Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's Alive!

We went to Alive! the other day and to say that I was reticent is putting it mildly. I must admit, I am not exactly what you’d call a disciple of this raw food movement. I am still very comfortable and quite used to food that has been cooked. I will take a boiled carrot (al dente, of course—I gotta have that crunch) over a raw one every time. I like sushi and steak tartare, but I’ll opt for the cooked versions over the raw ones every time.
But, when we visited Alive! recently, we were more than pleasantly surprised. Described on their menu as a “serene and sophisticated dining destination for raw, vegetarian, animal-free cuisine using only the freshest local, seasonal, and organic produce,” we were anticipating a bunch of rah-rah tree-hugging environmentalists preaching “save the planet” while serving us this barely edible, extremely bland fare. Not so. Everything we sampled at Alive! was delicious, packed with flavors and featured organic produce and ingredients that are local, seasonal and regional.
The restaurant’s modern Zen dining room and hidden urban garden made us feel supremely comfortable almost instantly. The knowledgeable and very professional wait staff at Alive! are true followers of the raw food movement, but they aren’t pushy about it—they know their stuff and can answer any and all of your inquiries about the food; but only if you ask, which is nice. Sometimes I like to be educated about what I’m consuming, and other times I just want to be left alone to eat it without a narrative.
First we tried some of well-known specialties at Alive! These are the dishes that Chef Leland Jung is most known for, so we were anxious to sample them. I always like to experience a place’s signature dishes, so we had the open-face avocado peppercress sandwich (amazing!); their sun dried tomato shiitake mushroom torte (man-o-man!); the signature sweet sesame ginger zucchini ribbons with seasonal vegetables and walnuts; (oh, the flavors!); and then capped it off with an amazing candy cap mushroom cheesecake (I know, it sounds weird, but it is so incredible, you HAVE to try it!).
Prices are fairly reasonable at Alive! with soups and starters running, $10–$12, and entrees going for $12–$20. I’ve paid a lot more for food that wasn’t even half as good as what you’ll encounter at Alive!
They also have an extensive, very smart wine list at Alive! The restaurant has Chris Tavelli, Yield Wine Bar, San Francisco as their wine consultant, and he’s one of the best in the Bay Area, so you can be certain that the list is extensive, deep and top-tier in every way.
The most amazing thing is that EVERYTHING we ate was 100% raw. The freshness of the ingredients coupled with the astute flavor combinations made for a very memorable meal. Now I can see why Alive! has gotten so many positive reviews and has been called a “leader of the Raw Food movement” in the Bay Area and beyond. We’ll be back here again and again, because not only is the food very healthy…but it’s also very, very good.
1972 Lombard Street
San Francisco, CA 94109
(415) 923-1052

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