Health raiser

Better than a V8? This is the “balance dish” at Conscious Cuisine.

Better than a V8? This is the “balance dish” at Conscious Cuisine.

Photo By amy Beck

Conscious Cuisine is open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Conscious Cuisine is a small eatery that occupies the old Landrum’s Diner on Virginia Street. The building has a lot of character. Conscious Cuisine offers healthy food choices including vegan and gluten-free options. Inside, the restaurant is very clean and painted a cheery orange with fluffy clouds on the ceiling. There are eclectic paintings on the walls, including broken skateboards. There are only a few tables inside, a small outdoor eating area and a small kitchen in view of the dining area.

I met my friend Megan there on a weekday evening, and we had the place to ourselves. Megan was recently involved in a Megan’s-hand-versus-the-mixer type accident where the mixer won, so she arrived doped on pain pills with a huge bandage over her mutilated finger. I figured this was going to be quite the treat dining with someone who couldn’t focus their eyes, but she held it together like a champ and was even able to read from the large menu posted on the wall, which boasted options for vegans, vegetarians and carnivores.

They have fusion dishes where you get a starch, vegetables and a choice of chicken, tofu or sirloin ($1 extra), hot and cold sandwiches and a couple of salads and some sides. To start, we ordered the sweet potato fries ($2). The friendly staff member brought us a large plate of thin cut, hot but slightly greasy fries. The crispy ones were fantastic. We also ordered the falafel and tahini ($4), which came with four round bites of falafel with a bowl of tahini for dipping. Unfortunately, the falafel was bland, and the tahini was bitter. The bitterness was so unexpected that I kept spooning more and more on the falafel to make sure that’s what I really tasted. Yeah, I didn’t even have pain pills to blame this genius move on.

For entrées, I ordered the Red Spice ($9) which is a fusion dish with broccoli, bean spouts, onion, rice noodles, red curry and chicken. Megan ordered the Mad Pad ($9), which came with bean sprouts, onions, red peppers, rice noodles, peanut sauce and tofu. Both dishes were listed as vegan. I’m not vegan—I guess me ordering the chicken probably gave that away—but it’s nice to know if I ever decide to give a crap about my health that I have options. The Red Spice had large broccoli florets that were cooked well but the dish overall lacked actual spice. Additionally, the curry flavor didn’t have any of the sweetness that usually accompanies the spiciness. The chicken was sliced thinly, and there was a lot of it.

While everything tasted fresh, overall, I found the dish to be rather boring. If I order something that has spice in the name, I expect some heat. Megan’s dish was unfortunately not any better and even her pain pills didn’t help. The red peppers had a nice kick but overwhelmed the other flavors. Additionally, the peanut sauce was thin. The dish needed an additional texture like actual peanuts.

I think Conscious Cuisine has some good things going for it, such as fresh food and a friendly staff, and I applaud them trying to bring some healthier food choices to Reno, but they need to step up the flavors.