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M Cafe, for the Macro-curious

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The world of macrobiotic cuisine is unexplored territory for many, but its common-sense principles makes for some tasty dishes that are worth checking out. Enter M Cafe [Twitter], the casual sibling of Chaya, who offer food that is "nutritionally, environmentally, and energetically balanced."

To essentialize, the principles of macrobiotics center on eating well in order to live well, and consuming food that is not processed. To that end, the ingredients at M Cafe are natural and organic, and dishes do not use eggs, dairy, red meat, or poultry, and emphasize whole grains and fresh produce.

It could be tempting to write this off as hippy-dippy or ironically indulgent, but right now is actually a great time to give macrobiotics at M Cafe a shot. That's because they are celebrating their 5th anniversary, and are offering several $5 rotating specials this month. Last Saturday, as M Cafe mounted an impressive menu bargain ($5 for anything on the menu) we took advantage of the opportunity to heed the call of our inner macro-curiosity, and give a few items a try.

There was a line out the door of the Melrose location of M Cafe on Saturday evening, something we're told isn't typical, but certainly a sign that many people are into getting healthy food at healthy prices. At our table we ordered a little cross-section of staples and salads, including a chickpea salad, scarlet quinoa, and kale, each of which were light, and unobtrusive companions to the entrees. Since one of the tenets of macrobiotic eating is mild seasoning, the salads leaned on the natural flavors of elements like garlic to provide enhancement to the simplicity of the core ingredients, like the vibrant magenta quinoa (a grain everyone should get to know) or the perfectly prepared kale. Many entrees come with a side from the deli, or you can order a 2-item plate ($7.450 or 3-item plate ($9.75).

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The crowd-pleaser, however, were the Sweet Potato Fries, which practically sparkle from the citrus zing of lime and the subtle briny kick of sea salt. Though a touch on the floppy side (alas, a fry texture fail, but in the context of a macrobiotic setting, not only expected, but forgiven) any weakness is eclipsed by their spot-on flavor. Dipped in the lime dipping sauce, these fries satisfy that need for earthy, carb-centric finger food without the heft of grease or that morning-after regret.

For main dishes, we checked out the Grilled Tuna Burger, which is prepared with a decidedly Asian flair, employing the welcome additions of pickled red onions, a yuzu mayo, slices of creamy avocado, and peppery-sour daikon sprouts on the mildly sauced fish, all nestled in a fluffy whole wheat bun. This dish is regularly $14.25 and includes one deli side salad.

Also on the table was a salmon teriyaki bowl, which was the least successful item we ordered; the fish, mildly seasoned as expected, was just a tad too rare, and the vegetables cut in too-large segments, making for tough going when trying to extract a manageable bite from the overflowing bowl. The Teriyaki Bowl with fish is regularly $15.45, and you can customize the veggies (steamed, sauteed, or tempura-fried) and the protein (tofu, $12.95, or black cod, salmon, or shrimp).

For dessert we dug into a strawberry cake that greeted the palate with bold, sweet, strawberry flavors, and then gave way to a finish that was reminiscent of the natural grain and brown sugar flavors associated with muffins or breakfast bars. While surprising, it was not at all unpleasant, and, along with the last sips of their fragrant, light beverages (a crave-worthy mint tea and an intriguing kale-lemonade) made for a nice finish to a meal of new tastes.

If you're thinking about checking out M Cafe and macrobiotics, there are some more opportunities to do so with the benefit of bargain prices. For the rest of this week they are offering a $5 grab-and-go only Falafel Wrap and M Chopped Salad. Other $5 specials this month are: Week of June 14— 2 Salad Combo & Tofu Bento (Grab & Go only); Week of June 21— Breakfast Enchilada (breakfast hours only) and Double Chocolate Fudge Cake; and all month their Patisserie will have a $5 Green Tea Roll Cake.

But if you'd like a side of savvy with your supper, M Café Culver City will be hosting two exclusive “Meet the Macro Experts” round-table events with some of the country’s leading resources on Macrobiotics on Tuesday, June 15, and Tuesday, June 22 respectively. Guests can take part in a 2-hour dinner session with Mina Dobic, international macrobiotic educator and counselor, Jessica Porter, author of The Hip Chicks Guide to Macrobiotics and M Café’s Chef Lee Gross, who will provide an overview of the macrobiotic philosophy, a discussion of the specific items at the dinner, and a Q & A session. The dinner is $20 per person (plus gratuity) including one non-alcoholic beverage; reservations required.

Meet the Macro Experts Dinners @M Café Culver City
Tuesday, June 15, 7- 9 p.m. (featuring Mina, Jessica, and Lee)
Tuesday, June 22, 7 - 9 p.m. (featuring Jessica and Lee)
(310) 838-4300
$20 per person for dinner (including one non-alcoholic beverage); exclusive of beer, wine, and gratuity