There’s no phone, no web site yet, and no sign. But Elf, despite its lack of distinguishing markings, has my heart.
I don’t like salad. I don’t like, well, green things. Unless they are pistachios. Or candy. I like candy.
Who woulda thunk a vegetarian, mostly-vegan joint would get my vote as best new restaurant of the year? But this place makes me love fresh kale. This is no minor feat.
Elf–so named for its tiny little dining room–seems to be enjoying the benefit of outstanding word of mouth and a supportive vegetarian/vegan community on the Eastside, because despite having no ads & no signage, the place has been packed every time I’m there. And it doesn’t hurt that its proprietors, servers and chefs are beloved fixtures in the area as well: owner Scott Zwiezen and servers/hosts Ween Callas, Ravi Dhar and Evan Haros are all members of local band Viva K! (photo by Tryan George)
Viva K (myspace) is an unusual hybrid of Indian influences and guitar-rock explosiveness. They’re a buncha ass-kickin’ urban neo-hippies, and they freakin’ rock.
I was sent to Elf for a food review for a paper I freelance for, and so I brought my pal Evan, a major foodie, standout chef, and vegetarian connoiseur. There’s no way I can eat enough food by myself to do a decent food review. Evan was the second mouth I needed.
We were blown backwards in our comfy little chairs by how delish the food is. The organic kale salad with citrus dressing and hemp seeds is a yummy surprise, the nutty richness of the fresh, organic kale making it an eye-opening specialty. The hemp seeds add a subtle buttery undertone to the sweet citrus dressing. A spinach and herb soup gets drizzles of olive oil and yogurt (dairy optional), with a delicate minty undertone. For those wanting something more decadent, the gorgonzola mac and cheese with baked organic penne is just what the doctor [didn’t] order: rich and buttery with gorgonzola’s warm, funky flavor and perfectly al dente pasta. An entr√©e of roasted beet and braised fennel with wild rice pilaf–studded with perfect little dices of carrot–is drizzled with a gorgeous port wine reduction that’s a perfect pairing with the beets, but that’s also brilliant against the fennel’s subtle licorice flavor.
For those raw-foods folks, there’s a beautiful plate of raw Middle-Eastern specialties: organic hummus, tabouleh and falafel all served on a scatter of crimson cabbage, accompanied by deliciously salty olives, and served with crisp flax crackers made from whole, dried flaxseeds.
Don’t get me wrong. I like meat. I served grilled tri-tip with a port reduction and a gorgonzola sauce for Christmas dinner. But I love vegan food, and raw food does always make me feel healthier. I tried unsuccessfully to convert to vegetarianism during my first few years of college. I did okay for a year, but was lured back by bacon.
Mmm, bacon: the Gateway Meat.
But anyway, off the top of my head I don’t know Elf’s address, but it’s just west of Alvarado on Sunset Blvd., on the north side of the street. Go. Sit at the little bar up against the cooking area and chat with the folks cooking, because they are super nice. It is yum. Sheer, unadulterated yum.