I admit to being surprised about Scott Zwiezen’s newly opened restaurant in Atwater Village. The chef that I associate with Elf Cafe is known to be an advocate of raw, vegan and vegetarian cuisine. His new venture is not in Echo Park, is not completely vegetarian nor raw. Instead, it’s middle eastern food in the form of sandwiches and is a lot more casual.
Dune soft-opened on Sunday, January 18th with the bare minimum: three types of sandwiches, two house-made drinks, and a counter to lean against while you eat your sandwich. Tucked between a dance studio and a juice bar, it offers food that’s as easy on the conscience as it is on the palate.
Zwiezen wanted the food at Dune to speak for itself. Gone is the baggage and stereotype that comes with the labels ‘raw’ and ‘vegetarian’, which can intimidate people from trying a restaurant. With the lamb and soon-to-arrive fish on the menu, Zwiezen hopes to attract people who would otherwise shy away from an all vegetarian menu.
Multiple diners in line were overheard ordering the falafel sandwich, which is no surprise, as it’s one of the best falafel sandwiches I’ve had. The deep fried balls of chopped chickpea are held together without flour, which will please the anti-gluten crowd as long as they order it sans pita. Unfortunately, ordering it without the pita also means you will miss out on the cooked-to-order pita bread that’s made in house.
While the falafel sandwich is a no-brainer, the delicious beet sandwich was unexpected. What sounds on paper like an average beet salad served between two slices of bread was actually a playful combinations of flavors and textures. The earthiness of the beets was tamed by the briny pickle and onions, and further balanced with the rich yolk of the medium-boiled eggs. The tangy garlic sauce added a nice pungency to each sweet, savory, and tangy bite. I would say that this sandwich is easy to customize as vegan if certain elements were left out, but that would be ruining the combination that makes this a winner.
To wash down the sandwiches, there’s also house-made root soda, which has dandelion, lapsang souchong, and a few other ingredients. It’s just sweet enough, with a slightly herbal fragrance. Fair warning though, no beverage in the restaurant will help your garlic breath afterward, so bring some breath mints if you care.
To those bookworms: yes the restaurant’s name was inspired by Frank Herbert’s magnum opus.
3143 Glendale Blvd.