Kreation Kafe

Smear job: The cold tapas sampler

Smear job: The cold tapas sampler

Although we had passed Kreation Kafe many times, we had never felt drawn to this organic, veg-friendly restaurant in Santa Monica (1023 B Montana Avenue, near 10th St.). The menu seemed pricey for what looked like a hole-in-the-wall, the size of a take-out joint with just a couple of small tables on the busy sidewalk, and we feared that we would be rewarded for our trouble with nothing but ostentatiously healthy punishment food. Fortunately, with the encouragement of a friend, we overcame our misgivings and discovered, first, that this sliver of an eatery stretches back into an utterly charming indoor-outdoor seating area and, second, that the food is artfully prepared and bursting with flavor. The centerpiece of the meal, which we shared with our hostess, was a pair of tapas samplers, one hot and one cold, each wonderful in its own way. The cold plate included a mild, creamy hummus; a tangy yogurt-cucumber dip punctuated by fresh mint, dill, and parsley; a simply prepared eggplant dip; a refreshing salad of chopped cucumbers and tomatoes with red onion and parsley; roasted corn and black bean salsa; and vibrant tabbouleh, with a bit of juiciness to complement the texture of the grain. Even better, the hot plate included golden, tender rosemary potatoes; intensely flavorful grilled tomatoes; sweet grilled corn on the cob; nutty wild rice with corn; and peppery, garlicky sautéed spinach with chili flakes. Only our dessert, a pair of macaroons, came close to matching our earlier, mistaken sense of the place, which is to say these vegan coconut cookies were not as moist or chewy as we would have liked. It was a disappointing ending to an otherwise much-better-than-expected dinner. All the same, Kreation Kafe turned out to be more pleasure than punishment and (priceyness aside) more than worth a try.

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R+D Kitchen

Rice patty: A barely-there veggie burger

Rice patty: A barely-there veggie burger

Frites street: R+D's cup of fries

Frites street: R+D’s cup of fries

If you are beautiful, rich, and famous or at least want a side of glamour with your seared ahi tuna salad, you might consider R+D Kitchen, a chic eatery on Santa Monica’s boutique-y Montana Avenue (1323 Montana Ave., near Euclid). Though from the sidewalk the atmosphere appears to be one of overflowing bustle (no reservations are taken), those who manage to snag a table may well feel a sense of comfort and serenity. The winsome waitstaff, crisply attired in white uniforms, are as friendly as they are attractive, like the idealistic young doctors of a TV drama. Some actual celebrities may be glimpsed here as well, since the restaurant, just across the street from the Aero Cinematheque, provides convenient grub for the nonprofit’s special guests. Vegetarians will not find many choices, however. Putting aside the spinach and cheese omelet and a few ordinary side dishes, one is left with the unprepossessing house-made veggie burger. Formed from brown rice, mushrooms, carrots, and almonds, the patty is slightly sweet, not dry but not crisp either, with sporadic crunchiness from the nuts. Like the patty itself, the condiments lean toward the mild: melted jack cheese, avocado, mayo, and tomato slices, with a heap of fresh arugula and a bit of red onion, all on a buttery, soft roll that felt heavier than it needed to be. (The fries, prepared in the style of pommes frites, are tasty enough.) Though vegetarians may justifiably visit R+D Kitchen for the scene, they’re unlikely to return for the food. But, as the ever-present crowds attest, that’s probably beside the point.