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Natural Vegetarianism For The 'No' Generation

August 23, 1987|FLORICE NEWBERY | Newbery's last piece for Calendar was on Indian sweets and snacks

The Kingsley Garden, 4070 West 3rd St., Los Angeles, (213) 389-5527. Open daily for lunch and dinner. No smoking. Visa and MasterCard accepted. Dinner for two, food only, $20-$30.

Sometimes it seems as if almost everything we put in our mouths is a potential health hazard. To fight clogged arteries, increased blood pressure and the general fear of fat, an increasing number of restaurants are specializing in food that is low in sodium, sugar, calories and cholesterol. But now somebody has taken this spa cuisine one step beyond.

Kingsley Garden is serving "natural vegetarian" fare made without animal or dairy products, salt, sugar, added oils or preservatives. The restaurant has also dispensed with skillets and frying pans. It's the perfect place for the "no" generation.

How do they prepare the food? All the dishes are made by sprouting, juicing, blending, fermenting and dehydrating; they even have a reverse osmotic water purifier on hand. "And all our cooking," says owner Randy Ellis, "is done by baking and steaming. And we are the only restaurant in the state of California, as far as I know, that deals exclusively with organic distributors."

Despite its new-age kitchen, Kingsley Garden has a certain homey charm. The dining room is informal and quietly attractive. Fresh flowers picked from the organic garden make simple table centerpieces, and at night flickering candles add additional warmth. There is even a lovely enclosed patio screened from public view.

Their salad bar offers, among other things, an exotic variety of sprouts. Tabouli is made with oats instead of cracked wheat. There is a cashew coleslaw, freshly made guacamole and all sorts of organically grown vegetables. Sauces made of carrot and tahini, sesame and chickpea, or tomato and ginger with almonds, sunflower and sesame seeds replace the traditional mayonnaise and oil-based dressings.

The Mexican menu uses no lard and is fairly extensive, offering long-established favorites from south of the border. A spicy albondigas soup is made with nutballs instead of the customary meatballs. Enchiladas are made with homemade organic corn tortillas and come with a variety of fillings. One is stuffed with non-dairy cheese made from almonds, sesame and sunflower seeds that have been soaked, sprouted and then seasoned. Another is filled with a vegetable-nut mix and topped with dairyless sour cream (garbanzo-tahini mixture) and homemade enchilada sauce. There are also many different burritos: One is filled with unfried beans, lettuce, guacamole and red salsa; another with a veggie-burger mix and brown rice; yet another stuffed with carrots, potatoes, cabbage and green salsa. I especially liked the chile relleno stuffed with a veggie-nut mix, chunks of avocado and tomato smothered in dairyless sour cream.

The non-Mexican menu offers summery soups like carrot-avocado and a redefined borscht that is a blend of beet and almond milk. There are different kinds of pizzas too, made with flourless, lightly baked wheat crusts topped with mildly spiced vegetables, tomato sauce and seed cheese. Sushi is made without a bit of fish--just vegetables blended with exotic sunflower seeds and spices. There is even a pasta-less spaghetti; it is just squash strips with vegetable balls in a zesty spaghetti sauce.

Do try the fresh-squeezed, made-to-order, unadulterated juices, milkshakes and smoothies. Ambrosia, a blend of carrot, beet and apple, has no added sweetener and needs none. Creamy milkshakes are made with a banana and almond-milk base. There are also soothing herbal teas and non-alcoholic beer.

Desserts, of course, are sugarless. But they are more than this: The pies and cakes are also flourless. The wide assortment includes carrot, cherry, pumpkin, apple, fig and carob. But the piece de resistance is the non-dairy, non-tofu frozen sundae--whorls of pure creamed fruit topped with date treacle and sprinkled with grated nuts. It comes in sizes described as a teaser, a treat and a trip.

And what a trip! The Kingsley Garden is an experience; one diner described it as "the wave of the future--just revolutionary."

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