Let's get the obvious out of the way about Gorilla Foods, a tiny basement suite that specializes in raw foods. The place is staffed by the earthy folk that one would expect, and the obligatory reggae tune over the stereo. Service is generally pleasant but slow, with most of the help definitely of the feel good variety. It's as much of a lifestyle choice as it is a restaurant, and it's hard not to review the place without tackling both its guises.

There are salads a plenty, which seems to be the favourite choice among the lunch crowd, along with sandwich, pizza and other entrée options, along with a plethora of juices, smoothies and desserts to round out the menu. I ordered the Maui Waui pizza ($7), out of novelty's sake, featuring a layer of chopped parsley (purportedly kale from their online menu) over top a layer of sundried tomato "sauce," dusted with pineapple and a 'cheese' crumble made of walnuts (presumably from a fermenting process), all atop a flatbread-esque crust made of pressed sunflower seed, buckwheat, carrot and flax seed crust. The crust in itself is pleasant enough, somewhere between firm and chewy, though obviously insufficient for anyone in need of a certain level of crispiness in a pizza. The 'cheese' crumble is really what takes some getting used to, as, despite however much it is advertised, the cheesy, nutty flavour sneaks up unexpectedly.

It's interesting to think how far this has come from the first incarnation of raw food pizza, which found its origins in San Francisco's now defunct Raw, the world's first raw food restaurant. Their pizza crust had purportedly originated from a jar of oversprouted and slimy buckwheat that hadn't been attend to and which subsequently dried out, owing to the chef's foot injury. Many raw food restaurants have subsequently danced into the world of faux-everything, creating what CHOW's Lessley Anderson has called a "schism" in the community, with traditionalists avoiding refined oils or processed foods in favour of simple salads and the odd puree.

When the pizza is coupled with a Strawberry Zing smoothie ($6), made of strawberries, bananas, orange juice, hempseeds, and ginger, and you've got yourself a solid lunch. The bananas obviously and the hempseeds assumedly thicken the thing up, with the raw ginger adding a requisite spiceiness to round out the strawberries. Finish it off with a orange walnut spice ($2) cookie - which, without being baked tastes more like a elaborate fruit bar - and you can put dinner off until late.

This adds to the conundrum of this level of processed raw food. Despite its relative tastiness - and don't get me wrong, my overall experience with Gorilla Food was a tasty (albeit a bit pricey) one, worthy of an occasional repeat - one wonders how it fits or doesn't fit within the raw foods zeitgeist. The health benefits of raw food may take a dive when processed to something akin to a fruit bar (as was the case with the cookie), and as Anderson puts it, something akin to a candy bar in nutrition value sure goes down a lot easier under the guise of being 'raw' and healthy.

Taking that thought further, some of the main arguments for eating raw haven't found much ground with conventional nutritionists. A researcher from Cornell disputes the claim that cooking destroys naturally occurring enzymes, thus forcing your body to rely on its own: most science undergrads can assumedly vouch for the fact that your body makes an abundance of enzymes anyway. Another researcher from Berkley admits that cooking at high temperatures will destroy certain nutrients in produce, but points out that most people in this day and age don't boil their vegetables to death anyway.

Conversely, however, the health benefits of many other lunch places downtown (or elsewhere) can be even harder to find, and so it's easy to rationalize a raw food lunch as a break from the other side of excess, at the very minimum. If Gorilla Food has to swing its side of the argument with the occasional cookie dangling on the edge of "somewhat healthy," it's doing those with a penchant for the Tim Horton's up a few blocks a favour. It might not be a lifestyle choice for most, but it's certainly a good lunch option for everyone.


Gorilla Food
101 - 436 Richards Street
Vancouver, BC
604 684 3663
Cash only

Gorilla Food on Urbanspoon


Gyromite said... @ June 22, 2010 at 5:59 PM

Nice review Joe. I still haven't done the raw food thing yet. I think I will leave it to Woody Harrelson to look after.

One thing interesting about Gorilla Food is that the head chef used to be the personal chef for Mike D from the Beastie Boys.

Mike D was the man, maybe he was the reason why.


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