Though neither raw, vegan nor kosher in focus, another order-at-the-counter spot in Culver City boasts food that’s just as feel-good. The cute X’otik Kitchen
has three stools inside as well as four small tables outside, but it is for the most part a takeout joint. Sit around after noon and you’ll see all manner of nine-to-fivers coming by and carrying out big bags stacked with lunches-to-go.
The staff are relaxed and friendly. It’s casual in atmosphere, but it’s clear that food isn’t treated the least bit lackadaisically. Though only a small percentage of the menu is vegetarian (their specialty is free-range chicken, cooked three different ways), the veggie options that they do offer are savory and wonderful.
The grilled eggplant zucchini parmigiano ($8.95) consists of big chunks of yellow squash, zucchini and eggplant, bathed in a vibrant marinara and punctuated with a slightly chewy layer of parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. The grilled vegetable penne ($8.45) hosts the same veggies, as well as green beans. Comprised of lightly peppered pasta tossed in olive oil, veggies, basil and parmesan cheese, it is simple but elegant.
If you’re not willing to commit to one main, perhaps just go with a side sampler ($8.95), which allows you to choose four small sides (all vegetarian). The polenta ($3.95 a la carte), topped with marinara sauce, is absolutely heavenly. This traditionally Italian staple is perfected here, with a pan-crisped exterior giving way to a delicately smooth body. The mashed sweet potatoes ($2.75) are dense and hearty, while the garlic sautéed mixed vegetables ($3.50), a stir fry of broccoli, green beans, snow peas and baby bok choy, are more subtle in flavor.
The dishes sound simple, but they seem to be layered with authenticity, skill and a love for wholesome, nourishing cuisine. This is food that will warm your inner hearth.
Stoke that fire at the end with a bite of dessert – perhaps some baklava? The 20-plus layers of phyllo hold their own under the weight of a walnut mound and a slathering of honey. There’s nothing like a smidgen of sweetness to top off the journey.