|Story by Dave Choo
Photo by Matt Mallams
When Sylvia Thompson was visiting the space that would eventually become her restaurant Greens & Vines, the real estate agent explained that grease traps were not allowed on the property. Not a problem, Sylvia said—because not only would she not be doing any frying, she wouldn’t even need a stove.
No surprise then that the “greens” in Greens & Vines refers to raw and vegan cuisine: fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes and sprouted seeds that are heated—if they are heated at all—to no more than 118 degrees, leaving delicate enzymes intact and maximizing the food’s nutritive value. “If you can’t stick your finger into it,” says Sylvia, “then it’s way too hot.”
Greens & Vines, which opened last October, is Honolulu’s first bona fide raw restaurant. Its signature dish is the Living Lasagna, a twelve-layer vegetable cake in which thinly sliced zucchini stands in for pasta, macadamia nuts are whipped into a ricotta cheese-like topping and puréed sun-dried tomatoes substitute for—well, for stewed tomatoes. Other offerings include Kaffir Miso Pad Thai made with raw sea kelp noodles and a garden burger served on a “bun” of dehydrated onions.
The other half of the restaurant’s name refers to its extensive wine selection, and right now the vines clearly outnumber the greens, because the menu offers only about a dozen dishes in total. That, says Sylvia, is because she’s more interested in sharing a lifestyle than she is in breaking extensive culinary ground: Ten years ago her husband, Pete, suffered a massive heart attack, and the couple decided to go vegan. Sylvia experimented with recipes, enrolled in a raw-food culinary school in Northern California and, in 2007, opened Licious Dishes, a raw-food business. “The doctor told Pete that he’d be taking medication for the rest of his life. That’s no cure,” says Sylvia. “After eighteen months of vegan foods, he was off his meds, every one of them. I’ve met so many people like Pete, people who needed to change their diets. So I’m glad I’m able to provide people with a place to eat healthy—and eat well.”