By Pervaiz Shallwani
There is nothing militant about Sarma Melngailis’ approach to raw food. It started as a two-week experiment to see what eating raw was like and became a lifestyle approaching six years. She did feel better, but what she noticed was that most people eating raw had no idea how to make it “lovely and appealing” to the mainstream.
At Pure Food and Wine, Melngailis takes her traditional culinary training and combines it with raw principles (no processed or refined foods, no meat and cooking nothing over 117 degrees) to create high-end, restaurant-quality food using the best local and organic ingredients.
What she has created is a restaurant that appeals to everyone, but happens to be friendly to eaters with vegetarian, vegan or raw food diets.
“We are trying to make it something that people can integrate into their lives. Most of our regulars are not raw food people at all.”
She loathes fake, processed meats such as seitan or tofu. She and her staff — many of whom come from some of the best restaurants in the city and rarely have a background in raw food — take whimsical approaches to classic dishes, using mushrooms to create their own take on meaty sushi rolls or creamed cashews to hand-craft aged cheeses.
She has applied the same principals to her popular desserts, avoiding impurities with soft coconut in place of cream and agave nectar for refined sugar, to guarantee not skimping on taste.