Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lemonade - FRESH in Every Way

"I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis"
                                                    - 'The Most Interesting Man in the World'

That is how I feel about Lemonade, when it comes to salads. 

To me, salads have always been a necessary evil. They are something I *need* to eat versus something I want to eat. It's rare that I ever find a salad that excites me (foie gras with haricots verts and truffle vinaigrette at Petrossian under Ben Bailly's watch being a notable exception).  That all changed when a fellow juror introduced me to Lemonade (MOCA location downtown) a few months back. 

The name of the place is both appropriate and deceptive at the same time - you expect simplicity, clean flavors, basic ingredients, with that name - and Lemonade does deliver on these, but also offers so much more, without pretention in its casual space: fresh, creative takes on salads, mixing and matching global flavors, in an original marketplace concept that lets you choose any gourmet offering you want for one price.  You pay by 'portions' - 1 portion = 2 scoops of salad for $4 (two scoops $7.75, three $11) no matter which you choose. 

After a particularly grueling session of power yoga today, I decided to push myself on the healthy theme and pay a visit to Lemonade on Beverly in West Hollywood.  The sun had finally re-emerged after a long week of rain and 'freezing' (by LA standards) cold - and it was the first day where I didn't feel like my food had to bear the burden of raising my body temperature in addition to being tasty, giving me energy to get through my day etc.  I was ready for fresh fare, in the adorable, cozy little storefront / sun-bathed patio at Lemonade. (It's also casual dining, paper plates and all - so I didn't have to worry about being in my sweaty yoga gear.)

From the start of the cafeteria-style line, I nearly got whiplash looking over all the options behind the counter. There is a mix of classics reinterpreted, to unexpected combinations of ingredients, some of which I've never seen or heard of.
Besides their creativity, willingness to experiment, and fairly big regular and seasonal menu, the other awesome thing about Lemonade is that you can split 'portions', so that you can try a wider variety of their offerings (i.e. get different salads in each of your two scoops).  And their super friendly service is another big draw - they totally let you sample any of their dishes before making a 'commitment' - which was a good thing as there were a few that looked and sounded great, but I didn't end up liking - including a roasted heirloom carrot salad.

Anyways, I went for two portions, split, so that I can try four different salads for just $8:

1. Watermelon radish, ahi tuna, snap peas, black  sesame and ginger - This was the first time I'd ever seen watermelon radish, and I thought it was gorgeous! Loved the sesame flavors with the pickled radish - however, I thought the textures of all the ingredients were too similarly 'rough' (even the tuna, which was seared, but with the small bite-sized chunks the 'crust' was a bit too much) so that as a whole the salad did not have the best mouthfeel.

2. Israeli couscous, wild mushrooms, parmesan, lemon truffle - regular readers know about my truffle addiction, so it's no surprise that this was my favorite of the four! The lovely, al-dente couscous were perfectly balanced with the earthy, chewy, juicy mushrooms and the citrus blended with truffle flavors perfectly for an instantly addictive mix.  I could have scarfed down 3 full portions of this one!

3. Winter squash with white truffle, lemon vinaigrette and chives - I was drawn to this one as well because of the mention of truffle, and went for it without sampling.  Unfortunately, it was a little difficult to taste the truffle, though the winter squash with lemon vinaigrette and chives was a refreshing enough mix on its own.  In comparisan with the others, this one was just ok.

4. Orrechietta, tomato, perlini mozzarella, red pepper vinaigrette - my second favorite of the meal! This was lemonade's reinterpretation of the classic caprese, with pasta and a delicious red pepper vinaigrette tossed into the mix.  I loved the incredible, soft, fresh mozzarella, juicy, perfectly sized tomatoes, and how the orrechietta scooped up the vinaigrette and helped pack each bite with flavor.

On a previous visit, I had tried the lobster, soba noodle, lebanese cucumber, sesame and loved it - but wanted to give other items a try this time since they have such a vast menu.  Would definitely recommend the lobster salad though to anyone trying Lemonade for the first time. 

That ($8) plate alone would have made a satisfying meal - and I did end up taking leftovers to go.  But my friendly server tempted me with a sample of the soup of the day - mushroom ($4) - that I then absolutely had to have!  The soup was perfect - not too rich and creamy, and served with a piece of grilled rustic grain bread that could give LaBrea Bakery a run for its money. 

Barely able to fit all my plates on the tray, my last stop was at the cashier, which also served as the dessert / beverage station.  No meal at Lemonade would be complete without tasting of, of course, their namesake drinks!  Various fresh lemonades are on offer with some creative combinations from pomegranate tarragon to asia pear basil to blueberry mint. I opted for the Sugar Free Apple Jalapeno ($2.70) - sweet and tart with a kick!

I was way too full for dessert, but they have cases stocked with baked cookies, macaroons, cakes, cupcakes and custards and of course lemon meringue pie as well.

There were many other items that I need to come back and try - including toasted-to-order 'semi-traditional' and pot roast sandwiches, and hot foods at the 'braises' station from moroccan chicken to red miso beef short rib simmering in colorful pots.

All in all, though the selection of salads were hit or miss, I always enjoy seeing what the chefs have come up with, and the experience at Lemonade overall. And the salads that I loved were truly amazing.
So, in sum - I don't always eat salads - but when I do, I prefer Lemonade.  Thanks for making eating veggies / healthy an exciting / fun experience!

(P.S. - In addition to WeHo, Lemonade also has locations in Venice (Abbot Kinney), Downtown, at MOCA, and at USC.  Check website for details.)

On a 7 point scale:
Flavor - 6 bites
Presentation - 6 bites
Originality - 6 bites
Ambience - 6 stars
Service - 6 stars
Overall experience - 6 bites
Price - $ (1 bite mark)
Probability of return visit - 100%

9001 Beverly Boulevard (at Almont), West Hollywood, CA 90048
Ph: 310. 247. 2500


Lemonade on Urbanspoon  Lemonade on Beverly in Los Angeles on Fooddigger


  1. oh, i've been meaning to try this place!

  2. i love lemonade! i can't believe USC students get to eat there as their "cafeteria."

  3. Subliminal: There's one in Venice! Lemme know how that one is if you go :)

    Lynn: Seriously! I want one in the lobby of my office building.



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