Sunday, February 17, 2013

Casa de Luz

Yes, I am a carnivore, but I do enjoy vegetarian food in many forms.  I am not so sure about macrobiotic foods though. For those not familiar, macrobiotic foods are a plant and grain-based, vegan diet that are believed to nourish the whole body. From Wikipedia: "Followers of the traditional macrobiotic approach believe that food and food quality powerfully affect health, well-being, and happiness, and that a traditional locally based macrobiotic diet has more beneficial effects than others. The modern macrobiotic approach suggests choosing food that is less processed."

Casa de Luz, on Toomey Road, just north of Barton Springs Road is the first place I was ever introduced to the concept of macrobiotic. I ate there once or twice at least a dozen years ago, with a friend who really enjoyed the cuisine; I recall the food being several shades of beige and brown, and not overly flavorful. Now as a "foodie," I am always looking for new food experiences, and it was high time to try it again. I enlisted the companionship of a friend, and she had been to Casa de Luz within the past couple years. They are open B, L and D, and it's a fixed price per meal, all you can eat.
It's in a beautiful setting, sort of a holistic compound, though you kind of have to know where you are going to get to the actual restaurant. So from the street, enter through this gate and follow the stone path all the way to the end. When you enter the building, there's a counter to your right, where you pay for your meal before eating. I was really glad I had my friend with me, because the young woman at the counter wasn't exactly overly friendly. We walked in, and I said there were two of us for lunch. She said it was $24 for both, I said, Oh, do we pay now, I haven't been here in a number of years. She said yes, you pay now, was this together or separate? She took our payments and walked off. No "thanks," no "have a seat wherever," no "do you know what to do from here?" It didn't bother me at the time though I know she heard me say that I hadn't been there in a long time, but now it really irks me! Fortunately, my friend knew what to do! In the picture below, the main door and register are on the back left, opposite from where this was taken.
At the counter, they also have the menu posted. You get your beverages, soup, and salad at the counter behind where the woman with the bandanna is standing. It's open, communal seating. We actually opted for one of the small tables for two, as we wanted to catch up with one another.
The soup was minestrone, filled with beans (azuki beans? red like kidneys, but they didn't have the consistency) and root vegetables. It was lightly sweet, but lacking in a lot of flavor; it was pretty dense though, and would be easy to fill up on. The salad was described as having fresh basil and dill, though I didn't taste any; unfortunately, I did come across several pieces of lettuce that were past their prime. They do use all organic ingredients in their cooking.
The kitchen staff brings you your main plate of food, and it's a beautifully vibrant-looking assortment! Eat the rainbow, indeed! Starting at the 7 o'clock position, we have rice with a tamari (like soy sauce), mushroom, and onion gravy that was delicious! The lentils to the back were meh. They really needed some form of seasoning, and while I prepare my beluga lentils with pancetta and leafy greens, some sort of spice -- cumin, chile, garam masala -- would have added loads to the lentils. The perfectly blanched greens at high noon were kale and I think collards, and while the almond-basil sauce on top of them looked suspect, it was amazing. So full of flavor! The shock of pink is sauerkraut that was very vinegary. The sauteed veggies on the right were said to have curry powder and garlic on them; I could see tinges of yellow, probably from the turmeric in the curry powder, but the taste did not come through. And you're expected to bus your own table at the end of your meal.
I don't know if I'd adequately explained what macrobiotic is all about. This food experience was much more positive than what I recall from years past, and while I may not flock to Casa de Luz, I won't wait another dozen years to try it again. They do have homemade tortillas on their breakfast menu, which might just be something to go back for!