Sunday, September 18, 2011

A Beneficial Dinner At Better Life

One of the greatest joys of being a vegan is being able to share my love of food with others. I love taking on the role of a mentor and helping others through what is often a difficult transition of becoming vegan. I was given the opportunity to help a friend of mine completely abstain from animal products. The easiest way to do this was to dine out at some of LA's finest restaurants. Of course, this included venturing to one of my favorite raw food restaurants, Better Life in Santa Monica. My friend had heard about the restaurant, but had no clue the restaurant was fully vegan. It's funny how some restaurants don't specifically label themselves as "vegan", thus drawing in many diners that would most likely not eat there if they knew otherwise. 

Nevertheless, the restaurant was empty when we arrived. Given it was fairly late on a week night, I was not very surprised. My friend eyed the cheesy kale chips and picked one up to take back to her carnivorous family. We looked over the menu for a while, despite that I pretty much have it memorized by now. 

First, the soup and salad that came with our entrees were brought out. I first tried the celery soup.

I love raw soups, especially the ones at Better Life and was excited to try this. It lived up to my high expectations. It was very cooling and had a lovely, creamy consistency. It was lightly spiced and the taste of celery was strong. The soup had a very subtle sweet taste, that balanced out the saltiness very well. 

Next, I tried some Oriental Salad.

The salad was very good and had a mild spice. The vegetables were very crunchy and were coated in a tangy sauce. There was a light soy flavoring, that gave it a lovely salty taste. 

Next, our entrees came out. First, I had my favorite dish at Better Life, the Manicotti Rolls ($11.75). No trip at Better Life would be complete without ordering this delicious dish.

The manicotti rolls were just as cheesy and creamy as I remembered them, from the rich, nutty ricotta cheese to the perfectly salted parmesan topping. The zucchini slices were soft and slightly crispy, mimicking, manicotti noodles perfectly. The tomato "sauce" added a wonderful sweetness to the dish, taking it above and beyond.

Next, I had the Fiesta Platter ($13).

This dish is great and I love that it combines so many wonderful flavors on one plate. The tuna and salmon concoctions taste very similar, although the tuna is a little creamier and less spicy. Both have a very nutty taste. The fried beans is similar to the salmon, especially its texture, although has a little more kick to it. The guacamole is one of my favorite sauces, having a more sweet, luscious flavor. I also love the bruschetta, which is a garlicky pesto sauce coating a thick crunchy cracker topped in a heavenly tomato mixture, with a sprinkling of parmesan. 

Lastly, we tried the Supreme Nachos ($11.75), which were recently added to the menu.

This dish was very interesting and had similar flavors to the Fiesta Platter. The "cheese" sauce was very creamy, although it seemed more like a dressing than a sauce. The consistency was a little too thin, but quite tasty. There was a generous dollop of fried beans, which added a lovely spice to the dish. There were also pieces of crunchy crackers, which had a subtle onion flavor. There was so much lettuce, this resembled a salad more than a nacho dish. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the meal. While I find Better Life's food to be delicious, I would love their flavorings to be more varied from dish to dish. Many of the dishes start to taste very similar, especially after eating there fairly often. With the $25 gift certificate, we each spent about $17. This is a great price for the amount of food we got, especially since we had a lot of leftovers for the next day. My friend also enjoyed the food and raved about it. Almost immediately after we left, she was already planning what she would order on her next visit. 

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