When raw cuisine meets a creative chef: exploring Live Organic Food Bar in Toronto
Raw cuisine requires an abundance of creativity as it defies the Western idea of acceptable sustenance. On a personal level, treating myself to a raw restaurant is always enlightening as it teaches me a few things about new ingredients, techniques, flavors and presentation.
Perusing menus online helped convince my family to follow me on my pilgrimage and quest for darn good eats. We chose wisely.
My cyber research took me to Live Organic Food Bar. Nestled in a busy street consisting of mainly small boutique-style restaurants and shops, Live had the advantage of being easily accessible by a subway stating directly across. Especially for those whose Northern blood has thinned out in favor of Southern heat, humidity and hospitality, the trek was quite easy and non-eventful. However, the experience could only be describe in one word: ridiculous (in the exquisite sense of the word).
I held back my y’alls in favor of my Canadian “ehs” and “outs.” I wanted to blend in the with locals.
The establishment is vibrant and visually wakes you up with complimentary green and orange hues with a comfortable and fresh ambiance. And the food is equally visually effervescent: Colorful while combining varying textures and flavors to entertain you for days, keeping you nutritionally superhuman.
Chef Jennifer Italiano rocked my gourmand world. Believing that the only processing of food should happen by the body, Live’s cuisine follows the mantra that taste is worth a thousand words. My non-vegan family savored every bite.
Where do we start?
Temptation. I wanted to start with the enticing martinis – the “London” seemed awesome with organic bulldog gin and bitters, fresh apple, blueberries, sparkling water & agave garnished with a sprig of rosemary - but given that my behavior tends to be somewhat unruly when I drink, being in the presence of the maternal unit held me back in favor of the light organic juices.
Initially, we shared the Green Kick Organic Juice. But given the unspoken passive aggressive fight for a larger share pushed me to order another one in the spirit of peaceful existence. Ok, I wanted to try something else.
Both are subtly gentle and although similar in color had very distinct personalities. It was the pear juice that subdued the strong greens and ginger into submission in the Green Kick while stronger citrusy notes coupled beautifully with the coriander and ginger.
When in doubt, order more than necessary right? I have always followed this philosophy thinking we would have some leftovers, and started with three appetizers.
The Detox Salad introduced me to new flavors including arame and kelp noodles. Both I had read about but had yet to experienced. Bold flavors otherwise unable to play together in one dish melded beautifully, the avocados adding a gorgeous creamy element.
A personal favorite, the Raw Bruschetta was perhaps one of the most creative and successful translations of a cooked dish to raw cuisine. The almond baguettes mimicked a toasted carby base while the cashew dill medallions simulated rich cheese. I could literally take a bath in the basil pesto while the marinated tomatoes added a nice acidic quality to the melange.
Perhaps the most visually stunning dish, Live’s creativity truly emerged in the Raw Pecan Sushi Rolls with the use of the sweet potatoes as traditional Western sushi crunchies. The hummus was sweet while the miso maple glaze surprisingly mimicked a flavorful hoisin. This was gone in seconds.
Choosing a main dish was not difficult given that a raw sampler allowed a taste of all of their raw main entrees. The beet ravioli was cleverly assembled using al dente thin slices of beet sandwiched around silky and creamy nut cheese. The accompanying basil pesto added richness and depth.
Equally as creative was the raw falafel mixing pumpkin with sunflower seeds on a bed of sprouted quinoa tabouli. As an avid falafel consumer, I have been disappointed many times by raw falafel tasting too green and bitter. This was quite gentle. It was also mellowed with the exotic tahini dressing, which incidentally, I could totally take a bath in.
We did complement our meal with one of their cooked offerings. The rejuvenation bowl was quite filling, allowing me to sample the robust burdock root for the first time.
Chef Italiano, I am a fan.
It is impossible to finish a meal like this without contemplating the possibility of dessert. A strategic walk to the dessert case with a little help from the friendly staff, I narrowed down to all of them, but only took two home with me.
I had previously learned how to use avocado, dates and chocolate to fashion a raw chocolate mouse, so was eager to see how using coconut one could change it into a rich dense torte.
With our tummy’s full, we took dessert home. Acting in a benevolent fashion, I pronounced dessert was to share with my father, which I did, but not too much.
The crust was perfection and the torte was pure indulgent decadence. A slice of tiramisu also found its way home (still not sure how) which in my humble opinion, was the highlight of the evening.
In this case, a picture is worth a thousand words. Ridiculous.
Need I say more?