Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Well, I finally made my first real visit to ZenKitchen. I say real visit because my first time there was for the launch of their TV show, The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave. That night I had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with all those who made the show possible, and of course, indulging in yummy finger foods. I told myself I must return for a proper meal. So here I am.

A couple of weeks ago I looked after a friend of mine’s dog. Although I wasn’t expecting anything in return, I was thrilled when she asked to treat me to dinner. The absolute best way to my heart, is definitely through my stomach! And I love that people know this because I always end up with savoury treats as a result. Thanks so much Sue!

The décor in this restaurant is warm and welcoming. Walls coloured in natural earthy tones of deep oranges and yellows and decorated with bright local art. The floors have an unassuming look but offer an awesome non-slip grip that would stop any woman in any heel from slipping.

Sue ordered a half litre of Strewn Cab Rosé to get us started. As I perused the menu, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat overwhelmed by my choices. Not that there were many, it’s a small menu. But everything looked mouthwatering. I finally decided on the raw land and sea salad and one of the tapas plates. Sue ordered similarly, sharing the tapas, and with a soup to start.

A fun fiddlehead-inspired amuse-bouche arrived at the table. It was cooked (or not) quite differently than any fiddlehead I’ve ever had. It was crunchy, or should I say crisp? Really quite interesting. Either we’ve been overcooking our fiddleheads or this is a new way to enjoy them. I liked it!

Next came my salad, a tower of colourful spirals of root vegetables, sea vegetables and a delectable sesame ginger dressing. I honestly think you can make anything tasty with sesame. Not that these fresh veggies needed it. I could feel my body filling with excitement at the healthiness of it all.

My main was a combination plate, actually an appetizer meant for two. Perfect as a main course. I just can’t help but order anything that gives me a selection. I love trying different things. Nirvana house-made dumplings, sautéed organic edamame, the freshest and tastiest stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had, served with raita, crispy age-dashi tufu cubes, and yummy slivers of house-made pickles that cleansed your palate as you jumped from item to item.

There were four of us at the table. Everyone ordered two apps rather than an app and a main. Mine was the only meal equivalent of a full dinner. I started to feel a bit like a pig for having ordered so much, but had I not I would still have been hungry. I couldn’t understand how they did it. Until my plate was taken away and our server asked us if we wanted to see the dessert menu. All three women answered with an obvious YES (um, of course!!) They purposely ate less to save room for dessert. Are they brilliant or am I just dumb? I hardly ever get dessert. I much prefer to fill up on the savoury vs the sweet. But when I saw that menu, I was envious at the room they had saved for this special moment. Did I pass? Of course not! This is Rachelle eats food, not Rachelle eats too much for dinner then passes on dessert!

The table was filled yet again with some pretty nice dishes, spicy Mexican chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce, crème anglaise and berry coulis, fresh lime mousse pie in an almond cookie crust with vanilla bean cream, and 2 servings of apple ginger cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I had the cobbler. And I enjoyed every second of it (did I mention that my body was made with a separate stomach for desserts?). Sue’s chocolate cake was unlike any cake I had ever had, so moist and dense it was rich like a dark chocolate brownie would be. Since it’s vegan, the chocolate is made using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, probably another reason for it’s decadence. If you’re in a place with good desserts, be sure to save yourself some room, it’s so worth it. Another thing I noticed on the menu but had to save for another time was a trio of dessert wines, what a great idea!

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly take anymore, 4 lovely little chocolate truffle balls were served. There’s always room for chocolate.

Prices are very reasonable, starters from $7 to $10, tapas plate $16, desserts $8 to $10, and mains $21, or $48 if you go with the four course chef’s tasting menu. Menu is fully vegan with most dishes gluten-free or available gluten-free as requested. Service is also very friendly.

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Anonymous said...

Sounds like a lovely meal! I've been wanting to go but now I will go for sure.

One of Ottawa's Real Foodies said...

This sounded like a fantastic evening! It is on my wishlist.

Jane said...

Sounds fantastic. I wasn't sure if I should go since I saw the tv show (hype).

Holly Bruns said...

How did you like the Rosé? I am on the look-out for Ontario Rosés this month and I haven't tried that one.

Rachelle said...

Hi Holly, I liked it. But then again i'm not a huge rosé drinker (although i'm starting!). so my opinion isn't the best at this point. so I asked my friend Sue for her thoughts on the wine:

"I quite liked it, actually, thought it was nice and dry. I'm kind of into rose these days, so I had even gone so far as to check the LCBO website to see if there were any bottles available in Ottawa."

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