Hearing the words “raw” and “vegan” used to make me want to run the other way. There’s nothing compelling about either. Let me introduce you to both and then you’ll understand why.
- Vegans are Vegetarians to the nth degree. They do not consume, or use, any products derived from animals. This includes eating meat, dairy, eggs and honey or wearing leather, silk and fur. A lifestyle decision that is typically made for ethical reasons. Giving up the leather purse is one thing, but I’d be lost without my weekend omeletes and salmon dinners.
- Raw Foodists limit their consumption to uncooked and unprocessed foods, primarily plants-based. They believe heating foods to a temperature beyond 46 °C (115 °F) destroys nutrients and enzymes that are essential for digestion. Raw foodists strive to eat raw 75% of the time! Following the Elimination Diet is a walk in the park in comparison to this.
A raw vegan menu doesn’t necessarily scream “Tasty!”, but I like a bit of adventure with my food. Especially if there’s a “good for me” factor and it fits in the Elimination Diet. So, I opened my arms (and mouth) in an effort to embrace this healthy lifestyle and their food.
It all began when my long-time girlfriend Michelle and I planned to meet for dinner. With Michelle in Burlington and myself in Toronto, we picked a central meeting point – good ol’ Port Credit. After hours of restaurant research, the plan was to stop by Raw Aura for an appetizer, then escape for Mexican. Before we knew it, we had devoured 2 apps, 2 entrees, dessert plus a few glasses of wine (at least they’ve got wine!). We never made it for Mexican. I’ve been planning to head back since, and being on this gluten/dairy-free thing gave me an excuse.
The Location: 94 Lakeshore Rd E (w. of Hurontario St), Mississauga / Port-Credit. Yes, you have to venture outside the walls of Toronto.
The Menu: I was pleasantly surprised by the range of menu options. There are approx 12 apps and 12 entrees to choose from and prices range from $8 to $12. EVERYTHING on the menu is uncooked, gluten-free, dairy-free, meat-free and an added bonus, ORGANIC! They also haven’t forgotten about our friends with common allergies. MANY items are soy and nut-free.
Our Order: When you first glance at the items below you’re probably thinking “Holy cow, that’s a lot of food for two people”. I actually went to Raw Aura again with Keith (since it’s Elimination Diet friendly), so I’m merging the two meals in this review to give you the bigger picture.
Orchard / Kale Salad
- Orchard Salad ($12) – Kale, slivered apples and sun-dried tomatoes were the key ingredients. I’d never thought of having kale raw (one of the healthiest veggies by the way) but that’s what gives this dish its cleansing quality. I swear I heard my body thanking me while eating this. The texture is odd at first but you get used to it, and the flavor makes up for it. This gets a 7/10.
- Nori Roll Platter ($12) – Overall an 8/10. I love avocado (and you know how I feel about sushi) so no surprise this was a winner. The dipping sauce remains a mystery, but a nice complement. I learned afterwards that the “sushi rice” was actually sunflower seeds & almond ginger. Could have fooled me! It comes with 8 pieces but we were left with 2 when I remembered to take the photo to the left. THAT’S how good it was.
| The Mains:
- Pizza ($9) – This was #1 in our books (excluding dessert). An 8.5/10. Remember, this place is gluten-free. Crust included. The 2 slices were topped with sun-dried tomatoes, peppers, cashew and tomato sauce. As you can see, the crust is grainier than your usual Gino’s pizza because it is made with sprouted buckwheat. The thought of grainy pizza might not sound appealing, but trust me, it’s good. Heck, trust Keith! He is very particular about his pizza and he picked this as his fave.
Buckwheat – Don’t let its name fool you. Buckwheat belongs to the rhubarb family and contains NO wheat whatsoever. Rice is typically the go-to when it comes to avoiding gluten, but little did we know that the alternative kicks its butt. Buckwheat has more than 3x the iron, calcium, fiber, and potassium. Buckwheat is also just shy of being a complete protein (containing 8 out of 9 essential amino acids), making it a protein powerhouse in comparison to wheat and rice. Buckwheat pancakes are calling my name!
- “Lasagna” ($12) – I gave it a 6/10. Interesting, but didn’t excite me like the others. Unlike the pizza and ravioli, not sure this deserves “quotes”. Hardly looks or tastes like “lasagna”, so it may have been better off named “the veggie stack” or something. Strips of zucchini replaced the standard noodle in this dish, which is smothered with the same cashew and tomato sauces used in the aforementioned. Keith and I agree that we would have ranked this higher had we known it was served cold. Not room temperature, but cold-ish. We warned the table next to us and that made the difference – they really liked it. Now you have the heads-up, so go ahead and enjoy!
- Ravioli ($9) – If there was one photo I wish I had taken, it would have been of this dish. Go figure I had the ravioli during my first visit to Raw Aura when I had no camera on hand. Nor did I have any reason to take photos given that “Me. Myself. And Food.” was not yet conceived. I’m often skeptical of those veggie places that like to create mock versions of real meat-based dishes and put things like “meatballs” in quotes. This skepticism is overruled at Raw Aura, especially with this “ravioli”. The “noodles” are made out of thinly sliced parsnips and stuffed with cashew “ricotta”. I gave this an 8/10. Not bad coming from an “Italian”.
- Raspberry “Cheesecake” ($10) – I have 3 words to describe this: “Best Non-Cheesecake Ever”. No exaggeration. This was in-cred-i-ble. Keith also has a love affair with cheesecake and he put this amongst the best he’s ever tasted (and it does NOT contain cheese). It’s actually made with cashews, which justifies the lofty price. It was all we could talk about over the next 12 hours (and still to this day). I’m telling you, if you’re not allergic to nuts you MUST, I repeat you MUST try this piece of heaven. I called to order the full cake for a dinner party the following night, but kiboshed that plan when we found out it was $70! I settled for a Dufflet sour cream cheesecake (Sour Cherry) instead…also a great choice.
|The Scene: It’s quiet, casual and cozy with room for ~20 people. Given its niche appeal, I didn’t expect to see the place as busy as it was. We were nestled up to the table beside us at one point, but were so engrossed in the food it didn’t matter.
The Damage: It was $70 the first time for 2 apps, 1 main, 1 dessert and a few glasses of wine. It hovered around the same price with Keith, we just ate more without wine. A little pricier than your standard restaurant but it’s about the quality of food here, with most being organic. Plus they get a premium for the creativity behind these dishes!
You should go if:
- Attentive service is just as important as the food. They treat you well here and are patient when it comes to addressing a multitude of questions from raw/vegan amateurs like us. Last time I was there, the chef spent most of the night chatting with us which made you feel right at home.
- You’re lactose or gluten intolerant – you can order and enjoy ANYTHING on the menu stress-free.
- You’re looking to get out of the city for a breath of fresh air. Go for a walk down Lakeshore before or after your meal and check out the cute shops.
- You need to replenish your organic groceries. Healthy Planet is just down the street (similar to Whole Foods).
- Rah Rah “Raw Aura” – Restaurant Review
- Elimination Diet – Day #1