North Van cafe serves raw food 'guaranteed to make even a carnivore drool”
Café by Tao is out to prove raw vegan cuisine is much more than rabbit food.
The most popular item on the menu is “The Real Lasagna,” layers of zucchini noodles, marinara sauce, nut cheese, spinach and marinated mushrooms that’s “guaranteed to make even a carnivore drool.”
Or there’s the Rawkin’ Pizza made with a wheat-free sprouted buckwheat crust topped with dill nut cheese, sweet chili sauce, chiffonade kale, julienne carrots, cauliflower fleurettes and mushrooms.
Agat Mathieu, the restaurant’s owner, learned to cook from her mother, who always took pride in the texture, taste and presentation of food. Although she grew up eating meat, eggs, cheese and milk — a far cry from a raw vegan diet — Mathieu applies the same cooking principles to her “raw food masterpieces.”
She prepares the organic entrées, smoothies and desserts on site and sells all the ingredients to make the meals at home.
The quaint restaurant, hidden behind offices at the corner of Semisch Avenue and West Esplanade in North Vancouver, opened in March as an offshoot of Mathieu’s business selling Tao Organic food products to North Shore clients.
“Some people are skeptical at first, but after they try it, they come back and tell their friends,” Mathieu tells The Outlook while preparing a few of her signature creations. She places a crêpe filled with walnuts, raisins and maple syrup on the table. It looks exactly like the traditional dessert, the batter made with a mixture of coconut meat, apples, golden flax seed, dates and cinnamon.
Besides being delicious, Mathieu says eating raw food has enormous health benefits. Since food heated above 180 degrees Fahrenheit loses essential enzymes, she says not cooking food is the healthier way to go. Fighting off disease is easier because the body isn’t forced to use its own enzymes to digest food, she adds.
While meat and eggs were once on the list for Mathieu, she switched her diet nine years ago after a friend gave her a book about the benefits of eating raw. She says severe arthritis in her hands disappeared soon after.
“Vegan food isn’t just salad. There’s no reason it shouldn’t taste great and be fun to eat,” says Mathieu, spreading creamy nut cheese (made with sprouted almonds, macadamia and pine nuts, onion, celery and dill) onto wheat-free crackers.
It shouldn’t mean giving up treats either, she adds. She has 10 desserts including a sugar-free cake, made with raw chocolate on a banana and walnut crust. Or try the Maqui cake sweetened with deep-purple Chilean wine berries.
Tao (pronounced dow) is a Chinese word meaning “the path,” one Mathieu hopes even hesitant carnivores will try.
Café by Tao, located at 120-260 West Esplanade, is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.