An eclectic fusion of locally organic food fare with big city edge, Ottawa’s Zen Kitchen serves perfect gourmet portions of the freshest ingredients accompanied with an environmental consciousness. Free of chemical additives, preservatives and anything of the genetically engineered variety, Executive Chef Caroline Ishii ensures each dish is vegan friendly and often gluten-free, displaying her culinary mastery developed from her studies at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in New York City, as well as yoga and meditation. This also spills over into the decor and ambiance of the reconfigured home turned restaurant, perched just before the main strip of Chinatown. Drenched in calming hues and clean lines, you can hear
Paul Simon’s guitar strumming through the speakers and Chef Ishii’s husband David Loan, roaming the dining area and greeting customers. A co-owner and manager in the restaurant venture, he is also a sommelier and compliments his wife’s artistic cuisine with perfectly selected VQA wines. The talented duo are famed for their 13-episode series called ”The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave,” broadcast on the W Network in last year.
Zen Kitchen uses local suppliers of family run farms and businesses including Jambican Studio Gardens of Kemptville, Kiwan Farms operating along Hawthrone, Acorn Creek Garden Farm, Roots and Shoots Farm and Ferme de la Rivière Blanche, among many others. They also support the local arts scene by exhibiting paintings and works of established and budding artists throughout the restaurant.
I found myself deeply intrigued by its reputation and opted to experience their brunch plates recently on a warm Sunday with my partner – a cyclist, avid outdoor enthusiast, ex-vegan ‘manly man’ and food skeptic.
We started with the traditional green tea and coffee – flavourful and perfectly brewed before our main entrees were served. I chose the buckwheat pancakes with maple syrup, smokey tempeh bacon and fresh fruit salad with hints of mint garnish. The tempeh bacon is made from soy beans with a bit of sugary maple syrup and salt added before the smoking process. I thought it tasted better than the real thing and had a delightful crunch and crispy texture. Buckwheat, a seed known for its nutritional value including high fibre content and rutin, a medicinal chemical that strengthens capillary walls, is used often in healthy baking. The pancakes were light like crepes with a nutty flavour and balanced the sweet, pure maple syrup. My counterpart’s meal was called sope, a leavened house corn tortilla with scrambled tofu, Mornay sauce, fresh guacamole, house salse and spicy rice. Both dishes were gluten-free and left us happy and satisfied – a welcomed feeling to the usual heavy, greasy-spoon weekend brunches. All brunch dishes are
$14. For more information, visit ZenKitchen.ca.
634 Somerset Street West