Raw food may not sound appealing, but for the owners of Ahimsa — a new restaurant on Chapel Street that is set to open next week — it is the cutting edge in the fast-growing market of vegetarian and vegan gourmet food.
The new restaurant — whose name means universal love in Sanskrit — will open next week and will feature a fully organic vegan menu, adding to the already growing number of restaurants serving vegetarian and vegan dishes in New Haven. Ahimsa, which boasts a completey organic — and mostly raw — menu, is the reincarnation of Imagin Café, a juice bar inside The Imagin Studio photo shop on Chapel Street.
Ahimsa will have an organic wine and juice bar and will serve its dishes on biodegradable kitchenware. Nirav Shah, owner of Ahimsa, said that the menu concept was “health-conscious, compassionate food [and] environmentally friendly.”
“We want [our customers] to feel that when they’re eating this food, they’re doing an ethical thing and environmentally good thing,” Shah said. “The whole environment is uplifting, and we will offer a complete meal with emphasis on taste.”
The menu will include cheese and eggplant manicotti stuffed with nuts, lentil burgers and soy burgers, black bean wraps, and portobello wraps. Organic wine, smoothies and juices will also be offered.
Imani Zito, owner of the Alchemy Juice Bar Cafe in Hartford — a restaurant which also specializes in raw food — said eating raw food is becoming popular because a raw-food diet can reduce the effects of diseases like diabetes.
“[Raw food] is healthier for the planet and for people,” she said. “It is giving people more focus and energy, going to the pure source of the food in its original form. If you put that into your body, you will benefit from it.”
Neal Parikh ’09, who is vegan, said he believes vegetarian and organic foods are gaining popularity, and he especially enjoys the availability of vegetarian options in New Haven.
“Just from talking to the owners of Ahimsa, I know that people come from hours away to eat here,” he said. “They are focused on keeping their food sustainable and healthy so anyone who wants to eat [organic and healthy] food will eat there.”
Most vegetarian students said the prospect of more vegan restaurants in the city is exciting, though they would not go out of their way to eat only sustainable or raw food.
Adrian Latortue ’10, who is a vegetarian and lives in Bridgeport, said he had always come to New Haven for the variety of vegetarian restaurants and organic food stores, but not specifically for raw food.
“I’m not a vegetarian for ethical reasons,” he said. “I was raised one and I’ll eat anything vegetarian, but I won’t go out of my way to get raw food.”
Parikh also isn’t a big proponent of raw food.
“It’s not as filling as regular vegetarian food,” he said. “On a student budget, it takes too much time and money.”
Ahimsa will also provide free space as a meeting place for local community organizations and will display student artwork on its walls, Shah said.