Res­o­lu­tion so­lu­tion

This isn’t fine din­ing, and the food might not be In­sta­gram wor­thy, but in many cases, it’s fla­vor­ful, fill­ing, and de­signed with nu­tri­tion in mind.

Pasatiempo - - RESTAURANT REVIEW -

Ac­cord­ing to a 2013 ar­ti­cle in Forbes, around 40 per­cent of Amer­i­cans make New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, but only 8 per­cent of us who do man­age to stick to them. We’re only a week into 2016, and al­ready co­me­di­ans and food blog­gers are talk­ing about aban­don­ing res­o­lu­tions and re­vert­ing to our reg­u­lar, richer, more in­dul­gent ways.

Eat­ing health­ier is al­ways a pop­u­lar goal, but let’s face it: We’re busy, and we don’t al­ways have the time or the en­ergy to con­coct nu­tri­tious, home-cooked meals. If you’re in a hurry or in a bind, you could turn to Love Your Self Café — a small café on the east side of the DeVar­gas Cen­ter that ad­joins the Light Ves­sel spa. This isn’t fine din­ing, and the food might not be In­sta­gram wor­thy, but in many cases, it’s fla­vor­ful, fill­ing, and de­signed with nu­tri­tion in mind.

The menu cov­ers a pretty broad range, from break­fast dishes like waf­fles, pan­cakes, Bene­dicts, and por­ridge to sal­ads, gluten-free piz­zas, and “build your own” bowls and skil­lets that are based on rice, quinoa, pota­toes, and sweet pota­toes. Ev­ery meal be­gins with a small mug of com­pli­men­tary Love Wa­ter, a spring-green com­bi­na­tion of ap­ple, cu­cum­ber, and co­conut wa­ters as well as sil­ica and some­thing called “cell food.” Many dishes are ve­gan, though cheese and eggs make ap­pear­ances, as do red and green chile.

If you have a han­ker­ing for huevos rancheros, Love Your Self Café prob­a­bly wouldn’t be your first choice, but you’ll find that dish on the menu all the same. It and a few other more rec­og­niz­able of­fer­ings are here, pos­si­bly for the sake of din­ers who want some­thing fa­mil­iar for lunch rather than need­ing to know what terms like sattvic, prana, or chlorella mean be­fore they or­der.

There’s a Cae­sar salad, for ex­am­ple. The ro­maine was su­per-fresh and crunchy, with that tell­tale mild bit­ter­ness, and the dress­ing was bright with cit­rus and easy on the gar­lic. The Parme­san was the waxy pre-shred­ded in­dus­trial sort, though, and the “rose­mary crou­tons,” while definitely herba­ceous, were oddly crumbly and tasted stale.

The kale salad has be­come an al­most com­i­cally ubiq­ui­tous phe­nom­e­non, and you’ll find one of those here as well. The greens were well mac­er­ated, ten­der, and nicely coated in an av­o­cado dress­ing that was rich but over­pow­er­ingly hot with gar­lic. The bed of quinoa, wide rib­bons of car­rot, and studs of diced cu­cum­ber and tomato pro­vided some cool­ing, carby respite.

Some­times your soul cries out for pizza, whether or not your health re­quires you to avoid gluten. The menu at Love Your Self in­cludes two piz­zas, though there’s prob­a­bly not much that’s strictly healthy about them. We tried the white pizza, ba­si­cally a crack­ery flat­bread topped with a hefty layer of fresh milky moz­zarella along with some slices of sur­pris­ingly fla­vor­ful tomato, aro­matic basil leaves, a gen­er­ous driz­zling of ex­tra vir­gin olive oil, and some dried herbs.

One of the house “fa­vorites,” the LYS Skil­let adds hints of golden, aro­matic curry pow­der to roasted pota­toes. They ar­rive at the ta­ble in a fiery-hot pan, topped with ched­dar, toma­toes, cilantro, av­o­cado, and art­ful driz­zles of richly col­ored, deeply fla­vor­ful chimichurri and red chile sauce.

You can also con­struct your own dif­fer­ent skil­let or Power Bowl (for which quinoa, sprouted brown rice, or the daily legume are bases). Much as you’d choose top­pings for a pizza or fill­ings for an omelet, you can add in­gre­di­ents and se­lect a sauce as a fin­ish­ing touch. This is a good way to sat­isfy any nu­tri­tional han­ker­ings you have — for, say, av­o­cado’s but­tery rich­ness or the crunch of cal­cium-filled al­monds. This is the sort of “back to ba­sics” vege­tar­ian dish that I of­ten crave, sim­ple and fo­cused on the essence of the in­gre­di­ents. My only com­plaint was that my bowl was in dire need of salt and sea­son­ing, miso sauce notwith­stand­ing.

The din­ing room at Love Your Self Café is small and cozy. The walls are swathed in a warm yel­low, and though its win­dow­less­ness might foster feel­ings of claus­tro­pho­bia, a dra­matic trompe l’oeil ceil­ing de­picts golden clouds in a bright blue sky as though viewed through a glass dome. A row of ban­quette ta­bles runs along one wall, and the U-shaped bar of­fers ad­di­tional seat­ing.

At prime times, there’s a fairly con­stant stream of cus­tomers, but dur­ing odd in-be­tween hours, the space can be empty and quiet. Ev­ery­one is ex­ceed­ingly friendly in an earthy, flower-child sort of way. Dur­ing one visit, I wit­nessed more than 10 hugs given and re­ceived by employees and cus­tomers — and I don’t mean the pas­sive, one-armed, lean-in-but-not-too-closely kind, ei­ther. Maybe “eat more chlorella” isn’t on your list of New Year’s res­o­lu­tions, but if you ask me, ev­ery­one could prob­a­bly use a few more hugs.

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