When Stephen and I were in the States, the phrase "Oh god, we're going to die!!!" passed my lips more than once. Now, there was no bomb threat or massive fire, and we weren't victims of a mugging - it was just that Stephen was driving on the opposite side of the road.
Don't get me wrong, Stephen's an excellent and skillful driver in Australia, but I was incredibly nervous when he drove us to Au Lac in Fountain Valley, about half an hour from where we were staying in Irvine. He had to navigate his way down the 405 highway, a highway that was at times about 10 lanes wide, with practically invisible lines marked and no "lane ends" signs. It was a nightmare. Add the fact that Stephen's brain kept trying to compensate for the reversed driver's seat position by making him veer dangerously to the right, and I was a mess by the time we pulled in to the parking lot at Au Lac.
The ride from hell was swept from my mind, however, by the soothing and calming atmosphere of the restaurant. The staff were welcoming and seemed genuinely happy to see us (and even happier to have overseas guests), and the soothing, meditative music was interspersed by laughing tracks that just made us smile.
We looked at drinks to order, but we had some questions (there were a lot of elixers, and we wanted to know how they were supposed to benefit us). The waitress told us what she could, but then when we went more in depth (Stephen knows a fair bit about the human body due to his studies), she brought out Chef Ito to explain. Now, this was quite the experience, because Chef Ito is in the midst of a 6 year vow of silence; he was incredibly expressive though, and using his facial expressions and hand gestures, was able to communicate with us effectively.
Noni Kombucha - US$5.00
We ordered the Kombucha tea, which we were told is good for digestion. It's a bubbly tea drink that's fermented with yeast and bacteria, and flavoured with Noni (also known as "cheese fruit" or "vomit fruit", lol), a hawaiian fruit known for its bitter flavour and strong odour.
The Brazil NutMilk was thick and filling, and the subtle nutty flavour was a treat.
There are two seperate kitchens here, one for their cooked, vegetarian menu, and one for their raw or "living" food. The food in the second kitchen is vegan, and nothing in the kitchen had been heated above 40 degrees Celsius, in the belief that food cooked above this temperature can be harmful to the body.
This bread is made with sprouted flax, and is dehydrated, resulting in a loaf of dense, moist, chewy, and completely raw bread. It's served with a garlic and herb oil, and is filling and delicious.
Of course, if you've ever had chicken before, you know straight away that this isn't chicken, but I think it's an excellent substitute. The cauliflower was dehydrated until it was super crunchy, and drizzled with oil, ginger and spring onion. The "rice" wasn't actually rice; I'm pretty sure our server said it was jicama or Mexican turnip.
Jino's Pizza - US$12.00
The pizza base was made much like the chimichurri bread, spread with sundried tomato, and covered in raw tomato, basil and "melted mozzarella"- not quite sure what the substitution was, but it was creamy and tasted much like cream cheese.
I couldn't believe this was raw. The donut holes were made with spirulina, a type of salt water algae known for its health benefits. They came out warm, and were firm on the outside and deliciously gooey on the inside. The taste wasn't familiar, but it was earthy and slightly sweet, a great way to finish our meal.
Au Lac was one of my favourite experiences of my time in California. The food was something special (and good for me!), the people were amazingly friendly and lovely, and the atmosphere left me feeling energised and awesome, and definitely helped me unwind after our frazzled journey there. The chef even came out to say goodbye to us! If you're ever in the area, I really suggest a visit - unless you're a hardcore carnivore, you won't regret it.
Au Lac Restaurant
16563 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA