup arrived with the two spoons we requested. Wearing its best shade of pastel green and looking very inviting in its orange ceramic bowl, the Mediterranean Lentil Soup wafted exotic aromas, even at room temperature.
Z: A decidedly lemon tang with a pleasant touch of cumin were the most noticeable flavors in this delicious, savory melange of soaked and sprouted green lentils, nuts, herbs, and spices. The texture was creamy, yet it had the lightness of an elegant bisque. What it lacked was a garnish to give it more visual appeal.
R: Our Trinity Sampler appeared looking very festive and regal enough to whet the appetite of a king or even avid foodies like us. What a picturesque extravaganza of vivid colors! I was disappointed in myself for not bringing our camera to capture Chef Rod Rotondi's digitally dazzling creation. The generous serving of organic mesclun greens dressed with Ginger Lemon Shoyu Sauce filled the orange ceramic platter to provide a base for the other ingredients. Perched in the center atop the greens were three large croquettes, each with a different topping. Generous mounds of shredded purple cabbage, carrots, and alfalfa sprouts decorated the outer rim, while sprouted mung beans sprinkled throughout added white accents to the overall design.
Z: Our choices for the raw coquettes were the Mediterranean, Flying Falafel, and Veggie Sunberger, each uniquely different from the others. The croquettes were a medley of soaked and sprouted veggies, nuts, seeds, and herb pates dehydrated to create a crispy surface and a pleasingly soft texture inside. The Mediterranean featured sun-dried tomatoes and walnuts and is topped with a creamy, flavorful spinach pesto.
R: I really liked the Veggie Sunburger with its delicately sweet tomato topping that reminded me of a homemade barbecue sauce. But then the Flying Falafel with its sprouted garbanzo bean base and satiny tahini sauce topping was another winner. Zel went nuts over the mesclun greens she said were the healthiest tasting she had encountered.
Z: The greens were so exceptionally flavorful, it seems as if they were infused with sunshine and sugar. While we were both nibbling away at our regal salad, Kelly brought our Bombay Burrito Wrap she had graciously cut in half for us.
R: While most standard wraps consist of a filled tortilla, Chef Rod's wraps begin with a large, deep green collard leaf that encloses a bountiful serving of mesclun greens, tomatoes, sprouts, a lentil croquette, and an irresistible coconut curry sauce. The platter was garnished with shredded purple cabbage, shredded carrots, and sprouted mung beans all looking quite striking on the orange platter.
Z: Chef Rod was celebrating his birthday that day. While we wished him many happy returns, we chatted a bit and learned that Leaf Cuisine is his second restaurant venture, the first being in Boston.
R: Rod has a diverse background that includes a Master's degree in economics. Well traveled even during his childhood, he spent time in French and Italian restaurant kitchens and even lived among the Bedouins in the Sinai Desert. There he learned how dishes like hummos and falafel had their earthy, raw beginnings. The Bedouins soaked and sprouted their garbanzo beans rather than cooking them.
Z: We asked Rod about the complex seasonings in the croquettes and the soup, explaining how difficult it was to discern distinct flavors because no single seasoning came to the foreground. He explained that his seasonings were like the colors of an abstract painting composed of many visual aspects that worked together in synergy. I couldn't describe it better myself!
R: Our dessert was an exquisite smoothie called Blueberry Bonanza. Very blueberry, thickened with banana, sweetened with dates, and bathed in creamy almond milk. It was an awesome finish with a dramatically purple color and a rich aggregate of flavors.
Z: Other items on the menu include an array of appetizers such as Mock Salmon Nori Rolls, Raw Slaw, Seaseed Salad, and Guacamole with Flax Seed Crackers. The Miso Carrot Ginger Soup is a menu regular as is the assortment of creative drinks and fresh juices. The10 Wraps can also be served as salads, such as our Trinity Sampler entrée. Smoothies are plentiful, and one can even indulge in desserts like Carrot Cake, Strawberry Mousse Torte, or Apple Pie.
R: The exceptional value makes Leaf Cuisine steps ahead of other raw restaurants. Prices are very reasonable for the generous quantities served. We came away feeling Leaf is one rockin' raw restaurant and a welcome addition to vegan dining in Los Angeles. Only open since mid-October of 2004, the restaurant really has it together--great tasting raw food and excellent service.
Reviewed January 2005