Crudessence, Montreal

It’s a hard knock life for raw foodists here in cow town. Not only does the climate not support a raw diet; being that it’s Winter practically all the time here, the raw resources in this city are practically nonexistent. Saying it’s a challenge being a raw vegan in Calgary would be an understatement. Heck, there aren’t many places for vegans to visit, although there have been a couple of establishments popping up here and there over the last couple of years. There’s still hope!

For those that don’t know,

raw vegan is a diet that combines the concepts of veganism and raw foodism. It excludes all food of animal origin, as well as food cooked at a temperature above 48 degrees Celsius (118 degrees Fahrenheit).A raw vegan diet includes raw vegetables and fruits, nuts and nut pastes, grain and legume sprouts, seeds, plant oils, sea vegetables, herbs, and fresh juices.

From Wikipedia

It’d been 6 years since I’d visited a raw restaurant, my first experience being in Vancouver at Gorilla Food. When I’d found out that there was a raw restaurant a couple of blocks from our hotel in Montreal called Crudessence, I was pretty darn excited to visit. We braved a torrential downpour on our walk to lunch and had to sit in our booth completely soaked, but it didn’t matter, I had a feeling the food was going to be amazing and well make up for my soaked pants.

Crudessence is a lot more than just a restaurant. It began as a bicycle delivery of raw foods, they began offering raw foods courses, which spawned a juice bar location, and in 2009 they re-opened the juice bar as a 22-seat restaurant. Today, Crudessence has a cookbook, a successful raw foods academy, catering company, retail location, and two restaurants – one on Rachel Street and the other on MacKay Street. The MacKay location was closest to us, so that’s the one we visited a couple of times while we were in Montreal the week before last.

The restaurant is in the lower level of a two; possibly three, story building. It doesn’t have much natural light, but we felt that they did a great job making it feel as bight, light and natural as possible. The space is divided into four seating areas – the patio, front seating area, bar counter top area, and back area. I liked the back area the best because it had this very characteristic wall with painted brick and three picture frames filled with recycled material lit up from behind. It was really neat.

The menu came in English and French; as we learned most menus do in the area we were staying. With gluten-free, raw vegan menu items such as nachos, cannelloni, BLT, tuna wraps, lasagna, and pizza, I was a bit overwhelmed with what to choose. It’s rare that I get to select anything on a menu. The staff were super helpful in making recommendations, explaining the ingredients of each dish, and were able to share the history of Crudessence with us. It was evident that each of the employees were passionate about their work and enjoyed being a part of the Crudessence team.

The BLT with aubergine bacon, lettuce and tomato with aïoli and sprouts and a side salad seemed to be a good lunch choice, so that’s what I went with. Kevin; who hates vegan restaurants and always complains of being starving afterward, chose the pesto spaghetti made up of zucchini noodles with pistachio pesto, apple and marinated mushrooms on a bed of spinach, sprinkled with Crumesan and served with onion crackers. I was proud of him for making such a bold selection.

About 15 minutes later; horrah for raw food preparation, our lunch was ready to devour. It’d been 5 or so hours since our last meal, so we were hungry!

Kevin’s pasta was absolutely delightful. The noodles were meaty, the pesto wasn’t heavy, and the onion crackers were to die for! He ate the entire thing, even the spinach. Kevin dislikes spinach but said that he didn’t think what he was eating was spinach…

I let that one go.

My BLT hit the spot on a whole other level. The sun dried tomato and buckwheat bread was soft, as bread should be, the eggplant bacon was so interesting (in a good way), and the salad with Free Tibet dressing was perfect. They gave me loads of dressing so I used it to dip my sandwich as I found it to be slightly lacking in flavor and the dressing added a good kick!

Sometimes raw vegan food can be packed with so many nuts and fibrous ingredients that the meal sits heavy in your stomach, but not with the food we had here. Our meal was satisfying without being over done with high calorie nuts, coconut milk, or oils. I loved the restaurant so much, that I returned on our last day in Montreal to order a plate of nachos. I couldn’t leave Montreal without having the nachos.

