My birthday celebrations usually last for at least one week. This year, I kicked it off a week early by having dinner with my family at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro--the same restaurant I ate at for New Years Eve. (Yes, the food is that good there.)
On my actual birthday, my boyfriend treated me to dinner at Little Pine, an organic vegan bistro in Silver Lake. You may have already heard about this new restaurant by Moby. The news that the musician and DJ was donating 100% of Little Pine's profits to animal welfare organizations spread fast among the vegan and non-vegan communities alike. I knew I had to celebrate my actual birthday there. It was a celebration for a good cause.
Birthday Dinner No. 1 at Sage Organic Vegan Bistro
My family had never been to Sage, and I knew the only way they would go to a vegan restaurant is if it were for my birthday. So this was their first exposure to gourmet vegan fare.
It took them a while to decide on what to get--I was beginning to worry that they couldn't decide because nothing appealed to them. They assured me that it was because of all the choices (Sage does have a huge selection with its four-panel, double-sided menu). We started off with a creamy artichoke spinach dip (not sure what kind of vegan cheese they used), which came with housemade tortilla chips. We scarfed down the chips pretty fast and they were kind enough to give us more chips for free. My parents and sister also got the New England style potato chowder. It's made with dulse sea vegetable (which is naturally soft and chewy) and organic sweet corn.
Although this was my second time ordering the butternut squash ravioli, I just had to get it again because I had been craving it. The flavors of the cashew alfredo and pesto sauce are so pronounced and memorable; they work really well with simple, sautéed kale.
My dad ordered the portabella mushroom steak dinner, which was cooked in shallot red wine reduction. It came with steamed vegetables and mashed potato. I took a bite of it and it was super tasty. You could really taste the red wine but it wasn't too overpowering. He told me he thought it was really good (at which point I was cheering in my head because I was relieved that Sage made a good first impression on him).
I think my sister went with the portabella bacon chili cheese burger, which had cashew cheese and garlic aioli. It was served on a wheat bun with German potato salad. She also ordered an orange julius made with coconut milk. It was not too sweet and perfectly tart.
My mom ordered the eggplant parmesan, which was served on a grilled olive bread with cashew alfredo and marinara sauce. She also got hers with a side of German potato salad.
And last, but not least, my brother-in-law ordered a side of falafel balls with tahini, and the molé bowl. The bowl was a mix of quinoa, brown rice, kale, avocado, pickled cabbage, black beans, and mixed vegetables sautéed in molé sauce and topped with fried jalapeño and crispy tortilla strips.
For desserts, we went with the salted caramel chocolate cheesecake, coconut cream pie, and an espresso iceKreme by KindKreme. Since it was my birthday celebration, they gave the iceKreme for free and they honored my wish NOT to have a birthday song and candle. They were all delicious but my favorite was the salted caramel chocolate cheesecake. Its flavors were more complex than the other two, and just seemed more unique overall. The espresso was my next favorite because I love anything coffee-flavored, and it really did taste like ice cream, without the overpowering sweetness.
Birthday Dinner No. 2 at Little Pine Organic Vegan Bistro
My boyfriend and I had dinner reservations for 9:15 pm since it was about 25 miles away, which in L.A. means 1 to 1.5 hours to get to during rush hour. We got there around 8:50 pm and when we told them we were really early for our reservations, they went ahead and seated us within minutes since they already had a table open. That earned them some points in my eyes.
The restaurant lives up to its name, as it really is little, which makes the space pretty intimate. I'm short, and even with my short strides, it only took about 10-12 steps to get to our table, which was near the back of the restaurant. Unfortunately, our table happened to be right next to the only huge table that seats large parties (and by large I mean about 8 people). That table happened to also be celebrating a birthday so it was super loud and my voice was cracking from trying to talk so loud. The music helped offset the chatter somewhat, and the song selections got better as the night progressed.
Anyway, moving on to the food. I remember reading on Yelp about the portions being small and that it was best to get multiple plates, tapas style. Our server suggested the same thing and said to get about three plates per person. These are the dishes we ordered, served in this order:
- 1 bowl of tomato soup with 3 small slices of garlic crostini
- Brussels sprouts with apple, fennel and apple cider gastrique
- Fried cauliflower with romesco aioli
- Broccoli arancini (cheesy broccoli risotto cakes)
- Crispy smashed potatoes with herbed aioli
- Trio of stuffed shells (olive & pesto, artichoke & lemon, spinach & ricotta--each with housemade cheeses)
- Macaroni & cheese (gluten free pasta with housemade cheese sauce and toasted breadcrumbs)
I thought the biggest standouts were the brussels sprouts (hands-down my favorite) and the trio of stuffed shells. The brussels sprouts had a sweet, caramelized, honey-like flavor and texture, which gave every bite a burst of flavor. The flavor almost got to be too intense toward the end, but my tastebuds welcomed it because the fried cauliflower, broccoli arancini, and the mac and cheese seemed to lack a bit of flavor--or maybe they just needed a little more salt.
I think I would've enjoyed the fried foods more if they weren't served one after another, and were instead alternated with the pasta or brussels sprouts. By the time the smashed potatoes came out, I could barely eat any because the broccoli arancini was too heavy and rich.
As you can see, I wasn't able to take pictures of the foods I liked the most because I inhaled them. They weren't very picture-worthy by the time I realized I hadn't snapped photos.
For desserts, I had my eye on the s'mores ganache. It was a dense, decadent chocolate ganache with pecans, a dark chocolate graham crust, topped with toasted meringue. The meringue created the perfect balance because it offset the richness of the chocolate. When it first got to our table, I was a little disappointed by how small it was, but after one bite, I realized it was better that way because it was so rich. I would rate it a 9 out of 10--but, then again, I just loooove chocolate, and S'mores anything.
My boyfriend and I both give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. However, I applaud Moby's move to donate 100% of his restaurant's profits to animal welfare organizations. And for that, I would give it 4 stars. If I lived closer to Little Pine, I would make it a point to eat there regularly to support them in their commitment to charities. I also still want to go there for brunch one day because their pastries, pancake and french toast sound delicious--and I can eat breakfast food any time of the day.