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Friday, October 14, 2011

LYFE Kitchen is Delicious, Affordable and Healthy Food for Everyone

We came. We saw. We ate and ate and ate and ate. . . Seriously, we couldn't stop eating. And the title of this post was written in a particular order because after finally dining at LYFE Kitchen (a restaurant for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans) at their grand opening the thing that stood out most was just how delicious their food tasted. That it's also affordable and healthy (no dish contains more than 600 calories) are bonuses, not the main attraction.

Two nights ago I attended the grand opening of LYFE Kitchen in Palo Alto, CA. I've been posting about them for months after attending the Fork Lifting Ceremony back in June, Tal Ronnen's cooking demo in August and their hiring search over the summer. Finally the big day arrived!

It was too crowded to take pics when we arrived so I got these as we were leaving.

Before walking in you'll notice there is outdoor patio seating. As we entered we were warmly greeted just past the door and were offered menus. To the right are screens that show some of the dishes up close and personal to make your mouth water.

The staff was friendly and very efficient!

The restaurant offers counter service to place your order. I love counter service since there's no need to worry about splitting checks if you're with a large group. Staff then delivers your food to your table and clears it away so your dining experience ends on a more upscale note.

You can watch a lot of beverage action taking place behind the counter. Fruit juices, coolers, smoothies, teas, slow dripped and organic coffees, draft beer and local, chemical free wines on tap (to avoid the waste of cans and bottles) are just some of the beverage options viewable from the registers.

I went with friends Carl, Elley and Michelle. We quickly found a table and took a look around. If you look closely you can see there are inspiring quotes on many of the walls throughout the restaurant.

CCO Mike Donahue came by and walked us over to another wall to show us his favorite wall quote which I also loved:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
― Margaret Mead

The funny thing is we each ordered individually but ultimately it became a family style meal as we all wanted to sample everything! So what did we eat?

For starters we had the Roasted Beets and Fennel ($2.29), Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Aioli ($3.99) and the Edamame Hummus and Flatbread Crisps ($3.99).

The Roasted Beets and Fennel were, I think, on a bed of kale. It was really good. I would definitely order it again.

I'd also order the Edamame Hummus again in a heartbeat! It was tasty with a nice citrus tang that didn't overpower the other flavors. The flatbread was very crisp and had a nice grainy flavor to it that complemented the hummus perfectly.

The only thing I wouldn't order would be the artichoke hearts but only because I'm not partial to fresh artichokes. I love the pickled kind but fresh ones seem like a lot of work. Hmmmm but I did love the dipping sauce that came with them so actually, maybe I will order them again! LOL

Have I ever mentioned I hate flash photography? The food was much prettier than this.

We also ordered the two signature main dishes by the LYFE Kitchen Chefs.

At the top of the photo is Tal Ronnen's Ancient Grains Bowl ($11.99 - 559 calories - 646 mg of sodium) that features stir-fried Gardein™ Beef tips and vegetables over whole-grain farro and quinoa with sweet chile-ginger sauce. I'd tried this dish before at the cooking demo and loved it. BTW Gardein™ is the best faux meat I've ever had. It's made of soy, wheat gluten and grains and is available at Safeway stores. You can order many of the dishes at LYFE Kitchen with real meat, like a Niman Ranch grass fed beef burger or a Gardein™ patty or real chicken breast or a Gardein™ chicken cutlet.

Featured below it is Art Smith's Unfried Chicken Breast ($11.99 - 400 calories - 584 mg of sodium) which consists of cubed roasted winter squash, halved brussels sprouts, dried cranberries, and a dijon vinaigrette. We ordered the dish with a Gardein™ chicken cutlet. I loved this dish. Loved it. Well, except for the yellow sauce. I will definitely order this again, but without the sauce :)

We also tried a squash soup ($3.99) that was autumnal and hearty. One spoonful made me want to grab a bowl of it with some nice French or ciabatta bread to dunk in it and curl up on the couch with a nice cozy blanket for a light dinner in front of the tv. But I digress LOL.

The vegan Corn Chowder ($3.99) was another dish I sampled at Tal's cooking demo over the summer. It's vegan because instead of dairy to make the cream it's made with cashews blended in a Vitamix blender with water to create a smooth, rich and creamy base for the soup. This portion is only 184 calories and contains 469 mg of sodium. The sodium particularly is important because according to the Mayo Clinic most Americans consume 3400 mg of sodium each day while 2300 mg is the recommended daily amount.

When I asked Carl what his favorite dish was he did mention loving the Margherita Flatbread ($6.99) with fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and pomodoro sauce.

I couldn't resist ordering the Baked Sweet Potato Fries ($2.29). It was hard to believe they were baked and not fried. The tangy, ketchupy, dipping sauce tasted house made. They were good but they couldn't compete with dessert . . .

I went back up and had to order the Lemon Pound Cake with Greek Yogurt and Fresh Strawberries ($3.99). O. M. P. C. It was so great! Not too sweet, not too rich but absolutely irresistible. The thing is I used to love pound cake, until I baked one. When I saw how much butter went into a poundcake it ruined it for me. But knowing LYFE Kitchen's commitment to healthy food I can only trust that this pound cake uses far less butter than a typical pound cake. I shared it only to be polite. In truth I wanted it all for myself. Ha ha ha. Next time I won't be so generous. If you want a bite you'll have to order your own :P

Since the Pound Cake was such a winner Carl went back up and ordered the Banana Rum Cheesecake ($4.99). It was really good too. But where the Pound Cake was light this dessert was very rich and decadent and, by the way, vegan! It, like the squash soup, had just the right spices to evoke holiday time. I'm not sure if it was the cake or the crust but it definitely had a nice gingerbread flavor to it.

EVERYONE was going gaa gaa over the indoor herb garden that graces the entry into the dining area of the restaurant.

The restaurant prides itself on using a lot of reclaimed wood in its construction. From the floors to the ceilings to water in compostable boxes (not plastic bottles) and the beer and wine on tap, LYFE Kitchen is practicing an eco-consciousness I'd love to see many more restaurants embrace.

And I must say there's something incredibly appealing about the fact that when LYFE Kitchen's founder Stephen Sidwell approached two former McDonalds' executives to help him create a company that would make delicious, affordable and healthy food both Mike Roberts, LYFE Kitchen's CEO, and Mike Donahue, LYFE Kitchen's CCO, are former McDonalds executives were on board and eager to be part of a team that is in the forefront of creating a new food movement.

LYFE Kitchen CEO Mike Roberts, Carl, Me, CCO Mike Donahue and Elley

As Mike Donahue stood at our table and shared with us how excited he is to be able to practice sustainable efforts in the execution of the restaurant we could see his sincerity. It's not just talk. When it comes to changing the world to bring nutritious food within reach of more people LYFE Kitchen isn't just talking the talk. They're walking the walk. Or in this case cooking the food. Food, if the restaurant were closer to my house, I would love to eat everyday. Btw that's what LYFE stands for: Love Your Food Everyday.

167 N. Hamilton, Palo Alto, CA
650-325-LYFE (5933)
Sun-Thur 7-10 Fri & Sat 7-11

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