Archive for the ‘Vancouver’ Category

Nuba Restaurant

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Lebanese
Tofu puffs: 4 out of 5
Price range: $$$
Time visited: Nearly a dozen
Location: 207-B West Hastings Street (at Cambie Street)
Hours: Sunday to Wednesday: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursday to Saturday: Lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Dinner 5 p.m. to 12:00 a.m.
Contact: 604-688-1655
Website: http://nuba.ca/

Entrance to Nuba Hastings

Entrance to Nuba on West Hastings

Like its nearby neighbour Gorilla Food, Nuba is another one of the relatively rare subterranean restaurants in Vancouver. Located at the corner of West Hastings and Cambie Street, Nuba’s laid-back, minimalist décor and tempting menus mean this place is hoppin’ from the moment their door opens for lunch until the last call late at night.

Once inside, you’ll see that Nuba has two areas – one with table service and the other with cafeteria-style seating where you mosey on up to the counter to peruse the giant chalkboard menu on a wall. If you’re keen on table service, reservations are a must, especially in the evenings. Show up without a reservation and the staff will try their best to accommodate you. But be prepared to be a bit rushed though your dinner. Our experience has been that while we get a table, it’s usually been reserved for someone else. Try not to be offended when the bill ends up on your table before you’ve finished eating. The servers do their best to be polite, but they can be quick to usher you out the door in time for the arrival of the next guests.

The Spoonies love Nuba for a several reasons: there are quite a lot of vegan options (the menu states everything is vegan unless otherwise noted), the food is delicious, and anyone you take there will find something on the menu to love, which makes it a great place to go with omni friends.

Mhjadra Plate

Mjadra Plate

There isn’t one thing at Nuba we’ve tried that we haven’t liked. The Spoonies are divided on the roasted potatoes that seem to be paired with many offerings. But that’s just about personal finickiness. Keep in mind that there are separate lunch and dinner menus at the Hastings location, though most of the vegan items available on the lunch menu are available during dinner service.

Even the most committed eggplant hater will adore the baba ghanooj. It has a luscious smoky caramelized flavour and you won’t be able to stop dipping into this creamy appetizer. While hummus may be a common offering on many a menu, Nuba steps theirs up a level by drizzling a heavenly golden, fruity olive oil over their hummus.

We lust over the Mjadra (pronounced “mah-ha-dra”) and Najib’s Special so much we often negotiate who’s ordering what, just so we have at least one or both of these dishes. The Mjadra is an amazing green lentil and rice dish of the most delicious flavour, topped with perfectly crisped onions. The Najib’s Special is crispy browned cauliflower perfectly paired with lemon and tahini. Be sure to order the mezze size of both these dishes if you want a little for everyone to share. If you’re not so much into sharing, we also highly recommend getting a plate instead. Just beware that you’ll likely be plenty full with a plate, if you manage to make your way through one.

If you and your dining partner(s) feel like grazing, splurge on the La Feast (just remember to ask your server to make it vegan). The mezze and pita falafel offerings are equally good, but we’ve found the mezze size to be more than filling where we’ve ordered other appetizers. Sadly, the mushroom-y vegan hushwie has disappeared from the both the lunch and dinner menus, but we hope that someday it will make a reappearance.

Najib's Special

Najib's Special Plate

On the dinner menu, the vegan options from the lunch menu are still available. One shining difference is the vegan meshwi. If you order this offering, you’d better arrive at Nuba very hungry. The dish’s skewers of grilled mushrooms and vegetables are large the hummus and taboulleh plentiful. Since the Spoonies can be creatures of habit when it comes to finding really good dishes we like, we’ve yet to try the eggplant with Lebanese ratatouille, the house fattoush salad, the eggplant stew, or the grilled laffa and labneh. But, if these dishes are like everything else vegan on the menu, we’re certain these items won’t disappoint.

