Restaurant Review: Rockin’ Raw

Last Fall I went back to being a vegetarian (okay, a pescatarian) after many years of meat eating because my cats – Petie in particular –  seem barely a step removed from a bunny, lamb or piglet. A pig is potentially smarter (sorry sweetie, mommy loves you!).

cat in a bunny suit

Photo credit goes to Joyce Pedretti (http://www.joycepedretti.com)

While I’d been vegetarian during High School and College, I’d never understood the concept of being vegan. I mean, cows and chickens weren’t losing their lives so we could have eggs and milk right? Clearly I was oblivious to the horrors of the dairy farm industry. The more I learned the more I believed it to be just as bad if not worse than factory farming.  So began my flirtation with veganism.

Turns out I am a terrible flirt (is there a parallel here with guys I wonder?). So when my friend J___, a real vegan, suggested we try a restaurant called “Rockin’ Raw” in Williamsburg, Brooklyn yesterday I was game. “Pure Food and Wine” is the only other raw restaurant I’d ever been to before and it’s very upscale (= not easy on the wallet!).

Raw Vegan restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

As the name suggests, “Rockin’ Raw” is a raw restaurant and a vegan one at that. ”Rawists” believe uncooked, unprocessed foods have the most nutrients so nothing is ever “cooked” in heat more than 115 degrees. I didn’t realize until this morning after doing research that not all “Rawists” are vegan, or even vegetarian. Some eat raw meet, fish and milk.

From the outside, “Rockin’ Raw” is unassuming. Entering into what looked to be a row house, we walked through a small, dark, warm restaurant that spilled into a surprisingly lovely garden in back.  My only complaint was the amount of mosquitoes.  I spent my dinner scratching and came home with a half dozen bites. Guess that’s what you get when you are surrounded by plants and trees (how soon we forget).

Raw Vegan restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Photo courtesy of Wellsphere (I failed to take a photo of the backyard - oops!)

The waiters (both men) were thin and pale (hopefully because they avoid the sun and not because of their diet).  We started off by ordering a bottle of vegan Pinot Gris ($28) that tasted like you’d expect a Pinot Gris to taste like (you didn’t think I’d go someplace for dinner that didn’t serve wine did you? ). They even have sake and cocktails on the menu. After coming home I went online to find out why all wines aren’t vegan and to my surprise it turns out most aren’t even vegetarian, – not even the organic wines!  That will have to be my next “Flirting with Vegan” post!

It’s always hard to know how to order at a vegan restaurant as the ingredients often seem similar and it’s the way the dish is prepared that makes all the differences. And in this case because it’s a raw restaurant, the menu was devoid of familiar “soy” and “tofu” entrees you get at so many vegetarian restaurants. Luckily J___ had been there so she took the lead.

We started off with the appetizer of “Soul Chips and Dip of the Day” ($6) flax seed crackers more than chips, with a side of chunky salsa. They were fine but nothing to write home about.

Raw Vegan restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Soul Chips (love the colorful flatware)

For main courses we ordered two to share between us. Tacu-Tacu ($15) is a vegan take on a famous Peruvian dish and is made with wild rice, jicama, walnuts, sesame seeds, mushrooms and “magic spices” served with plantains and greens.

Raw Vegan restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

Taku Taku topped with a playdough looking "egg" fashioned somehow from zuchinni (not much taste but cool to look at)

This is what the original looks like according to a google images search.

Traditional (meat) Taku Taku with real eggs

According to their website the restaurant is “live-vegan-raw-organic-peruvian-new-orleanian-creole-cuisine” but I didn’t realize this at the time (guess the mardi-gras bead strung up in the backyard should have clued me in). The Tacu-Tacu was pretty tasty, but I’m curious how it compares to the original dish.

My favorite was definitely the Rockin’ Raw Burger Platter ($15) – made with eggplant seeds, mushrooms and walnuts – even though it looked and tasted nothing like a burger.

Raw Vegan restaurant in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

I’m not gonna lie, it was a bit messy to eat but it was YUM!

Dinner felt healthy and was so satisfying we didn’t have room for dessert. Both main dishes we ordered were walnut based and came with the same greens. I’ll definitely go back to try some of the different menu items like the “live” pasta and maybe even a cocktail or “milk” shake. But next time, I’m bringing bug spray (something natural – of course!).

