I’m no vegetarian let alone vegan, and although I am open to eating it from time to time, I have never felt it is something I am able to eat several days a week — until now.
My BFF and I recently eat at two Cafe Gratitude locations — there are currently three — but I’m getting ahead of myself here. About a month ago, we find out that BFF’s boyfriend has to embark on a complete diet overhaul — health related — cutting out a lot of foods including grains, certain proteins, and a lot of things that would make my head spin. We scratch our heads trying to find creative and delicious ways to spruce up his already waning list of edibles.
When I hear about Cafe Gratitude, I drag BFF along to check it out, hoping this can perhaps be an alternative to the poor guy’s drab list of “can eats”. We eat at two LA locations — Larchmont (top two photos) and in a brand new spot located in the arts district in downtown LA (bottom two photos)– both different in its own right, but each possessing its own character and charm. The menu is pretty much the same. For the purpose of this post, I will be combining both visits into one.
The restaurant serves breakfast through to dinner so there is definitely a lot to choose from. We are able to try a breakfast item PEACE ($8), a raw open-faced bagel using an onion crust, topped with cashew cream cheese, nori, tomato, onion, capers, sprouts and avocado (+$2). The crust is hard and chewy — texturally, may take some getting used to by those not familiar with this sort of food — but very flavorful. I like the combination of flavors and it makes for a light, but filling morning choice.
There is an array of drinks available from cold to hot. I select GOLDEN ($5) a turmeric latte with almond milk, turmeric juice and honey. I can’t remember BFF’s selection but if I recall, it is chocolate of sorts?
We start with some appetizers. YO SOY FELIZ ($8 for 1/$14 for 2) are tostadas with a schmear of black bean puree, topped with a mixture of diced grilled portobello mushrooms, seasonal pico de gallo, Mexican coleslaw, maple chipotle, crispy coconut bacon, cashew queso fresco, salsa verde and of course, avocado. Although the menu says “portabello mushroom tostadas”, I only find two pieces of mushrooms on my tostada — must have all landed on BFF’s since she finds a few more.
One of our favorites is CELEBRATING ($14) comprising two collard spring rolls: collard green wrap stuffed with shredded daikon, wakame (kelp), carrots, sunflower sprouts, avocado and Japanese picked vegetables. Two dipping sauces accompany, including sesame wasabi and almond. I am not sure which I like better, so I alternate between the two. I wish I have the patience to make this! Utterly delicious, but I can see how time consuming it will be to make.
As a diabetic, I am very familiar with the next dish using this noodle alternative. TERRIFIC ($14) is pad Thai kelp noodles. Usually, kelp noodles possess no flavor on its own, so whatever you choose to combine it with is important. Here, the noodles are tossed in a Thai almond sauce, with carrots, red bell pepper, shredded kale, chopped teriyaki almonds and sunflower sprouts. There is a lot of different textures in this dish and what I like best is how the sauce clings to the noodles.
The restaurant offers specials as well and on this particular day, I AM GLORIOUS ($14) is the featured wrap. A whole wheat tortilla is filled with Caesar salad, avocado, diced tomato, arugula and blackened tempeh. It is a burrito of sorts, but it is one I like. I typically do not eat burritos because I despise biting into a mushy mess, but because this comprises vegetables, it is fresh and crunchy.
Being Asian, it is hard to escape the love for rice. If that’s you, choose WHOLE ($15), a macrobiotic bowl offering sprouted probiotic brown rice, or quinoa. We choose half and half. This is a very interesting dish! BFF calls it a vegan bibimbap, which describes it perfectly. Topped with braised butternut squash, adzuki beans, sea vegetables, seasonal sauteed Be Love Farm greens, housemade kim chee, black sesame seed gomasio (or gomashio, a roasted sesame salt), garlic-tahini sauce, teriyaki almonds and sunflower sprouts, there is so much going on in this bowl! Toss everything together before eating, and even so, you will get a different taste in each bite.
I’m not one to revel in desserts, but I’ll have to admit, IRRESISTIBLE ($9) is true to its name. A coconut cream pie using a date crust, it is filled with coconut custard and dark chocolate swirl. Creamy and rich, yet, not sweet. I am thoroughly impressed.
However, it is RAPTURE ($9) that blows my mind. A raw strawberry shortcake, this slice of heaven with fresh strawberries, coconut cashew cream and raw almond cake is highly addicting. I want a slice of my own even though I am stuffed. I want this for my birthday this year!
I think we are amazed and delighted at the same time by the menu at Cafe Gratitude. For BFF’s boyfriend, almost everything on this menu suits his limited diet. And as for me, it is a lifestyle I should adopt. After stuffing my face complete with dessert, my blood sugar remains at a perfect level! Final thought? They better come to OC soon!
639 N Larchmont
Los Angeles, CA 90004