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Walking into the brightly lit M Café on Melrose Avenur, my daughter and I both commented on the European feeling while perusing the menu. What added to the continental vibe were three Italian men with charming accents when we overheard them placing their order. We felt as if we were transported back to Florence, Italy.
Contemporary macrobiotic cuisine is becoming the rage. It’s a healthier way of incorporating more grains and vegetables into ones diet. Avoiding highly refined sugars and processed foods, while eliminating most animal products is believed to help combat some cancers and diseases.
As Nicky, the café’s manager, took our order (she was once a raw food chef in Argentina), she explained that M Café is based on the Japanese macrobiotic philosophy of the yin and yang balance. “Foods that grow underground are the yin, while foods that grow above are yang,” Nicky said. Building on Michio Kushi’s fundamental philosophy that diet prevents cancer, (author of “The Cancer Prevention Diet”), M Café’s executive Chef Shigefumi Tachibe has studied macrobiotic cuisine for over 14 years and is a certified Kushi Macrobiotic Chef Premier. He prepares fresh food without any refined sugars, eggs, dairy, red meat or poultry.
The food sure looks appealing in the colorful display cases, but does it taste as good as it looks with all of the dietary restrictions? We had to give it a try.
First, we ordered a refreshing drink from the juice bar. Some of their creative concoctions include a Green Day with kale, parsley, cucumber and celery or a Pick Me Up with fresh carrot, apple and ginger. I selected a watermelon juice and a carafe of their crimson berry iced tea.
One of their best selling sandwiches is The Big Macro. After placing our order at the counter, we sat at an Italian-style long wood table with wooden benches. My no-meat burger arrived on a delicious house-baked whole wheat bun with a whole grain brown rice and vegetable patty, soy mozzarella, special tangy sauce, lettuce, tomato, pickle and sprouts. The patty was dense and didn’t crumble. It was flavorful, and was served with either thin-cut organic fries or sweet potato fries with a choice of Macro ketchup (remember no refined sugar here) or a spicy yuzu mayo. I opted for a deli salad of zucchini pesto. The long strands of zucchini resembled spaghetti pasta and the pesto dressing offered a strong basil flavor.
My daughter ordered another popular dish, the rice bowl with fresh salmon. It features organic, heirloom-variety Kukuho Rose brown rice from one of the oldest family-owned and operated rice farms in California since the late 1920s, Koda Farms. This brown rice is high in vitamins and minerals with a rich, nutty flavor. At M Café they don’t drown the rice and vegetables with a thick and overly sweet Teriyaki sauce. The freshly steamed carrots, broccoli and colorful peppers are lightly topped with a delicate teriyaki dressing.
The deli case will entice anyone to chose a few salads with its rainbow looking selection of signature salads. Chef Tachibe recently invited Consulting Chef Lee Gross to design some nutritious “High Summer” menu items to promote cleansing and detoxification. His South-Indian chickpea chaat salad is filled with slightly spicy chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber and splashed with a tamarind sauce and scribbled with a tofu yogurt dressing. It’s an ideal healthy summer snack.
“We get really excited when Lee Gross comes into town,” Nicky said. Gross is well-known for his knowledge about macrobiotics and alternative health. Oscar award-winning actress, Gwyneth Paltrow hired Gross as her personal chef a few years back to learn how to eat a healthier and more balanced diet.
Before leaving we tried one of Chef Tachibe’s adorable cupcakes that are gluten-free. “Chef is doing amazing things with quinoa flour,” Nicky said. Known for its high nutritional value, quinoa is a complete protein source and considered easy to digest. All the dessert items are made with natural grain sweeteners. Some believe “you are what you eat” and after dining at M Café you walk out feeling energized and not bloated or sluggish.
Ask for a Summer Thirst Quencher card. Purchase 9 M café beverages and your 10th is free. $ M Café has two locations: 9433 Brighton Way in Beverly Hills (310)838-8459 and 7119 Melrose Ave. (323)525-0588.
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