I ordered the nacho supreme off the appetizer menu and it worked out to be a perfect entree-sized meal for one. The plate was supposed to have chili spiced corn chips covered in butternut squash nacho cheese, crème fraîche, crumbled veggie balls, and served with a side of salsa. Guacamole could be added to the dish for $3.50, a hefty price for 1/2 cup of guacamole, but I was on vacation and decided to splurge a little.

It wasn’t until I was about halfway done the plate that I realized there was no butternut squash cheese on my nachos. I was a bit disappointed, couldn’t find the waitress to add some on for the remainder of my meal, so decided that butternut squash cheese just wasn’t in the cards for me that day. Overall the meal was delicious… but I bet it would have been better with the cheese!

For dessert, even though I really didn’t have much room left in me, I ordered a blondie off the sweets menu. The blondie was plated with raw caramel sauce, a couple of goji berries and a sprinkle of coconut. The base looked to be made up of soaked walnuts, dates and coconut and the icing was a mixture of lucuma and vanilla. Holy heck, this was delicious. For real.

HP Rating

  • Ambiance: small space with creative decor. In the lower level of a complex with very little natural lighting which didn’t feel right for a raw foods restaurant. 3/5
  • Authenticity: it’s the only restaurant of it’s kind in Montreal… and did I mention it’s raw? Ah! 5/5
  • Ease of ordering and menu readability: the menu was easy to follow, had a variety of options, marked which items could be made nut-free, and was well laid out. 5/5
  • Food: spectacular! I could bring my meat loving Dad here and I can just about guarantee that he would have loved it too.  5/5
  • Plating: very well done. Everything was presented beautifully 5/5
  • Service: the staff were patient, helpful and passionate but a bit challenging to get the attention of when needed. 4.5/5
  • Value: a bit on the pricey side of things but understandable for having to prepare food so far in advance, organic ingredients, etc. Definitely not a place I could afford to go for lunch everyday though  3.5/5

Total: 31/35 = 89%

Have you been to Crudessence? If so, how’d you like it?

If not, is there a raw vegan restaurant where you live?

Crudessence Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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    • I haven’t found any recipe that even compares to it… was thinking of tackling it myself one of these days!

  1. I live close to it and tried it for the first time last week. I had the sushi, the lasagna and the discovery plate for dessert. So yummy!

    • You live in such a fabulous neighborhood, Roxanne! I was eying up that lasagna that they’d posted on their Facebook page last week, it looked to die for. Glad you enjoyed it :)

  2. I have been to Crudessence before and indeed I loved it! First time trying eggplant bacon – such a unique flavour. Have you ever had coconut bacon before? I think they have it at Aux Vivres… Did you hear Porter Airlines will be serving raw food on the plane – beginning in 2013!

    • I didn’t see the coconut bacon on the Aux Vivres menu! Shoot! Well, I’ll just have to go back one of these days ;) Too cool about the airline, that’s so fabulous!

    • It is great, isn’t it? I was so pleased to hear that they had so much going on for them. Sounds like Montreal is really hungry for this sort of thing. I’m not sure where I live is ready for a raw food restaurant. Maybe just a couple more years?

  3. I’ve been there a lot and I love the food, but no so much the ambiance… But the plates are beautiful. I also recommend their (un)cooked book. They have amazing recipes in there! I also had their BLT…the raw bacon is really incredible!

    • I’m happy that you mentioned the ambiance, Lysa. I have the same view on the space. It’s such a shame its in a ‘basement’ seems a weird place to put a raw foods restaurant. I would have liked to see it in a bright and sunny space. I saw their book, I wish I would have picked it up!

    • I visited Crudessence for the first time in June – absolutely amazing. It was so good that I brought home the cookbook too, even though I don’t speak a lick of French. I’m still in the process of translating the dishes that I ordered, but have only managed the Om Burger, Chapatis and House Mustard so far. Any ideas for a better way to translate the cookbook?

  4. I’m kind of dying to know what’s in that raw caramel sauce because I was toying with that idea for a dessert I want to make. If you re-create it, you’ll have to let us know :)

    • I think I’d have to ask them what they put in it and take it from there. I really, really couldn’t guess. They have cooking classes, too. Perhaps if I ever return, I’ll go and learn exactly how to make it :) Of course I’d share it on the blog, too!

