Out with the old and in with the new – Silver Lake’s Hot Hot Food has been revamped by Jasmine Shimoda and Sharkey McGee into a new concept, Jewel. The new eatery realizes the pair’s dream of opening an affordable, plant-based dining spot, with options for everyone – vegans, vegetarians and even omnivores.
“Our goal is to separate Jewel from other health food restaurants, getting rid of the dogma and polarizing stances,” Shimoda said. “We won’t ask you to make any affirmations or say ‘namaste,’ but we will serve you seasonal, local and sustainable plant-based food without sacrificing flavor.”
Jewel’s exterior welcomes guests with a whimsical floral mural by chef Shimoda’s brother, Danny Shimoda, and intricate macramé-hanging plants. Inside, the restaurant is vibrant, inviting and hip with a relaxed sophistication with its blonde wood tables, cool blues and pastel colors. A jukebox stands by the entrance, and a pastry cabinet displays an array of vegan and near-vegan donuts and desserts.
Glancing through the menu – which is free of refined sugars and processed ingredients – I started with the shot of wellness, a two-ounce drink made ginger, lemon, cayenne and pepper. It had a little heat and offered a pleasant lingering aftertaste. To cool my palate, I also ordered the glow cold-press juice, a smooth combination of pineapple, cucumber, apple, spinach, kale, moringa and chlorophyll.
Other beverages include drip coffee by the fair trade, organic and locally roasted UNITY, as well as hot chocolate, matcha latte, and hot and cold tea. For the time being, Jewel is BYOB, and encourages guests to walk a few storefronts down to wine shop Vinovore to buy a bottle to enjoy with their meal. Jewel will not charge a corkage fee.
While the restaurant is plant-based, the menu is not exclusively vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free. Jewel’s offerings include breakfast burritos, overnight oats made with almond “mylk” and chia seeds, and even three types of toast served on multigrain or gluten-free seed bread. The L.G.B.T, for instance, is a visually spectacular toast offering a rainbow of colors made from lettuce, guacamole, tempeh bacon and cut heirloom tomatoes.
I tried the avocado toast with cashew-herb spread topped with house pickles and puffed quinoa togarashi, a spicy powdered mixture of dried red chili pepper, orange peel, sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, ginger and seaweed. It’s delicious.
For those seeking a salad, Shimoda makes a niçoise salad with a scoop of vegan “tuna” made from ground almond and sunflower seeds mixed with shallots, dill, dulse and Dijon mustard.
Hearty sandwiches include the LAPhil, a vegan take on a Philly cheesesteak. It’s made with braised yuba sheets, shiitake, romaine, caramelized onion, pickled jalapeño and cashew fondú, all rolled into a whole-wheat wrap. This was definitely a table favorite.
Those craving meat may discover that they like Jewel’s Impossible Burger better than a real beef burger. It’s topped with grilled red onion, heirloom tomato, romaine and a slightly spicy, beet-enhanced, Thousand Island-style dressing.
What makes the pizzas at Jewel visually attractive is the activated-charcoal crust. We ordered the Black Diamond gluten-free pizza. It’s topped with heirloom tomato slices and faux-cheese made out of spinach and artichoke. Diners can also build their own black-crusted pizza with marinara and a choice of three toppings that include cashew cheese, mushrooms, kale, spinach, red or caramelized onions, olives, and jalapeños.
The Jewel box offers a kaleidoscope of colors and flavors, starting with either brown rice or sweet potato. It’s then layered with avocado, black beans, garlicky greens, turmeric tofu, pickles, raw veggies, amaranth-pumpkin crunch and miso-ginger sauce for a deliciously tangy meal. The eatery also makes a pad thai with chilled kelp noodles, zucchini noodles, carrots, cabbage, coconut-tamarind sauce, crispy shallots, cilantro and Fresno chilis pickled with vinegar, coriander seeds, sugar, salt and peppercorns.
As with many restaurants, Jewel offers a secret menu. If the ingredients are available, Shimoda will make a ceviche with thin slices of lychee fruit, chopped red bell peppers, cucumbers, citrus and red onions. Surprisingly, the lychee almost has the same texture as scallops. You can scoop up this delectable treat with yellow and blue corn tortilla chips sprinkled with paprika. Another secret dish is the faux-crab cake, made with heart of palm and chickpea, and topped with a pleasing aioli. It’s so popular that they feature it as a wrap on the regular menu.
After our meal, even though we were thoroughly satisfied, we enjoyed little bowls of “ebony and ivory” chia pudding made with cashew milk, date, cacao, vanilla, berries and delightful buckwheat crisps for texture and crunch. While we ate it for dessert, the pudding would also make a great breakfast dish.
We also tasted several of the vegan donuts, such as the maple topped with coconut “bacon,” the red velvet, the strawberry and the matcha. We also sampled a clean-tasting churro. Since they are made with plant-based ingredients, these sweet treats didn’t leave an unpleasant film on the roof of my mouth. They were better than a traditional donut.
Looking for a new dining destination for healthy and sophisticated plates for breakfast and lunch? Jewel sparkles and shines in Los Angeles.
The restaurant opens on Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. On the weekends, it opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 4:30 p.m. $ 654 N. Hoover St., (323)522-6927.