OC Restaurant Week 2013 - 118 Degrees (Costa Mesa)

How appropriate that on "Meatless Monday," I would post about 118 Degrees! Anyhow, this was the first of my restaurants to hit up for OC Restaurant Week, and it was a great first experience. My goal is to make my visits only to restaurants that I have not dined at before. That restaurant list is long by the way - I feel like I've barely tapped into the restaurant scene around here! Okay so enough of my rambling. Let's get to the important stuff: the food.

If you don't know anything about 118 Degrees,  here's the down-low. Their philosophy is to "serve nothing but the freshest gourmet living cuisine" with all "menu items are lovingly prepared, by hand, daily using local organic produce wherever possible." That's not it though. They are also a raw foods restaurant and the name comes from that fact that their items are "entirely plant-based made from fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds & sprouted grains-all prepared at 118 Degrees or lower to preserve valuable nutrients." Sound healthy enough for you? It was a good way to begin a week full of, let's be honest here, gorging. To start, my lunchmate had their berry iced tea and I their Apple, Lemon, Ginger juice. What a waker-upper! I think I'll need some of that juice every morning to get me pumped up just right.

Their first course on the $10 lunch menu for OC Restaurant Week was a citrus salad dressed in a sweet mustard vinaigrette. Cute Ojai pixie tangerine slices had been placed on top along with shredded beet. It was a nice refreshing starter with very crisp greens (despite the sauce) and a good sweet spiciness from the mustard. The bursts of citrus flavor added well to the natural sugariness of beets.

Our second course was their Sobeca flatbread, something I had read but didn't remember once the plate came into view. In the back of my mind, I had thought that there was some sort of bread associated with the entree but when I saw it, I didn't recall what it was. That was because the housemade buckwheat flatbread was buried under mounds of crunchy raw broccoli, thinly sliced red onion, and roasted red bell pepper. There was also their award winning tahini cheese between the vegetables and flatbread as well as a red fajita sauce smothering it all. Think of nachos except healthier. Because I had realized that there was flatbread underneath, I think I had let it get too soggy. Oh well - the broccoli kept me busy and amused as each loudly cracked and crunched in my mouth.

The fun part about having these more health-oriented foods is the lack of a heavy, languid feeling at the end of a meal. It came time for our third course which was their toffee brownie bite made with walnut and cacao and topped with an "espresso crunch." This too did not illicit a lazy feeling which was certainly surprising as chocolate desserts this rich can put turn one into a sloth. No, this was, instead, very rich in flavor but light in feeling. I enjoyed the crunch on top of each and the misleadingly thick sauce drizzled on top. The service was great; another reason to come back aside from the awesome food!

Photography by Minerva Thai.

Looking for other bloggers chowing down during OC Restaurant Week 2013? See who's writing at http://www.orangecountyrestaurantweek.com/OC_Food_Blogs_That_Rock.html!

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