Whether it’s a juicy burger slathered with thousand-island dressing or shredded pork simmered in chili sauce for a carnitas taco, there are certain dishes that we assume are dependent upon meat. But chef Roberto Martin, whose eLOVate Kitchen recently opened in Santa Monica, is proving otherwise with his unique approach to vegan cooking.
Martin developed his style as a private chef for vegan power couple Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi. A carnivore at the time, he focused on replicating flavor combinations typically associated with meaty dishes. The resulting meals were a huge hit with DeGeneres and De Rossi, who enthusiastically endorsed his appropriately named first cookbook, Vegan Cooking for Carnivores.
Martin is now sharing his flavorful plant-based fare at eLOVate, an intimate café and bar where he sources all-organic and primarily local ingredients (“LOV” stands for local, organic, vegan). You’ll find familiar vegan fare like the quinoa bowl ($14) and grilled vegetable sandwich ($14), but the emphasis is on dishes that, in Martin’s words, “don’t taste too hippy dippy.”
The American spring rolls ($11)—filled with lettuce, tomato, pickle, caramelized onions and thousand-island dressing—capture the essence of a burger without the beef. Shredded jackfruit in guajillo sauce is a dead ringer for carnitas in the tacos ($15). Sizzling skewers of ancho-marinated maitake mushrooms ($14) topped with chimichurri sauce are a succulent stand-in for steak.
It’s satisfying food. But when you spot the agave-sweetened strawberry-cinnamon ice cream ($4) for dessert, you’ll be glad you haven’t eaten any meat to weigh you down.
1705 Ocean Ave., Ste. 111, Santa Monica