I wasn't sure what to expect when one of my friends arranged a dinner party at the newly opened Rawlicious raw vegan restaurant in downtown Ottawa. As a nutritionist, I really appreciate the immense health benefits of incorporating more raw, live foods into one's diet. As a foodie, however, I will admit that raw vegan fare rarely tantilizes my taste buds. Raw vegan food can absolutely be delicious, but I have found far more to be ho-hum than scintillating. Still, I went to dinner ready to be impressed. And it is a good thing I did because was I ever!
Ottawa resident Natalie Papineau deserves high praise for the incredible job she has done with this restaurant. From start to finish, my impression of Rawlicious Ottawa was exceptional.
Rawlicious is located at 381 Cooper Street in what appears to be a refurnished brick and stone house. Walking up the stairs to the restaurant, I felt like I was going into a friend's home. As I opened the door to the restaurant, my feeling of joy and contentment increased. The dining area is beautifully appointment with lots of natural wood and local artwork, but the prevailing impression is one of zen-like calm. I don't think I have ever been to a restaurant that managed to so engulf me in a cocoon of warmth and comfort. For lack of a better way to put it, I felt like I had walked through the door into a healing oasis. And, as anyone familiar with Centretown might agree, "healing oasis" is far from the standard vibe of the neighbourhood.
Rawlicious is something of a Godsend for anyone with food sensitivities. Everything on the menu is void of gluten, dairy, and refined sugar--three of the more common food sensitivities. While I would ask the staff for confirmation, I didn't notice anything on the menu containing peanuts either.
I found it delightfully entertaining to watch one of my dining companions order an appetizer and main and then immediately precede to place a takeout order for lunch the following day. With a gluten and a dairy sensitivity, it was so rare for her to be able to order anything off of a menu. This was not an opportunity she was prepared to pass up!
Everyone at our table of 10+ people was thrilled with their meals. A fair few of us might have been nutritionists, but that doesn't mean we lack taste buds! ;-)
When many people think of raw vegan food, they immediately envision "rabbit food"--lettuce, sprouts, and not a heck of a lot else. Some get hungry just thinking about how dissatisfied they might feel after such a meal.
Our table ordered an array of items, including juices, smoothies, appetizers, salads, entrees, and desserts. Between the lot of us, we covered just about every category on the menu. Everything was fantastic. Not only that, everyone walked away feeling full and satisfied. I only ordered an appetizer (having wanted to save room for the caramel square that had caught my eye ;-)), but I was full after just that! I would have been sad if it hadn't been so good!
While everyone enjoyed their food so much that it wouldn't surprise me if we all arrange to meet again and go back next week, the real menu standouts appear to have been the Pad Thai (which is what Papineau said she recommends to men who doubt that "vegetables" will do a satisfactory job of filling them up), the quesadillas, and the DESSERTS.
I almost cried when the desserts came out, they looked so good. I debated ignoring the fullness in my stomach and ordering one anyways, but decided that I would just look forward to coming back soon. It all looked decadent, but the banana split (made with coconut milk "ice cream") and the salted caramel square looked particularly incredible.
Rawlicious' goal is to serve the healthiest, most delicious food you can find outside of your own home, with a speciality for super healthy nutritious food. I would say they hit the nail on the head.
I think that there is something on the menu for everyone. I would definitely recommend giving Rawlicious a try and seeing if you are as impressed by the experience as I was. I think you will be happy that you did.
Here's the menu if you would like to check it out: