Monday, September 24, 2007

Juliano's Raw

Looking for a Raw dining adventure, something to please the palate and inspire you to dust off your dehydrator? Juliano's Raw, in Santa Monica, California, provides just such an experience. I was initially reluctant to patronize the restaurant, purely because I've been disappointed by the food at other restaurants with celebrity chefs. Sometimes it becomes more about the personality than the food. That's not the case with Juliano's.

My party of three dined on the small but cozy back patio. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable and unobtrusive, my favorite combination of traits. Neither Lovely Boyfriend nor I had visited Juliano's in the past, but our friend, Lori, was visiting from Atlanta. She wanted to try raw and we wanted her first raw gourmet meal to well represent its category , so we went for the place with the best reviews.

We started with the tortilla soup, jalapeno poppers and pumpkin tortellini. I'm past the point of expecting raw food to visually mimic a cooked counterpart. It's fun when it does, but not necessary. Lori was somewhat thrown off by the fact that the appearance of some of the dishes didn't meet her expectations. The jalapeno poppers consisted of strips of dried jalapeno topped with yummy filling. They were pretty good, but not outstanding. The tortilla soup was rich, dehydrator warm and subtly spicy. I was initially disappointed that the pumpkin tortellini was such a small plate, but the slightly sweet and chewy appetizer proved to be just enough. I'd love to learn to make them.

We shared two entrees: "meat and potatoes" and the Bacon Western Double burger. Let's begin with the latter. The burger is served with a veritable salad of toppings, including pickles, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard, ketchup, avocado and onion. It was difficult to find the burger underneath it all, but it was there and the whole dish was quite good. The zucchini fries with ketchup may have outshone the burger with their delicious simplicity.

The "meat and potatoes" was so good, I went out and bought Juliano's book, RAW, the UNcook book. This meat consisted of a nut and mushroom patty topped with barbecue sauce. The taste and texture were much like classic meatloaf, only much fresher. The creamy potatoes were made from cauliflower and topped with a savory gravy. It was all I could do not to tip the cup of gravy to my lips. One word: Scrumcious!

We enjoyed the chocolate parfait, pictured above, for dessert. It consisted of a chocolate mousse on top of a nutty crust. The avocado-based mousse was much lighter than any I've been able to whip up at home. I couldn't resist getting a mango/almond-milk shake to go. It was thick and creamy, like a traditional milkshake.
All in all, our dining experience at Juliano's Raw was a pleasure. Though some have complained about the prices, I found them to be quite reasonable, especially for Santa Monica. Our bill came to $75.00 before tip. Most people would likely order less food for a typical meal. We lunched at 2:00 and were so satisfied we didn't need dinner.