R: Once inside, I experienced a feeling of being in a 1960's movie when psychedelic colors were in and closely associated with the hippy culture. The mantra on both the window and the door assured us we were welcomed into a caring environment where the focus was on dietary wholesomeness and décor simplicity.
R: Yes, simple, but colorful. How about the benches with their bases painted red! The large, somewhat square room, with lots of open space in the center, had one side designated as a retail store selling superfoods, raw chocolate, dried exotic fruits, futuristic supplements, organic and raw snacks, detox and cleansing products, and books on raw nutrition and healing. To the left was the café with dark wooden tables and small benches lining the perimeter along the many windows.
Z: A multi-shelved deli case at the rear displayed the menu offerings next to a counter where diners could place their orders. Almost immediately, I was assailed by a subtle odor that bordered on unpleasant. I couldn't identify it until I asked about the pale yellow items in the refrigerated case. "Oh, that's durian. By tonight they'll all be gone. People just love it and keep coming back for more," announced the counter assistant.
R: The smell wasn't as obvious to me until Zel mentioned it. It brought back memories of our trip to Thailand where we noticed signs in the hotel elevators that prohibited guests from bringing durian into the hotel. Such a strange fruit. With its ivory colored interior, it tastes lightly sweet, with a wonderfully creamy, almost custard-like consistency, and a wretched smell that conjures up pictures of rotting garbage.
Z: Well, it wasn't quite that bad. It certainly didn't put a damper on our dining experience. After asking a number of questions of the helpful servers behind the counter, we ordered dinner combos that included a main entrée and a choice of any three side dishes in the deli case. With our friend, Chuck, along with us, we embarked on a tasting adventure sampling as many different items as we could.
R: I ordered the Sloppy Joe, Taco Salad, "Mashed Potatoes," and the Eggless Egg Salad and came away with a heaping plateful. Without a doubt, patrons truly get value for their money. The Sloppy Joe was presented with a top and bottom layer of delicious flatbread made from dehydrated sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, onions, Nama Shoyu (a raw soy sauce), and sea salt. In-between were romaine lettuce and a zesty tomato sauce. Because it was impossible to pick it up and eat it like a sandwich, I dug right in with my fork.
Z: Reuben's Taco Salad was a melange of finely diced lettuce, tomatoes, scallions, and possibly a seed cheese. Well seasoned, it sported the typical flavors of Mexican food and came alive with a touch of spice. Imagine the delightful creaminess of mashed potatoes served chilled. These "Mashed Potatoes" were actually made from finely pureed cauliflower and blended with a satiny cashew cream. The result was a mixture that closely resembled the real thing, though a little heavy on the sea salt. The Eggless Egg Salad, turned yellow with the help of turmeric, was actually more like a tasty sauce with a base of cashew cream dotted with chunky bites of celery and red bell pepper.
R: Chuck ordered the Pizza Italiano ablaze with color on an onion flatbread and topped with a pizza-flavored seed cheese, heirloom tomato marinara, green olives, mushrooms, onions, red bell peppers, and fresh oregano and basil. This baby had all the attributes of a tasty pizza and not a drop of cholesterol to worry about!
Z: Chuck chose the Stir Not-Fry, Mock Tuna Salad, and the Taco Salad for his side dishes. That Stir-Not-Fry was an Asian fusion-style salad that combined shredded mixed greens, shredded carrots, broccoli, and chopped onions. Accents of black sesame seeds heightened the definitive oriental flavors and offered a pleasant balance to the pizza. The Mock Tuna Salad was a pleasing chunky puree of sunflower seeds, diced celery, dulse, and a harmonious blend of seasonings that turned mock into magic.
R: Zel's "Big Mac" was a firm veggie cake resembling a hamburger, but far tastier with spunky seasonings. The "burger" was perched on the dehydrated onion flatbread and topped with romaine, tomato, onion, pickle and a creamy dressing of mock mayo and mustard. Squiggles of well-flavored mock ketchup completed the "burger" dressing, with another slice of the flatbread forming the final layer of Mac extravaganza.
Z: Completing our tasting adventure were my side dishes: No-Bean Hummus, Cauliflower Couscous, and Taco Salad. Chef Matt Amsden's creative touches were evident in every dish, but we couldn't imagine a hummus without garbanzos until we tasted his original, zucchini-based hummus. We were hard-pressed to tell the difference from the traditional Middle Eastern dish! Wish the chef was a little lighter on the salt shaker, though. The Cauliflower Couscous was a crunchy taste sensation made from minced cauliflower, parsley, chopped Kalamata olives, sea salt, and a unique blend of seasonings.
R: There were actually a few more salads in the deli case that we had to leave untried until next time. Considering the surrounding informality, neither of us hesitated reaching into each other's plates for multiple tastings. We ate with great gusto, consuming nearly every diced veggie on our plates, and nearly ate the forks as well.
Z: Between bites we were chatting with Janabai, a sweet, warm, and engaging woman who shared the sentimental beginnings of the café/store that has only been open for four months. Janabai originally operated Euphoria at another location in Santa Monica where she sold her packaged raw snacks, books, and body-care products.
R: When she met Matt Amsden, a raw food chef who operated RAWvolution, the first raw food home delivery service in Los Angeles, her life changed dramatically. She fell in love, Matt fell in love, and the romance blossomed into their recent marriage. They decided their individual businesses were also ready for a blissful union and formed Euphoria loves RAWvolution.
Z: Both Matt and Janabai, determined to do their utmost to preserve the planet and reduce landfill waste, researched the market to find utensils that were totally biodegradable and wall paint that was non-toxic.
R: The three of us were awestruck to learn the "paper plates" are made of sugar cane, the forks and cups are from cornsilk, and the straws are derived from potato starch. We felt we could almost eat them, but instead we placed them into the compost bin in the center of the room. Within 90 days those utensils will break down completely and be spread on Santa Monica city gardens.
Z: To express her appreciation for our interest, Janabai brought us a complimentary Coconut Carob Walnut Fudge Square garnished with vibrantly colored edible flowers. We cut it into thirds and devoured the sweet delight.
R: Curious about the many drinks listed on their menu board, we ordered the Raw Chocolate Maca Shake that we were sure had been made with bananas. Another surprise--this thick, very lightly sweetened shake contained no bananas at all. Rather, it was mesquite that provided its unique flavor.
Z: Throughout the meal, we noticed the tables filling with diners and the busy counter doing a brisk take-out business. The refrigerated case holding the cut up durian was slowly emptying as take out patrons came for their exotic fruit treat.
R: Subtly filling the large room were the soft background sounds of lively Latin music. Veni, vidi, vinci--we came, we saw, we conquered our appetites and left sated and feeling very invigorated. We had dined on delicacies raw, organic, and vegan--and they were awesome.
2301 Main St., Santa Monica, CA 90405
Reviewed June 2006