Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity knows that while Mark and I avoid fast/overly processed foods, we tend to equally avoid diet choices on the other side of the spectrum – unless we are out with/cooking for people who require it, it’s pretty rare that we seek out restaurants or recipes that restrict the universe of foods (vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free, etc.). Which is why until last week, whenever we tried to decide on a quick and easy dinner in walking distance, M Café just wasn’t in the running (plus, it’s right next to All About the Bread! I love that place.). But the combination of a gift card and the opportunity to meet up with Lynn from The Actor’s Diet and her husband Abe changed that, and now we have another great (and healthy!) option for neighborhood dining.
At its very small, often packed West Hollywood location, M Café offers globally-inspired “contemporary macrobiotic cuisine.” Once we had managed to snag a spot at the cafeteria-style benches inside, my first reaction was to ask Lynn what “macrobiotic” meant, exactly, as it didn’t sound delicious to me. She explained that people adhering to a macrobiotic diet eschew any refined sugars, eggs, dairy, red meat or poultry, although fish is allowed.
M Café made a pretty good first impression with their wasabi potato salad, which somehow managed to be creamy sans dairy or egg. The wasabi was subtle, making this a dish we could – and did – easily scarf down in moments.
As noted, while M Café doesn't do red meat or poultry, it does have fish dishes, including a small selection of sushi. The spicy tuna roll was pretty standard - an enjoyable little bite to lead into our main courses.
Lynn and Abe, M Café veterans, were there on a mission to sample items from the new fall menu. First up was the Philly cheese “steak,” made with thinly sliced seitan, grilled onions, bell peppers, and shiitake mushrooms, topped with a vegan cheese sauce. Lynn and Philly native (and vegetarian) Abe enjoyed it quite a bit as a veggie hoagie, while ceding that wasn’t really very close to an authentic cheesesteak.
They also split another a new menu item, the korma curry, featuring seitan, brown rice, and steamed kale in a cashew cream curry sauce. I didn’t try this one either, but Mark did and liked it a lot – it’s the kind of dish where the absence of meat and dairy really doesn’t make much of a difference.
I was feeling only mildly hungry for some reason, so I ordered the bi-bim-bap, with marinated pan-fried tofu, Korean-style vegetables, spicy miso sauce and house-made kim chee over rice, thinking it would be a light meal. I was wrong, but not unhappy about it – the combination of well-sauced and seasoned tofu, veggies and rice was surprisingly filling, so much so that I ended up taking about half of my meal home (and eating it later on that night). The only complaint I had? I wouldn’t have minded more pungent kim chee and spicier sauce.
On Lynn’s enthusiastic recommendation, Mark ordered the “Big Macro,” a whole grain brown rice and vegetable burger topped with special sauce, lettuce, soy mozzarella, tomato, pickles, onion, and sprouts on a house-baked whole wheat bun. While it doesn’t really compare to the taste of a nice medium-rare beef patty, it’s one of the better veggie burgers out there – the hefty patty avoided the mushy texture you find so often in non-meat burger patties, and was really flavorful, even without all the toppings. Mark also ordered an awesome side, which balanced slightly bitter kale with a light peanutty sauce.
To finish off the meal, Lynn was kind enough to share a dairy-free chocolate tart with my sweet toothed sweetheart.
While I seriously doubt that either Mark or I could hold ourselves to a macrobiotic diet for any significant length of time (I’d give it two meals, and that would be impressive), it’s really nice to eat at a place where you know that whatever you order, it’ll be good for you. M Café offers food that is pretty tasty, in a convenient setting.