Tender Greens – a Great Halfway Lunch Spot in Studio City

IMG_6531Salami and kale salad at Tender Greens in Studio City

I’m always looking for good restaurants or bars where I can meet friends who live or work on the other side of Los Angeles. If someone’s coming from Pasadena or Beyond, or the downtown LA area, I look for places near the 405/101 intersection. Studio City is not too far east of that for me, especially if the timing is right and there are no presidents in town or major car crashes on the freeway.

Tender Greens is worth a try for the food alone. And since there are no locations of this slow-food, fast-casual chain closer to Agoura Hills, a meetup with a far-flung pal gives you the perfect excuse to venture out to Laurel Canyon and Ventura Blvd. My friend and I dined there recently at the height of lunch hour on a Thursday as guests of the restaurant to check out their fare.

Yes, the location is a bit…tricky at the lunch rush hour. Parking for this complex on the southeast corner is available (and free for 3 hours with validation), but not quick. So get there ten minutes early and be patient. You will be rewarded.

tender greens studio city

Tender Greens’ setup is the typical fast casual style: order your food at one end of the counter, pick up some optional items and drinks along the kitchen line, and pay at the cashier at the end to receive your order number. Pick a table in the spacious and bright dining room or out on the balcony overlooking the heart of the east valley, and a server brings your meal to you.

tender greens grilled thai octopus saladGrilled Thai Octopus Salad

The star of the show here is the food: first you choose the lead character from among steak, chicken, tuna, or vegetables, then pick the stage. Want it in a sandwich? On a salad? Or with mashed potatoes and crusty bread? There are also twelve “big salads” on the menu at the Studio City location that have been shaped by chef Roy Arendse. Popular choices here are his Mushroom Salad, Salami and Russian Kale salad, and the Grilled Thai Octopus salad. All greens are grown at Scarborough Farms in Oxnard, and the mushrooms come from LA FungHI.


Arendse also sent out the Backyard Marinated Steak with golden mashed potatoes and a simple spinach salad. This is just like a meal I would make for my family at dinnertime, except it was lovingly prepared by professionals and it was delicious. I can’t always guarantee that myself.


Of all the lunch items my friend Romy and I sampled, noted above, the standout was the salami and kale salad. The mixture of flavors and the just-right amount of roasted garlic vinaigrette made this dish hearty enough to satisfy the appetite but light enough that you don’t go back to your family or work with a food baby that sits in your belly all day.

IMG_6654Mushroom salad with polenta croutons

I was partial to the polenta croutons served in the mushroom salad, which I noticed when Arendse mentioned that most items at Tender Greens can be made vegan, even these. “I just leave out the cheese,” he said. So I paid closer attention and took another bite. Delicious. I’m glad I’m not vegan because these “croutons” are perfect just the way they are.

tender greens chef Roy ArendseMe with chef Roy Arendse, and a tall drink of something

House made pineapple agua fresca and lemonade mixed with hibiscus tea were the drinks that accompanied our meal and they were light and perfect. There wasn’t much room for dessert – or so we thought. Everything is made on the premises and this being November, pumpkin is a featured ingredient. We tasted a pumpkin cupcake with brown butter cream (okay not tasted, devoured), pumpkin panna cotta with vanilla creme and pepita brittle, a simple delicious macaroon, and a favorite of Arendse’s, citrus olive oil cake. Its simple, moist flavor makes it perfect for dunking, he says.

tender greens desserts

Because we sampled so many dishes, there were leftovers to take home. I believe the true test of a restaurant salad is: will it stay good long enough to eat it again later? In this case the Tender Greens food didn’t have long to wait. My husband snorked it all down when he got home that night. His favorite was the octopus, which he couldn’t believe I had ordered. “It was for a story,” I said. “I had to.”

And I’m so glad I did.

Arendse is also known for his homemade pastas, which he adds to the menu at Tender Greens occasionally during dinner hours. Don’t pass the big board of specials when you go, because one of these or other surprise delights is bound to be on offer that day.

Tender Greens
12050 W. Ventura Blvd.
Studio City, CA 91604
(818) 432-7800

Some photos by Romy Schorr

Raya at the Ritz-Carltzon, Laguna Niguel


View from our table. If you need me, I’ll be right here. At least in my imagination.

Perhaps the most delicious thing I have ever eaten in my entire life was served to me this spring at Raya.

I am only 42 years old, and for most of my life I consumed bland, processed American style foods. It is only within the last ten years that I have branched out a bit and tasted more adventurous flavors. I do this especially when hosted by restaurants, as I was on this occasion at Raya. After all, I figure, these people have gone to great lengths to impress me. I might as well pay them the compliment of tasting their preparations, even if the ingredients are items that I might have shied away from otherwise.

And so it was that on my first trip to Raya several years ago I tasted octopus carpaccio. That dish, I’m afraid to say, was not among the top ten tastes of my life, although it was spectacularly presented and my husband, a seafood lover, was quite impressed.

No, on this evening with my dear friend Melanie (whose tastes are more refined than my own) early last month, at a sunset-side table perched above the Pacific Ocean, tended to by the world’s nicest server and chef, I practically licked clean a bowl of lobster bisque poured over a 63-degree egg, whipped avocado, and spongy cubes of queso fresco.


I do like lobster bisque, but this was unusual, intriguing, and induced groans of delight in both of us. I had not known about the 63-degree egg, that it is a thing in restaurants now like pork belly was a thing year or so ago. It doesn’t matter what thing is en vogue, for me. I just like what I like when I like it.



This is Melanie. She is very happy. I’m making the same face behind the camera.

And everything our server set before us was something I liked, starting with a crisp white wine to toast the sunset, a basket of fresh gluten-free Brazilian cheese bread rolls, spongy delights of airy dough served with goat butter, ricotta spread, and tomato jam. Sea bass and ahi tuna ceviche served with plantain & yuca chips. Rock shrimp quesadillas with whipped avocado aioli and a thick marinara-like salsa.




Sea scallops with pork belly in a pool of sweet creamy polenta with perfect little sprigs of cilantro, snap peas, and heirloom grape tomatoes that taste like spring itself. (These were favorites over the mushroom huarache, whose ingredients were all so very promising, but the combo came up short of its table-mates.)


And because our server knew it would be a mistake for us to have never tasted Raya’s truffle manchego fries, she brought us an entire basket. “Oh well,” we sighed, “it is our job to make room for these, isn’t it?” Somehow we found it, and we were very happy we did. Truffle is a taste I reserve for indulgent moments. Come to think of it, so are French fries. Together, with Raya’s homemade chipotle aioli, they make a most satisfying indulgence indeed.

And then, dessert.

Many superlatives came out of our mouths that evening about the things we put into them, and a lot of those happened during dessert. The California Citrus Torte is served with strawberry margarita sorbet (my favorite dessert flavor among all of this), a thin white chocolate wafer, Veuve Cliquot jello cubes (what?!), lemon grass, and a sprinkle of what looked like white chocolate chips at first but were made out of malted milk.


We also sampled (um, and devoured completely) the sorbet trio: raspberry, passion fruit, and coconut. All three were fresh and delicious and tasted like the embodiment of their names.

Raya delivers the style, service, and taste you would expect from a dinner inside a Ritz-Carlton. If you go out to a fancy dinner only once every few years, do it here. It is an experience you will not forget.

Raya at the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
One Ritz-Carlton Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
(949) 240-2000
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