When Mahan Khalsa credits divine inspiration for leading her to create Vancouver’s newest organic eatery, she’s not kidding.
Khalsa told the Georgia Straight she plans to open Golden Aura (2680 West Broadway), which will serve raw vegetarian food, on Wednesday (March 20) at the “quirky” time of 3:33 p.m.
“I really feel like it’s a temple,” Khalsa, the 36-year-old “goddess formerly known as Shine Apsara”, said during an interview at the Kitsilano restaurant. “It’s a sacred temple. From your first connection with the door—it’s wood—it’s bringing us back to the elements: the earth, the air, the fire, the water, the ether.”
As she sipped a Shiva’s Nectar smoothie (seasonal greens, ginger, apple, lemon, and celery) from a wine glass, Khalsa explained both the menu and interior of Golden Aura are heavily influenced by a decade of living in several Asian countries and her practice of Kundalini yoga. The Ontario-born restaurateur moved to Kitsilano from the Sunshine Coast late last year.
If Khalsa seems familiar, you might have seen her—as did her silent partner in Golden Aura—on CBC’s reality TV series Dragons’ Den. In a 2011 episode, she asked the show’s venture capitalists for an investment of $111,000 for a 22-percent stake in her former company, Sunshine Living Foods. After the Dragons praised but didn’t finance her line of organic, raw, vegan, and gluten-free snacks, she rebranded her products as Raw Aura. Last spring and summer, she sold them at the Granville Island Public Market and still plans to wholesale.
Golden Aura will offer juices, smoothies, teas, super-food lattes, elixirs, soups, salads, entrées, and desserts. Everything will be organic and free of dairy, eggs, and gluten, and most of the menu will be vegan. (Honey and bee pollen will be available as add-ons for drinks, and honey will be used in some desserts.) There will be a couple of cooked options.
Dishes will include raw pad Thai, sushi, and pizza, as well as a Thai-inspired Symbiotic Slaw. Brownies, bliss balls, cookies, cheesecakes, and pies will be among the “very decadent” raw and sugar-free desserts.
Khalsa noted that lunch mains will run from $9 to $11 and dinner entrées likely from $9 to $15. Smoothies will average $7, while soups will go for $5.
“My inspiration really is the garden and Mother Earth, and really just reconnecting people to the energy of real food, and—through that connection—really connecting people to their true essence through the food as medicine,” Khalsa said.
The first thing one sees upon entering Golden Aura is a 100-year-old Indian altar. There’s also a statue of the Hindu figures Rama and Sita on an altar in the back.
“Seeing as this space really feels like a temple, we really want to house the Goddess—and the energy of the Goddess—in the space,” Khalsa said.
Asked which goddess, she responded: “I just mean the energy of divine feminine and the energy of the divine masculine that lives inside each and every one of us.”
Golden Aura occupies 1,400 square feet—half of that’s the kitchen—and has seating for 16 people. Golden lotus candle holders sit on the two communal tables. At the front of the restaurant, there’s a Moroccan seating area on a wood stage covered with real sheepskins, as well as a few bar-style seats. The walls and ceiling are painted with colours such as Chocolate Cosmos, Solar Fusion, and Sun God.
According to Khalsa, Wednesday will be a “soft opening”. To start, the eatery will be open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week, with a rotating lunch menu. After its grand opening, likely in April, Golden Aura will expand its hours to 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (with shorter hours on Sunday) for spring and summer, and introduce its full menu.
Khalsa pointed out that three yoga studios are conveniently located within a block of the restaurant.
“There’s so many holistic people here just on this block alone that are so excited and so grateful,” Khalsa said.
“But I want to have the door open to all people that are curious about a healthier way to live,” she added. “My intention is embrace all, and I really hope that people feel comfortable to come in and experience.”