254 E Ojai Ave., Ojai
It’s not surprising, in a valley that has restaurants with names like Om and Mandala, that a new place would pop up called Food Harmonics. With all the trendy, Boho-chic changes in the small town, this bright and airy restaurant in the heart of downtown Ojai’s arcade seemingly fits right into all the healthy food needs, desires and fads of the times. Stenciled white lettering along the bottom of the front windows of the space (formerly Feast Bistro for 12 years) lures potential customers with a taste of what to expect: gluten-free restaurant and shop, probiotic vegan, paleo vegetarian. That being said, it seems as though there is something for everyone, as the limited chalkboard menu on my visit included bone broth, a roasted chicken dish, raw vegan pizza and toast with smashed avocado.
Granted, my composer friend Daniel and I were there for lunch just a few days after Food Harmonics opened, so there were still some kinks being worked out. The credit card machine was acting up, and one of our orders was forgotten, but was remedied with a kind apology.
We chose two of the three dosas on the chalkboard menu — the Murgha, filled with roasted chicken, tomatoes, arugula, pesto and pickled onion with a (not very) hot tomato chutney; and the Prem — cauliflower onion curry with a coconut lime chutney accompanied by a Thumbelina-serving-size of tasty yellow lentil dal. Both had a pile of lightly dressed lettuce on the side.
So what’s a dosa, you may ask? A dosa is a type of pancake made from a fermented batter that is popular in India. Usually made from rice and black lentils, the dosas at Food Harmonics are made from fermented mung beans that, we were told, being rich in probiotics, are very good for us. That being said, the dosas were delicious, as were the fillings, but tended to fall apart and were not able to hold the ingredients together the way, say, a flour or corn tortilla might. Each dosa is made to order from the batter, so expect a bit of a wait. Our two different dosas arrived at the same time, on compostable palm-leaf plates.
The interior is bright white and full of light. There are a long bleached wood table and small tables painted white.
“It feels very Swedish,” a patron said as she walked past us. The bathroom has a blue mandala painted on the wall.
There’s a dining patio out back with attractive succulent ball planters hanging from ropes, and we spotted a squirrel dancing across one of the wooden beams. This is another one of those places that seem to be popular in Ojai at the moment, where you order at the counter, grab your own utensils, and the food is served.
The music was mellow New Agey, prompting my companion to say it made him want a massage. When it changed to Bollywood style, I wondered if our dosas were dancing.
We also tried two of the salads, the kale and the roasted beet. Both were underwhelming. The tahini-miso dressing on the kale was slightly sweet and a miss for me and had only a few small pieces of roasted squash. The beet salad was nothing special, just beets with lemon and olive oil. Still, there’s a lot to be said for the health benefits of kale and beets and squash, so no fault there.
For dessert, we tried to decide between a paleo brownie or raw pumpkin cheesecake. We decided on the latter, a healthy-tasting version with a coconut and nut crust that we both enjoyed.
We had water to drink, but there’s love tea, turmeric chai, mushroom cacao/almond milk, kefir, beer and wine.
Despite the kinks, I wish the lovely owner Gabriella the best of luck. I hope that as days and nights go on — she was extolling the virtues of bison bratwurst that would be on the dinner menu — the owner will find a solid fan base among the vegan/paleo/veggie/organic crowd in Shangri-La and beyond who appreciate the owner’s credo to prepare and serve organic, sustainably farmed and locally sourced foods that “nourish and balance the body, gut, pH, mind and heart.”