Carrots don’t always get the credit they deserve. They’re often relegated to a raw snack in our kids’ lunch boxes or a holiday side dish. But the nutrient-dense root vegetable has slowly been shifting into the spotlight on many restaurant menus, with chefs playing off the veggie’s versatility to make it the star of tacos, salads, and even entrées. Here are 3 SoCal restaurants proving that the almighty carrot is much more than rabbit food.
Farmer’s Bottega, San Diego
A beautiful burnt carrot salad exemplifies this farmhouse-inspired Mission Hills restaurant’s farm-to-fork philosophy. Italian-born chef and owner Alberto Morreale says he created the salad—a customer favorite—in 2011 to blend sweet and sour flavors in a homestyle dish reminiscent of what he grew up eating in Italy.
The dish features organic rainbow carrots baked in brown sugar and honey, paired with a peppery arugula and watercress salad tossed with avocado, red onion, cilantro, crumbled goat cheese, and a citrus-thyme vinaigrette.
Scarlet Kitchen & Lounge, Rancho Mission Viejo
Chef-owner Paige Riordan wanted to create plant-based dishes at her omnivorous restaurant that skip imitation meats in favor of colorful produce.
Meant to mimic the flavors of pulled pork, her pulled-carrot tacos center on shredded carrots that are slow-roasted and then sautéed in a smoky vegan barbecue sauce. Riordan layers a flour tortilla with watermelon radish, avocado, and a cashew crema, then adds the carrots and finishes with a cabbage herb slaw and jalapeño. Closed Mondays.
n/soto, Los Angeles
When Niki Nakayama and Carole Iida-Nakayama, chef-owners of the longtime Michelin-starred Japanese restaurant n/naka, opened their izakaya-inspired restaurant last year, they knew they wanted to create a crudo dish. Instead of seafood, they decided to go with a vegetarian fennel-carrot tartare.
The duo chose to showcase carrots’ natural sweetness and vibrant color, using chopped roasted carrots, pickled carrots, and pickled fennel as the base and mixing it with a carrot cream. The fresh pieces of carrot and fennel on top are artfully sliced to look like flower petals, and the orange dusting on the plate is actually a powder made from dehydrated carrot peelings. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.