Walter Mencken 11 a.m., May 24
Soft Opening at Casa de Luz
Last night we attended the soft opening at Casa De Luz, a new vegan restaurant on University Avenue in North Park. I spoke to owner Wayo Longoria III and Executive Chef Denise Girard a few weeks ago - you can read my post about it here.
Since it was only their second dinner service, I won't evaluate the service or staff, everyone is just getting used to being open for business. I'll make a return trip in a few months to see how it's going. For now, I'll just tell you about the food.
There are plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants in San Diego, but this non-profit is a bit different, from the plant based, 100% organic, vegan, alkalizing, nutrient-rich meals to the large community tables. It's a beautiful, calming place where you can enjoy the company of old friends or make new ones.
Casa de Luz serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the menu changes daily. There's no ordering - the chefs cook a set meal, which includes (at dinner) soup, salad, and an entree plate of several different components. The daily menu is posted on their website.
Last night's menu had two soups, Rutabaga and Cauliflower Mushroom, and a mixed salad with walnut dressing. The entree plate was a Sweet Potato Gratin, black beans, brown rice risotto, braised fennel and sautéed bok choy.
The rutabaga soup had baked rutabaga, carrots and onion pureed with herbs and almond milk. It was rich and filling, you would have sworn there was a bit of cream in it. The miso soup was chock full of cauliflower and cremini mushrooms, in a soothing miso broth. Very satisfying.
The salad had a mix of green and red cabbage and romaine, a healthy shot of cilantro leaves, tossed in a mild, creamy walnut dressing.
The entree plate is very generous, with a big square of sweet potato gratin as the main event. This was nothing like the cloying side dishes of marshmallow topped horror that comes with Thanksgiving dinner, the potatoes did all the talking. It was reminiscent of good scalloped potatoes, but made with coconut milk instead of dairy. The beans were tender but not mushy, well seasoned with oregano. Brown rice risotto was also enriched with coconut milk, nutty and firm, just the right amount of "tooth". The two vegetables were delicious, crisp-tender and bright, cooked with a bit of mirin and sesame seed. The simple preparation really let the clean flavors shine.
For dessert, we had the sampler plate ($5). It comes with four choices from the bakery case, we chose a kabocha squash muffin, sesame cookie, coconut date macaroon and cacao almond pecan truffle (our lovely server comped us a lemon chia muffin too). All were very good, with the truffle being a standout, deeply chocolatey, rich and smooth. The moist, chewy macaroon was a close second. But then, I liked the cookie a lot too. Sigh.
It all of this sounds too crunchy granola for you, I urge you to put your reservations aside and give it a try. I'm a confirmed carnivore, but found the meal deeply satisfying and more than filling. I brought home enough leftovers for another meal, and didn't miss the meat at all.
A sample of the daily menu can be seen here. Be sure to check out the cooking school upstairs too.
Casa de Luz is open for regular business as of today. Healthy eating!
2920 University Ave.
San Diego, CA 92104
Beverages and desserts are extra.
Daily from 7 am - 10 pm
Breakfast: 7:00 to 10:00 A.M.
Lunch Menu: 11:00 to 2:30 P.M.
Dinner Menu: 5:30 to 8:30 P.M.
Between these times items may vary.
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