118 Degrees offers vegan food that tastes vegan, and not in a good way. Offering tasty raw, healthy, vegan food is difficult because options are limited. Almost all the dishes at this restaraunt could be improved with some salt or pepper, but then the dish would no longer be “healthy.” The cheese dishes would taste better if they are fully cooked, melting the cheese. However, the entrees would no longer be raw.
Dainty golden chandeliers hang above every other table, and bright, fake grass lines the walls and benches in the Tarzana restaraunt.
Online, its website reads: “our cuisine is entirely plant-based, made from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and sprouted grains– all prepared at 118° or lower to preserve valuable nutrients.”
The “Yogi Juice,” priced at $5, is a mixture of orange juice, berry juice, maca root and lemon juice presented in a clear Mason jar.
The taste is sour and overpowered by the amount of lemon juice the drink contains. The berry flavors get completely lost in the mix. When the citrus overtones clear, they give way to an unpleasant aftertaste, which resembles burnt hair. The aftertaste is too strong and bitter to ignore, making the entire drink a loss.
The “Living Lasagna” dish is made up of zucchini, macadamia ricotta, sweet basil marinara, mushroom and a cheese crumble.
The marinara cheese and mushrooms taste chilled while the zucchini is warm, causing the ingredients to mix awkwardly. In addition, the overall taste of the dish is bland. If there are any seasonings on the lasagna, they can not be tasted. The marinara’s only flavorful component is the sweet basil, though the taste was not strong enough to save the dish. For $15, the entree was too expensive.
The “New Mexico Nachos,” $10, use carrot crisps in place of traditional tortilla chips. The carrots are topped with cilantro salsa, chipotle cheese, sweet cheese, guacamole and cilantro. Aesthetically, the plate is pleasant and polished. However, the nacho experience was diminshed because the carrot crisps are weak and brittle, unable to hold more than a few ingredients without breaking. The chipotle cheese alone, with its smoky and spicy flavor, redeems the entree, which would have otherwise been a bust.
For dessert, the “Chocolate Avocado Cacao Brownie” hits the spot. The texture resembles fudge more than a brownie, which is for the better because the dessert is served cold. It is topped with hemp seeds, providing a subtle crunch throughout, adding an enjoyable variation to texture. The dessert is bitter in the way one expects cacao to be.
Vegans aren’t always necessarily looking for their food to taste like meat, but they shouldn’t have to settle for less flavor.