Z: That charm had a romantic quality that reminded me of a cross between an English teahouse and a Japanese restaurant. It was bright, yet warm--an ideal spot to enjoy a lunch break while shopping.
R: A long, three-tiered deli counter displayed platters of colorful daily salad offerings, while the counter-top featured baskets of baked items that vary daily. That day there were oatmeal-dotted whole-wheat breads, two-foot-long dried fruit and pecan rye baguettes, bagels, chocolate spelt brownies, a variety of cookies, baby donuts, coco spelt biscotti, cinnamon raisin breads, and a mouthwatering Tapioca Tart that glistened in the case.
Z: Not only do they make delicious salads, but owners Shinya and Ayano Kagimoto, an energetic husband and wife team, prepare a variety of innovative items that make one want to invite a friend to lunch and go on a tasting fling.
R: We decided on a salad three-some and chose Seitan Salad, Yellow Beet Salad, and Pumpkin Salad. The Personal Quiches in the deli case were too tempting to pass up so we added that to our salads and shared each of the items. We sat at one of the tiny, light wooden tables along the large window that poured a generous stream of light into the café.
Z: We would have preferred to sit on the floral, overstuffed loveseats that shared a coffee table between them, but they were occupied. I kept dwelling on those loveseats. The thought of loveseats in a tiny café presented images of a cozy quaintness or a romantic interlude.
R: Zel's a total romantic, but the images that danced in my head zeroed in on the food, which, thankfully, came quickly. The salads, served in little rice bowls, were exceptional and bore the bright colors of truly fresh vegetables. The Seitan Salad consisted of generous chunks of delicious marinated seitan tossed with julienne carrots, yellow bell pepper, and slices of celery.
Z: The Yellow Beet Salad was a simple, yet elegant medley of marinated beet slices tossed with paper-thin slices of onion and minced basil. The salad's simplicity was refreshing and allowed the sweetness of the golden beets to really stand out.
R: We've enjoyed baked kabocha squash served warm in numerous ways, but never as a chilled salad. The Pumpkin Salad was an intensely sweet kabocha squash baked and mashed with raisins. Though kabocha is available year round, it's always tastiest in the fall and winter. We loved the salad.
Z: Served warm, the Tomato Basil Quiche was brought to our table a few moments later. This jumbo muffin-size quiche brings together the delightful heartiness of tofu with tomatoes, basil, and tasty seasonings in a nicely browned, whole-grain crust.
R: We noticed the diners next to us had ordered one of the café's specialty teas served in a unique glass teapot along with beautifully handmade ceramic mugs. After our lunch we browsed the appealing selection of teas and coffees attractively displayed on the table in the center of the room.
Z: We also looked more carefully in the deli case and noticed some extraordinary, heartier creations like Bento boxes, Savory Vege Curry Donuts, baked rolls stuffed with veggies, Teriyaki Bowl, and Seitan Chicken on rice with miso soup.
R: Health-savvy Shinya and Ayano are raising two young children and became acutely aware of the lack of vegan restaurants in the area whenever they wanted to dine out. Filling the void, they decided to create their own vegan haven. Shinya learned his craft working in a bakery but had to spend countless hours converting recipes to reflect his healthy vegan focus.
Z: Shinya starts his day at 5:00 a.m. to prepare the daily raisin starter, a natural culture used for raising the breads. For special occasions, he bakes an exceptional Strawberry Shortcake with a tofu cream topping that resembles the wedding cakes blanketed in marzipan. Together Shinya and Ayano pooled their skills and have enriched the Torrance area with an organic vegan bakery and charming cafe with a well-conceived informality and delicious offerings.
Casa De Tree Organic Bakery & Deli Café
Reviewed January 2007