Epicurious Eating: Salad Style
Valley of the greens
Published Thursday, 10-Jun-2010 in issue 1172
“Rabbits can get fat here,” I commented to my companion as we waded through hefty mounds of mixed lettuces showered with a plethora of other organics. Omnivores, too, will get a bellyful at Salad Style if they opt for animal flesh with their greens.
The salad-centric café, which recently expanded into an adjoining storefront, has been keeping downtowners on a steady diet of leafy, organic meals for the past five years. Salads are tossed to order. Dressings are homemade. And weekday deliveries to office workers within the 92101 area code are numerous – an irony reserved for those bent on eating healthy yet who won’t walk beyond the water cooler to fetch their lunches.
Salad Style’s menu features 13 different salads, many of elaborate design. Based on two recent visits, the Moroccan couscous salad was especially loved. It’s comprised of red and green lettuces, chopped asparagus, feta cheese, scallions, slivered almonds, mint and specks of sweet, black currants. The couscous is strewn throughout in judicious measures, just enough to give the medley a balanced starch boost. Lemon vinaigrette serves as the crowning jewel, paying homage to the ingredients rather than assaulting them.
Fresh herb vinaigrette would have performed likewise had it not been applied heavy handedly on a peppered, grilled steak salad strewn generously with chilled, tender strips of the meat. The dressing charged forth aggressively, upstaging the greens, sautéed cremini mushrooms, red onions, hearts of palm, gorgonzola and oven-dried tomatoes that were subtly delicious when isolated.
Ahi tuna salad with fresh tomatoes, marinated olives, capers and red pepper bruschetta were draped by clean, cool slices of the fish, pre-grilled to perfection. The dressing, a robust, snappy, garlic-balsamic was again used excessively, at least for our tastes. A sizable puddle of the dressing at the bottom of the plate testified to its over-application.
My companion, however, who joined me the following day, maintains a “wetter-is-better” salad philosophy, which he demonstrated by adding extra doses of tangy miso dressing to his “totally vegan” selection. Either way, vegans can’t go wrong with this salad because it encompasses the gamut of their diets – quinoa, tofu, chick peas, sprouts, and basically an entire backyard garden.
A chicken Caesar salad proved extra hearty on the second visit, veering from the Old School style in that it incorporates Cotija cheese, fresh corn and hearts of palm. The dressing was used judiciously, although it radically departs from Caesar Cardini’s original recipe made famous in 1924.
Here, the salad masters whisk rice and white vinegars into the dressing, which strangely quells its tartness compared to traditional versions that go heavier on lemon juice and dry mustard. I couldn’t detect any anchovies at play but confirmed afterwards that they are indeed present.
Salads come in half- and full-size portions, and for an additional buck they can be wrapped in lavash bread. Either way, you end up with enough sustenance to settle for a light dinner later on. “We’re not shy about our portions,” warned general manager Gy Kirk, as we stood undecided between the not-so-small and large salads.
Salad Style’s menu also features a few different bruschettas. Simple and pleasurable is the avocado and lime bruschetta, smeared over four thick slices of toasted Italian bread and topped with coarse salt and pepper. (Who would’ve thought?) Homemade soups rotate daily, and sugar fixes come in the form of a few outsourced desserts that include chocolate cake with ganache.
The eatery’s newly expanded digs are as fresh and wholesome as the tasty leaves spilling off your plate. Heavy wood tables and chairs are complimented by cucumber-green walls and a skylight that sucks in warm, radiant sunshine. All in all, it’s a fitting welcome mat for appetites with healthy intentions.