Zen-a-licious… A glimpse of things to come

It’s funny… Once you start a blog, it’s all you can think about – especially when your blog is largely about food. I’ve always had food on the brain, and this new creative outlet has amplified it tenfold. What does this mean for you?  Well, I’ve got oodles of stuff to bring to our collective table.  Get ready to tuck in!

I started this weekend with a decadent meal at ZenKitchen, Ottawa’s newest jewel of a restaurant. Anyone with dietary restrictions, ethical qualms or food allergies will understand me when I say how wonderful and slightly overwhelming it feels when you know that you can eat anything off the menu without worry (please note: this generally happens after you’ve been vegan for several years, and you’ve lived in a place that only has one vegan restaurant and a handful of vegetarian restaurants, causing you to mentally prepare yourself for a very limited number of menu choices whenever you go out to any restaurant but these few). That’s right, Zen’s completely vegan, and if that weren’t enough, they’re also very understanding about gluten sensitivities (not to mention sweet, friendly, zippy as anything and accommodating… but this isn’t meant to be a restaurant review, simply an ode to culinary inspiration).

As we sat down, eager to begin stuffing our faces, I suddenly got shy about taking photos of my meal as I had initially planned, since the place was packed with happy diners. I couldn’t fathom dragging my camera out and blinding everyone in the place when the appetizer arrived, so yes, I chickened out. My prose will have to do the meal justice… Either that or maybe the photo I snatched off their lovely website will do the trick.

We started with sesame-crusted Le Coprin exotic mushrooms on a bed of delightfully crispy and refreshing red and yellow bell peppers, with a tamarindstar anise reduction and sweet chile sauce. I don’t even LIKE mushrooms, let alone love them, but I had a taste of this particular appetizer the last time we visited ZenKitchen earlier this year and had to be physically restrained from gobbling them off my boyfriend’s plate. I’m determined to try this dish at home, and I will keep you posted on the results.

Heaven on earth, in the form of melt-in-your-mouth seitan.

I then chose the panko-crusted seitan medallions with a cranberry-teriyaki sauce, ancient grain pilaf (which looked a lot like Israeli couscous), and Asian slaw (a julienned combo of carrot, red cabbage and green cabbage with a light coating of rice wine vinegar, oil and other subtle flavours) as my main dish. Unbelievably delicious, and definitely something that we can experiment with and be inspired by in posts to come. And if that weren’t enough, I opted to tempt my tummy-fate and ordered the fresh lime mousse pie in an almond cookie crust with vanilla cashew cream and berry coulis. I nearly died.  It was light, fresh and completely irresistible.

So, this is a preview of some of the dishes that I’ll be trying at home and then posting here – with my own twists, tweaks and additions, of course.  Not to knock chef Caroline’s ridiculously well-blended and imaginative creations, but I just can’t allow myself to copy anything, no matter how delicious.  Be inspired by, yes. Carbon-copy, hells no.

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3 Comments Add yours

  1. Seabrooke says:

    I’ll be looking forward to reading your posts! I’m always looking for new dish ideas. Of course, I’ll have to modify them with chicken instead of tofu or the addition of ground beef, etc. It’s just not a Real Meal in this house, apparently, without meat. Despite my attempts to convince the boy otherwise. The one exception to this was a butter chickpea curry I made that had zero meat and yet he proclaimed it his favourite dish I’d made in months. It’s a work in progress…

    I loved your first sentence of this post. Totally! I can barely go for a hike these days without seeing something and thinking, “Hey – I could post that to the blog!”

  2. Kelly says:

    I totally have to try out ZenKitchen! Reading your review makes me want to try it!

    1. lil' vegan says:

      It’s well worth it for a special occasion – they really pay attention to you as a customer and the food is sooooo yummy.

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