When a body meets the Body
Santa Claus is famous for his naughty-and-nice list, which helps him separate the good kids from the bad ones. Sometimes I wish he had a system like that for restaurants. If you were feeling especially virtuous (or the opposite) it would help you choose where to eat.
Body Café, part of the holistic shopping-spa-dining nexus at the corner of Cordova Road and Don Diego Avenue, would easily secure a place on the nice list. You feel good just walking in, whether you’re there to shop for clothes, get a massage, perfect your downward-facing dog, or grab a bite to eat.
The kitchen favors local and organic ingredients. The lengthy menu encompasses sandwiches, salads, burritos, unique entrées, smoothies, and beverages, including organic and biodynamic beer and wine. Many selections cater to vegetarians, vegans, or rawists, although the presence of chicken and fish will put die-hard carnivores at ease. On the naughty end of the spectrum are truffles created by Christianna Uehlein — some vegan and made from raw chocolate, all gorgeous, most pleasing to the palate.
Body employees are cordial, inviting, and sometimes surprisingly enthusiastic. If your mood’s casual, order at the counter and choose a table in the sunny café area. In the Soul Room, the groovily elegant main dining room, you will enjoy full table service and sometimes entertainment by local musicians. One evening, this meant soothing acoustic guitar music — a vast improvement over the loud, piped-in New Age mix that had made me feel as though I was dining in my acupuncturist’s office. Freshly forced paperwhites adorned every table, and while they were visually quite lovely, the flowers’ distinctive pastysweet aroma pervaded the dining room. In my book, that’s a distracting no-no.
Some dishes at Body help dispel the myth that healthy food can’t also be creative and delicious. The name Roots and Greens, which sounds like dinner foraged by a squirrel, doesn’t do justice to the gorgeous, tender wedges of roasted auburn yam, steamed emerald greens, and grilled nutty tempeh served with a bold, lip-smacking ginger dressing.
No one will confuse the rich, slightly sweet “nut tuna” for the real thing, but for vegetarians, rawists, or anyone concerned about sustainability, it can serve as a reasonable alternative. Better yet, quit comparing it to something else and enjoy it in its own right.
The raw veggie “sushi” is an imaginative “things aren’t always what they seem” dish that culinary innovator Ferran Adrià would be proud of. The kitchen renders jicama uncannily similar in flavor and texture to sushi rice — it left me delightfully disoriented. This trick could win new raw-food fans.
Salads are often a high point. In addition to gorgeous greens, the Paradise Salad features an array of raw nuts and seeds, the house salad a nice variety of crisp veggies, although, why would a kitchen devoted to local ingredients include mealy pink tomato in wintertime? I’d rather have no croutons at all than the flavorless, simultaneously chewy and hard raw sunflower imitators.
Generous fish tacos were filled with tender, sustainably harvested, U.S.-caught opah (aka moonfish, the daily special; salmon is a menu regular), perky shreds of fresh lettuce, and mildly spicy pico de gallo. Each taco’s juicy contents saturated the tortilla, though, and tumbled onto my plate. The kitchen should consider a more traditional second tortilla layer or a different presentation altogether — no point in ordering tacos when you end up eating them with a knife and fork.
Other dishes are less remarkable. The tortilla soup was chock-full of vegetables but watery and lacking zing. The soba noodles were hot with garlic but otherwise underseasoned, although the veggies tossed with them were perfectly tender-crisp. The strangely runny basil hummus was a satisfying snack accompanied by crisp, dehydrated sweetpotato chips and onion rings. In the former, I have found a new favorite treat. The latter, on the other hand — dehydrated leathery rings with a sawdustlike coating — are the sort of naughty-food substitute that gives being good a bad reputation.