Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar on H Street NE
By Nevin Martell
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Walking into Dynamic Health and Wellness on the H Street NE strip, you wouldn’t immediately know you had come across a takeout joint. But once you move past the African instrument displays, racks of Malian clothing and pamphlets promoting the health benefits of colonics, there’s Khepra’s Raw Food Juice Bar, tucked away in the very back.
This is a no-frills operation, clearly tended with love. Plantains, peaches and papayas are carefully piled on a shelf behind the counter. A wipe board displays the daily dishes and drinks, and a refrigerated case is stacked with bottles of house-made juices. Chef-owner Khepra Anu, a raw-food devotee for more than a decade, is mostly self-taught, though he did study under raw food pioneer Aris LaTham.
Since December 2011, the 40-year-old Petworth resident has been offering a small, ever-changing vegan menu of juices and raw foods, meaning that they have never been subjected to temperatures of more than 150 degrees Fahrenheit. (Raw food adherents believe that this lack of heat in the preparation process helps the produce retain health-promoting enzymes.).
Using fruits and vegetables largely sourced from Albert’s Organics in Bridgeport, N.J., Anu has crafted memorable dishes that should win over diners who have never had an uncooked meal more complicated than a salad. Even though nothing is baked or fried here, it will take several minutes for your meal to be assembled.
The burger ($10; $12 with two sides; $15 with samples of all available sides) is made with ground almonds, hemp seed and sprouts, while the partially dehydrated bun is composed of sprouted buckwheat, zucchini, flax, garlic and onion. There’s a rich sun-dried tomato red sauce that’s a stand-in for ketchup; creamy cashew sauce serves as the mayonnaise. The sandwich is moist, slightly spicy and complex on the palate -- not unlike an Indian chola tikki chickpea patty.
The crab-free crab cake ($10; $12 with two sides; $15 with samples of all available sides) uses shredded coconut meat mixed with almond butter, celery cubes, slivered onions and bits of bell pepper. It mimics the textures of the Chesapeake Bay favorite but tastes more like a light tuna salad.
A number of side dishes ($8 each) vie for your attention, but focus on three of them: sweet, chewy and figlike partially dehydrated plantains; broccoli dressed in creamy almond sauce pumped up with sun-dried tomatoes; and the garlicky hummus.
Juices are blended in a Vitamix, then strained. Novices who opt for one of the six blended flavors (about 12 ounces, $9), might want to steer clear of the herbaceous kale-peach, which tastes much more of greens than stone fruit. Combos such as the tangy and tropical tangerine-mango are more approachable, flavorwise.
Dessert -- two or three are offered each day -- was a downer. Papaya coconut cream pie ($9) was simply thick cut slabs of the orange-hued fruit with coconut jelly and a few blueberries scattered on top.