Casa de Luz

1701 Toomey Road, 476-5446.

Lunch: Monday-Friday, 11:45am-2pm ($7.50). Dinner: Monday-Friday, 6-8pm ($7.50; $11 Wednesdays when fish is served). Brunch buffet: 11:45am-2pm, Saturday and Sunday. Casa de Luz is about more than merely food. The restaurant, tucked unobtrusively at the end of a flower-lined path, doubles as the city's macrobiotic community center and offers cooking classes, lectures, and an in-house library/bookstore. It takes more than a single meal at Casa de Luz to figure out exactly what macrobiotics is all about, but for starters, macrobiotics is a lifestyle, not just a diet.

The term means "the great life," and macrobiotics encourages individuals to optimize their energy and lead fuller lives in part by eating foods that are whole, organic, and indigenous. While primarily vegetarian, macrobiotics doesn't restrict any food or beverage. Instead, a food's appropriateness -- whether it provides the body with energy it is lacking and how it will affect the eater -- is taken into consideration. Herbs are used with intent in macrobiotic cooking. For example, cinnamon might be added in wintertime to generate warmth.

What can you expect from a meal at Casa de Luz? Fresh, straightforward dishes that have been scrupulously prepared. The restaurant has no menu, but an ideal macrobiotic meal is composed of (by weight) 50% grains, 25% land vegetables, 5-10% soup, 5-10% beans or sea vegetables, and 5-10% "other," a category encompassing fish, desserts, and beverages. My initiation meal featured vegetable soup, garbanzo beans with scallions and olives, a mixed green salad, slowly cooked butternut squash with wakane, collard greens and kale, rice, and a carrot and daikon radish relish. The purely hedonistic diner would probably prefer to indulge him- or herself elsewhere. But if you're seeking harmony, or simply a healthful, organic meal, Casa de Luz can oblige you expertly.

--Rebecca Chastenet de Gery

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