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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Café Manna's Refreshing Vegetarian Menu

Inviting space, imaginative food make Brookfield restaurant stand out

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Among the few area restaurants devoted to vegetarian food, most have basic settings. One exception is Café Manna, which opened in Brookfield Town Centre in 2008. Located in the building just east of Sendik's Market, Café Manna is an inviting place to dine.

The completely vegetarian menu uses organic ingredients whenever possible. Items are color-coded to indicate raw, vegan or gluten-free options. One specialty is the raw tacos.

A complimentary starter of pita chips with cashew/coconut hummus arrives immediately. Savor this as you explore the recently updated menu.

New items include raw tamales, a “meatball” sub and the “black and white” entrée, which offers black bean and quinoa cakes served over white hominy hash. One item that remains from the previous menu is the Café Manna burger ($10), a dish that showcases everything that is good about this restaurant. A large patty of lentils seasoned with nutmeg, ginger and allspice comes with lettuce, a slice of tomato and Jamaican jerk aioli. A side vegetable is included as well (in my case, perfectly grilled spears of fresh asparagus). The allspice complements the mild spice of the Jamaican jerk. The meat is not missed at all, as the flavors mix to create a very satisfying taste.

Sandwiches and entrees tend to be large, so the hummus is the only starter course you will need. Still, it would be a shame to pass on the delightful soups ($4-$7). Lentil soup is always available, along with a daily special. One special is Middle Eastern stew that combines carrot, potato and garbanzo and cannellini beans in a fragrant broth with flavors of turmeric. Even better is watermelon gazpacho, a version of a classic gazpacho Andaluz that substitutes watermelon puree for the tomato base. Minced cucumber, bell pepper and parsley add to this sweet, cool and refreshing choice—perfect for a hot summer day.

A new salad is cold pho ($12). Not to be mistaken for the beef and noodle soup of Vietnam, this pho is a nice summertime salad with ginger-lime vinaigrette. It has a base of soba (buckwheat noodles), with a wide assortment of veggies, including radish sprouts, red cabbage, carrots, sweet red peppers, pea pods and portobello mushrooms. Sweetness is provided by pieces of fresh orange and sesame-seed-glazed almonds.

Corn fritters ($14), which find inspiration from Louisiana, are a trio of corn flour pancakes with a Creole drizzle that is spicy and a bit like remoulade—a welcome touch. They are served over a succotash of broad beans, black-eyed peas, summer squash, red bell pepper and mustard greens.

Café Manna is often very busy, thanks to its tasty, health-conscious menu. In addition to tables indoors and outdoors, a counter runs along the window. There is no bar, but diners will find a list of organic and sustainable wines and a small selection of local beers. The tea list includes options with and without caffeine.

The menu is a refreshing discovery, as Café Manna applies great imagination to its vegetarian offerings. This is the type of place that deserves success.

Café Manna

3815 N. Brookfield Road, Brookfield

(262) 790-2340

$$

Credit Cards: All Major

cafemanna.com

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