Chow Bella

Flavor-Packed Vegetarian Food at Chakra 4

The name of Chakra 4 Herb & Tea House is somewhat misleading in that it offers so much more than dried leaves. We're not saying that you shouldn't sip some tea and stock up on herbs and spices for your kitchen, but while you're there, stay and have a healthy, flavor-packed lunch or dinner. They serve more than run-of-the-mill salads and wraps, and they don't offer any of the million varieties of fake meat. Okay, we admit that it might look like a new agey hangout, but if you reserve judgment, you might just be surprised by the relaxing, satiating experience.

Perhaps the best part is that owner Kita Centalla is an herbalist who has been studying herbal medicine since 1983. So while "vegetarian" doesn't automatically mean that food is good for you, thanks to Kita and Chef Justin, Chakra 4's menu features a ton of nutrient-rich ingredients that have proven health benefits. The restaurant's website also touts: "Chakra 4 sources only the highest quality organic produce and ingredients for our dishes. Maintaining this level of quality and integrity is our number one priority...We take great care not to serve foods that are pre-made, frozen, or in any way un-naturally preserved."

Being in a tea house, of course we had to start off with a pot of Go Chai, which has black tea, cinnamon, fennel, cardamom, coriander, ginger, orange peel, cloves, star anise, and white peppercorns. That's a long list of stuff, but the flavors marry together nicely to make a classic cup of Indian-style chai. It's prepared with house-made almond milk, and customers can easily buy some to enjoy at home.

There's probably not a bad thing on the menu, but the best dish has got to be the Moroccan Nomad Stew. Hearty and rich, this vegan stew is made of vegetables, chickpeas, raisins, cashews, and Moroccan spices. Then, it's served over fluffy quinoa pilaf. As good as all of that sounds, this is one meal that's definitely greater than the sum of its parts. It's unbelievably flavorful without being overwhelming, and with whole grain, vitamins, protein, and fiber, it makes for one filling meal. (Fun fact: Although a seed, quinoa is usually grouped with whole grains.)

While we promised that Chakra 4 doesn't have run-of-the-mill wraps, they do have wraps - just not boring ones. The Black Bean Sunflower Wrap is made with black bean sunflower hummus, mixed greens, jack cheese (or vegan nut cheese), red onion, carrot, celery, cucumber, bell pepper, heirloom tomato, spiced sunflower seeds, and spicy chipotle salsa. While this wrap has a little kick from the chipotle, it's maybe a 3.5 out of 10 on the heat index, so that shouldn't stop many people from enjoying it. Honestly, this might be the best wrap in town. Like the Moroccan Nomad Stew, it's fresh, flavorful, and not something that can be found in other restaurants.

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Dominique Chatterjee