Last Friday, my coworkers and I went to eLOVate Kitchen in Santa Monica, California to celebrate my one vegan coworker’s goodbye lunch before she moves on to greener pastures.
I’ve been trying to find a new favorite vegan restaurant ever since the news broke out about Gracias Madre, Café Gratitude and Sage Organic Vegan Bistro sourcing from and operating a farm that kills animals.
Aside from Veggie Grill (which is great for quick, healthy and affordable bites) and LA Vegan (also a no-fuss vegan staple), when it comes to celebrating special occasions or happy hour at a good vegan joint, eLOVate Kitchen fits the bill.
First, I love the shabby chic décor that invokes a farm feel. From mismatched but well-paired vintage furniture, to weathered-looking benches, a sliding barn door that serves as a partition for private parties, and repurposed furniture … if I had the budget to redecorate my apartment, that’s how I’d want it to look.
As a copywriter, I fully appreciate the clever spelling of “elevate”. eLOVate not only represents the euphoric, natural high you get from eating delicious, healthy, cruelty-free food, “LOV” actually stands for “Local, Organic, Vegan". Plus, LOV as in “LOVE” also represents the unconditional love and respect for all life—human and non-human. So I’d give it a 5 out of 5 just for the name alone.
Now onto the best part … the food! Among the standouts on the menu were:
- Sake Braised Daikon Scallops (served with red rice, bok choy and shiitake mushrooms)
- Crabless Cakes (with fingerling potato, slaw and seasonal veggies)
- Ceviche Nachos (served cold with hearts of palm, artichoke, tomato, cilantro, lime, escabeche and chipotle aioli—that ingredient list is a mouthful, literally and figuratively!)
- Thai Bowl (Bhutanese red rice, kamut, cucumber, zucchini, carrot, edamame pesto plus sesame-ginger dressing for a flavor fiesta in your mouth)
- Classic Poutine (Kennebec fries, vegan cheese curds and mushroom gravy)
I couldn’t decide between the Sake Braised Daikon Scallops (a unique and adventurous-sounding entrée) and the Thai Bowl, so I had my server choose for me. Of course she opted for the vegan scallops, and I was glad she did. It came with three one-inch thick slices of daikon radish that looked remarkably like scallops. It was braised in sake and some really flavorful sauce—possibly garlic soy sauce or something—that gave it a soft texture, but not mushy. My plate was drizzled with what I think was the sake sauce plus some wasabi concoction. The wasabi balanced the slightly-too-salty sake sauce. The daikon scallops were served with red rice mixed with bok choy and shiitake mushrooms. Yum!!
I only wish the entrée came with bigger portions, but I guess it was good that I didn’t feel too full because I also ordered a dessert to-go: a pecan carrot cake with vanilla frosting. It was a rich, but not too rich, doughy goodness. I loved that the icing wasn’t overpowering or sweet like traditional carrot cake frosting; it was light and had the texture of whipped cream. The cake itself was sweeter and had either raisins or dates—I should’ve tried figuring it out but I was too busy shoveling it into my mouth to care.
The Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic Drinks
Even though I didn’t order any drinks, it’s worth noting their extensive alcohol menu—from local vegan wines and beers to handcrafted cocktails. Oh, and get this, at the bottom of their menu, it says, “Drink responsibly. Please ask us about our designated driver program.” Now that’s a first! I’ve never seen that offered by any restaurant or bar, which deserves bonus points.
I was trying to stick to a reasonable budget so I didn’t get to try their fresh, cold-pressed juices or smoothies, which would’ve added $8-9 to my $29 lunch bill. Next time I’m there, I’ll have to try their flight (sampler) of 4 juices, which include Crimson Lemon-Aid (cucumber, beet, pineapple, lemon and ginger) and Ginger Apple Sour (pineapple, apple, kiwi and ginger). The smoothie that jumped out at me was Date Me!—a blend of almond milk, dates and mango. Can’t go wrong with any of those three ingredients!
The only downside to eLOVate Kitchen is the price of their menu items. I attribute that to their efforts to support local farmers and provide fresh, healthy, organic foods, which I applaud. However, I would be broke if this place becomes my go-to restaurant any time I'm too tired to cook, which is why I’ll reserve it for special occasions or dinner with both vegan and non-vegan friends.
If you’re still not sold on this place, the restaurant sits on a prime location just one block away from the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. It sets up the perfect post-dinner walk on the beach, whether you’re on a date or with good friends and just want to keep the good times rolling.
P.S. They also offer FREE PARKING (well, they’ll validate two hours worth). If you live in Los Angeles or are familiar with its nightmare-parking situation that rivals its traffic, then you’ll fully appreciate that perk, too.