Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Crudessence for the recrudessence of my curiosity for vegan food.

Crudessence is a vegan and raw food restaurant, with various locations around Montreal. Yes, this means that not only do they not serve meat, eggs and cheese, they also serve food that has not been cooked in any form. What?You mean there's more to veganism and raw food-ism (...?) than salads? :O Le gasp!

After my friend dragged me kicking and screaming into Aux Vivres (yes, I was a firm believer that food without meat is no food at all and yes, I have now rejected that particular religion), I discovered that
vegan food was so much more than just greens. I found myself fascinated by the ways the chefs were able to create substitutes using ingredients that you would normally never even consider. Well, not fascinated enough to forever renounce meat, dairy and egg and join in on the PETA riots, but fascinated enough to at least be curious about the different vegetarian/vegan restaurants I come across. Crudessence happened to be one of those restaurants.

Accessibility - Grade: A
It's a 5-10 minute walk from Guy-Concordia metro, Guy exit.

Service - Grade: B-
The service was cookie-cutter service, with few smiles and very abrupt order-taking. They also forgot one of our orders, but they apologized. Still. Meh. I guess in my head, vegan people are supposed to be cheerful and sunny. I dunno. Because they have better bowel movements?

.... Aaaanyway.

Food - Grade: B-

Macao Smoothie

My cousin ordered the Macao smoothie, which was basically a cocoa-banana smoothie with various other nuts and herbs in it. I heard from a friend that some of their smoothies could be pretty intense for those who weren't used to vegan smoothies, so we decided to go with something safe. The smoothie was quite good. It was thick and rich and tasted exactly like a chocolate-banana smoothie, despite the lack of dairy.

The Om Burger

Wow. This was an interesting eat. The salad and the salad dressing were nothing to write home about, but the the coleslaw was a nice blend of sourness and creaminess (despite the lack of dairy and eggs). The burger, on the other hand, was something special.

The bread they use is actually just a mix of dehydrated vegetables/nuts. The initial taste is quite unappealing; there are too many flavours going on at once. The texture of the bread is also hard, chewy and very dry. However, you get used to it after a few bites.

The patty is also a mix of dehydrated tomatoes and mushrooms. While not quite as juicy and textured as real hamburger patties, the om patty still retains a certain spice that can be found in meats. And since everything is made of vegetables, it doesn't give you the heavy feeling you get after eating a real hamburger.

The Pesto Sandwich

 My cousin ordered this. The bread is the same one used in the Om Burger, but the filling here consists of avocados, slices of green apples and pesto sauce (probably with other stuff, but I don't remember). I actually prefer this sandwich to the Om Burger. The sauce, the avocado and the apples gives this sandwich the juiciness that it needs, which the tomatoes and the home-made ketchup in the burger didn't quite achieve. The flavours of the apple slices and the avocado also harmonized very well together.

The Blueberry Uncheesecake

I've always wondered how vegan restaurants managed to pull off their 'cheesecakes'. Apparently, this one is made of a puree of macadamian and cashew nuts, drizzled over with blueberry sauce.

I've read reviews that claim this is the best vegan cheesecake, but somehow, I prefer the one at Aux Vivres. While the texture of the cake is similar to that of a real cheesecake, if a little on the creamy side, the cake still leaves a nutty, oily aftertaste in your mouth that doesn't quite complement the cake.

(Edit: Added November 19, 2011)

So I was out recently with two friends, one of which who couldn't eat animal products for that particular day. The other friend is a dessert gourmande, so she insisted that we get dessert after our meal. However, because of the other friend's circumstance, we had to find a place that was vegan. Since it was late and we were downtown, I decided to bring them to Crudessence.

Discovery Plate
This platter gives you a small taste of the various desserts that Crudessence offers on their menu. It includes a slice of key lime pie with goji sauce, a piece of brownie, a green tea fondant, pistachio ice-cream, and a piece of tiramisu.

The brownie contains a mix of cocoa, pureed dates and a mix of nuts. I thought the texture really resembled that of a normal brownie, with the firm outside and softer inside, but since I don't like the taste and texture of dates, I wasn't a huge fan. The tiramisu was surprisingly light, with a dinstinct coconut taste to it. It was pretty good, but I thought it could have done with a bit more coffee flavour. The fondant was rich and chocolatey, with a soft and chewy center. It was lightly dusted in matcha powder, which some people like and others may not. The key lime pie was extremely sour, but had a nice macadamian nut and coconut crust. The one item I was very impressed with was the pistachio ice-cream, which was creamy and buttery despite being vegan. This plate is $12 before tax.

Banana Split
The banana split wasn't really what we had in mind. It consists of vegan vanilla ice-cream and fair-trade bananas, topped with brownie chunks and coconut shavings, then drizzled with goji and 'caramel' sauce. Everything is dusted with cocoa powder. I thought this particular dessert was okay, but probably not worth paying $11 for. The taste of coconut was a bit too overwhelming, and the vanilla ice-cream wasn't as creamy or rich as the pistachio one. The brownie bits were drier but less date-filled than the one on the Discovery Plate, and the caramel sauce tasted very strongly of orange. It was a very interesting combination, but probably not something I would want to try a second time.

Price - $$-$$$
An entree alone sans tax and tip costs about $15, which falls in the $$ category, but if you order a smoothie and a dessert, it leans more towards the $$$. My cousin and I ordered all of the items above along with a hot cocoa, and it came up to around $55. I guess I understand the steep pricing, since they have to make everything from scratch, and only use certain types of ingredients, but it's probably not a place that students would want to frequent, say, on a weekly basis. Still, if you're curious about vegan and/or raw foods, I would say give it a try.

Final Grade: B-
While the food is quirky and pretty good, I think I still prefer Aux Vivres for their food, both in terms of taste and in terms of pricing. I know it's unfair to compare the two, since Crudessence serves raw foods while Aux Vivres is just vegan, but I think the raw foods scene is still a bit intense for me. Also, I found the dishes a tad over-priced, and the service could have been better. Still, I wouldn't be adverse to going back and trying some of their other stuff, such as the lasagna. What? Raw and vegan lasagna? B-but... How...? ...Huh? Mind = blown!

Crudessence Restaurant on Urbanspoon
2157 Rue Mackay, Montreal
(514) 664-5188


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