Chickpea-centric Bowlila

Last week, I discovered the new Bowlila kitchen located inside the Colony in West L.A. Chefs Adlah Alsharhan and Badr Fayez are preparing an array of healthy fare and hearty bowls made with chickpeas simmered in a hot and flavorful broth. This plant protein is a healthy base in an array of colorful and inventive dishes.

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The name Bowlila is inspired by “Bailila,” a classic Middle Eastern street food. I ordered an array of innovative cultural dishes that are inspired from different regions around the world, including the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean and Europe for pick up.

Since Bowlila offers a variety of chickpea bowls, I ordered the Japanese bowl and Thai red curry bowl. Both include ethereal tofu croutons that are puffy and crispy on the outside, and warm and soft inside.

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The Japanese bowl is arranged artistically with enhanced chickpeas, roasted seaweed, furikake-toasted sesame seeds, sliced cucumber, pickled ginger, sliced green onion and a colorful rainbow cabbage slaw. It’s topped with a pleasing sesame-miso sauce.

The Thai bowl had a lemon wedge to squeeze on top of an array of chopped mango, sliced cucumber, crispy fried onion, sprigs of cilantro, chopped peanuts, rainbow slaw, sliced green onion, a few shavings of pickled ginger and those delightful tofu croutons. It’s a balance of heat and cool when the lemon is squeezed and mixed with the slightly spicy light red coconut milk curry sauce.

For those looking for a taste of the Caribbean, the Island Jerk Bowlila has spicy citrus jerk sauce, mango, jicama, rainbow slaw, chopped jalapenos, crispy fried onion, cucumber, green onion and pico de gallo.

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I also ordered a Persian pita,  served open-faced with chopped cucumbers and three warm and slightly crispy chickpea fritters. They aren’t like traditional crispy falafel balls. Instead, they’re lighter and look more like small crab cakes. Other ingredients on the pita included house-made slaw, chopped tomatoes, Persian yogurt and a delicious nut-free pesto. You can request all of these ingredients be put into a bowl without the pita for a gluten-free option.

Another gluten-free menu item that’s high in protein is the mango pancakes, chickpea pancakes topped with a freshly made mango sauce.

For an Italian flair, there are crispy chickpea Italian fritters served with the same house-made, nut-free, vegan pesto dipping sauce that I enjoyed spread on my Persian pita.

Bowlila also offers meal kits to build your own bowls and pita sandwiches. The kits range from $20 to $40 and serve two to four people. For a healthy alternative to meat, these chickpea dishes at Bowlila provide a colorful, flavorful, healthy and satisfying meal. Hours are Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Bowlila is closed on the weekends. $-$$. Order online eatbowlila.com. 11419 Santa Monica Blvd., (424)346-1438.

Featured in the Beverly Press on July 2, 2020.

Uplifting Vegan Cuisine

Studies show that eating plant-based food can reduce the risk of some types of chronic disease, including cancer and heart disease. IMG_6198For those who who don’t want to step foot in a 100% organic plant-based restaurant, you may want to think again. Vegan and vegetarian diets are higher in dietary fiber and vitamins and lower in calories and saturated fat.

Cafe Gratitiude welcomes guests with a unique I AM … menu. “Each dish is named after affirmations to inspire you to love yourself, accept the world, and be full of gratitude,” said our server. Instead of asking for lasagna, you say, I’ll have “Fabulous” and your server repeats back to you “you are fabulous,” as she writes down the order.

Servers also present guests with a Question of the Day, “What are you grateful for?” It’s a positive conversation starter for families and friends dining together and inspires people to put away the electronics and talk to one another.

Since Café Gratitude is committed to supporting organic farms and biodynamic wine and beer makers, you feel good ordering off the menu and pairing it with a beer or glass of wine.

IMG_6202Due to my positive demeanor, I ordered the I AM…HAPPY, a Mediterranean raw wrap filled with goodness inside a whole wheat wrap.

For those feeling magical or craving a burger, the I AM….MAGICAL double cheeseburger is made with two housemade black bean patties, grilled gluten-free amaranth and millet bun, shredded romaine, tomato, pickles, red onion, spicy cashew thousand island, chipotle ketchup, topped with cashew macadamia cheddar.

Seeking a BLT type of sandwich? Order the I AM….EXTRAORDINARY sandwich made with coconut bacon, instead of the real animal bacon, and layered with lettuce, avocado and tomato.

For those who like Italian cuisine, the I AM….AWESOME eggplant parmesan panini is made with a herb-cornmeal crusted eggplant topped with marinara sauce, cashew ricotta, tomatoes, brazil nut parmesan, arugula, and basil on a grilled gluten-free amaranth and millet bun. Amaranth is a grain packed with iron and calcium, and its fiber content is triple that of wheat. It’s served with a side of mixed greens with balsamic vinaigrette.

IMG_6204Vegans and vegetarians sometimes like to eat a meal in a bowl. The MUCHO Mexican bowl is filled with black beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, and nopales cactus plant. It’s topped with salsa verde, cashew nacho cheese, spicy pepitas, romaine, and sprouted probiotic brown rice.

Another bowl is the I AM….GRATEFUL community bowl. It’s layered with shredded kale, black beans, garlic tahini sauce, and a choice of sprouted probiotic brown rice or quinoa.

We learned that for every bowl sold, Cafe Gratitude donates $1 to KISS THE GROUND, an organization that son, Ryland Engelhart co-founded. He made five minute movie, The Soil Story, to explain why our health, the health of the soil, and the healthy of our planet are one of the same.

Finish with I AM LOVELY… – a baked gluten-free cobbler served with a scoop of housemade coconut cashew milk ice cream.

If you haven’t experienced vegan cuisine, Cafe Gratitude is one of the best spots to have your first plant-based meal. Not only is the food delicious, the positive staff makes sure you walk away feeling good about yourself. $$ Open 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 639 N. Larchmont Blvd. (323)580-6383. There is also a downtown LA location 300 S. Santa Fe Avenue. (213) 929-5580. To find other locations, go to http://cafegratitude.com.