Of course, there’s dessert options as well, along with freshly squeezed juices and a decent selection of other beverages, including wine (not all of them vegan). We’ve never had enough room left for dessert and usually avoid ordering drinks since it means less room for the all important food. If you’re brave enough to have tried the dessert, let us know. One of these days, we’ll learn to leave a little room for a sweet encore.

As much as we love Nuba, it does have some faults. During several visits, our dishes arrived without some ingredients. Specifically, the Mjadra frequently doesn’t come with the promised avocado or jalapeno. The hot sauce included with some dishes almost never makes an appearance. The baba ghanooj and hummus mezze never come with as much pita as they require. And once in a rare while it takes the servers a few tries before they remember what drinks you ordered or that you ordered a drink at all. Despite these sticking points, the service is generally friendly and there’s usually a quick turnaround from the time we’ve ordered to the time our food arrives at the table. And the atmosphere is easy-going with a hang-out kind of vibe. Nuba’s definitely the perfect place to take out-of-town friends, for a romantic tête-à-tête, or to rest your weary feet post-downtown prowl. Come hungry and leave plenty stuffed and happy.

Nuba 1 Lentils

Mjadra Mezze

mushroom plate

Veggie Hushwi Plate

Falafel

Falafel Plate

 

BaoQi Vietnamese Eateri

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Vietnamese
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $
Times visited: 1
Location: 620 Davie Street, Vancouver
Hours: (winter hours) Sunday & Monday – closed; Tuesday to Friday – 11:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Saturday – noon to 9:30 p.m.
Contact: 604-568-7980

Tofu Bahn Mi - BaoQi Vietnamese Eateri

Tofu Bahn Mi

The moment we walked into this place, we were in love.

BaoQi is an adorable little Vietnamese restaurant tucked away between several sushi joints on Davie Street between Granville and Seymour streets. It’s easy to overlook, and we have, in fact, walked by it on a few occasions without any notice. Even from the outside, it still doesn’t look very striking. But walk through the door and the cozy atmosphere will have you thinking you’d like to stay for quite a while.

While seeing the huge, beautiful goldfish in a floor tank just inside the doorway left us a bit unhappy, there was nothing else about the restaurant we didn’t like. Although it is a small space, there is a large booth with seating for eight and a long, beautiful wood table with wood stools that seats 12.  One of the most interesting aspects of the restaurant’s decor is a wall decorated with vintage frames and black and white photos of two striking Vietnamese women from the 1940s and 50s.  Other small touches, like a shabby chic bench and coat hooks, as well as the delicate glass cylinders on the tables holding sleek black chopsticks, give this place a charming character.

Vegan Cuon - BaoQi Vietnamese Eateri

Vegan Cuon Rolls

The menu boasts two delicious vegan options, a Tofu Bahn Mi (a Vietnamese sub sandwich) and Vegan Cuon Rolls (rice paper salad rolls). Now, before you think “Not all vegans like tofu”, this is not the kind of tofu you’re likely thinking of. The tofu in the bahn mi and the cuon rolls is a fried, minced, marinated bean curd that mingles with a mixture of juicy, crisp, and fresh ingredients. 

The lone server’s warm greeting endeared us to the place, and we were totally smitten when he brought us a deliciously fragrant cups of tea as we waited.  Less than 10 minutes later, with everything made fresh to order, he smilingly presented our carefully packaged food – all of it for less than $11.50, including taxes.  Wishing us well on our way out the door, we gleefuly exclaimed how excited we were about the food. He chuckled and smiled from ear-to-ear, wishing us well once more.

So, how was the food? Oh my goodness gracious! It was good. The bahn mi’s bread had the perfect crispness on the outside and pillowy softness inside. The filling was layered with lightly pickled daikon and carrot, fresh cucumber and cilantro, and spiked with a wee bit of jalapeno. The bahn mi was so good our toes curled with happiness. (Yes, our toes curled. Cats do it too when they’re happy.)  And the cuon rolls?  Just take a lookie-loo at that picture! More delicious, shredded tofu surrounding layers of crisp lettuce, more lightly pickled veggies, and vermicelli noodles with a not too sweet peanut dipping sauce. The final touch is the fresh basil leaf just inside the top of each roll.

