Body Fuel Bistro
599 W. Channel Islands Blvd.
I was pumped to try Body Fuel Bistro — tucked into Mandalay Village Marketplace, a strip shopping mall on Channel Islands Boulevard — after a workout with my physical therapist for a lingering injury. Others, it seemed, had the same notion, as many in line at the bright, clean, black-and-white establishment were also wearing sweats or workout gear. A line formed quickly behind me when I arrived at 12:30 and included a really cute guy wearing a baseball hat backwards, an apparent “regular” (his cap on the right way), a cute young couple and a sweet older couple.
The lit-up board on the wall offers a wide choice of globally inspired superfresh salads (sesame spring ahi), sandwiches (Brian’s handcrafted roast beef) and comfort foods (chili or shepherd’s pie). Everything is made fresh in the spic-and-span open kitchen. Ingredients are listed on the menu, but the calories, carbs and protein content are available on a takeaway sheet.
Before the dish on what I sampled, I want to compliment the staff here. A friendly employee greeted me with samples of the Thai chicken salad upon arrival. Brian, at the cash register, could not have been nicer — he also made the rounds with amazing complimentary coconut/chocolate/toffee cookies (deemed “addictive” by another lucky recipient; I’d have to agree). This is the way to make friends and build a customer base. On top of that, the folks at Body Fuel Bistro remember your name and pass by to see how you are doing, which doesn’t sound unusual but this is a walk-up counter, mostly “to go” kind of place. You can chow down at at one of the black Formica tables (seats 40 inside) or outdoor seating if you don’t mind eating from plastic “to go” containers with plastic cutlery with a parking-lot view (outdoors) or unique videos (inside).
Now to the food. The menu is divided into “Light and Crisp,” “Savory and Bold,” “Exotic and Flavorful” and “Wholesome and Hearty.” I ordered “Angie’s Favorite Asian Lettuce Cups” imagining preassembled ones with tangy ground-up chicken larb like that served at Thai restaurants. What I got was something that required assembly (do not try to drive and eat these!) — large butter lettuce leaves, a generous serving of nicely flavored but slightly dry cubed chicken with scallions, noodles, slices of cucumber and a pile of grated carrot. Two delicious sauces accompanied: a spicy peanut and tasty lime cilantro that saved the dryness of the chicken cubes.
“Lauren’s Bright and Bold Chicken Curry” was a large, gluten free serving (easily enough for two). I loved the spiciness but felt it lacked in flavor. Two friends “loved” the chicken, cauliflower and pea mixture atop tasty rice more than I did.
The music was funk and groove, and one could easy shake their booty on the slick concrete floors —which Brian did while wiping the counter top! HINT: It’s louder in the bathroom— if you don’t want to show off your dance moves for others. But more interesting was the choice of videos being shown on one wall: cute baby kittens. I watched a guy in camouflage uniform (from the nearby military base, I presumed) eat his lunch while seemingly engrossed by this programming.
I couldn’t help but be transfixed by a tiny kitten crawling out of a Kleenex box on the TV screen, followed by another sleeping on his master’s shoes, as I dug into the shephard’s pie, a sort of surprise ball of the culinary world. I’m no expert on the traditionally Scottish and English dish, that was probably invented to use leftovers topped with mashed potatoes, so this one may be true to the vision, if not the flavors one expects.
Grandma’s Old World Shepherd’s pie is made with turkey (a nice twist) and revealed red bell peppers, lots of ground up meat, a rather soupy sauce that did not include Worcestershire (often found in the British isles version) but was instead an original spin on the notion.
For my money, I might not run back for Grandma’s Old World Sheperd’s Pie, but I would for the “addictive” cookies as well as the amazing dark, rich, moist chocolate brownies. For someone watching calories, carbs or gluten, I have to say the sugary treats are sure fire to fuel your body if you have an afternoon slump.
I liked the silver galaxy light fixtures overhead, the friendly and generous vibe; and if you are in the ’hood or too tired to cook, it’s Body Fuel Bistro is a sweet solution, with emphasis on the sweet!