Yesterday my husband and I decided to celebrate my birthday and Valentine’s day by taking a ride up to Mary’s Secret Garden in Ventura, Ca. First, we went to the website. Other than basic information, it’s not of much help meaning there’s no menu, prices, etc. Just days the’re open, times, and that they are vegan and offer raw food; an email address to ask for their current menu and a link (have to copy/paste as the link doesn’t work) to reviews. We did go to the reviews and what is funny is, the reviewer who gave the one star (out of 5) had a similar experience to ours in some ways.
Since they request reservations, I called about 9 a.m. hoping to get an answer machine. The phone rang about 6 times, no pick-up or machine so, we got ready and headed out. About 11:05 as we were almost there, I called again and told them we were almost there and could we reserve a table. I was told they had a big party coming in but she’d hold a table for two.
We arrived about 10 minutes later; it’s about 50 degrees out and WET! We go in and all the tables are empty except for one where two women were sitting. 3 other tables had reserve signs on them so I’m thinking these people would be coming in at noon or so… maybe ll:30?
This restaurant is cute. It holds about 26 people comfortably. There are a few tables which hold 4 people; 4 that hold two and one that holds about 6. That one, a 2-person and a 4-person table were reserved. O.k., that leaves one 2-person table in use, two 2-person tables available and 2, 4-person tables available. As in the 1-star review, we were placed at the 2-person table by the door. Now, it’s 50 degrees and raining, the restaurant is empty and we’re placed by the door…. why? Yes, I could have asked for the other 2-person table. Should have.
Another couple comes in ~ they sit at a 4-person table and Rose, our lovely waitress (and I mean that.. she is very sweet) asked if they wouldn’t mind sitting at the 2-person table as they’ve got a large party coming in at 2. Yes, that’s right ~ 2 p.m! It’s ll:30!!!
The couple moves to the 2-person table.
We receive our menus and this is basically a cooked vegan restaurant but, they do have a nice raw menu.
On the Appetizers section they had 5 choices, two of them raw. We chose the “Secret Sushi Roll” which had 8 pieces for $9.00. It’s described as “Nori filled with macadamia nut ginger pate, asparagus, julienned carrots and sprouts served with cilantro sauce and wheat-free tamari” (not raw). My first bite didn’t impress me much. I thought it was too salty. Bo suggested it might be the Tamari… it was. The second piece I dipped lighter, then ran it through the cilantro sauce. Oh my. It took everything I had to not grab and eat it all. (Hey! It was my birthday!!!) Oh! We added avocado to it which brought the price to $11. Worth the price? Well, next time we have a celebration, I wouldn’t mind going there and paying it although, it does seem as though it could be a few $$ less BUT, since they do have the business AND they need to pay their kitchen help (I counted 4 back there), rent, purchase food, etc… They seemed to have quite a large take-out business as well. If the price was lower, I’d probably have ordered another ~ would it have been worth it for them?
Bo thought he wasn’t hungry so he’d not ordered anything else but I had ordered the Italian Wrap from the “Raw Food Entrees” section, which is described as “Basil pesto, tomatoes, herbed almond cheeze, red onions, cucumber and sprouts wrapped in Romaine lettuce leaves. Served with side of the day.” $10. With avocado, which I did add ~ $12.
This came wrapped in a HUGE lettuce leaf or two and white paper with the leaves sticking out. I wish I’d gotten a picture. It looked great! The “side of the day” was pretty much what was in the wrap.. only red lettuce instead of Romaine, tomatoes, cukes and red onions.
Again, I wasn’t impressed with the first bite which had much of the “cheeze” in it but when I got a bite with all the ingredients, it was sooooo good! All talk stopped for a couple of reasons… first, the thing was messy and between eating and wiping I was kept pretty busy. Personally, I would have liked a couple of paper napkins for the mess. The cloths napkins they use (silk?) were lovely but not made for the mess I had on my face. The dressing on the side salad was just right in amount and taste.
During our meal, others came in and were told where to sit as they had a large party coming in AT 2! It wasn’t even NOON yet!!! What are they thinking?
Another gent came in who Rose knew and he got to sit at one of the reserved tables for two. I figured he HAD to be part of this party that was coming in AT 2. Nope! He ordered something that looked like what I had. I HAD to watch him eat it. Well, first of all, he had quite a large mouth (not making fun, just that, in comparison, I have a small one) and he probably took one bite for every 3 I took, was finished in half the time (or less) with waaaaay less mess. He was done, got up and left (before 2).
After the appetizer, Bo realized he was hungry so ordered the BBQ Sandwich described as “Barbecued Veggie Chycken OR Tofu with sauteed red onions, jack cheeze, lettuce, cilantro and Veganaise. Served open face”. He also got a side of potato salad. (He was given a choice of sides whereas I wasn’t but then, the potato salad isn’t raw.)
He chose the veggie chycken and liked it quite a bit. His complaints were, the cost ($9.50), they could have toasted the bun (or at least offered to) to make it a bit different and doubled the size of the side ~which was about the size of a sample ~ for that price. On the way home he said ~Â “I liked the sample, could I have the side now?” How much more would it cost to have a decent size side?Â He really liked the Veganaise and was suprised he liked the “chycken” as much as he did.
For dessert we shared a Raw Pecan Pie a La Mode ($8) “Creamy pecan, coconut and date filling with a pecan crust topped with raw vanilla bean ice cream.” No complaints about this except, not enough of it and at $8 per slice… almost went for another but didn’t. The “ice-cream” was superb! Again, it took all my willpower to cut that last piece in half of the pie AND the ice cream and let Bo have the rest. Oh! the plate was drizzled with raw agave and I thought it would be too sweet but, we dragged the pie across it… what a treat!
How would I rate this visit? I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars. Why?
It seems the owners have never run a restaurant before so, giving them a break. To reserve half the room at ll a.m. for a party that’s coming in at 2 doesn’t make any sense. We left about 12:15 and as we were leaving, a part of 3 came in. Rose was flustered about where to seat them as they had a large party coming in AT 2! Hellooooooo!
Since it was an amusement for us and added to our experience, can’t cost them too much. As they get more experience, they’ll realize they can wait until maybe 1 or 1:30 (or so) to reserve the tables rather than 3 hours ahead although it does make them seem important that they’ve got this large party coming in.
Rose was very good. She made sure everything was o.k., brought the food promptly, was very gracious even giving me a take-out menu so I could write this with exact description. Bo got more water w/out asking for it. Originally there was ice in the water on the table. I asked for water without ice and received it immediately and the water was VERY good.
The room is very comfortable with sayings on the ceiling and paintings on the wall (for sale). I liked the tablecloths being real cloth as were the napkins (could add some paper for messy eaters though). They had bamboo placemats. Very nice.
The food was scrumptious. Normally I don’t much like food at raw restaurants except for the desserts. At Mary’s I’ll go back for the entrees. I would definitely get the Sushi roll again; probably not the “Raw Cheeze Platter” ($12) as I tend not to be too fond of nut “cheese”. Even though I’m not fond of mushrooms, I’d still like to try their Raw Ground Mushroom Tacos ($12) which, according to Mary, don’t taste like mushrooms; and their Rawviolis ($12).
For drinks they have smoothies which contain NO rice, soy or processed proteins. They really do sound yummy at $6-$7 each. Add-ins of Maca Root, Vanilla Bean, Psyllium Fiber, Goji Berries, Hemp Seeds or Cacao Beans are 75 cents each. As we’re not big eaters, we didn’t order anything to drink.
They also have other raw drinks including lemonade, homemade ginger ale, Lime Mint Chiller and more.
All-in-all it was a really good experience. I think once they get more experience they’ll be even busier than they are and you will really need a reservation to get in. I’m sure at times now, you do so, be sure to call ahead just to cover yourself.
What I would suggest Mary (she is the chef as well as owner) do is, type up the specials every day and put them in the menu. We may have missed something superb. Rose did tell us what they were yet, it would certainly have been easier reading them.
Hmmm. I just looked at the reviews again and the one I mentioned has been deleted. o.k! The only thing I remember reading on it was what I said about many tables being reserved and being placed by the door. The rest, don’t remember, don’t care. For us, it was good.
I’m figuring this is a learning experience for all there; it was a very pleasant experience for me (raw vegan) as well as my husband (not raw, not vegan)… and we’ll definitely have to make the trip back.
If you’re in the area, go there. If you’re not, make it a point.