If you live in the San Fernando Valley, please go to 118 Degrees, the hot (but not too hot, cause higher than 118° will destroy the enzymes) new restaurant in Tarzana. The reason for this entreaty is it’s close to our office so I’d like this place to thrive. The food is all organic and loaded with enzymes and flavor, ambience is warm and comfortable, and the most difficult part of dining there is leaving after your meal.
118 Degrees just opened in February, the brainchild of Chef Jenny Ross (who helms three other eateries by the same name in Costa Mesa, Laguna Niguel and
Anaheim), health veteran and author Sharyn Wynters (author of The Pure Cure), and Annie Carradine (yes, that family). It’s the first gourmet vegan restaurant to open in the West Valley since Madeline Bistro ended its six-year run in 2011, and may finally allow us to move on from Dave Anderson’s unforgettable red beet tartare.
Chef Jenny picks right up where Anderson left off. Her pistachio pesto mushrooms are so incredibly flavorful and easy you want to keep popping them in your mouth. They’re either the healthiest snack food you ever tasted or a perfect appetizer, cause they sing to your tastebuds but take up zero space in your belly.
By now we’ve all had kale salad in a zillion permutations that all taste like, well, kale. The marinated kale salad here, with walnuts and zingy bits of kalamata olives, is better. Whatever one you’re comparing it to? Yes, better.
Living Lasagna made with layered zucchini, tomato, macadamia creamy ricotta and sweet basil marinara has wonderful flavor and texture, and fried avocado in a crispy flax taco will make you shout, “Olé!” (no sombrero required).
We didn’t try the miso soup, but with its fragrant broth poured over a pile of fresh vegetables, it looked like the perfect one-pot meal.
A short but compelling selection of biodynamic wines and beers offers a great accompaniment to dinner (I enjoyed a glass of Gava white wine; my dinner partner hadn’t planned on beer but succumbed to a chilled Great White). The comprehensive collection of fresh-squeezed juices includes fresh young coconut (from the shell when they can get it). And remember, it’s all organic.
Fortunately all of this is light so you’ll have plenty of room for dessert. Butter pie made with almond butter and banana was my favorite, but my partner was so excited about the apple-fig cookies that nothing would do but a package to go. There’s also a cacao hemp brownie, rich without being cloying, and cappuccino crème brulée (which I might consider renaming, cause it’s delicious but bears no resemblance to crème brulée, beyond the serving vessel).
The restaurant is visually pleasing with natural wood, high ceilings and grass-like walls and benches along the sides, and the ambience is so comfortable you’ll want to linger on the semi-indoor patio; with just one open wall, you can enjoy the climate control of walls on three sides and still have a front-row seat for the action on Ventura Boulevard.
This stretch of the boulevard has really transformed in the past decade, with yoga studios and trendy shops, and a high-end vegan eatery is a welcome addition. Just a half block east of a bustling Whole Foods Market, in the midst of a cluster of yoga studios, it’s clear that healthy, sophisticated cuisine is in demand.
—Open for lunch and dinner, 18636 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana 91356. 818.660.1181, 118degreesla.com