The second half of 2011 has seen a rash of vegetarian restaurants open in Edmonton (The Clever Rabbit on 124 Street is forthcoming, while another vegetarian restaurant, Veggie Garden Restaurant, opened in November). Noorish, subtitled a “conscious eatery & superfood elixir bar”, kicked off this trend in October, but seemed to go beyond just food – they promote a holistic philosophy of health that also includes yoga and meditation classes, and raw food and vegan education seminars. For me though, the best point of entry has always been food, so May, Annie and I decided to give their menu a spin on Friday.
We were told there was a reservation black out period during the prime dinner hour on Fridays and Saturdays, but we decided to chance it anyway. Although all of the tables were taken up when we arrived at 6:30, the friendly hostess seated us immediately at a low-slung lounge area to wait for a table. We were moved not ten minutes later, seated in their beautifully carved but comfortably solid wooden chairs.
The restaurant, though bustling with patrons celebrating the weekend, felt as laid-back as it was warm. The wood furniture, floors, fall colour palette and tabletop greenery created a very inviting atmosphere – the space was designed for lingering. Noorish also features a small retail space at the rear of the restaurant, and offers a variety of ready-to-eat products and cookbooks.
To tempt our palate, we started with drinks from their extensive beverage menu. Annie and May decided to try the homemade kombucha tea with cranberry ($3.50) , an “effervescent fermented mushroom tea”, which apparently helps build immunity. I ordered the Chagachino chai ($8), which is made with a 11 different ingredients (most of which I had never heard of before). The tea wasn’t what Annie and May expected, tasting closer to an alcoholic cocktail with its acidic kick than a juice. My chai had a similar kick, possibly from the cayenne, or some of the other ingredients I was unfamiliar with. While it was definitely complex (with health benefits similar to the kombucha), at $8, it was definitely a one-time drink for me – I’ll stick with regular chai.
Kombucha tea and chai
The entree menu was a lot less extensive, with just nine dishes to choose from (excluding the breakfast, desserts and treats menu). But for a small restaurant, I’m glad they decided to concentrate on just a few dishes, instead of attempting to stretch themselves too thin.
For us raw food newbies, we appreciated being able to find familiar terms like “nachos” and “pizza” on the menu. I realize those words bring certain connotations to mind (namely, “cheesy” and “piping hot”), but it helped ease our transition to their philosophy. We were told that as much as 50-80% of nutrients are lost when food is cooked above 40C, but raw food has other benefits as well, including easier digestion, clearer skin and as a whole, having to consume less food. The term “living food” was used quite a few times, and though I recognize it was meant to denote the line between “raw” and “cooked” substances, I couldn’t help but imagine the ingestion of squirming insects.
Noorish focuses on raw veganism, so one won’t find a trace of meat on their menu. In its place are protein-rich foods like legumes, nuts and seeds. The roasted root vegetables in the Me-so Noorished ($16) appealed to Annie, while May wanted to try their Bodhi Tree Burger ($17). I ordered the Mystical Mandala Pizza ($16).
In spite of the packed house, our food arrived quickly (in some ways, the raw philosophy benefits a busy kitchen, where much of the prep is done beforehand, while assembly is the main task at hand at meal time). The plates were massive, and each of our entrees were accompanied by one of their salads. There is no doubt Noorish knows its salads – May’s quinoa salad had great flavour and texture, while my side of wilted kale salad really made me rethink the possibilities of kale. The leaves were tender tossed with the miso lemon dressing, and I particularly loved the addition of the fresh sprouts.
Bodhi Tree Burger
Annie had no complaints about her dish. She had been craving starch all day, so the combination of beets, yams and potatoes, smothered in a miso hemp gravy and melted vegan mozza cheese hit the spot. May didn’t know what to expect of her sprouted chickpea burger, but enjoyed it enough to comment that she would order it again.
The pizza was a sight to see – I have to say the most off-putting thing was the radioactive orange cashew chili cheese – more reminiscent of processed Cheese-Whiz than anything else. I could have done with a little more vegetables and a lighter hand with the cheese, but the seeded flatbread crust stood out the most. Crunchy and nutty, it was a vehicle that I could imagine using for dips, as a crostini, or to accompany soup.
Mystical Mandala Pizza
We were all surprisingly full at the end of the meal, so much so that we had to forego dessert (unusual for the three of us). We agreed that while Noorish wouldn’t necessarily end up in our regular rotation of restaurants, we were happy to have opened our eyes to the possibilities of raw cuisine. If it’s something you haven’t yet tried – Noorish is the perfect place to get acquainted with this philosophy, and fill your belly at the same time.
8440- 109th Street
Tuesday-Thursday 11am-10pm, Friday 11am-11pm, Saturday 10am-11pm, Sunday 11am-10pm, closed Mondays