Munch goes to Eden

It's been said that whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and Munch has found that to be only partially true. Among the things that stayed: a substantial portion of Munch's savings at the black jack table and Munch's dignity at an overpriced nightclub.

But the hangover and the few pounds gained from the days of buffet eating did not stay, and in fact very much came home with Munch, all the way on the red-eye flight back to Pittsburgh. After the debauchery, Munch needed something cleansing, something pure -- and by that, Munch doesn't mean another $20 vodka soda at the nightclub Pure.

Munch may have found that cleansing purity at a little eatery on Copeland Street in Shadyside called Eden. As its name might suggest, Eden attempts to get back to the basics of human eating. We're not talking chasing-down-mastodons-with-spears basics, but much of the menu is "raw," meaning no heat is used in the preparation process. (That whole inventing fire thing is so passe.)

It also trends toward vegan, with things like ground nuts substituting for cheese. There is no processed sugars, only dates, in desserts. And the only meat on the menu is optional chicken in the delightful three chili stew. You might call it chickenatarian.

The menu says they attempt to buy local, if possible. Essentially, it's the perfect antidote to an indulgent weekend in Vegas with all-you-can-eat Waygu beef, flown in from Japan for maximum pollutive effect.

Sometimes, these kinda of food movements can inspire frightening, militant personalities. But not at Eden, where our server, Barbie, gave us an enthusiastic rundown of the menu, breathlessly apologizing for all the menu items that a dinner rush had eliminated.

Ultra-Marathoning Friend of Munch, who has even given up beer in his quest for healthful eating, was a natural companion for this kind of outing. That, and because Munch had difficulty convincing any carnivorous friends or cheese-o-philes that it would be any good. But Munch was pleasantly surprised. The space, in an English basement with a recessed courtyard, was small but comfortable. Munch and UMFOM settled outside.

We started with drinks. Munch went for the Yellow Sun ($5), a dreamy concoction of mangoes and pineapples and Munch added a little bee pollen ($1) to boost immunity. Munch was less thrilled with UMFOM's red juice, an odd combination of beets and ginger, although UMFOM loved it.

Our sea green salad ($11) came with seaweed, greens and tempeh (a sort of meat imitator). Dressed in a vinegar ginger sauce, it was "awesome," declared UMFOM, and Munch agreed. Even the nattily flavored tempeh were satisfying.

We moved on to the three chili stew ($13), served with tortillas and avocado. The beans and hominy swum in a thin slightly spicy tomato-based broth, It inspired similar exclamations of satisfaction, and Munch was not left wanting for beef.

Next up, the zucchini ravioli ($13), which contained no cheese and no ravioli whatsoever. Munch wondered, is this one of those irony things the kids are into these days? Thin slices of zucchini stood in for pasta sheets and sandwiched between them was a stuffing made of crushed almonds meant to imitate the texture of ricotta. Blended with a little pesto sans parmesan, it did indeed imitate cheese. More pesto was drizzled atop the pretty dish. On another atypically warm day, it was a cool relief.

Despite arriving ravenously hungry, Munch and UMFOM left positively satisfied and energized by our healthful meal. And, at least compared to Vegas, it was soft on the wallet, too.

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