When my husband and I went vegan a year ago, there were few restaurants in our area that we could eat at, so we usually drove to Los Angeles or San Diego to go out to dinner. But the OC seems to be going plant-based because in the past few months we’ve gained three new vegan restaurants. First there was 118 Degrees in Laguna Niguel, then Au NatuRaw opened in Santa Ana and a Veggie Grill will be opening soon in Laguna Niguel.
On Saturday we decided to check out Au NatuRaw with our self-described, ‘cheating vegan’, friends, Phil and Alex.
The restaurant was smack in the middle of Santa Ana’s busy downtown Artists District, but when we walked inside it felt like we’d been whisked away to a peaceful garden sanctuary. The decor was tastefully earthy. The first thing I noticed was an over-sized fabric wall hanging with pockets and pockets filled with live plants. The opposite wall had a floor to ceiling mural of natural trees, which is why Phil and Alex (in the photo above) look like they’re in a forest.
When the waitress came to take our order she was upfront with telling us that the service would be slow because they were short-handed. We were in no rush, so we placed our orders.
When the drinks came, we passed everything around. My Apple Hibiscus Sangria made with juiced apples, oranges and lemons infused with fruit was a favorite. We all agreed it tasted like an apple Jolly Rancher candy. Alex’s Date Shake made with almond milk, dates, banana, vanilla and cinnamon, was delicious too. Alex loved it so much that she swore she’d start making them at home.
As we were warned, it took awhile to get our food, but when our plates hit the table I had a feeling it was worth the wait. The smell alone was making me drool, but the presentation was beautiful as well. The dishes we ordered were the Hole Mole Enchiladas, Eleven Layer Rawsagne, Fettucine Florentine and the Portobello Steak Taco.
Phil, Alex, and my husband loved everything, and the only dish I didn’t like was the Fettucine. It was made with kelp noodles, of which I’m not a fan. The hands down favorite, however; was the Portobello Steak Taco. I especially loved the texture and crunch in the flaxseed taco shell. Phil tells me he’s going to make me some crackers that taste like the taco shell – I’m waiting Phil:-). I also loved the sweet onion sour cream, I don’t know what it was made out of, but it was amazing!
After dinner we looked through two pages of desserts. Everything looked good, but when the waitress told us that they also had tiramisu tonight, I knew that’s what we were going to order (it’s my husband’s favorite). We ordered two tiramisu’s and a Black & Tan Mini Cake.
It seems like I’m the oddball of the group, because Phil, Alex and my husband all preferred the tiramisu, but I was in love with the mini cake. Alex said she liked the tiramisu because it was light, so maybe that’s why I didn’t like it as much as everyone else. I like my desserts rich and dense, and the mini cake was certainly that.
All in all, we had a wonderful evening and we’ll be back!