The concept of fast casual has been quietly gaining momentum in the past three years. Working under the notion that the food you’re consuming may have been prepared quickly but is still healthy, places like Panda Express and Chipotle have been praised for their renditions. My issue with those places is not only are they not very good, but one happens to be produced by a certain corporate conglomerate: McDonald’s. Knowing this ruins the feeling that I’m getting quick, fresh, healthy food with sustainable products … instead it feels like some sort of automated food assembly. No thanks!  

Fresheast, a new Asian influenced fast-casual concept in West Hollywood, is working to up the standards on our ideas of good food quick. Created by Ravine Hiranand, his goal was to build a space that “brings the diversity of Asian cooking at a great price point, while educating on healthy cooking and a healthy environment.”

The restaurant’s environment is literally green and gives the impression that you are about to embark on a healthy culinary journey. Most of the design of fresheast is eco-friendly, taking the bright colors from the countries fresheast’s cuisine borrows from. There are rich hues of blue (Japan), yellow (India) and deep purples (Korea) on the walls when you step in. The shelves, tables and counters are derived from reclaimed wood and the “silverware” is all disposable, 100-percent recyclable materials. I felt like, wow, I haven’t even tried the menu yet, but I already felt a lot of thought went into this feng shui space.

Hiranand teamed up with renowned chef from Hotel Bel Air Jonathan Schwichtenberg to create an organic menu with heavy emphasis on spices from Thailand, India and Japan. These in-house made spices provide the flavor profiles for the certified natural meats and local vegetables. Since fresheast does not use standard flavor agents like butter and salt, this requires a lot of creativity to produce genuine tasteful food, and fresheast has shown it is up to the challenge with items like the 5 Spice Glazed Salmon, a good-sized portion of organic salmon accompanied with brown rice and asparagus, and the Spicy Garlic Noodles with seasonal vegetables.

The vegan items are made in a separate pan to adhere to vegan standards, and none of the items use nuts – a big plus for those with allergies.

On my second visit, I tried one of the Larb Gai Bowl, Jidori chicken mixed with red onion, mint, cilantro and lettuc served over rice noodles. Another favorite, the Indian Vegetable Curry Bowl, is accompanied by white or brown rice, flash-cooked vegetables and red lentil dal. If white or brown rice is not your thing to eat when ordering one of the bowls, you can order quinoa, which is not quite a grain but has a nice fluffy texture.  

Even though the food is geared towards staying healthy, you can order beer, wine and sake here – organic of course! Nothing like a crisp California chardonnay to pair with a Tandoori Shrimp Salad or an Angus Beef Fe Burger with marinated cucumbers!

Fresheast has a juice bar with everything made to order. I had the signature juice, as I am a big fan of spinach and kale. I know it sounds weird but paired with oranges, apples, lemon and beets, you hardly know the green vegetables are there. Your body will feel a lot better after consuming it, far superior to soft drinks and “light” iced teas, that’s for sure. But if that’s too adventurous, I recommend Mango Lassi, a very popular Indian drink with fresh mango, yogurt and raw, organic palm sugar.

Fresheast also serves seasonal sorbets and yogurts, again using locally sourced ingredients. They are lactose-intolerant friendly, which makes me happy, so I can try a new flavor on my next visit.

I think fresheast has definitely raised the fast casual bar, making all of these delicious options and still staying within a reasonable budget. None of the menu items are priced higher than $12.95 (the highest being for salmon and lamb entrees), and if you were to purchase an entire bottle of wine for you and your guests, they range from $15 to $19. Also, fresheast offers a 10-percent discount to those driving a hybrid or electric vehicle, or if you have arrived by bike.

With plans on expanding in the near future, fresheast is likely attracting even more health-conscious diners, with great flavors and affordable prices.

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