Sunday, April 25, 2010

Review of Ottawa's Zen Kitchen Vegan Restaurant

The Zen Kitchen in Ottawa is the first vegan/vegetarian restaurant I went to that offered a multi-course meal with accompanying wines. I love multi-course meals as they become very involved events where each dish is a flavor adventure. My best dining experience of the kind was as an omnivore and took place at the now defunct l'Anise in Montreal.

The atmosphere at the Zen Kitchen is a bit too casual for this sort of complex dining experience and the wait staff, a bit punky and edgy didn't seem to blend well with the concept. However, the multi-course meal is just one option of their otherwise a la carte offering.

Luckily, the chef and her husband, a knowledgeable sommelier, were very helpful in explaining each course, their content and what to look for in flavorings. The wine pairings were on the mark for all of the proposed dishes.

We were started with an amuse-bouche which was a hand cut multigrain tortilla with a fresh guacamole and micro green topping.

The second course consisted of a green salad with balsamic vinaigrette which was somewhat ordinary. Served with it was a sparkling white Ontario wine. I can't remember the name, unfortunately.

The third course comprised of three hand made mushroom dumplings in a tamari mushroom broth. It was served with another white wine. At this point in the meal, I figured the wine selection would remain in the very light end of the flavor spectrum. Very personally, I prefer bolder wines but these did fit well with the dishes served.

This course was my favorite. It was a tempeh cutlet that was heavily marinated for hours, served with a reduction and a multigrain risotto. The risotto was a bit too cold for my liking but the tempeh really surprised me. I had a terrible time enjoying tempeh lately. Something about the flavor doesn't sit well with me any more, but they managed to do something to get the after taste out. Accompanying the dish was a light red wine, again a bit too light for my liking but it did go well with the dish.

For dessert, we were treated to a delicious brownie with a soy ice cream with an almond brittle.

All in all, it was a very nice dining experience and it's amazing for vegans, as you don't have to worry about any animal products in your meal. I recommend it. Now I wish Montreal could step up and get something comparable! Does it beat my L'Anise meal, or the 5 Flies in Amsterdam? No, but its certainly good to see a vegan chef step up to the plate and take on the challenge. I'll definitely go back!

The Zen Kitchen
634 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario


Babette said...

That looks like a wonderful meal.

Anonymous said...

Great review, I completely agree with the atmosphere and staff clashing with the "upscaleness" of the food. But having been there many times for dinner, I can't say it's hurting them at all they are always very busy.

By the way, you'll be happy to know that your wait for an upscale vegan resto in Montreal won't be much longer...there is something in the works at the moment. A very talented up and coming chef I know, he's just getting started so he does catering and private dinner parties until they secure a location. His food is crazy good and innovative. Check him out: he blogs about it here:
Gorgeous stuff