It’s obvious that we’ll be back many, many times. As for the veganizable menu options, we’re not sure. But we’re definitely going to be investigating them tout de suite!

Bandidas Taquiera

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Tofu puffs: 3 out of 5
Price range: $$
Times visited: 5
Location: 2781 Commercial Drive, Vancouver
Hours: Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, 10 a.m. – Midnight; Brunch daily until 3:00 p.m.
Contact: http://bandidastaqueria.com/

Veganized Huevas Rancheras - Bandidas

Veganized Huevas Rancheras

We first discovered Bandidas back in early 2009, a few months after they first opened their doors on the Drive. After having discovered a huge number of vegan-friendly brunches in Portland, we were pretty darn excited to find out about an all-vegetarian Mexican-style brunch spot right here in Vancouver.  Be warned, however, that if it’s the weekend and you have your heart set on brunch, you’d better show up when they open or be prepared to wait awhile (and maybe even wait outside, regardless of the weather).  Bandidas’ is immensely popular and is nearly always packed, especially on the weekends.

There are quite a few brunch spots in the city, though not too many of them are all that vegan friendly or offer decent vegan options. (Yes, we know about The Perch, and of their vegan brunches – we plan to check them out very soon.) Unlike many brunch spots we’ve been to both in and outside of Vancouver, Bandidas is one of only a very few that offers brunch 7 days a week. This is pretty fantastic since anyone visiting Vancouver can be assured of having a warm and satisfied belly any day of the week.

Vegan French Toast with sausages and bacon - Bandidas

Vegan French Toast with Yves sausages and bacon

For vegans, pretty much any dish on the brunch menu can be veganized, with eggs being replaced by a butternut squash and organic tofu scramble and Yves veggie bacon strips and sausages available as side orders. They also use Daiya in any dishes that call for cow’s milk cheese. We’ve tried their Huevas Rancheras, The Hicks Benny, and the Breakfast Burrito, most of which are all delicious and all made using fresh, house-crafted corn tortillas.

The best thing of all about Bandidas is that they have not one but two explicitly vegan options on their brunch menu: The Vegan, a scrambled tofu plate with veggies, pinto beans, and ranchera sauce, and Vegan French Toast.  While we have had better French toast elsewhere, we’ll take the French toast at Bandidas since it’s all we can get in Vancouver. (Again with The Perch – we’ve heard they *might* have a vegan French toast option at their Saturday brunches, and if they do, we’ll let you know.)

Bandidas used to craft an almost amazing house-made vegan sour cream, which we would have liked even more if it weren’t for the fact that they used a vanilla-flavoured soy milk to make it.  We’re told that the recipe was difficult to make consistently, and now they use a pureed tofu and lemon juice sour cream with their vegan offerings.  They also offer honey butter for their vegetarian customers, with an so-so vegan alternative being made with margarine and sugar.  Even though the servers at Bandidas are pretty quick to make the switch between vegan and non-vegan condiments, be sure to ask for the vegan “honey” butter when you order corn bread (yes, the corn bread is vegan too!).

Breakfast Burritos with Daiya - Bandidas

Breakfast Burritos with Daiya

Brunch aside, Bandidas also offers tempting lunch and dinner options.  They’re fully licensed, featuring a bar stocked with several local wines and brews. For the teetotalers and straight edgers, there are organic teas, organic coffees, and virgin drinks, including our favourite: Ella’s lemonade, served in a mason jar just like many of their other beverages.

We like their Los GLD nachos so much that Bandidas’ creation has forever changed how we make nachos at home.  We’ll admit that we haven’t been to there so often for lunch or dinner, though we have had the Ronny Russel and the Leona Gayle hand tacos. We have to confess that we like the hand tacos at La Taqeria better, although the hand tacos at Bandidas are decent nonetheless.

