Fresh, fun and guilt-free poke and acai bowls nourish the body while respecting the planet

By Angela Matano

The Acai Bowl comes in a coconut; the Casbah Bowl with harissa, pomegranate and mint

For an area once dominated by agriculture, Westchester has been slow to glom onto the fresh-and-local philosophy dominating Westside foodie hotspots such as Santa Monica, Venice, Mar Vista and Marina del Rey.

But with the ever-expanding reach of Silicon Beach now encompassing us all, the proliferation of quick-service culinary establishments to service discerning diners was inevitable.

Into the breach comes the brand-spankin’-new Sustainabowl, which opened May 11 on Lincoln Boulevard with a mission of bringing positive change to the way we eat and think about our overall restaurant experience.

From compostable corn-based dishware and utensils to the energy-efficient LED bulbs that illuminate the space, Sustainabowl lightens its own environmental footprint while serving poke and acai bowls built from sustainably sourced and locally produced ingredients, including ingredients purchased from local farmers markets.

Raising people’s consciousness is all well and good, but what about the taste? Head Chef Justin Snyder has spent the bulk of his adulthood traveling the world and gathering up a virtual library of flavors. Japanese food is his favorite, but the copious tattoos covering his arms kept him from working there. Instead, Snyder studied in France and worked in places as disparate as Hong Kong, Hawaii and Santa Barbara.

With a whole lot of knowledge and experience to draw from, Snyder unwittingly positioned himself to think about the dining experience a little differently. In fact, the restaurant Snyder worked at in Hawaii, The Blue Dragon, had its own farm.

Here, what makes Sustainabowl unique is that it sources each ingredient from the nearest possible location, while using the most responsibly grown produce and freshest seafood available.

“A lot of poke places use frozen, pre-cut fish,” says Snyder. “We wanted to believe in what we do. Our ‘Get in My Belly’ bowl is my favorite. It uses scraped fish belly so as not to waste anything.”

This bowl also combines an avocado and scrumptious coconut rice to form a sort of base for all of the toppings, including such disparate items as gochujang, aji Amarillo, passion fruit, pickled ginger and hearts of palm. Crispy bits of onions and shallots add a bit of crunch.

As you might imagine from the restaurant’s name, the menu is bursting with bowls. There are five signatures to choose from, plus a daily chef special. The true delight of the choices is in the details and combinations of flavors. Snyder’s stints as a world traveler really shine through, with phenomenal combinations like pomegranate seeds and wasabi chickpeas in the Casbah Bowl and green papaya and corn nuts in the Back to Fiji Bowl.

For those of the vegan persuasion, there are two options and
a daily special. The Paleo makes use of superfoods, like chia seeds, seaweed salad and liquid aminos, in a way that feels prescient.

Sustainabowl speaks to the future of fast food, and perhaps just food in general. With an emphasis on feeding your brain and body with nutritional substance, rather than just general junk, this model works because the food tastes so bright and yummy, brimming with umami, spice and the compelling flavors of freshness.

For a quick treat, coconut water is served inside the shell and can be scooped out for a snack, while those with a sweet tooth will appreciate the Acai Bowl, a guilt-free frozen treat. And there is a lot more to come: Snyder plans to experiment with plenty of other ingredients and gadgets, like black forbidden rice, liquid nitrogen and smokers.

“This neighborhood is more experimental and accepting than a lot of other L.A. neighborhoods,” he says.

So Westchester, how do you like your bowl?

Sustainabowl 8338 Lincoln Blvd., Westchester (661) 869-4866