All right. This is what happened. This review, or most of it, was written last Jan. 1 for publication that week. As a routine check on opening hours, telephone number and such, I called the Nowhere Cafe and got the answering machine lamenting that the place had burned down the night before, on New Year's Eve, and to check in a couple of months for their new opening. A restaurant reviewer's nightmare come true.
So here we are in April. Nowhere is now somewhere. Open and ready to go.
As a die-hard meat and bones eater, the idea of a meal without red meat leaves me cold. Chilled, rather. A full meal of nothing but vegetables and fruit and fish is for me traumatic. I remember running under the bed when my mother served fish. Crying bitterly when yogurt and bananas was dessert. So when Erewhon, the natural foods store, opened a restaurant annex called Nowhere Cafe, my tendency was to run under the bed and play, instead, with poufs of dust dancing about.
Entering a 'Hostile' Planet
But I didn't. I drove by. It was the least I could do on behalf of my health-minded readers. It was the pleasing pink and blue neon that lured me to the place. And as warily as if treading on a hostile planet, I walked in.
Verdict: not bad. Very good, in fact.
I like it because it's unpretentious. It's a place where you can come as you are, no matter who you are. You'll never have to remember the maitre d's name. And you won't be hurt if he doesn't remember yours. It's that kind of a place.
Why, if not to see and be seen, would you go?
To eat simple, unadulterated, fairly priced, good food, I think.
The eclectic menu has changed little since the first review except for additions of pizza, grilled oysters, stuffed eggplant and a few other items. There is hummus (Middle Eastern garbanzo dip) and sashimi in the appetizer section and sushi salad (also new), a Chinese chicken salad, a Greek salad and angel hair vegetables among the salads at lunch. There is a seafood pasta dish made with squid, lotte and mussels and one made with feta cheese, zucchini and eggplant.
Turkey Burgers and Wheat Meat
There is a bit of California nouvelle, a touch of ethnic and a large dose of health-minded food which, I must admit, appealed even to my carnivorous soul. There is a turkey burger (no red meat is on the menu).
Tofu is big on the menu and it's served cold with ginger sauce as an appetizer, and hot as stir-fried tofu with shiitake ginger sauce. The "range fed " chickens are served roasted and herbed, or with tomatillo sauce. A meatless loaf, which I also found delightful, was made with millet, pecans, and vegetables and served with country gravy.
A soft taco is filled with avocado and wheat meat instead of meat. Wheat meat is another name for products formulated to taste like and resemble meat but which are made with protein extracted from vegetables.
I was intrigued with the China salad made with agar - agar noodles (agar - agar is a gelatinous product formulated from seaweed).
Portions are quite large, but with all those low-calorie vegetables you can afford the heavy-crusted pies made with whole grain wheat, using orange blossom honey, maple syrup and barley malt.
There is a huge beverage section offering some of the most unusual beverages I've seen assembled on one menu: Celestial Seasonings Herb tea, Dacopa coffee substitute, soy milk, fresh orange juice, plus mineral waters, decaffeinated and regular coffees and cappuccinos.
Nowhere Cafe, 8009 Beverly Blvd. (213) 655-8895. Lunch noon to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Dinner 6 to 10 p.m. weekdays and untill 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Open Sunday 6 to 10 p.m. Beer and wine. Parking in rear. Reservations recommended. Major credit cards accepted. Average lunch entree $6; $8.50 for dinner.