The very first thing to catch my eye at the opening of the first location of LYFE Kitchen is a huge display of fresh herbs right in the center of the dining room. Fresh herbs are the perfect metaphor for this really unique new restaurant. While so many other food sources pay lip service to quality, sustainability and natural sourcing LYFE is actually walking the walk. And not only is the flavor there but at a super affordable price point that still has me scratching my head. This restaurant is really a fresh idea that is quickly coming to lyfe.
Ever since my foodie friend, Stacie Tamaki, and I first learned about this new restaurant concept we've been eagerly awaiting the opening. In June we attended their Forklifting celebration where they first broke ground for the Palo Alto flagship store. You can read my story of that event by clicking here.
The menu at LYFE Kitchen is full of choices and has something for every vegan, vegetarian and carnivore. We ordered many dishes to get a full sampling of the dinner items.
Hands down my favorite flavor of the night came in the way of an appetizer which LYFE cleverly calls their "SHAREABLES". For just $3.99 you get the most flavorable Edamame Hummus with flatbread crisps. The hummus bursts with a lemony fresh flavor. The flatbread crisps are a perfect vehicle with which to scoop the hummus goodness. The hummus plate is shown here in the foreground with the Roasted Beet Salad and Farro for $7.79. This salad also featured roasted fennel, walnuts, dried cranberries, orange, red onion, basil and a maple-sherry vinaigrette. Another winner from the shareables menu (back of photo) is the Grilled Artichokes with lemon aioli.
Zooming in on the Grilled Artichoke it was perfectly cooked and nicely paired with the lemon aioli for $3.99.
Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Aioli was definitely shareable by all.
Whole wheat flatbreads come in three varieties and they are all under $8.00 for a very generous portion. We opted to try the Margherita which combined fresh mozzarella, sweet cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and a pomodoro sauce.
Margherita Flatbread – $6.99 or half-order for $4.99
The first of two entrees we tried was Art's unfried chicken. Art being Chef Art Smith who helped create the LYFE Kitchen menu along side Vegan Chef Tal Ronnen. This dish rocked with roasted squash, brussels sprouts, dried cranberries and dijon vinaigrette. The only thing we ate from the entire sampling which did not win us over was a corn puree which was the bed for this dish. We opted for the Gardein version of this dish which is meatless. Gardein stems from the words garden and protein and is a plant based food that has all the taste and texture of meat without any of the disadvantages. We love the fact that LYFE Kitchen is so eager to please everyone to satisfy special diets and tastes. You will never see the "No Substitutions" sign anywhere around here.
Art's unfried chicken entree – $11.99
The entree I was most eager to try was Tal's ancient grain bowl. We watched Chef Tal demonstrate this dish at the Forklifting and it has been on my mind ever since. I found a recipe for it on-line and tried to recreate it at home with Gardein beef tips I found at the store. My version was okay but lacked some of the great spicy kick of the original's sweet ginger-chile sauce. The key to this dish is the surprise combination of two great grains, whole grain farro and quinoa. I have eaten them both many times before but never enjoyed their pairing in one dish. It was both light in the stir fry sense and yet very satisfying with the substantial hearty grains.
Tal's Ancient grain bowl – $11.99
Another plus to the menu is that many of the vegetables and sides are also offered separately as items on their SIDES menu. After enjoying so many of the flavors we ordered on the first pass Stacie had to go back for the Baked Sweet Potato Fries. They are served with a very nice house made ketchup distinctively sweetened with agave.
Baked Sweet Potato Fries with house made ketchup – $2.49
Two of the offerings on their dessert menu called THE SWEET LYFE immediately caught our attention. First up was a Lemon Pound Cake with Greek Yogurt and Fruit. As simple as this sounds the layers of sweet and tart flavors/textures hit a perfect finishing note to our meal. Using yogurt instead of whipped cream keeps this treat at just 359 calories.
Lemon Pound Cake with Greek Yogurt and Fruit – $3.99
The other must try guilt-free dessert is what I call a very reasonable indulgence. At just 367 calories the non-dairy Banana Rum Cheesecake is made with a pecan crust and topped with rum sauce. It was very rich and really sweet but not overly so.
Banana Rum Cheesecake (non-dairy) – $3.99
If all this great food isn't enough we learned that LYFE Kitchen also strives to reduce their footprint with everything they do. Their flooring is all bamboo and much of the furniture is made from recycled materials. The decor is deco style with bright accents yet comfortable and makes you feel welcome.
LYFE Kitchen's commitment to the environment goes all the way down to using compostable cartons instead of plastic bottles for their water to-go.
We appreciated the open kitchen, fast service and sense of freshness that emanates from this well designed space. There are also plenty of tables where you can get privacy too.
Like every great downtown Palo Alto restaurant LYFE Kitchen has patio dining out front.
That prominent herb display and profound quotes printed on the walls are a constant reminder that you can Love Your Food Everyday because it is not only good for you but tastes great too.
My parting shot is of us posing with two of the key players responsible for bringing LYFE Kitchen to fruition. From left to right is CEO Mike Roberts, me, Stacie, CCO Mike Donohue and our friend and photographer, Elley Ho.
Normally I avoid being the first in line at a restaurant's opening night. I prefer to give them time to get any kinks out. However, we simply couldn't wait to see if LYFE Kitchen could live up to our expectations. Not only was the food great but the attitude matched the very positive message and mission of this company. The excitement shared by everyone at the restaurant was contagious and we cannot wait to return when both their breakfast and lunch service begins. The official ribbon cutting takes place on Tuesday (18th) morning at 11:00 a.m. Congratulations to both Mikes and the many LYFE team members who have worked so hard to bring us such a great new food experience.