No Culinary Blossoms Here: Seed

seed storefrontI wanted to fall in love with Seed in Venice Beach so badly … I really did.

How could I not? This place received an impressive review from the Los Angeles Times, and many patrons also seemed to adore this little join that specializes in organic, vegan macrobiotics choices, with colorful array of dessert selections crafted masterfully by former M Chaya patisserie, Eric Lechasseur, now the owner of Seed. Paired with raves from celebrity fans like Madonna and Leonardo DiCaprio, the place had the pedigree of an ultimate knockout in the culinary rink. Everything was going toward its favor.

seed bowlI would first acknowledge that Saisai Donburi Marco Bowl, a culinary playground of kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), shiitake, kale, sauerkraut, canellini beans and other healthy seasonal vegetables imaginable on the bed of brown rice, that my sister and I ate did live up to all the hype. No doubt. Seitan, a meat substitute made out of wheat gluten, was incredibly juicy and flavorful, it got me, the carnivore, asking, “beef what?” The mixture of seasonable veggies, creamy beans and other pickled vegetables, sprinkled with tangy and aromatic shiso powder and aonori condiments, danced in my mouth, taking me to a happy, gastronomical place. 🙂

With that out of the way, let me begin my rants:

① This place has no restroom in the premise. Seriously, that’s awful. And in front of the join is a small, 1-hour parking … one more thing to worry about when dining here.

② Food comes in plastic container, which cheapened the entire dining experience, especially after dishing out $15 for a rice bowl. Even the desserts are pre-packaged in the clear, plastic box as they sit in the glass case. I saw a threesome that came in to the place, looked at the dessert options, and left. It’s kinda unappetizing, to tell you the truth. This seemed like a strange decision, knowing that the owner is a pastry chef.  And how about the amount of trash that accumulate?

③ I feel like this place belongs in places like Montana Avenue or Abbot Kinney, not in the smelly Venice Beach. It’s just me, but I’m not really a fan of this part of Venice.

④ Bad service. Maybe it was just that day when I was there, but the guy at the counter just stood there even when the food came out of the kitchen. I also had to go up to the counter to get the desserts because he forgot. Granted, my sister and I were the only ones in the restaurant at that time of the day, but we still, we were totally forgotten while staff stood around and talked.

seed cupcake⑤ And the cupcake … let me tell you about the Chocolate Cupcake with Green Tea Frosting that I ordered … disgusting. I know that the cupcakes here are made out of maple syrup and / or brown rice sweeter instead of regular sugar and they use all the vegan ingredients but that’s no excuse. I’ve had plenty of wonderful, non-sugar, non-dairy sweets elsewhere. This cupcake was flavorless and dense (not in a good way), and I had to put it down after the first bite. This was disappointing to say the least because I love cupcakes and I was really looking forward to the much talked-about pastry by Chef Eric who even wrote a book on this topic. 😕 I will say, however, that the Chocolate Mousse Terrine wasn’t bad.  It had a nice combination of sweet and tangy (sounds strange on a chocolate but it works) and aside from being a little too rich, I thought it was very tasty.

seed boardIf this were a dating world, Seed would be someone who’s a really nice guy but other factors, such as his loser friends, are just too much of a liability to take the relationship to the next level. I would definitely like to try its donburi and other delicious food on the menu like Blackened Tempeh Burger with Sauerkraut and Seitan Pepper Steak, but that’s only if someone is willing to pick it up for me, on the to-go order.

I really thought Seed and I would have a wonderful future together but I guess I just have to file away this experience in my culinary “been there, done that” box and put it away. Until I find my macrobiotic and vegan Gastro Mr. Right, you can find me at M Chaya and Real Food Daily, respectively.

Seed
1604 Pacific Avenue, Venice, CA 90291
★★★☆☆

Best of Both Worlds: M Cafe de Chaya

chayaI used to dread lunchtime as a child. While my classmates ripped open a brown bag and pulled out peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, I opened my bento box quietly in the corner, making sure that inari and onigiri my mother packed didn’t invite any gag reflex from kids around me. Japanese food was virtually unknown to average households in the mid 80s, and sushi — perhaps one of the only recognizable Japanese foods at the time — was nothing more than a prop to invite some laughs in a cheesy John Hughes movie.

Fast forward 20-plus yeas and the Japanese culinary landscape has gone through a complete makeover, becoming one of the most popular cuisines among health conscious and open minded foodies around the world. In addition to the Japanese food powerhouse likes teriyaki and tempura, a little-known up-and-coming dishes like kinpiras (burdock) and hijikis (seaweed) are quickly becoming the forefront of many health movements, including the macrobiotics diet.

chaya-1The term, “macrobiotics,” can be misconstrued as something really complicated but the foundation of the diet is very simple. The base of the diet is grains (especially brown rice) followed by vegetables and other plant-based food. Many of macrobiotics ingredients, such as root vegetables and seaweeds, are a staple in Japanese kitchen, and thus the diet is synonymous with Japanese cooking.

If you’re unsure about the Japanese cuisine or intimidated by macrobiotics lifestyle, simply visit M Café de Chaya in Culver City and you will discover how delicious and friendly this whole thing truly is. When you walk in the café, you’d think you just walked into a fancy patisserie in Paris with heavenly goodness filling the glass showcase. But instead of éclairs and napoleon, what you’ll find are a colorful array of salads including Kale with Spicy Peanut Sauce (me and my sister’s favorite), Sesame Seaweed, and Sesame Soba Noodle, and sushi like Shiitake Avocado Roll and assortments of Inari. The flavor of each dish is world class – not surprising knowing that the mastermind behind this contemporary macrobiotics cuisine is none other than the chef behind the famous Chaya empire. Oh, and yes, it has some of the best tasting desserts too.

At M Cafe de Chaya, you’ll never have to comprimise flavor for health, and vice versa.  It’s the best of both worlds!

… and if I can only shove these in the brats face now …

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Kale with Spicy Peanut Sauce and Scarlette Quinoa (vibrant red color from beet juice)

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Kale, White Beans Salad and Sesame Soba Noodles

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Inari Sushi with Mushroom, Kinpira, and Hijiki, Spicy Tuna Rolls, and Smoked Salmon Rolls

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Spring Rolls

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Chocolate Cake

Thanks to my sister for introducing me to this wonderful place and treating me to this delicioius dinner!  It was a great weekend!

M Café de Chaya
9343 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232
★★★★★