PS – Thanks to J__ for her iphone photography, great blogger I am without a camera!

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  • Tamara

    Your baby looks so cute with his rabbit ears. Great photoshopping.

    • Ihavecat

      Thanks Tamara! Wish I could take credit for that one (and the one of him as baby lamb! LOL!) I owe it to my good friend Joyce!

  • OldCatsRule

    Love Petie as a rabbit.

    Vegan cuisine can be erratic. Have you ever been to the Candle Cafe on the Upper East Side? or Josie’s? They are vegetarian with some vegan offerings.

    • Ihavecat

      Yes I really do like Candle Cafe (or is it Candle 79?) I’ve been to the more formal one with my family. Not a huge Josie’s fan. Want to try a place in Brooklyn called the V spot. Oh, I like BLOSSOM in Chelsea – likely my fav vegan place so far! Saw Laure Linney there too!

  • sharon

    The place looks pretty…but I don’t think I can go from my “flirting with veganism” to raw food. I actually tried one of the those home delivery raw food services, which Alicia Silverstone had endorsed and other celebs as well. It wasn’t cheap and it’s clearly made for people who don’t eat a lot. LOL I tried so hard to like it– I really did! But, I wound up throwing out a lot of the food because I found it kind of tasteless or just plain gross. So much for my journey into the raw food space! LOL

    I do pretty well following my “flirtation with veganism” diet when I’m at home. I still eat some fish, but I am dairy and egg free. I still miss my cheese and eggs! But, surprisingly, I don’t miss meat much or cow milk. HOWEVER, eating out is a challenge. While I haven’t had a real egg (with one exception) since December 2009…I have had cheese on numerous occasions. I also don’t go crazy trying to find vegan wine…so I don’t know if I will ever be fully vegan…but I’m taking some steps and making compromises and sacrifices..and that’s enough for me now.

    • Ihavecat

      Sharon, thanks for taking the time to post to my blog! (PS everybody, Sharon is a super great friend of mine)!
      I was shocked to find out that the wines we drink likely aren’t vegetarian let alone vegan – YIKES!
      Now when you say you haven’t had a “real” egg since 2009, does that mean not even in baked goods? That’s what gets me – eggs, milk and butter in cookies etc.

    • Ihavecat

      I wish I had asked you to take photos of your vegan delivery meals! drats!

  • The food sounds like it was good, but it also sounds to me like this restaurant suffers from the same problem as many vegan and/ or raw restaurants do: they try to recreate something meat-y in a raw or vegan format instead of creating something completely new. I’m sorry, but a raw or vegan recreation is bound to be disappointing because it immediately gets compared to the original dish – and of course they are nothing alike. All that said, I actually like most raw food and vegan food (I have a friend who is a FANTASTIC raw chef, and who unfortunately moved away to Florida some months ago). But I prefer it when I look at it as something new and perhaps exotic, instead of a pale imitation of a recipe that used to have meat in it.

    BTW, although I eat vegetarian, vegan and raw, I am none of these. I don’t eat red meat, but everything else is pretty much game, at least for now.

    • Ihavecat

      Janiss – You hit the nail on the head. They would do much better than to set people’s expectations for one thing when that’s clearly not what they are getting. Do you eat fish? I still keep that in rotation though I’m not a huge fan. Just keeps the options more varied I guess. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment!

  • Great post! Looks like a good restaurant, I’ll have to try and find something like it in D.C.!

    I’ve thought about going vegan several times myself due to the horrendous treatment of factory farm animals, but instead I’m more of a “flexitarian” and only buy from places that I can confirm humanely raise pasture animals. I’ve never been a big meat person but I do enjoy eggs and milk! I buy most of my eggs and meat (which is mostly for my SO) from Polyface Farm (the farm featured in Omnivore’s Dilemma) or the local farmer’s market. I don’t buy into/trust the “organic” label on meat, eggs or dairy. I do think that they are better than conventional though, only because the organic grain they eat was grown sans pesticides (however cows were not designed to eat grain period).

