For someone like me, who is in the primitive stages of a raw food lifestyle and relies on raw nuts, seaweed, and fruit to curb my appetite, perhaps because the skills necessary to create something beyond a simple kale salad are too complex, eating at 118 Degrees made me feel like a cave man who just discovered In-N-Out. Instant gratification and deliciousness beyond what my senses have previously comprehended. Plus, it’s a relatively cheap eat considering their focus on fresh ingredients.
Located in Costa Mesa’s The Camp, wedged neatly between Umami Burger and Milk + Honey, is a vegan restaurant which serves gourmet dishes, all cooked at temperatures below 118 degrees (aha!) in order to retain essential nutrients and enzymes. Everything from Mexican fare such as New Age Quesadillas, and Sweet Corn Tamales made with sweet corn masa stuffed with portobello mushrooms, to Italian garb such as Florentine Lasagna and Pesto Tortellini and rich desserts like the Fresh Fruit cobbler made of pecan crust are creatively prepared with organic ingredients, whenever possible. And the best part? When you order coffee, they give you a healthy amount of Brazil Nut milk, which required the chefs to soak the nuts for hours, blend until smooth and meticulously strain through a cheese cloth so that no small pieces make it’s way into the coffee.
One plate at a time, 118 Degrees seems to be changing the preconceived notions of how raw food should taste: not like the mistress to the traditional cooked dish of its kind, but as a reinvention of the plethora of locally grown fresh ingredients. I stared at The Buddha’s Bowl for minutes before digging into the Miso noodles marinated in curry dressing atop a bed of Swiss chard, with curried cauliflower, and shitake and enoki mushrooms generously tucked throughout, like little nuggets of gold. My cave man perception of raw food excitedly thought: How. Is. Raw? No taste raw.
A delectable rendition, Dos Tacos plate pairs a satisfying crunchy taco inside a chili flax shell, which has a faint sweetness that pairs well with the dish’s spicy Rojo salsa, with a zesty cilantro corn salad and guacamole, portobello mushrooms, julienne carrots, and red and green peppers. Although there was no carne asada to be found, there was still that moment amidst the messiness inherent to any Mexican dish, vegan or not, when I looked at the taco and thought: You taste awesome. Where is that flavor coming from? And before I could identify its source, I devoured it. But it was probably the cilantro corn salad: a mixture of spinach, cucumber, and corn that mixed nicely with a sprouted nut sour cream.
The real magic at 118 Degrees, though, is the chocolate cheesecake. If I had any doubts about plant-based desserts, they vanished as quickly as the cheesecake on my plate. Made with avocado and cacao, topped with sliced strawberries and a generous drizzle of macadamia nut cream, the cheesecake couldn’t get more real than the housewives of Orange County, Florida’s Orange Juice or Slim Shady, the real Slim Shady. That being said, I am amazed to say that I left a raw vegan restaurant feeling satisfied and healthy. No ingredients in any dish on the menu are processed, resulting in an absolute joy for the tastebuds. Dining at 118 Degrees may leave you more than satisfied, but also reconsidering what real food actually is.
Mile-High Club First-Class Business Class Economy
Check ‘em out at:
2981 Bristol St
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Photgraphy by Dominique Boubion