Feb. 18, 2008 — The ambience at Lalita Juice Bar and Raw Food, distinguished by rich mahogany décor and fruit- and vegetable-laden trays, coupled with mouthwatering choices on the menu — is enough to turn anyone into a vegan.
Former architect and artist Jonathan Lowis and his wife, Dr. Cheryl Wade, a general surgeon at Juan F. Luis Hospital, teamed up to open the restaurant in 2006 after nearly seven years of refurbishing the Jacob Lindbergh building on King Street.
The building, which is opposite Government House, is home to various shops, a sauna, spa massages, yoga classes, the restaurant, and Wade's consulting office for the adjacent Kalima Center Inc. Health and Holistic Living.
The two companies work together to promote good eating habits and exercise, though Wade says she doesn't push the restaurant's offerings.
"People think you have to be a vegetarian to be healthy, but it's about balance. It's about dead food versus live food. There's nothing wrong with chicken and johnnycake but you balance with salads, with fruits and exercise," she says.
"I am hoping people will become enlightened because it's not what the media says or the pharmaceutical ads say, it's constantly working, balancing healthy eating habits with exercise and keeping stress levels down."
Wade says that eating a balance of live foods like fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts coupled with exercising — walking at least 30 minutes a day — should be adopted by those seeking healthier lifestyles.
Lalita's menu promotes just that.
Breakfast offerings range from fruit salads to blueberry and banana walnut muffins to organic muesli, a delicious and nutritious mix of oats, apricots, almonds, sunflower seeds, dates, figs, wheat germ, coconut, soy milk, and yogurt, with optional fresh fruit.
Lunch is a variation of fresh salads, sandwiches, wraps, and soups such as cream of spinach — a blend of fresh spinach, green onions, shallots and avocado that is as delicious as it is simple.
Lowis, who was born in Scotland, met and married Wade, a Nevis native, in Montserrat. The couple eventually moved to St. Croix where Wade says her eyes were opened.
"It was an epiphany — about my own personal journey and what I wanted to achieve in life and as part of that I wanted to explore holistic health," she says. "Health is not something you wake up with in the morning or you buy, it's something you cultivate on a daily basis by what you eat, feel, and think."
Wade says that in her practice she found "a profound ignorance to healthy eating." Many of her clients, some of whom suffered from ailments such as diabetes or high blood pressure, admitted that they had not eaten a fresh salad in years.
"I began thinking what I could I do to make my life better and to share that with others," she says of opening the businesses. "It's a labor of love because we've also been educating ourselves."
Lowis, who has been a vegetarian for 30 years, says the restaurant was a natural venture because his wife "was seeing a lot of patients with hypertension and did identify a need for alternative living."
Lowis says he is blessed to be doing what he enjoys. His art work — he took five years of art school — is featured in the restaurant. In one painting, a wooden bowl is filled with bright orange tangerines and yellow limes and in a show of life imitating art, several wooden trays around the restaurant and on atop a shiny mahogany circular bar are filled with various fruits and vegetables. On the day Lowis talked about his company, dry coconuts, fresh ginger, green limes and yellow local figs were part of the décor as were sheaths of parsley and mint propped in clear containers.
"We use as much local produce as necessary and people bring me stuff like extra limes," he says.
The local fruits are used for some of the restaurant's signature smoothies. When in season, there are house specialty smoothies made of mango, banana, soursop and starfruit or coconut milk, avocado, pineapple and lime. In addition, drink offerings include almond milk, local lime squash and a range of hot and iced teas from green, jasmine, and ginger, to hibiscus and Darjeeling.
Wade's medical background is apparent in menu offerings under vegetable and fruit juices. The choices — with names like Immune Booster, Total Cleanser, Joint Lubricator, Blood Builder and Morning After Detox — are listed as "the building blocks for strong and healthy muscles, organs and glands."
The Immune Booster, for example, is a blend of carrot, celery, apple, beet and parsley; the Total Cleanser is made of carrot, cucumber and beet; the Blood Builder is of carrot, beet, lettuce, spinach and parsley.
The restaurant also chops up signature salads that run the gamut from spinach with beet, Feta cheese, walnuts, mango, tomato and honey vinaigrette to wakame seaweed with greens, tomato, cucumber and sesame seeds and revved up with house-made vegan dressings like creamy Caesar, lemon-tahini, and peppery avocado.
In addition to the cream of spinach soup, Lalita offers other tasty raw food specials such as butternut squash soup blended with celery and spices; almond hummus with flax seed crackers and bruschetta with almond toast and Brazil nut parmesan.
The crackers, as well as four vegan cheeses — cashew cheese spread, pine nut parmesan, brazil nut parmesan and almond feta — are all made by Lowis. He gets help from his power tools of choice: a blender, juicer, food processor, and dehydrator.
Lowis says the recipes are given thumbs up before it gets on the menu or listed as a special for the day.
In fact, the tasty crackers and cheeses are so much like the real thing it is hard to believe that the main and sometimes only ingredients are nothing more than nuts.
And speaking of nuts, the only dessert on the menu at Lalita is a cashew/cacao gelato Lowis concocted that tastes as rich and creamy as ice cream but without the calories.
Lowis says he's had no formal training in cooking, but, "I always like to play around the kitchen."
The restaurant also offers high-speed Internet access; downtown delivery service, and Lowis says that with just 24-hour notice, he can host private parties for up to 30 people.
Call for specials at 719-4417.
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