California cooking has made it easy to go out for good food and still eat food that is good for you. But if you don't want to remind the waiter to hold the salt and forget the sauce, try a restaurant that puts health food on the menu.
GEOFFREY'S (27400 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, (213) 457-1519). The dining room is tasteful and modern with gray arches, recessed lights and cool Danish-modern birch chairs. The sound of waves hitting the beach accompany your every bite. The list of "Malibu Fare" offerings changes every day, with cholesterol, calorie and protein values all accounted for. The cold roast veal filet (29 grams of protein!) is a good way to begin. Assorted vegetables and thin slices of potato in a lemon-and-caper vinaigrette round out the dish. An entree to recommend is the thick and tender veal chop. It's complemented by a creme fraiche pink peppercorn sauce that is excellent. There are light desserts (the frozen blackberry mousse clocks in at only 149 calories) and heavier ones (a chocolate terrine that Richard Simmons would yell at you for eating). Open seven days. Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. weekdays, brunch 10 a.m.-4 p.m. weekends. Dinner 6 p.m.-10 weekdays, 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Sat., 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Sun. AE, MC, V. Valet parking. Dinner for two, food only, $80-$115.
GOLDEN TEMPLE (7910 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 655-1891). One of the oldest vegetarian restaurants in town, the atmosphere is serene and the "vibes" are good. Enjoy the great soups, including a yellow lima bean variety packed with onions, carrots and celery. Take Golden Temple's wonderful corn bread and dunk away! Try a warm Oriental salad with red and napa cabbage, carrots, snow peas, tofu and two kinds of mushrooms. The fresh juices are really fresh, with the mixture of apple cider and red zinger tea a standout. The numerous sweets are baked on the premises (with your health in mind) using maple sugar and honey as opposed to refined sugar. Open Mon.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.-4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Open Sat. 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. only. Closed Sunday. MC, V. Parking in back. Dinner for two, food only, $17-$35.
NOWHERE CAFE (8009 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 655-8895). A clean, pretty and well-lighted place. Looking over the menu you'll notice that virtually everything on it is good for you. Whole-wheat croutons grace the Caesar salad; there's artichoke linguine, lots of ginger and herbs, pastas and salads and clear-cut vegetable dishes--and not a speck of red meat. The chicken fajitas and Oriental shrimp are gracefully made. The chicken is cooked with onions and bell peppers with very little oil. The shrimp are generously served with heaps of crunchy vegetables. There's even a turkey burger! The food at Nowhere doesn't taste like it was cooked at a restaurant, but rather in the kitchen of a well-meaning friend who studies nutrition charts and cooks food that is good for you. Lunch Mon.-Fri., dinner daily. Parking behind and on the street. AE, MC, V. Dinner for two, food only, $25-$45.
SOUPLANTATION (Tustin Plaza, 13681 Newport Ave. (at Main), Tustin, (714) 730-5443). A restaurant that is big enough to seat 200 and accommodate a 114-foot salad bar. The staff is young and enthusiastic and works hard to keep the place spotless. The soup and salads are healthy, and each table has a little brochure explaining high-fiber and high-carbohydrate principles. The potato salad is terrific, freshly made and never mushy. The pasta salads follow suit, particularly the tarragon tuna with lumache . If muffins are your bag, they offer four kinds here; all are moist and tender. A beer and wine selection is also available (with the usual fruit juices and mineral waters), if you're so inclined. Open for lunch and dinner daily. No credit cards. Dinner for two, food only, $12-$15.
VITO'S (2807 Ocean Park Blvd., Santa Monica, (213) 450-4999). This kind of place used to be called a "man's restaurant": dark and clubby, wood-paneled, filled with cushy burgundy leatherette booths, bookshelves and oil paintings. "You want the Pritikin?" a waiter may ask. He'll then reel off the no-fat, no-salt pasta, fish, chicken and salad of the day. Whole-wheat pasta is difficult to cook but Vito's gets it right, simmering it in a de-fatted chicken stock. It comes with mushrooms, parsley and no salt. The lunch menu includes nine Deliziosi e leggeri entrees ("light and lovely dishes prepared without oil or butter"). The pasta portions are man-sized, and the fettuccine primavera with zucchini, mushrooms, bits of broccoli and carrots and peas is gently bathed in the slightest bit of cream. One dessert to enjoy would be the ricotta cheesecake that is made on the premises. Dinner Mon.-Sat. Closed Sun. Valet parking at night. All major credit cards. Reservations suggested. Dinner for two, food only, $40-$75.