A Diatribe for a Carnivore Eating Vegetarian
Café Super Natural
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2.5 Stars out of 4
I need to be honest here; typically I eat meat- lots of meat. So much meat in fact, that one of the businesses I am currently helping to launch is focused on dry aged all natural premium beef (we are now up to 170 happy cows) that will soon be available at a local high end specialty food purveyor. In general I agree with the well-known author and TV personality Anthony Bourdain when he says “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans ... are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit.” That being said I was convinced recently by a good friend (what can I say she is beautiful and smart) to try a new vegetarian only restaurant- something that I did willingly albeit with a fair amount of trepidation- and I must say I left impressed if not entirely satiated (where’s the beef?).
This new restaurant, called Super Natural, is located in the newly remodeled area to the West of the trolley square mall in Salt Lake City and shares common space with a yoga oriented studio store. The restaurant serves 100% vegetarian and vegan dishes with daily specials and a set menu of raw, hot and cold offerings. One of the more unusual items available on the menu is a set list of drinks available as supernatural shakes, chakra elixirs and smoothies (don’t ask me the difference because really I cannot tell you). What is interesting is that these are not your typical shakes; items like the Lucuma lucuma shake (apparently this is some sort of crazy fruit native to Peru that is extremely high in carotene and vitamin B) or the intuition elixir (which is a concoction of bananas, blueberries, black currants, almond milk, lavender and agave) are unusual to say the least and actually delicious- which in my estimation is generally not the case for these types of lefty leaning concoctions (full disclosure I am a libertarian).
A couple of items that really stood out as exceptional about the experience at Super Natural Café were the service and the décor. The restaurant is beautifully designed with clean lines; lots of whites and a minimalist feel to the dining area. As I mentioned it shares space with an adjacent yoga store, which adds an element of traffic flow and a nice cohesive experience for something to peruse before eating. The service, in particular, was outstanding. Our server was attentive, informative and genuinely seemed to care that her guests have not a good experience but a great one. All questions were answered confidently and in detail, and for this meat eater there were quite a few questions (what the hell is wakame anyway? Or Lucuma?) There is defiantly something to be said for great service and how it can amp up the overall appeal and quality of an establishment. This, along with a zeal for the overall mission of the restaurant, is most assuredly why great service was the case at Super.
On the food side of things is where I had the most concern however, it ended up that it was with the food where I was the most surprised. Pretty much everything I tasted was not only delicious but was actually somewhat of a revelation. My favorite item, a special, was a simple stir fry made with brown rice, broccoli, carrots, fresh ginger, onions and your choice of tempeh or tofu- sounds simple but this dish was executed brilliantly. The key was the addition of infused oil, made with habanero and garlic, which was sublime. Another dish, the Mesa Azul- a regular menu item, was also executed with care and tasted terrific. The dish consists of two blue corn tamales stuffed with winter squash, served with a pumpkin seed tomato mole that had a mild kick and a side of garlicky green beans. Other dishes that are good- but I would say not great, are the Eastern Sun and the Wabi-Sabi. The Eastern Sun consists of steamed short grain rice topped with roasted gomashio (made from unshelled sesame seeds) steamed veggies, toasted nori seeds and an artisanal kimchi. The kimchi, in particular, was slightly bland and not very spicy- good but not great. The Wabi-Sabi is a dish consisting of steamed seasonal veggies and something called wakame sea vegetables (basically seaweed- as explained by our server), short grain brown rice and a choice of tempeh or tofu. This dish is tossed in something called “mystical miso dressing” and while it had an interesting zip there was nothing mystical about it- again good but definitely not great.
The menu at super natural also includes several raw food items including a hummus platter, a fresh veggie wrap, raw noodles and something called “levitation” which is a mix of fine chopped seasonal greens tossed into your choice of dressing topped with "artisanal fermented seasonal vegetables and hemp seeds”. While these items were executed with care, personally I felt that, in general, there could be a little stronger flavor, spice and perhaps even an option for pita with the hummus (who serves pita without hummus? Super Natural Café I guess…)
The Restaurant is owned and operated by chef Ian Brandt (always good to have a true chef running things) of Sage’s café, Vertical diner and Cali’s natural foods. The menu is 100% vegetable based, gluten free and focused on raw food preparation although there is fire involved (this was a requirement for me to actually show up). It is open from 10 am to 9 pm Monday thru Saturday and is also open Sunday form 10 am to 3 pm.