If you were the luckiest human on earth, an invited guest at a faerie feast, the wee folk would almost certainly offer you dishes just like you’ll find at Omar’s Rawtopia– right down to the edible flower petals sprinkled on top! Omar’s food is like a concentrated garden on your plate, bursting with color, texture, and flavor. Everything from the drinks to the dessert is organic and raw, and as an added benefit, it’s naturally gluten-free and vegan! Omar’s Rawtopia, formerly known as Omar’s Living Cuisine, is located right in the heart of Sugarhouse (ok, immediately South of the hole in the ground where the heart used to be.)
Omar’s is our favorite restaurant: I’m admitting my bias right up front. We try to go there every month or so as a couple. It isn’t cheap, at about $15 for a main course, $3.50 for a drink, and $7/$8 for dessert, but no food could be more worth the price! I first met Omar Abou-Ismail about six years ago, when his restaurant was still fairly new. I was still a meat-eater at the time, and highly skeptical of eating raw vegetables, but he took the time to talk to me about his passion for food and about the energy found in plants. He has the aura of a man who has found his calling and is intent on changing the world with his work. When Omar lists “love” as an ingredient in every dish, he’s absolutely sincere about it. He’s willing to share that love with everyone he meets: while we ate today, he spent some time talking with two women at a nearby table about the reasons for eating raw food. He called raw food a “beautiful journey”; one which is beautiful because it is challenging.
Raw food is a true art. Of course, fresh produce such as berries, cabbage, onions, and avocado are raw foods, and you’ll find those in the food here, but what’s really impressive is the variety of textures produced by soaking raw nuts overnight to soften them, then blending them into creamy hummus; or sprouting seeds for days; or dehydrating combinations of nuts, seeds and fruits into crisp crackers or a crunchy cheese-tasting topping. The work and, yes, love, that goes into Omar’s food is incredible. I always leave feeling like I’ve been given a beautiful, lovingly-crafted gift, which, of course, I have.
Today we started off with Chocolate Goji, a cool, creamy drink containing “chocolate, goji berries, baby coconut, almonds, agave nectar, and love.” We also had a Mango Smoothie topped with the Chocolate Goji. Both of these were the half-glass size. The full glass, if I recall, is closer to pint-size. There’s an interesting graininess in raw chocolate drinks, similar to the graininess of a pear. The drinks look almost like pudding in the photo, but they’re more like thin but flavorful shakes.
After the drinks, we split the Creme de Broccoli Soup, an appetizer described as a “creamy seasoned broccoli almond soup, topped with onions, bell peppers, avocado, celery, tomatoes, cucumbers, sprinkled with Rawtopia’s seed cheese, and love.” It came in a charming heart-shaped bowl! (See the top picture above.) From the velvety texture of the pale green soup, I would have guessed it was broccoli and avocado, rather than almond. In any case, generous chunks of avocado, along with diced tomato and other veggies are heaped on top, and the tangy cheese contrasts nicely with the smooth, mild soup.
The Hummus Pizza is one of our recurring favorites. A tip for first-time visitors: don’t expect the pizza to taste like any pizza you’ve had before, or the pasta like pasta, etc. This isn’t the place to find “vegan food you’d never guess was vegan.” For starters, nothing’s hot here, not even the soup, and there are no grains. Keep an open mind and enjoy the new experience. What you’ll get is a dish filled with flavor. This “pizza” starts with a crisp, thin crust made of flax, sprouted buckwheat, and apple. It’s almost like a delicious and somewhat chewy flatbread cracker. The crust is spread with plenty of rich almond hummus, and then piled with veggies like cucumber, kale, avocado, celery, cabbage, red onion, playful-looking sprouts, and salty dried olives. The “cheese” on top is the crunchy seed grain topping that comes on the soup as well. I want to buy this stuff by the barrel and sprinkle it on everything! The overall effect is that of densely-packed flavor with a variety of textures in every bite.
Sadly, we didn’t have room for dessert, which isn’t Omar’s fault: his food never gives you that “I just ate too much” feeling – it actually energizes you! But we munched on snacks too late last night, so we had to skip what is usually the highlight of our visit: either a Fruit and Chocolate Moo (chocolate ice cream with pieces of fresh fruit, drizzled with fruit syrup and sprinkled with fresh coconut and cocoa bits!) or a slice of the Chocolate Fruit Creme Pie (like a pudding in a sweet and crumbly crust, again accented with the fruit sauce and toppings.) If after reading this, you’re still hesitant about raw foods, just stop by Omar’s Rawtopia for dessert. You’re likely to become hooked. Before you know it, you’ll be trying the Spicy Curried Seaweed Roll – vegan, riceless sushi with curry dipping sauce!