One of our only complaints with Bandidas is about the Mexican rice that accompanies the tacos and enchiladas.  Every time we’ve had it both the rice and the garlic used in the rice have tasted something akin to stale. We’re not sure if this has changed since we’re pretty hesitant to try anything with the rice in it again.

There used to be a much-coveted window table with two rocking chairs.  Sadly, the rocking chairs are no more, though additional seating has been added in the already cozy restaurant. There is also bar seating available with a view of the kitchen. And, Bandidas is kid-friendly!  There’s even a ramshackle bookshelf by the entrance with various papers, magazines, puzzles, story books and novels for both adults and kids.

The Vegan - Bandidas

The Vegan

Another thing we really appreciate about Bandidas is their love of bike culture. With an oft-crammed bike rack out front and vintage bike decor in the restaurant, Bandidas rides the sustainable line by using pedal power in lieu of a company car or truck. Although we haven’t yet seen it yet, they’re said to have a custom-built bike trailer they use to transport the restaurant’s food and equipment. And if you don’t ride a bike, Bandidas is easy to get to by bus or Sky Train.

Because Bandidas’ has a fairly small kitchen, their made-to-order food can sometimes take a bit of time to arrive at the table. Be patient with the servers, who are amazing in handling a very busy bunch of tables. They’ve always been nice, and are really good about checking to see if you’re happy and that you have everything you need.

Bandidas is the only place that gives us a reason to be up and out of the house before 10 a.m. on a Sunday and travel all the way across town with growling bellies. We hope they’re here for a long time to come, and to this we have to say ¡Bandidas de larga viva Taqeria!

Muffintop Corn Bread - Bandidas

Muffintop Corn Bread

 

Sejuiced

Vegan-friendly

Cuisine: Vegetarian
Tofu puffs: 2.5 out of 5
Price range: $$
Time visited: Nearly a dozen
Location: 1958 West 4th Avenue, Vancouver
Hours: Sunday & Monday, 9:00am – 6:00pm; Tuesday to Saturday, 9:00am – 8:00pm
Contact: http://www.sejuicedvancouver.com/

Outside Sejuiced

Sejuiced

You might be asking why we’ve been to Sejuiced so many times if we’re giving it only 2.5 tofu puffs? Well, because it’s so close to our apartment it’ll do the trick for when we’re really busy or simply too lazy to cook. After all, Sejuiced is better than some restos we’ve been to, vegan or not.

Having frequented a similar restaurant in Toronto called Fresh, at first we were excited to find Sejuiced. With some of the same items on its menu that Fresh has (and maybe not so coincidentally the same names for a few of the smoothies Fresh used to serve), Sejuiced seemed like it had promise. And really, it’s a pretty good place to go if you’re looking for simple, healthy food (minus the cheese, eggs, honey, and milk they also serve). Our appreciation of Sejuiced went up a few points recently when we discovered they were offering the one vegan cheese that could launch a thousand grilled sammies – Daiya cheese! But if you’ve ever been to Fresh, then you’ll have to knock down your expectations a few notches, because Sejuiced just isn’t there yet in both quality and tastiness.

To preempt the stuff we’re not so keen on, we’ll start with what we do like about Sejuiced. If you’re on the go and have nary a crumb for breakfast, their scrambled tofu breakfast wrap is delicious and filling (just beware of the ketchup – they make their own and put honey in it too).  Their burgers, like the Thai burger, are decent, especially if you’ve overloaded on sweets and other junk and have a craving for something that won’t make your insides groan with revolt. Their Power House yogi bowl is good, though it could use a bit more sauce over the brown rice. The grilled cheese and veggie sandwich is delicious with Daiya (remember to ask for vegan cheese instead of the cow’s milk cheese), and it’s perfect on a rainy day with a side of steamy soup.

