In most restaurant reviews the reader sees the restaurant experience from one person's point of view. In the reviews of the Vegetarians in Paradise, the reader experiences the eatery from the point of view of two people in dialogue form. Vegetarians in Paradise brings you those two intrepid restaurant aficionados, Zel and Reuben Allen, who will take you along as they eat a swath across the Los Angeles environs.
Z: It was Saturday night and we decided to invite a friend with an adventurous palate to accompany us on a unique evening of feasting in the raw .
R: Zel! People are going to get the wrong impression! Let's set things straight before we lead people astray. O2, also known as the Oxygen Bar, is one of the newest eateries on the Sunset Strip. With only nine months under its belt, this little baby of a restaurant features a menu of tasty foods that have never even had a passing acquaintance with a pot or a pan or even an oven.
Z: Now that we've gotcha wondering how that's possible, here's the scoop. We called for reservations, but they don't take any. We took our chances, arrived about 8 o'clock, and had a 4-minute wait, just enough time to look around and orient ourselves to the Greco-Roman, neo-antiquity atmosphere.
R: I've got to describe this place; it's very cool! The main room is small and round and has a very high domed ceiling that sports a yin-yang symbol filling the entire dome. The center of the dome is a dramatic vortex painted in fluorescent orange and lime green surrounded by planets in a nighttime-daytime sky. The walls have that gray, faux marble look, and there are tall, Greek-style columns between each of the large windows that are draped with a natural cotton fabric. We were seated at one of the six tables in this room that also features the smoothie and herb bar where fresh fruit and vegetable concoctions are blended.
Z: If you're sitting closest to the windows as I was, you get an extra bonus of surreal acoustic sound. I heard the thunk and clink of every ice cube as it entered each glass at the bar. Likewise, the bartender heard every word I said, too. It was totally eerie, but in a neat way.
R: Our serving person, Heather, was every restaurant owner's dream. She was sweet, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable about each of the items on the menu. The menu itself has a poetic flair with descriptions of foods that are smothered, transformed, or ascending. With Heather's suggestions we ordered the Baccus Feast, a combination of any three entrees on the menu. We chose the Zucchini Alfredo, Stuffed Burrito, and Yoda's Wish.
Z: When you're hungry, everything looks good. We were starved and decided to start with Buddha Sushi. What a beginning! Heather delivered this dish to our table on a wooden board. It was beautifully presented. A banana leaf covered the board with a garnish of red and white beet slices piled in the center. The sushi consisted of ribbons of nori wrapped around a carrot and almond pate, julienne cucumbers, and sprouts, accompanied by a cup of Bragg Liquid Aminos for dipping and an imitation wasabe made from horseradish, lemon, and parsley.
R: It was as delicious as it was imaginative, and since this was finger food, we were enjoying whatever clung to our fingers, too. It's hard to believe that raw food could be this good.
Z: When the Baccus Feast arrived, I wished I'd had my camera with me. On a wooden plank was a bowl of Zucchini Alfredo, O2's version of a pasta salad. Very long thin shreds of zucchini took the place of angelhair pasta. A creamy sauce of cashews and macadamia nuts enveloped the wild herbs, shitake mushrooms, tomatoes, and salt cured capers. Heavenly! Our friend, who is quite the punster, commented, "This dish is pasta point of no return." He loved it, too. While I drool some more, I'll let Reuben describe the Yoda's Wish pizza.
R: First I have to wipe your chin. Now for the pizza, which was my favorite. The hearty, chewy crust, made of dehydrated sprouted kamut and sesame seeds, was a perfect base for the basil pesto, olives, portobello mushrooms, and sundried tomatoes. While both of you were busy with the Zucchini Alfredo, I quickly snagged the last piece of pizza.
Z: The last of the trio, the Stuffed Burrito, was a combination of ground sunflower seeds blended with avocado, served with salsa, and topped with a creamy sauce. This mixture lay on a bed of purple cabbage. If you've never tried raw vegan food before, I can assure you the experience will amaze and delight you.
R: Heather was really cute. Each time she brought us another dish she would come back in a few minutes and ask how we liked it. She told us she had only been working there three months but took a strong interest in learning about the preparation raw foods.
Z: Next, we did something that really surprised us both. We ordered dessert. Honest, it's something we rarely do. Desserts were not on the menu, but there were two specials that night. Would you believe we ordered one of each, and the three of us plunged in. Oasis was a creamy butterscotch flavored mousse with slices of kiwi on the bottom. A nice blend of sweet balanced with the tartness of the kiwis.
R: Sublime is how I would describe the Menage-a-Tort, a carob and coconut cake that rested on a bed of carob sauce in the shape of a six-pointed star. The bottom layer combined soaked walnuts with dates and carob, the middle was finely shredded coconuts and coconut milk, and the topping was a surprising creamy blend of carob, dates, and avocado.
Z: Other offerings on the menu include a Hempburger, two additional "pasta" dishes as well as pizzas, a falafel plate, some very innovative sandwiches and salads, and a host of familiar sounding appetizers.
R: But, you can bet they're far from familiar.
Z: Heather, who was dressed in jeans, an O2 tank top, and a bucket hat, explained that each table is equipped with oxygen for anyone wanting to partake. Dr. D, one of the restaurant's owners, explains that, "Oxygen is health food for the lungs." It costs $15 for 20 minutes or $25 for 40 minutes, but it's offered free at lunchtime. The bill for the three of us was $46.55. Considering that we ordered an appetizer, three entrees, and two desserts, that wasn't too bad.
R: I was curious about the other two rooms and went exploring. The building is an odd shape, leaving one room long and narrow. This room, which leads out to a small balcony facing Holloway, is furnished with low couches, has soft lighting, and oxygen available. The other small room is where people gather for the music and entertainment. In this room you, too, can glow under a blacklight. To sum it all up, it's an experience, a really good one!
Z: We should mention one challenge. Since this restaurant is on the Sunset Strip, parking is not an easy find. However, there is valet parking available behind the restaurant.
O2 Oxygen Bar and Restaurant
Reviewed September 1999