A tale of two vegan meals: Organic Lives and Loving Hut

I went on a little vegetarian bender for 8 consecutive meals before it was smashed to bits by devouring a sukiyaki beef rice burger at the night market on Saturday night. It was fun while it lasted, and I get to blog about two quite unique meals for my repertoire.

Organic Lives

My friend Cari read about Organic Lives in The Georgia Straight and suggested it as a place we could try. We could easily assume that our usual dining companions, our boyfriends, would vehemently refuse to go to a place that serves only raw, vegan, gluten-free dishes. In fact, the group lovingly teases Cari for being a steak-lover so I was extra willing to indulge her in trying this restaurant.

As it stands today, Dinehere.ca still does not have an entry for Organic Lives so I relied on Yelp.ca for some pointers. Reviewers recommended the soup and zughetti and remarked on how confused the concept was: is it a deli, restaurant, factory, or somewhat successful combination of them all? One thing the reviewers never brought up-like you could assume it-but was all the food cold? We had a nice walk through the light industrial area south of False Creek where Organic Lives resides and it is immediately apparent where the confusion in the concept lies. Most of the space is for food preparation and some counters and shelves line the small area for the customers. The dining area is not fabulous at all and just four tables. Further, most off-putting to me, was the staff who transitioned from factory to behind-the-counter to waitstaff in their white-and-gray apron uniforms and white hairnets. With just four tables, couldn’t one person deal with all the customers and not be kitchen-grubby?

Cari ordered the raw crackers and lasagna while I ordered the soup and zughetti. We wondered amongst ourselves if the soup would be heated up just a little but not to a boil and it was answered when it arrived cold. It was a carrot avocado veloute that was surprisingly creamy in texture and had delayed spice kick. I wasn’t too surprised by the vegetable crackers of Cari’s crackers and cheese; I’ve had the pressed dehydrated vegetable crackers from Whole Foods and really like them. We couldn’t exactly identify all the flavours contributing to the “cheese” from nuts to beans but I enjoyed the red one most while Cari enjoyed one of the white ones most!

Our entrees came in a timely fashion. I can’t say I enjoyed my bite of the lasagna too much, the “cheese” and how cold the layers of vegetables were. But I did like the croutons in the Caesar that are made of almonds, among other ingredients. I liked my zughetti fairly well. We marveled about how zucchini could be fashioned into such long noodles until the people seated next to us retrieved a noodle maker from the merchandise section and we realized how the zucchini is spun on its long axis, or something along that line. Zucchini is a good vegetable to make a noodle because it has a little softness that comes before the crunch.

We ordered our desserts based on the two we saw fellow diners order. We asked what the ganache-looking cake was and our server said it was “The Ridiculous”. I’m not amused because it is not listed as such on the menu and it could have been the ganache or the chocolate cashew cheesecake which reviewers wrote about. Apparently a previous patron called it that and our waiter thought it was cute to continue the name. We also ordered the strawberry shortcake since another chocolate-y item would be too much. The waiter said it would take a little bit of time to bring up the temperature of the shortcake, or something.

And so we waited. And I think in the end, we did wait forty-five minutes for dessert. I didn’t mind if they warmed it in an oven by the 20-minute point because obviously it was brought to nearly room temperature from frozen and we had the time to peer into the kitchen and determine there are no stoves on the premise. And it was only just okay, not as creamy as it looks. For me, the ganache was spectacular. It was so smooth, so chocolately. Cari could tell it was made with carob but I haven’t such refined tastes and I like carob more than she does.

Loving Hut

There is a storefront on Broadway near Cambie that was a Singaporean restaurant for the first three years I have lived here and then I’ve lost count of how many different restaurants it went through for the last two years. They were all Chinese featuring noodles at one point then congee and “da lang”. I think there were three in total before Loving Hut came along and did away with the perennial red and yellow awning.

Loving Hut’s tagline is “green cuisine” and it’s exciting that there is a vegetarian (rather, vegan) option at Broadway/Cambie. Loving Hut has an interesting story, that is, it is run by the business arm of a spiritual organization lead by a Supreme Master that has roots in Buddhism. I don’t mind as long as they don’t evangelize beyond the TV screen in the restaurant that only broadcasts the Supreme Master TV feed.

They serve salads, pizza, rice bowls, and some Asian appetizers like gyoza, spring rolls, and wonton soup. I ordered the Golden Rice Bowl, selecting miso gravy over teriyaki. It was strange and frustrating how they brought our five orders out separately and spaced by an average of 3 minutes with mine coming out very last. My order was the most impressive one of the items ordered. The surrounding vegetables and tofu were good and fresh and sauteed just right. The vegan shrimp was nothing that could fool you; they had the texture of Chinese fish paste cakes but obviously couldn’t be made from fish. The gardein “chicken” strips were tasty although a few pieces were chewier than I would have liked, and a bed of brown rice is hidden from view until I pushed things around. I don’t think they made the miso gravy themselves and I found it a little salty and think I should have gone with the teriyaki sauce, but I do so love to pile on the New Things to try at once.

Unfortunately, two coworkers who also had a Loving Hut meal fell ill over the weekend, starting hours after the meal and the item they had in common were raw greens in a salad and a burger. They suspect it was food poisoning. I don’t know if I’m just stubborn, but I would go back to order pizza or the rice bowl with teriyaki sauce.

On this day..

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