RESTAURANTS : Counter Intelligence : Earth, Wind but No Fire at O2 : Oxygen bar’s raw food is strictly vegan, with shapeless but some tasty entrees that resemble Flintstone fare.


Welcome to O2, Woody Harrelson’s Sunset Strip restaurant and oxygen bar. It looks sort of like a Roman ruin appointed with cobalt-blue chairs and stiff, canvas-like hemp fiber drapes, except that above the faux-weathered marble walls there’s a colorful mural of a blazing star--perhaps distant Vega, where the vegan diet originated (OK, I might be wrong about that).

Yes, O2’s menu is vegan, meaning no meat, no eggs and no dairy products, and on top of that it’s all raw. Nothing is cooked at all, possibly a safety factor in view of all the bottled oxygen lying around.

We’re really back to gnawing roots and berries here, and the food is often desperately crude-looking, like something the Flintstones would serve; only a sort of sushi roll stuffed with carrots has a clear shape. But to vegans, that’s not a criticism. They seem to prefer their food coarse and disheveled. Even the dessert sauces, which could be applied in attractive swirls, are clumsy dribbles.


If you’re ordering something you’d ordinarily eat raw, you’ll have no trouble enjoying it. For instance, the freshly squeezed juices (though the juicer does spoil the New Age mood somewhat with its intermittent chain saw howl).

And the salads can be good. The Chinese spinach salad, tossed with apples and walnuts, is like a Waldorf salad with a pleasantly loopy soy dressing. The “magic mushroom” appetizer is raw marinated mushroom caps stuffed with a tangy walnut puree, something like a walnut hummus. The “crab cakes,” a puree of almonds and carrots, have a similar, vaguely Middle Eastern effect.


But the (perfectly good) guacamole introduces you to one of the serious problems with fireless cuisine: what passes for bread. It’s garnished with chewy, sludgy slabs of pureed sprouted wheat.

And don’t think they can’t ruin a salad here just because they don’t have a range in the kitchen. The “kuan yin” salad is shredded lettuce, seaweed and sweet peppers in a miso dressing that is no more than lubrication for a grim bowl of faintly bitter rabbit food.

O2’s “pastas” are basically the same sort of salad, because sliced zucchini stands in for noodles. “Mary Magdalen’s magic,” tossed with sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers, has a rather harsh basil flavor (if you can’t have any cheese in your pesto, you pay a price). “Michaelangelo’s muse” isn’t bad--the cashew-macadamia cream sauce is tangy, once again recalling hummus.

There actually is hummus (made from sprouted chickpeas) on the menu as an appetizer, and it shows up again as the topping on “pyramid,” a sprouted-wheat “pizza” that’s the best entree here. The crumbly crust is pretty close to crisp, and the result actually looks like a pizza, all sprinkled with black olives and chopped tomatoes. “Yoda’s wish” is a less successful “pizza” with a heavy, ill-conceived topping of fresh and sun-dried tomatoes, olives and mushrooms.


Since the sprouted chickpea falafel isn’t fried, it’s sort of mushy, but it tastes perfectly good on its bed of red cabbage and greens. Avoid the hemp burger, though. The “bun” is like shortbread with a raw flour taste, and the hemp layer contributes nothing but a swampy vegetal taste.


Most of the desserts are fairly tasty, even when they look as if somebody just spilled something onto your plate. One night there was a special cake of ground coconut topped with carob frosting, like a giant Mounds bar. Menage a torte is something similar with a crumbly sprouted-wheat crust and a filling of mixed fruit puree.

A berry pie comes on the same sort of crust (though the berry flavor is partly drowned out by bananas). Needless to say, since sugar is prepared by cooking and the use of honey exploits bees, this is a pie no sweeter than the raw fruit it’s made from.

This column does not review gases, but for your interest, from O2’s juice bar/dining room you can peek into an adjacent oxygen-sniffing room, where the walls are yellow, the furniture fluoresces purple and people are inhaling oxygen-enriched air from gigantic hookahs.

A reminder: It’s not polite to stare at folks who have tubes up their noses, especially when they’re paying $13 a pop.


O2, 8788 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, (310) 360-9002. Open 11 a.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Friday, 6 p.m.-2 a.m. Saturday; closed Sunday and Monday. No alcohol. Parking lot. All major cards. Dinner for two, $30 to $46.


What to Get: fresh juices, magic mushrooms, Chinese spinach salad, pyramid, falafel, menage a torte.