May must be a month of salads for me -- on top of a salad being my most memorable dish in New York, I also had the opportunity to sample some pretty amazing tossed greens here in L.A. at a blogger dinner @ Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop in Century City (they also have a location in Beverly Hills.)
I know, salads usually elicits a yawn -- serving as a half-finished precursor to the actual entreé, or an even worse rep as a healthy/diet food - "healthy" being code for "this isn't what I would be ordering if my love handles/blubber butt/thunder thighs didn't have a say in it."
At Greenleaf, however, these are salads worth ordering on the taste factor alone, if anything - its being healthy is more of a noteworthy afterthought. Hell, these are salads I aspire to making at home if I had the time & energy to prep, cook and combine 8-12 different ingredients. The flavors & textures here are balanced, clean, bright and most of all... satisfying, as opposed to one of those entreé salads that leaves me craving an actual entreé afterwards.
We sampled a few made-to-order & prepared salads that evening, and while they all tasted great--these are my definite faves:
Antioxidant Orchard - I know, some people have a 'problem' with fruits in their salad, but I don't so I definitely love this vibrant mix that's abundant with strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples and dried cranberries - along with a dose of crisp celery, crunchy walnuts, blue cheese crumbles and pomegranate vinaigrette. Despite all the components, it's not cloyingly sugary -- if anything, the overall fruitiness balances out the tang and the sweet very well and the salad itself was a myriad of delightful textures, from the snappy crunch of the celery & apples to the juicy burst of the berries to the occasional creamy pungence of the cheese.
Lemongrass Chicken - their take on the ubiquitous Asian chicken salad, with mango, grilled pineapple, toasted coconut, agave-glazed cashews, thai chili & thai basil with a lemongrass-lychee dressing. Yes, another fruit-forward salad, but again - it's not that sweet and the fruits binds & mellows out the basil and the chili. I also love the cooling and refreshing tropical dressing that adds a decidedly relaxing summer feel to anything it's drizzled on or tossed in!
Wild Mushroom and Truffle "Pizza" - I'm not a big fan of healthified remakes (i.e. if you crave a pizza, eat some pizza & just do it moderation!) but this lighter variation had me sold on the taste alone, even if I hesitate to put it in comparison with an actual pizza. The whole wheat tortilla 'crust' had a pleasant nutty flavor & chewy texture, and the toppings were a nice contrast between the fresh, peppery arugula, intense parmesan shavings and a bold mushroom spread with just a hint of truffle. Of course, the icing on the cake (or pie, rather) is knowing this whole ~10" dish is approx. 400 calories.
Green Lentils & Beets-Yam-Walnut-Goat Cheese Deli Salads - I'm a lentil lover, but even those at the table who were ambivalent or wary of the stuff gave high praise for this version, which were nicely cooked to an al dente-ish feel with a deeply nutty and earthy flavor brightened up with some herbs. Likewise, the beets & yam salad tasted as colorful as it looked. A little sweet, a little tang, a little creamy and a little crunchy . . . and mostly festive as it all combined in my mouth!
And for those who like to customize, Greenleaf offers a Counter-like menu option where you can build it as you like it with nearly any combination of greens, toppings, proteins, dressings, etc. as you please. But since all those choices tend to paralyze me with indecisiveness - I think I'll stick to their already solid menu of signature dishes (with maybe a tweak or two.)
Finally, to commemorate their recent 3rd anniversary this week (May 31 to June 4, 2011) they're offering specials all week long - including 50% off the entire beer/wine list and gifts for bringing 2 newbies (to make a 3some) to try Greenleaf. So give it a try (with some friends!) if you have the chance to swing by either of their locations -- hope you'll agree that healthy & tasty aren't mutually exclusive with one of their delicious fare (and if you're like me, inspired to whip up some fancy salads @ home yourself!)
What Do Others Say?
- My two compadres @ this blogger dinner, Savory Hunter & Gourmet Pigs, were both pleasantly surprised by the deliciousness of the foods here
- LAist praised chefs/co-owners Jonathan Rollo & Kristi Ritchey's ability to "find ways to move from caloric wastelands to tastier, healthier territory."
- Green LA Girl recommends this for anyone who "Wanna order a damn good organic salad for lunch." Enough said
- LA Weekly got a few pointers about pairing beers & wines with salads from Rollo
- Gayot rightly pointed out that "Greenleaf is not just for the health nut . . . a flatiron steak salad and another one inspired by Buffalo chicken wings make things interesting"
Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop
9671 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
1888 Century Park East
Los Angeles, CA 90067