eLOVate VEGAN KITCHEN & JUICERY
CELEB CHEF TURNED VEGAN BLOOMS IN SANTA MONICA
OK, I’m not a fan of the funny way that vegan restaurant eLOVate Vegan Kitchen & Juicery spells its name…”eLOVate”. It’s not even grammatically correct. And it aims to be too cute, but that’s probably the only fault I find with the restaurant.
Chef Roberto Martin, former personal chef to celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Tom Cruise and Elizabeth Taylor, and author of the NY Times best-selling cookbook Vegan Cooking for Carnivores, has just opened his first restaurant, eLOVate in Santa Monica. A former meat eater turned vegan, Chef has also just released his second cookbook, Roberto’s New Vegan Cooking.
According to Chef Roberto, he was inspired to open eLOVate thanks to the growing demand for healthier food options and more diversified vegan fare. But don’t be scared off by the “v” word as eLOVate will aptly satisfy vegans and non-vegans alike with inspired and responsibly sourced, 100% organic vegan cuisine, cocktails, cold-pressed juices and elixirs.
A Culinary Institute of America graduate, Chef Roberto dismisses the notion that vegan food is only for vegans after he decided to specialize in vegan cuisine seven years ago.
“We are excited to showcase what I consider to be ‘evolved’ vegan cuisine at eLOVate with an approachable menu that is packed with flavor and seasonal freshness,” says Martin. “Each day, I celebrate the challenge of creating new approaches to traditional vegan fare, as well as 100 percent vegan recreations of dishes that are reminiscent of popular dishes that meat lovers crave.”
As you would expect, eLOVate is committed to sourcing ingredients from local farmers, merchants and service providers whenever possible. It also only serves organic fruits, vegetables and grains, which means the menu changes seasonally if not daily.
During our recent visit for dinner, I started my night at the bar and ordered The Lobbyist made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon Whiskey, grenadine shrub, lemon juice, and Velvet Falernum. This is such a nice cocktail. It’s boozy at first taste but then that smooth and sweet falernum kicks in and just balances everything. This is a new favorite drink on the west side.
The Sassafras with IXA organic reposado tequila, snap liqueur, root liqueur, ginger syrup, OJ and banana-thyme shrub comes across as an adult root beer. The Carpathia with spiced Crusoe rum, pineapple shrub, bittersweet vermouth, simple syrup, and sparkling wine is a fine choice too. I could have done without the Red Rain with Rain vodka, beets, lemon, celery, cucumber, pineapple, and ginger. This one may just be too healthy for me…or at least tastes too much like an elixir.
To kick dinner off you’ll probably want to start with an appetizer and you should choose either the Ceviche Nachos with hearts of palm, artichoke, tomato, cilantro, lime, escabeche, and chipotle aioli or the Classic Poutine with Kennebec French fries, almond cheese curds, and mushroom gravy. Both are fine, sharable options. I’m a big poutine fan and this one is a fine take on the traditional Canadian dish but I would say go with the nachos as it’s a little different and just so damn flavorful.
The Crabless Cakes with simple slaw, fingerling potato, and roasted red pepper rouille is a great substitute for crab cakes and it just right if you want to make it your own meal or it can be a great sharable item if you’re looking to try several menu options.
If you’re looking for a pasta dish, the Arugula Pesto Linguine with cashew cream, sun dried tomato, peppers, and parm is a good choice. I prefer my vegan food to not be so fake and I like that most of the dishes here aren’t merely soy substitutes. This pesto is very flavorful and comes across as a good pasta alternative. An occasional special menu item is the pasta less lasagna, which is a tasty and filling item that isn’t as heavy as your typical pasta dinner.
If you saved room for dessert, the Pecan Carrot Cake with vanilla frosting is a winner and the Black Beast with flourless chocolate and hazelnut crust is good too but I prefer my chocolate desserts to be a little more decadent. But I am a big carrot cake fan and this one wholly satisfied me.
Some people may be put off by the idea of eating vegan (I don’t know why) but if you’re a foodie or at least an open minded eater, then don’t let something like healthy eating or trying something new stop you. It seems to me that most vegan restaurants tend to be basically Thai restaurants or offer fake substitutes like soy products so I’m really happy that I can get a good cocktail and quality fare at eLOVate, even if I don’t like the way they spell their name.
eLOVate Vegan Kitchen & Juicery is located at 1705 Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica, just one block south of the Santa Monica Pier. The entrance is on the Olympic side of the building. For more information call (424) 272-8700. Parking is free and located underground on Ocean Avenue.
Story by Jose Martinez
Photography Courtesy of: eLOVate Vegan Kitchen & Juicery