Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dharma's Natural Foods Restaurant

Hanging out at the Beach in Capitola, CA.

AJ and I were lucky to have another visitor this past weekend! Justin spent a couple days with us in Mountain View before heading to San Francisco to see another friend. We decided to take him to Capitola - one of our favorite beaches in the area. We spent some time chatting with the local surfers about the unusually warm January (which they had designated June-uary) and the excess amount of kelp in the ocean. If only I could figure out how to finance a life that would allow me to spend all day at the beach!

Dharma's Natural Foods Restaurant.

We worked up an appetite walking around the beach, and went to our trusty "Urban Spoon" to find a local place serving up some good eats. Our vegetarian selection brought up Dharma's Natural Foods Restaurant. Dharma's was founded in 1981 in Santa Cruz. They have since moved their location to Capitola, but are still serving up healthy and tasty vegetarian and vegan dishes. We could tell by the crowds gathering at 6pm that this place is somewhat of an institution.

Mango Lassi.

The menu boasts indian, thai, mexican, italian, and american inspired cuisine. The choices are almost overwhelming. You order at the counter and pick your food up from the counter when your name is called. The staff can tell you about their most popular dishes and make some recommendations to narrow down the options. Justin was a sweetie and treated AJ and I to dinner as a thank you for hosting him. Thanks Justin! :)

American Sautee - sauteed seasonal vegetables, baked tofu with brown rice and tahini lemon dressing.

After hearing that the Bo Thai is one of the best-selling dishes at Dharma's I knew I could put down my menu. The combination of fresh seasonal vegetables in a peanut sauce over rice noodles sounded like a winner. I ordered a mango lassi to wash it all down. The Bo Thai is essentially a veggie loaded pad thai. The spicy and tangy peanut sauce worked well with the fresh carrots, cabbage, broccoli. I particularly enjoyed the crunch offered from the peanuts and bean sprouts. The rice noodles were perfectly cooked, serving as a nice conduit for the sauce. Many of the sautees come in a large and small size. The small is more than enough for one person! My mango lassi was full of that musky fruity flavor. The tangy cold yogurt was a perfect compliment to my hot dish.

Bo Thai - sauteed seasonal vegetables in a sweet and spicy peanut sauce over rice noodles.

Justin chowing down after an a day at the beach.

Mole burrito - beans, soy chicken, potatoes, red peppers in a mole sauce with avocado, tomato, sour cream, and cheese.

Justin ordered the mole burrito. This burrito was enormous - with enough beans, potatoes, soy chicken, and cheese to feed two or three people (depending on how hungry they are)! It was impossible to pick up, so he went at it with a fork and knife. The mole sauce was spicy, rich, and complex. I love the depth of flavor that a mole adds to mexican dishes. The potatoes and veggies were excellent. I need to consider putting potatoes in more things. It added some oomph to this burrito - not that it needed it!

AJ bites into his tofu dog.

Tofu dog on whole wheat bun with organic ketchup and mustard.

AJ ordered the American sautee, a combination of sauteed seasonal veggies, baked tofu, and a heavenly lemon tahini sauce. The vegetables were super fresh. Dharma's does a great job of keeping their sautees light on oil. The sauces add flavor without adding tons of fat. The lemon tahini had bright citrus notes, some garlic, and a toasty sesame flavor. I even tried my hand at making my own version a couple days later. AJ being a big fan of the hot dog, but no the processed meats, ordered up a tofu dog as well. The smoky flavors do a nice job of mimicking a traditional beef hot dog. Not my favorite item, but it will do if you're looking for a meat substitute.

Bottom Line: With a variety of vegetarian and vegan options, this place isn't for the meat and potatoes kind of person. But if you're looking for a tasty healthy option, Dharma's has you covered.

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