The Naam Restaurant
2724 4th Avenue West
(604) 738 7151
As I settled down to write this review, it struck me that it could lead to examining one of the most polarizing Vancouver-area restaurants in Foodosophy‘s brief history.
After a couple of visits to The Naam Restaurant, speaking with folks who live in the neighborhood and/or have eaten there in the past, and a superficial perusing of general online chatter that surrounds this establishment, I strongly sensed that this restaurant generates as much a fierce two-sided debate as say a discussion about the best political party to lead the province through these dire times, what is the best balance between using tax payer money to promote the 2010 Olympics versus helping fund solutions to remedy the growing homelessness plaguing the city, or even what to do about Coach Vigneault.
Much like the other similar sounding ‘Nam, there is always controversy brewing and plenty of those around who think they have it all figured out and are correct in their judgment.
To begin, a little history and background on Naam. It proclaims to be vegetarian. Reporters have noted it to be one of the oldest natural foods restaurants in the city. It is open 24/7, everyday except for Christmas Day. And although the sample size is smaller, I’ve found that each time I’ve dined in there is always a lineup out the door especially at mid-day or on weekend brunch.
Once you are able to get a table, the overworked (and I think outnumbered) wait staff might come to your table in a timely manner. And I’m not saying that to be fescious. They truly are overwhelmed by the crowds, and given the laid back nature of this restaurant (heck, it has its roots in Vancouver’s hippie culture after all), diners are forewarned not to expect quick, attentive service or responses to any of your usual dining needs.
This could include things as just getting a menu, having your water served, the time it takes for the meal to come out of the kitchen and brought to your table, and hailing them down to receive the bill, etc. Be patient, as it will come… in time. As with any restaurant, as long as you know what you can expect, I think you should be willing to bend and adapt to the local customs or way they do things around here. If not, I recommend you find your vegetarian or 24-hour food needs elsewhere. The Naam is best left to those who are in no hurry, not pressed to fit their meal into a nice tidy one-hour time frame, and who generally are by nature, more accepting and relaxed.
For the food, there is part of me that welcomes the slightly funky twist that comes with the eclectic offerings at Naam that are different from your regular greasy spoon or neighborhood diner. As an example, pictured above is the Croissant Witch. Basically a split-in-half croissant is topped with what is dubbed “tofurella” (a cheese replacement) mixed in with scrambled eggs (of more tofu if you so desire) and veggie sausages. On first glance, it looks like a regular hot top creation, and although I only had a few bites, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. And I am a noted carnivore.
As intriguing as the assorted more healthier options looked, I have never been a fan of whole wheat pancakes. So I went with the Pancake Sandwich on this visit, which came with some fresh berries, whipped cream and maple syrup. It felt more home-y to me, and it was a good sized portion, not overwhelming so that I felt stuffed. I’m finding its not only the ingredients but also the portion control that is key to “eating healthy”. Sorry for the diet-speak.
For die hards, I am sure The Naam will continue to be a favorite haunt for them. For those who have heard the talk about this place, I am sure many will try and be satisfied and conversely an equal number will come away wondering what the hype is all about. For me personally, I’m going to have to go the route of Switzerland here, neither extremely for nor adversely against. It is what it is, a long standing business on the west side, catering to a specific clientele in a generally health conscious city, with an interesting take on classic breakfast and brunch items served up in a very casual, some would say slow, style.