Tuesday, October 26, 2010

EXTREME Health Food @ Organic Lives

I went to visit a producer friend who is working out of a new office in Mount Pleasant. When he mentioned going out for lunch, I mentally started going through options in the area- sushi, Indian, Noodle soup, greasy spoon diners...then he threw me for a loop and suggested a raw food/vegan restaurant around the corner. I was intrigued (and starving) so I immediately agreed, and off we headed to Organic Lives.
I must’ve walked and driven by this unassuming warehouse-looking, brick building 100 times and not known what exactly was going on inside. Organic Lives is a restaurant that is completely vegan AND completely raw. Nothing has been heated over 46 ° C. The interior is very minimalist- white, stainless steel, sterile, and a lot of empty space. It has a very clean and almost scientific atmosphere and I would never describe it as “warm” or “cozy.”
I expected a limited menu, but they surprised me. There is a wide variety of soups, wraps, pastas, curries, and even a pizza, a nacho, and sushi option. Of course, the culinary minds at Organic Lives have come up with their own raw vegan substitutes for all of the “meat” and “cheese” elements in these dishes. The “salmon” is really a mixture of sprouted seeds and nuts shaped into a fillet and dehydrated. The “cheeses” are nondairy spreads made of macadamia nuts, pine nuts, and more, ground into a paste. And the foie gras isn’t the controversial duck liver version but a vegan spread made of sprouted pecans and fresh veggies. Soups are served cold and bread products are dehydrated, not baked. Crackers and pizza shells are made of dehydrated vegetable purées, and the breads are made from sprouted almonds ground to the consistency of flour. Our server was very quiet and laid back- she gave even more detailed description of the dishes and offered up plenty of recommendations.
My dining companion ordered one of their raw, vegan sushi options- Sprouted Pecan roll with sprouts, veggies, mango, avocado ($7) and a small Caesar salad ($5)with A Herb-Infused Himalayan Pine Seed Dressing and Almond Croutons. The pecan roll looked like sushi, but didn’t taste like sushi. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because it was still tasty. The crushed pecans had an awesome texture and depth of flavour that was well complimented by the thick, slightly sweet peanutty/sesame dipping sauce.
I’m not big on Caesar salads- but I had a bite of this and it was exceptional. The salty, spicy, almond-based croutons were really tasty.  And this salad, unlike most restaurant caesar salads had the perfect amount of dressing: not slathered or goopy, but each leaf was o-so lightly glazed.
I ordered a Sicilain Wrap Combo ($12): a fresh alfalfa and sunflower sprout wrap with either soup or side salad. I went for the soup option, Creamy Red Pepper “an exquisite soup rich in flavour with a subtle spice.” Our server let me know right away that this soup would be served at room temperature. Even though I was prepared for this, it still felt weird eating cold, thick soup on a cold, rainy day. This soup was really thick vegetable that tasted like there was absolutely no “filler” used, just straight up vegetables. It was super dense and very filling with a subtle spice. I could appreciate the quality and effort that went into it but I actually found the taste to be a bit harsh and sharp.
I love the actual Sicilian Wrap. Instead of a tortilla or flatbread, the use a pressed, dehydrated, sundried tomato wrap. It has the texture and appearance of fruit leather. It had an awesome, rich, salty flavour, and it really held the wrap’s innards together (the only downside is that it was a bit sticky and I could feel it getting stuck in my teeth). Speaking of innards, the fresh sprouts and crisp veg were delicious and lightly drizzled with a super- flavourful dressing that tasted like tomato and basil freshly picked out of a garden.
Presentation on both meals was beautiful and you can definitely tell that Organic Lives puts a tonne of effort into everything from sourcing local, quality ingredients, processing materials in house, and creating innovative/ inspired meals. All of this effort and attention to details means pricing is higher than a lot of other lunch options in the area (Thanks for treating Stan!), so I wouldn’t come here very often, and save it for times when my body is craving EXTREME health food (hangovers and/or coming down with a cold).
Organic Lives
1829 Quebec St
Vancouver, BC V5T
Neighbourhood: Mount Pleasant
778) 588-7777             

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