As part of Vegetarian Awareness Month, I thought it would be appropriate to draw attention to the grandfather/mother of all Vancouver area vegetarian restaurants, The Naam near 4th and MacDonald. It has been around for 50 years now and to my eye has changed little at least since I was first there maybe 30 years ago.
The Naam - Vegetarian Awareness Month
This is not a slick modern plant-based restaurant and menu like an Arbour or Heirloom. It is more of a funky, environmentally conscious (not saying the others aren't) dare I say hippyish, back to the earth humble pedigree. And it was serving plant-based food long before that became a thing and back when Frances Moore Lappe's book, Diet For A Small Planet was first around. We arrived just at noon on Saturday and were seated right away. We did notice that before too long people were waiting for tables given the more limited capacity these days.
I always try to stay away from the Mexican food at vegetarian joints because wrapping beans and rice in a flour tortilla is something that I can do at home. So we started with Stuffed Chapati which turned out to be a glorified taco. It was still pretty good featuring avocado and cheese. Each dish came with lots of carrot and beets so we felt like we got most of our vegetables for the day here. At each appearance of cheese on the menu, we were given a vegan cheese option (which we chose) so our meal was actually vegan! The chapati had a nice semi-crunchy texture by the way.
Next up was their Thai Noodles or vegan Pad Thai. This was a really enjoyable tasty dish. Lots of peanuts but the ginger, garlic, miso, jalapeno flavours really made this dish of noodles, tofu, sprouts and cabbage. We call this dish a winner.
Somewhere under this well-packed plate of food is a Tempeh Reuben. Tempeh is an Indonesian fermented soy product that is formed into a sort of cake or slice. Apparently, I have never had tempeh before and I was not enamoured of it. I bought a package of it later (Yves makes it) to experiment and see what can be done with it as it is a healthy product used regularly by millions of people as a source of protein. I found it a little dry and too chewy.
When folded up into a sandwich, it did not resemble a Reuben. As you know a Reuben is pan-fried like a grill cheese sandwich and that would have gone a long way towards making me happy. Still, when the yellow mustard was added, this was a pretty good sandwich with lots of sauerkraut, cheese, mushrooms, salad and a pretty good bun. It came with potato wedges and miso gravy for dipping. The miso gravy might have been our favourite single element and we will definitely be trying to re-create it at home!
We love the old wood floors and old mismatched wooden chairs and tables here. It is homey and humble.
There are curious nooks and crannies and an eating area outside that is definitely not contrived or stylish but somehow very comfortable. The folks who work here are friendly and somehow seem to match their environs. If you have never been to The Naam, you need to make it a stop for the sake of history at the very least.
Food 3 out of 5
Comfort 3 1/2 out of 5
Service 3 out of 5
Value 3 1/2 out of 5
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