Eat Out: Simply Raw Express

by jc

There is a pretty lady that has been a recognizable face on Ottawa’s healthy-living scene for some time now.  I first noticed her curly dark hair and calm demeanor working at The Green Door restaurant.  At this time I was in my early teens and was being brought to this vegetarian restaurant against my will [by my mother] where I would only eat the lasagna.  Yes, I’m now horrified by the close-mindedness of my younger self.

More recently, I have noticed her popping on my various social media feeds.  In particular, her TEDxOttawa talk really grabbed my attention.  I had no idea of the past struggles with eating disorders this health advocate had endured.  I agreed with her synopsis of the current state of our grocery stores and the poor diets our fast-paced lives have led us to consume.

I learned a few months ago that this lady I speak of, Natasha Kyssa, and her husband had opened up a “fast food” restaurant and juice bar (for lack of a better term) in Hintonburg – Simply Raw Express.

photo (16)

I am not a vegan, or anything close to it, but I do believe in being conscious of the amount (i.e. not very much) and quality (i.e. organic) of animal products we consume.  I’m not into cutting things out altogether but prefer to try to eat everything in moderation.  Regardless of this, I am very interested in the raw food and juicing movements because I can appreciate the various health claims made about each.

I finally got around to checking out SRE this past week.  To my luck, Natasha’s husband was working at the time and he was kind enough to take a few minutes and explain what they had to offer.

  • Everything is gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan – WOW!
  • The emphasis is on whole, raw, unprocessed foods.
  • To meet current demands, they juice on Tuesdays and Thursdays and bottle them such that they keep fresh for 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • For food options they have both pre-made meals and made-to-order options
  • The restaurant is not ALL raw, but the desserts are.  Some of the made to order dishes have cooked components (ex. quinoa).
  • The frozen “cheezecakes” are very popular (and delicious… hee hee).  But they will break your piggy bank at $6 a pop.
  • They also offer a selection of specialty products (not their own) that may not even be available at health food stores.
  • They don’t add much salt, if they do it’s sea salt or Himalayan salt, or through the use of Tamari soya sauce.
A portion of their menu: shakes + food made to order

A portion of their menu: shakes + food made to order

Bottled juices + pre-made foods

Bottled juices + pre-made foods

The workspace... I love the jars.

The workspace… I love the glass jars.

It’s very clear from speaking with him [the husband] that they’re very passionate about healthy, vegan, and whole foods.  “Probably 90% of what you find in grocery stores today is heavily processed, pasteurized, etc.” – I tend to agree with this statement and therefore usually try to stick to the outer edge rule, avoiding the middle sections of junk (except to pick up my beloved whole grains; oats, flax meal, nuts, etc.).

When you think about it, the food you put into your body is one of the biggest things that you can control to influence your health.  I would argue that the other major factor is exercise – which the large majority of us don’t get enough of, but that’s a whole other can of worms that I won’t open up in poor SRE’s post.   Other factors such as genetics and environment (stress, pollution, etc.) are without a doubt key contributors to an individual’s health but they are also largely beyond our control.  With this in mind, one begs the question how could you not prioritize the quality of the food that goes into your body?

Enough of the philosophical blabber – back to SRE and the delectable treats I was being tempted with.  With so many yummy sounding options, it was hard to choose just a few things.  I picked up all to-go items: a taco salad, a bottle of “Glow” juice, and a raspberry lemon cheezecake.  They were all AWESOME!  The taco salad wasn’t huge however and a bigger guy would definitely need two.

Taco salad:

Taco salad: guac + sour “kream” + romaine + tortillas + bits of… red pepper + tomato + radish + cabbage + mixed nuts

All mixed up – YUM!

All mixed up – YUM!

I don't think the toilet tomorrow will have any sort of "glow"

I don’t think the toilet tomorrow will have any sort of “glow” to it

Raspberry lemon "cheezecake"

Raspberry lemon “cheezecake”

Simply scrumptious

Simply scrumptious

SRE is not cheap, but it is GOOD FOOD available quickly – often hard to come by.  Their nourish boxes (breakfast + juice + lunch + snack + dinner, or some variation like that for approximately $30) sound like a decent way to save some money at this place.  Additionally, seniors and students get 10% off, which I unfortunately found out after my visit… hmph!

In my opinion, to be successful on a broader scale, SRE is going to have to find a way to lower their prices.  The cheezecake, while light and delicious, is $6 a slice – a bit crazy to me (although I do appreciate they are probably time consuming to make).  On the other hand, the made to order foods as well as the fresh smoothies aren’t that outrageously priced.  Overall though, it’s a bit unaffordable for someone on a student’s budget like me.

I absolutely LOVE that more and more restaurants like SRE are slowly popping up around Ottawa.  Perhaps more competition will force these establishments to find ways to provide the same product at a more reasonable price for the everyday consumer.

In the end, I suppose you need to assess what is worth spending money on, and if health is a priority and you need to eat quickly, then SRE is one of the best places to do so in Ottawa.

I would give my experience at Simply Raw Express an 8/10.  I’m not about to turn vegan after going there (few things could make me do that) but the product is awesome, healthy, and delicious (everything I love).  Unfortunately the price of some of the items is a bit outlandish.  Sadly, it’s simply not feasible for the average person to eat there on a regular basis.