Sake
I'll have the alfalfa sprouts and a plate of mashed yeast.

Famous Alvy Singer quote from Annie Hall when Alvy meets Annie at an outdoor cafe in LA, remember? Well, when Moet asked me to meet her at M Cafe de Chaya in West Hollywood and she mentioned "macrobiotic food," I felt a wave of Alvy cynicism coming on. It's just sooo LA, right?

M Cafe is a casual eatery serving "Contemporary Macrobiotic Cuisine," and doesn't use refined sugars, egg, dairy, red meat, or poultry. How could this be good right? Oh, but it actually was!!!

The story behind M Cafe is actually really interesting. Executive chef Shigefumi Tachibe helped bring M over to LA in 1981 from Japan, where the Chaya dynasty began as a tea house nearly 400 years ago.

At M, the food is an homage to the teachings of Michio Kushi, who is said to have introduced the concept of macrobiotic foods to the US. As their dishes proved, it's all about taking fresh foods and ingredients and bringing out their maximum flavors along with all their health benefits (minus sugar and dairy, oh my!). But considering it first opened in 1981, M was pretty revolutionary to serve Japanese "health" foods (tofu? seaweed??) to an American audience.

Here are a few shots I managed to sneak through:

There is a glass case with a colorful array of the day's dishes. From the scarlet quinoa, to the grilled balsamic vegetable and sesame noodles, I couldn't choose what to get.


There is much more on the menu aside from the deli salads: sandwiches, soups, daily special bentos and salads are other options. They also have an exquisite selection of pastries. Order, pay at the counter, get a number, and wait for your meal at a table, inside or outside. The interior is extremely sunny, airly and Euro bistro-ish.


I got the $7.50 2 salad combo, where I chose the pureed kabocha pumpkin with raisins and quinoa plus the kale with peanut sauce. Delicious and huge portions!


They also had rows of inari sushi topped with anything from edamame to seaweed salad. I got the kinpira gobo (burdock root). Remember Sonja's exquisite assortment of inari from last year?


Moet snagged the last lunch special (they must only make a very small quanitity cause it was only noon when we met up). It was pan-fried tofu, hijiki, cucumber salad, shiitake miso soup, and brown rice. The salad on the top right there is actually steamed napa cabagge with radishes- nice variation from the standard iceberg salad!


Irony is that Pink's hotdogs is right around the corner from this W. Hollywood location- it was really hard for me not to go there instead! Although I joked about getting a hotdog after this meal, I was suprisingly full and felt good for having my vegetables. Should do this more often!

And no, there was no mashed yeast on the menu.

M Cafe de Chaya
7119 Melrose Avenue
Hollywood, CA
T: 323.525.0588

There's another M in Culver City, and one coming soon in Beverly Hills. Also, Yoko just told me that there's a few vegetarian restaurants in the Bay Area and LA called Chaya by the same owners.

Bonus: Couldn't find a clip of the LA cafe scene from Annie Hall, but did find this of when they are all driving through Beverly Hills on Christmas. "There are wheat germ killers out here."
CLASSIC!!




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2 comments

  • I’m glad you liked M. I was just there last night and thought of you!

    moet on

  • I grew up eating Chaya’s cake in Zushi, which is next to Hayama.
    Hayama, you have the original hikage Chaya……It is an exquisite place.
    Very traditional……

    fuminatto on

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