Inside Sejuiced

Inside Sejuiced

Now, the biggest issue we’ve had with Sejuiced is the chalkboard and print menus. For some time after we started visiting there, there were no print menus that we ever saw, only a chalkboard menu. This means we never knew to avoid the ketchup in the scrambled tofu wrap. Of course, now that we know, we order the wrap sans the honey. However, we wish that they’d just get a ketchup without honey. We’re pretty certain it isn’t so hard to find a supplier with a decent vegan ketchup. Making this change would mean that a few more of the menu items could be vegan. Be sure to check out the print menu for items marked vegan, as the chalkboard menu is not marked as such and can be misleading. Also, a few of the smoothies have honey or other non-vegan ingredients in them, so be sure to read through the ingredients and ask to have your smoothie made vegan-style.

Another issue we have with Sejuiced is the salads that accompany the burgers. There aren’t any fries on the menu, which is actually a refreshing departure from standard menu fare. Instead, Sejuiced pairs their burgers with a too simple baby greens salad with a few slivers of sweet bell pepper and a Green Goddess-style dressing that seems like it has a little too much apple juice in it. We’ve been to far too many restos where the “salad” offered is a very sorry excuse for something that could so easily be better. And while Sejuiced steers clear of the dreaded iceberg lettuce salad, they really could benefit from putting a little bit more effort into their greens, as well as offer at least one other kind of salad dressing for those who aren’t into the sweetness of their current dressing.

Power House Yogi Bowl - Sejuiced

Power House Yogi Bowl

The menu offerings are pretty simple. There are rice bowls, wraps, soups, sandwiches, breakfast items, and desserts from local purveyors such as the lemon-vanilla Chi Cake created by Alan Munro, the rich chocolate-covered bliss balls and hearts from Sweet Cherubim on Commercial Drive, as well as a chocolaty Nanaimo Bar. There’s never been anything vegan on the menu we haven’t liked, though there is virtually nothing Sejuiced offers that couldn’t be made at home and likely for a cheaper cost. But the appeal is that Sejuiced makes everything for you, and if you’re not inclined to cooking in the first place, then you’ll appreciate what they have to offer.

As you can see from the photos here, there is seating for two at a bar table just outside the front window of the restaurant. The inside is very small with seating for a maximum of 14 people.  And there’s not too much line up or waiting room for those waiting for takeout.  Luckily, we’ve never seen it so busy at Sejuiced that we’ve had to wait for a table, and many people seem to be content with taking their orders to go.

If you happen to find yourself out and about on 4th Avenue with a grumbling tummy, then head over to Sejuiced for some nourishing, uncomplicated food.

(Oh, and we appologize for the lack of food photos – as it often happens we forget to take pictures of something before we eat it.)

Vegetable Soup with Grilled Daiya and Veggie Sammich

Vegetable Soup with Grilled Daiya and Veggie Sammich

OrganicLives

100% vegan

Cuisine: Raw
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $$$
Times visited: 4
Location: 1829 Quebec Street (at 2nd Avenue), Vancouver
Hours: 7 days a week, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Contact: 778-588-7777
Website: http://www.organiclives.org/

Creamy Zughetti - OrganicLives

Creamy Zughetti with Earth Salad.

However you choose to pronounce the name of this place, it really doesn’t matter. Once you’ve taken a bite of their delicious fare, all you’ll remember is that you must come back for more.

With a take-out deli and juice/smoothie bar, grocery section, and sit-down dining, you really can’t go wrong with whatever catches your eye at OrganicLives. It seems that almost from the moment this place opened last spring, it’s been a hit with most everyone who’s walked through their doors. Owner Preet Marwaha told us that some folks like the food there so much they drive in from dozens of miles away just to stock up on supplies and  satisfy their cravings for a little bit of organic raw goodness.

And if you’re not local but you’d like to see what they have on offer, head on over to their website and peruse their online store. In addition to a number of food ingredients, they also have the much sought-after VitaMix blenders for sale, as well as books, DVDs and a larger selection of dried fruits and other goods not available in the store.

