Body Café

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Lau­rel Glad­den

Hav­ing spent more than a decade of my younger years as a veg­e­tar­ian, I’m glad that a place like Body Café ex­ists. Some­times you need a break from green chile cheese­burg­ers, and it’s a re­lief to have a kitchen that fo­cuses on greens, grains, fruit, and meat al­ter­na­tives. The menu at Body dis­plays a rea­son­able amount of cre­ativ­ity when it comes to veg­e­tar­ian dishes, of­fer­ing things like raw en­chi­ladas, Asian tacos, and faux tuna made from ground nuts.

At al­most any hour, you can or­der take­out or en­joy cof­fee, a smoothie, or a meal in the sun­light-flooded café, which is tucked be­side the wall of glass that runs along the front of the build­ing. Dur­ing se­lect lunch- and din­ner­time hours, you can also eat in the slightly more for­mal Soul Dining Room, which feels a lit­tle like a spa cafe­te­ria, with a bur­bling foun­tain, med­i­ta­tive mu­sic, gauzy drapes sep­a­rat­ing some ta­bles, and a golden statue of the Bud­dha in one cor­ner.

The more ca­sual part of the café can be a lit­tle more hec­tic. You might end up sit­ting next to some­one who’s just fin­ished a yoga class or qigong work­shop. While you wait for your food you can browse the cards, house­wares, and cloth­ing that oc­cupy the rest of the build­ing’s foot­print. Ser­vice is no-frills here: You or­der at the counter, pick up a num­ber, wait for your food to be de­liv­ered, and are ex­pected to bus your own ta­ble once you’ve fin­ished eat­ing. In the Soul Dining Room, on the other hand, you’ll en­joy full ta­ble ser­vice from a staff that’s fast and friendly with­out be­ing folksy.

The Par­adise salad is a siz­able plate of al­most em­bar­rass­ingly beau­ti­ful but­ter let­tuce, lus­cious av­o­cado wedges, crisp cu­cum­ber, red onion pick­led into mild sub­mis­sion, and raw nuts. The greens were im­pres­sively fresh and pris­tine, and the cashews, al­monds, and cu­cum­bers pro­vided a wel­come crunch. The lemon­grass vinai­grette leaned to­ward the oily side and needed a lit­tle more acidic punch.

Our spring rolls were stuffed with col­or­ful veg­etable riches — dark leafy greens, car­rot, and ji­cama — and a small side dish of salty-nutty dip­ping sauce added wel­come rich­ness and depth. I wanted more of the herbal com­po­nents — mint and basil — promised on the menu, and the con­struc­tion needs a lit­tle work, given that the whole af­fair came un­done af­ter the first bite. Still, the vir­tu­ous com­bi­na­tion that’s de­liv­ered to your mouth is sat­is­fy­ing in a clean, fresh, crisp, leafy way.

The co­conut lemon­grass curry was per­fectly ser­vice­able, with broc­coli, green beans, and car­rots in an aro­matic, if wa­tery, co­conut-based sauce. The Asian tacos are corn tor­tillas stuffed with your choice of pro­tein, ji­cama, a sesame slaw, a cashew-based sour cream sub­sti­tute, and a tangy but not par­tic­u­larly spicy chile sauce. It’s nice to have the op­tion of stuffing a taco with tofu or tem­peh, but the over­all ex­pe­ri­ence was bland. Th­ese are a rea­son­ably cre­ative spin on a re­gional fa­vorite, but there are cer­tainly bet­ter tacos in town.

The green chile quinoa “cheese­burger” isn’t go­ing to con­vert any meat lovers to the veg­e­tar­ian cause. Mine was over­sized, moist, sloppy, and bizarrely fla­vor­less for some­thing com­posed of black beans, corn, rice, and quinoa. At least the chile was fla­vor­ful, if mild; the av­o­cado mayo had a pleas­ant saucy tang; and the whole af­fair had been smoth­ered in a blan­ket of Jack cheese.

The lentil loaf is a clas­sic hip­pie-veg­e­tar­ian-restau­rant dish that’s earthy, sub­stan­tial, and mild, and Body’s is topped with a sur­pris­ingly spicy red chile sauce. The bur­nished golden cur­ried pota­toes (you’d be tempted to call them “steak fries,” but that la­bel seems de­cid­edly in­ap­pro­pri­ate in this con­text) should be inspiring, but they’re dis­ap­point­ingly lack­lus­ter.

Ve­gan bak­ing is a dif­fi­cult un­der­tak­ing. Have you ever tried bak­ing cook­ies or brown­ies with­out but­ter or eggs? Still, I’d rather not have a brownie at all than have Body’s, with its over­pow­er­ing pow­dery carob pres­ence and a tex­ture that was both damp and un­pleas­antly mealy.

That’s why dining at Body can be con­fus­ing. There are good rea­sons to eat here, but while some veg­e­tar­ian dishes are cre­ative and fresh, some of the ba­sics are un­even, and for a restau­rant that pro­fesses to serve “mind­fully de­li­cious or­ganic fare,” the menu in­cludes a lot of meat. Dozens of spots around town serve ter­rific burg­ers and tacos and que­sadil­las. Adding those things to a menu of oth­er­wise health­ful dishes just seems like strange white noise.

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