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Deliciously fresh, filling vegetarian fare with a confusingly cozy ambiance

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RESTAURANT REVIEW: Life Alive

My love affair with meat is fairly well known. However the Californian in me is a full proponent of fresh produce and well-prepared vegetables, so the day after Senior Pub Night I might have been in full need of a cleansing, detoxifying lunch. Billed as an “urban oasis”, Life Alive in Central Square provides a flavorful, organic vegetarian meals that are filling and above all, fresh.

Now my San Francisco friend from home and I have a pretty high threshold for tolerating ambiances that could be considered disconcertingly hippie in the crunchy granola, peace, love, and belly rubs kind of fashion. However upon entering Life Alive I felt…confused. The line of patrons nearly reached the door and I felt disoriented, like I was standing in a San Francisco-Amsterdam love child on shrooms, when logically I knew I was in the middle of Central Square. But when a place is that committed to their aesthetic though, there really isn’t anything but to surrender and go along for the ride, even if it did mean trying to suppress the judgment of a storefront sign and menu written entirely in Papyrus font (who uses Papyrus?!)

These disclaimers about the ambiance are mostly in jest though as the food more than made up for our amusement. I had ordered “The Goddess” bowl with an additional side of squash, garlic, and avocado, which consisted of a mix of carrots, beets, broccoli, dark greens, and tofu over short-grain brown rice with their Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce drizzled over it. My friend had gotten “The Miso Masterful” with additional garlic – udon noodles in a dark barley miso broth with toasted sesame, broccoli, carrots, seaweed, and shitake mushrooms. Both of these entrees were superb – all of the produce was crisp and delicious and both the Ginger Nama Shoyu Sauce and the miso broth were incredibly flavorful. The additional money spent for the squash, avocado, and garlic add-ins was also well worth it as both provided a creamier contrast to the crunch of the rest of the meal. And while my rice could have been served warmer, the udon noodles were pleasantly well cooked and a great choice for the grey February day.

The only less enjoyable portion of the meal was both of our juice selections proved mildly disappointing. My friend’s “Simply Alive” juice (lemon, spirulina, honey, and water) was definitely an acquired taste, which reportedly got better however it reminded me too strongly of traditional Chinese medicines to fully enjoy. Similarly, my “Thrive Alive” juice (a combination of carrot, apple, and ginger) was fairly overpowering on the ginger and while searching for ways to adjust the taste I was once again completely perplexed as I stared at the jar of powdered nutritional yeast and a squeeze bottle filled with a mysterious orange liquid that was only labeled as “Dancing Passion (Vegan)”.

Overall despite my quips regarding their atmosphere, Life Alive is a definite new favorite lunchtime spot. While sitting in the cozy, mismatched furniture of their downstairs area, it was near impossible for my grumpy carnivorous self to not be grudgingly charmed by how the waiter nearly sang out the ridiculous meal names and by the quality of their food. So when both warm entrees proved to be utterly satisfying for two self-professed diehard carnivores, I’m sold.

Life Alive ($$)

765 Massachusetts Ave

617-354-5433

- Jocelyn Chan

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