Vegetarians and vegans alike are often on a continual hunt for restaurants that cater to their strict dietary needs. Then, there are those like myself who have little dietary requirements other than, "If it tastes good, eat it!" And if it happens to be on the healthier side, then all the better.

That’s exactly what Sante La Brea provides. The family owned and run establishment is a humble, down-to-earth café located at the corner of La Brea Avenue and Beverly Boulevard. Though the mini-waterfall at the café’s entrance borders on the tacky side, the feel of the place is relaxed and pleasant, with the menu being a lengthy, tantalizing read. With several pages of both vegetarian and meat lover selections, along with an extensive menu of ‘designer drinks & tonics,’ it took my guest and I nearly 10 minutes to finally settle on what to eat.

While we enjoyed revving up our taste buds by reading the menu, we started off with the perfect drink for just after noon: the Lemerlot ($1.95), a simple but surprisingly pleasant mixture of freshly squeezed lemonade and Merlot wine. The combination was so perfect I doubt I’ll be able to drink Merlot solo ever again.

For a main course, I decided on one of Sante’s "Signature Specials" – a swordfish in a bed of steamed, garden-fresh veggies, a side of mild curry rice and a small house salad tossed in an Italian dressing reminiscent of the Good Earth’s tangy Tahini Poppy Seed. The veggies were undoubtedly fresh as could be, although the rice bordered a bit too much on the soft and sticky side. The swordfish melted nicely with the slightly bitter tartar sauce, well complimenting our nearly finished Lemerlot’s.

My guest dined on the Asparagus Penne ($10.95) with added chicken, as recommended by our waiter. The tender asparagus spears sautéed with onions and red pepper in a ginger tamari tofu sauce were plenty in themselves, but as much as she enjoyed her large meal, finishing the large portion was out of the question.

We also sampled one of Sante’s many tonic drinks, specifically "Arthur’s Blend" ($3.25), which includes ginseng, guarana, gingko biloba, yerba mate, gotu kola, schizandra and green tea. All that healthy stuff and it tasted good, too – sweetly carbonated but with a well-balanced undertone of bitterness.

For dessert, we alternated between bites of the Chocolate Banana Cake and the Banana Tofu Cheesecake (both $4.95), as well as an ample supply of strong coffee. The Chocolate Banana Cake had a subtle and memorable tartness, while my favorite, the Banana Tofu Cheesecake, did something few desserts do – it left no sugar-induced sensation of teeth-rotting-in-the-making.

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