Defining the raw diet depends upon the eater, much like the wide spectrum of vegetarian or vegan eating. The raw diet can shrink or expand, it can be a full-time or part-time, it can include meat, or not. The general philosophy goes something like this: cooking food removes vital enzymes the body needs. Some raw foodists consider somewhere around 116 degrees to be the cutoff for cooking food. Dig deeper and you’ll find raw fans who eat a vegan diet of only plant-based foods. That’s the line of thinking at AmeRAWcan Bistro, a smart and well-designed restaurant that opened Aug. 12 in a tucked-away location on St. Helens Avenue.
Diners will find cinnamon rolls, crepes and vegan burgers at the bistro, but none of them “cooked.”
How does a kitchen turn out food that’s edible, but still abide by the non-cooked edict? Low-heat dehydration. That’s how cinnamon rolls are made as is the “bread” for the vegan burger ($10.95) with kale chips. Take a few pounds of onions and dehydrate them, and what do you get? A chewy, tasty “bun” that’s used as the shell for a loose quinoa filling. I’m a fan of any Thai coconut curry soup ($5.95) teeming with fresh ginger, and it wasn’t bothersome that it arrived cold. Want a side of crunch? Crispy, dehydrated kale chips with a light dusting of nutritional yeast and miso stood in for potato chips ($4.95). Zucchini fettuccine was not what I expected ($12.95), no pasta found on this plate. Long tendrils of raw, shredded zucchini was the “fettuccine” and the alfredo a creamy veggie-based dressing. In presentation? It was merely a delicious zucchini salad, although underseasoned.
AmeRAWcan Bistro is the restaurant of Darrin London, a graduate of the Western Culinary Academy, and wife Tina, who owns Tacoma’s London Couture. They became interested in the raw diet to lose weight and feel better, and both claim success after switching to a part-time raw vegan diet. At AmeRAWcan Bistro (pronounced “American”) the raw philosophy is vegan and uncooked, but meat eaters are welcome, too. An abbreviated list of deli sandwiches, made with fully cooked organic meats is offered, but London explained that a separate line is used to prepare the meat to keep the eating styles separate.
The dining room is handsome and modern, with comfortable leather and wood seating, dark hardwood floors, and full of geeky touches, such as iPads chained to every table for menu perusing. The servers are well-versed in the language of raw, vegan food. Ask a question about the ingredients and the chef might show up tableside.
This is a thoughtfully composed restaurant with details attended to, but will Tacoma buy a vegan restaurant, let alone one where most of the food is raw? Only time and your dining dollars will tell.
AmeRAWcan BistroWhere: 745 St. Helens Ave., TacomaInfo: 253-327-1962 or amerawcanbistro.comHours: 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday-Friday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday (closed Sunday)