There are several ways that restaurant reviewers, for better or worse, judge a restaurant before they taste even a morsel of food. The most obvious step is to evaluate the location and the décor. A more subtle way is looking around at who is dining there (and if there’s no one else in sight, that’s considered a bad sign). Naturally service is considered, too: does a staff member greet you and seat you upon arrival, or are you left to languish by the door?
However, this set of criteria can be trumped by a truly excellent meal, as it was at Cilantro Live in Carlsbad, California. The restaurant was recommended by Gluten Free in SD, a must-read website for any celiac living in or visiting the San Diego area. However, I didn’t fall in love with Cilantro Live on sight: located in an unremarkable mall, the restaurant proved tricky to find inside the complex. Its décor was utilitarian, to put it kindly, and the restaurant was empty when I arrived and stayed that way until a few minutes before I left, when a couple wandered in. And while the service during the meal was good, there wasn’t a staff member in sight to greet me when I first arrived. In spite of these faults, the quality of the food was outstanding, so much so that I ended up eating two meals from the restaurant (one at the restaurant, one takeout).
The cosmetic problems may go a long way to explaining why the small Cilantro Live chain, with its three San Diego-area locations, closed earlier this year. The good news is that the Carlsbad location is open again, under a new name: Blissfull Living Food & Juice. The new eatery’s menu is much shorter than its predecessor’s, but it’s continuing to serve up raw food cuisine and it’s still celiac-friendly. While some of the dishes are similar to offerings at Cilantro Live, they’re not identical (let me just note that Cilantro Live did an amazing “burger,” and I’m glad to see there’s one on Blissfull’s menu; ditto for the Caesar salad). I hope that the reinvented Blissfull is able to fix the small but noticeable problems that plagued the other, because the delicious vegan dishes should be appreciated for their fine quality.
Blissfull Living Food & Juice [address] 300 Carlsbad Village Drive, Suite 106 (lower level), Carlsbad, CA 92008 [tel] 760-730-9782 [fax] 760-730-9868 [web] www.blissfullfood.com