      • Hi Leanne,
        We are delighted to hear that you visited Crudessence (twice) on your trip to Montreal. Hopefully you had a nice stay! You have a beautiful blog and we’re honoured to have you write about your experience. Our caramel is made with: date paste, ginger and lemon juices, apricots, agave and sea salt. It is delicious, isn’t it!? Looking forward to having you back! :)

        • Apricots! I knew there was a sneaky ingredient in there. I couldn’t place that taste for the life of me. Any chance you’d be open to sharing the ingredients in the blondie, too? I’ve received so many emails from people begging me to recreate it!

          Thanks for stopping in to check out the blog. You have fabulous food that I will dream of consuming until I return :)

  5. Hi, actually just came back from Montreal with my mom. As a vegan with a lot of allergies I often end up always packing up all my meals and snacks. I rarely eat out often disappointed with what restaurants call vegan/vegetarian/gluten free meals…um yes please I would like a 15.00 dollar salad with a few cut up strawberries. I was very hestitant about this restaurant but my mom and I got into a cab and off we went. All I have to say is amazing!!! There was nothing that I didn’t like. The space, the friendly wait staff and the food!!. The first night both my mom and I ordered the Pad Thai…a satisying bowl of raw vegetable noodles with kight vingeratte on a bed of bok choy and for dessert I had the blueberry cheescake and my mom had the chocolate mousee, one word heaven on my tongue. The next day we went back for supper again and we both orderd the tacos..once again it tiackled my tongue with glee and for dessert I ordered the the maple pecan ice cream and my mom had the lime cheescake and I also ordered the BLT to go for lunch the next day. This restaurant made beautiful food with such varying flavours and fully satisfying. Anyone going to Montreal needs to check Crudessence out!!!

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Filomena! It sounds like you both had a great time. Good call on ordering a sandwich for the following day. I wish I would have done that for my flight, I was so hungry! I’m with you, nothing upsets me more than asking for a salad without the meat, gluten and sulfates and all I get is a bowl of greens with 1/2 cup dressing and am asked to pay full price. It’s brutal!

  6. The dessert looks incredible! Dates are such a great sweetener, I use them all the time.

    One thing I noticed – your score math is a little off, looks like it should be 31/35.

    • Thanks for pointing that out, Suzanne. That’s what I get for trying to do math at 4am on a Sunday morning.

  7. How fabulous to find such a unique raw food restaurant. It will never happen in my neck of the woods. Good thing I love to prepare my own meals!

  8. funny, crudessence is the place that introduced me to raw foods. I visited Canada almost two years ago for work (I live in Belgium), and was suppose to go with a colleague who is a vegetarian and we had sought out some interesting options for her. She got sick and couldn’t come on the trip, but I went to Crudessence on my own anyway because I was so intrigued. It was a fabulous experience. Two years later andI have switched to a high raw diet, while I wasn’t even a vegetarian myself when I first set foot in there. The switch didn’t come overnight, and wasn’t due to crudessence or anything, but I will always remember that dining experience very deerly

  9. That blondie does look incredibly delicious, but sounds like it’s WAAAAY high in calories too! I’m not sure I’d want to see the nutritional information for that one…

    And that “pasta” Kevin had? You HAVE to recreate it. Please, please, pretty please without sugar on top. It looks so scrumptious, I want to make this at home.

    And I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of you sitting on that bench, all soaking wet from the rain. It did POUR that day. I know, it’s not nice to laugh at other people’s misfortune, but that vision is just too funny! Guess you were really HIGHLY motivated to pay Crudessence a little visit right then and there. It just couldn’t wait for the rain to stop.

    Now you’ve just made me want to pay them a visit too…

    • You know, I’m not sure how high in calories it would have been. The nuts tasted like they were soaked for days, and the square wasn’t that large.

      Without sugar on top… ha, I liked that.

      We were both ridiculous soaked, and with my broken toe, all hobbling through the streets looking for the restaurant… I must have looked quite ridiculous. I was a woman on a mission!

  10. The raw food diet is definitely one that intrigues me! Glad to see places like this popping up!

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