    Anywho, I’m certainly intrigued by raw diets but I don’t think it’s something I could stick too, I’m one of those weird people who likes everything overcooked and burnt to a crisp lol! I’ve always read that there is so much more nutrition in raw nuts and that’s one thing that I don’t mind eating raw, yay!

    • Ihavecat

      Nothing I love more than brussell sprouts pan grilled to a crisp TRUST me! I hear you on the “flexitarian.” I considered only purchasing meat from local sources but I think at the end of the day I couldn’t reconcile myself with killing an intelligent animal no matter what kind of life they have led. It’s not an easy subject but I applaud you for even taking the topic under consideration and making educated decisions. It’s so easy to bury ones head – trust me I know b/c i still do it when it comes to seafood and dairy etc!

  • I’d love to try that restaurant! I love raw/barely cooked meals, especially if the flavorings were unusual. The only way I could handle being vegan was to prepare everything myself, otherwise it was too expensive and either just weird or kind of contrived and disappointing, like the meat-substitute stuff. I seriously garden with canning and freezing and all, and I have farmer friends who have chickens and cows, so this is my main food source and I don’t need to worry about trusting labels. If you had to rely on stores and restaurants for your food I think veganism would be very difficult and expensive, and you might end up eating a lot of processed foods like the meat-substitute things. Keep reporting!

    • Ihavecat

      You bring up so really good points Bernadette. It’s not easy to cook in the city. What with the small kitchens and the shitty refrigerators that only seem to keep anything fresh for 3-4 days max! Plus it’s not easy to find a good grocer – you have to literally commute (unless you do FRESH DIRECT which I havent tried – mostly because I’m not a good enough cook to be able to plan what I want in advance!).

      Glad you enjoyed the post! it’s a bit different than some of my other posts and I know some folks feel it’s too diary-like.

      You have been doing such a fabulous job with your posts my dear. I have been reading them even if I do not always comment. I’m so impressed and many of them are so heartfelt that they are hard to read, but I’m always glad I do – if for no other reason that to know that kind souled people like you exist in the world 🙂

  • jmuhj

    Interesting read. After being mostly vegan most of my life, I guess “flexitarian” would describe my current status, though I’m trying to return to what works best for me, which is veganism. Never had a problem being well fed — guess that’s because I opt to eat at home, and enjoy cooking.

    • Ihavecat

      You have been ahead of your time time if you have been a vegan all your life! Good for you! I think it def takes effort and planning to eat healthy as a vegetarian and vegan I think.

  • My mom and dad are now mostly vegan…95% vegan is what they say so they don’t have to be so strict about it. There is a wonderful vegan restaurant in Portland called Blossoming Lotus. They love it and this is reminding them to go back.

    I am not a “fegan”, a feline vegan, although my momma Ellie and I love to nibble on fresh greens from the garden, especially spinach!

    Purrrs, Cory

    • Ihavecat

      Fegan! LOL Love it! I don’t know if cats can be vegan (I mean fegan) can they? My cats eat meat but I am trying to get the better quality food these days and trying to get them to eat more wet food. It’s a challenge! Thanks for visiting! Hope you and your humans come by again soon!

  • Jess

    I have been to this restaurant and it is amazing! They are not trying to copy meat dishes, they are simply just rockin’ out favs from their home lands….All their foods are whole, fresh, organic veggies. They also use very little to no nuts and all the desserts have 5 ingredients are less.
    This is the best raw, vegan restaurant ever-
    hands down.

    • Ihavecat

      Hi Jess! Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment! I want to go back and try some of their other dishes b/c I think the two we tried were very close-in. I wanna try the live pasta! And the dessert (we didn’t have room for any last time!).

  • Well, it sounds interesting – I did the vegetarian thing for a while but honestly it just isn’t always easy. We have a raw food restaurant in our downtown here (we are in the suburbs so it is more unusual) but I haven’t been brave enough to try it out. And I am in agreement on the “trying to make things taste like meat” issue. I loved gardenburgers original burger (which they changed and is now blech – luckily there is another brand similar to the original) but everyone always complained it didn’t taste like a hamburger – which was the exact reason I liked it. You just have to go in thinking that it isn’t going to taste like meat

    • Ihavecat

      I would LOVE a recommendation for a good vege burger. I bought some the other day and they were blech to say the least! like eating cardboard! Thanks for visiting and for posting!

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