A good rice bowl—from Japanese donburi to Korean bibimbap—taps into our fundamental needs for convenience and satiety. But why limit the foundation to rice? Burly alternatives like quinoa, farro, and bulgur—once the exclusive domain of health food co-ops—are now fashionable fixtures on menus across the city. In the hands of the right chef, these humble grain bowls become brilliant strata of flavors and textures.
Christine Moore, owner of the new Lincoln bakery and café in Pasadena, serves warm bulgur dressed with fruit and cream in the morning; lunchtime brings farro with toasted chickpeas, roasted fennel, and velvety romesco sauce. “Contrast is the most important part,” says Moore, who applies the same logic to her famous salty-sweet Little Flower Candy Co. caramels.
At the Sycamore Kitchen, Karen Hatfield tosses warm wheatberries with lentils, barley, chiles, and za’atar-spiced chicken, then tops the mélange with two fried eggs. The bowl at Superba Food + Bread—made with quinoa and farro—has a beachier vibe, thanks to crunchy collard slaw, crushed cashews, avocado, and pickled pink turnips, but it’s nourishing enough to fuel the lunchtime parade of surfers. Erica Daking, who runs Highland Park’s Kitchen Mouse café, offers a vegan brown rice bowl with collard greens, yams, and tangy lacto-fermented buffalo sauce. It’s a perennial best-seller.
As Moore can attest, the popularity of bowls is simple to explain. “Anything in a bowl is comforting, really. That’s how people were meant to eat.”
Lincoln, 1992 Lincoln Ave., Pasadena, 626-765-6746
The Sycamore Kitchen, 143 S. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, 323-939-0151
Superba Food + Bread, 1900 Lincoln Blvd., Venice, 310-907-5075
Kitchen Mouse, 5904 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park, 323-259-9555