The location Organic Lives occupies is part of a large former warehouse that’s over 100 years old. Various architectural features of the original building structure can still be seen throughout the restaurant. It’s a very simple space but clean, with seating for 16 people and plenty of room to maneuver about the other customers with your shopping basket. There’s also some bar seating available in front of a picture window with a full view of the behind the scenes preparation. There are two entrances on Quebec Street (one with stairs, one without), and a large bathroom at the south end of the restaurant, roomy and accessible, with a few turns.

Raw Pizza - OrganicLives

Flatbread Pizza with Caesar Salad.

If you can get past gawking at the unusual selection of raw ingredients displayed in-store, you’ll find an extensive selection of gourmet dishes on their sit-down menu. Rather than muck about with creating silly names for things like “cheese” and “milk”, the menu gets straight to the point, calling mock dishes by their not so vegan names, such as the chive foie gras in the French Country Feast. Not to worry, everything on the menu is 100% vegan, so order with abandon!

The offerings in the deli section are equally tasty, with wraps, sushi, prepackaged dessert nibbles, freshly juiced concoctions, smoothies, and more available for toting away. And lest your eyes and hunger get the best of your reason, know that the smoothies are large enough to be meals themselves. So beware when you’re thinking of ordering a smoothie, lunch, and dessert. You’ll likely not be hungry for many hours after eating that much food.

When you see the desserts you’ll be sorely tempted to start with those first. Staff say that customers have named the desserts themselves, calling one of them “heaven in your mouth” (this is the cake slice simply known as Ganache). There’s a dessert for nearly every taste and craving, some of the most delicious being the pecan pie-like Caramel Cinnamon pie, the Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake, and the walnut-studded slice of fudge. The dark, dense macaroons are also popular, as is the unusual strawberry shortcake. It may just be that after seeing their resolve-weakening creations, you might just skip the main course altogether and just have desert instead. Paired with their delicious Almond Chai Latte (either hot or cold) or and espresso, dessert will leave you as pleased as a cat with catnip.

Raw Caramel Pie - OrganicLives

Caramel Cinnamon Pie with Pecans.

If you can’t decide what entrée to go with, we can promise you the pizza, which is much like Hawaiian pizza, is an excellent place to start. The pizza’s accompanying Caesar salad’s almond croutons are a delicious surprise. If pizza’s not your style, the Lasagna’s tasty combination of herbs with nutmeg-macadamia-pinoli cheese, sun-dried tomato sauce, and hemp basil pesto will definitely have you wanting to dance on the spot with happiness. The Mexican Spirals and Thai Curry dishes are also quite tasty. Want a dinner for two? Many of the entrees are easily sharable, though we think you’ll want to have many of the dishes all to yourself.

The appetizers on the menu are perfect for sharing, especially if you have several friends dining with you. The delicious Crackers and Cheese are belied by their simple name, and the staff swear the Bruschetta & Peruvian Olive Platter, though small, is very popular and worth a chance. It’s a good thing most of the appetizers are small, because you’ll need the room for the main course.

Speaking of the staff, they’re some of the most sincerely nice and attentive servers you’re likely to encounter in a restaurant. They’re observant, thoughtful, quick and eager to offer menu suggestions and a “tour” of the desserts displayed in the deli case. In fact, the servers very much cultivate the pleasant and relaxing atmosphere, the absence of which would make Organic Lives an otherwise sparse space. Preet and his staff are always excited about striking up a conversation and giving you honest answers to any questions you might have.

And one last note: be prepared to spend some time here. Most dishes from the sit-down menu are made from scratch when they’re ordered, and this may take a little time. We assure you – you’ll be more than pleased you waited. If you’re in a hurry, then visit the deli section and have a look at take-out options for quick to-go options.

This is a place we hope to visit many more times to come, and we think that once you give OrganicLives a try, you and even the most anti-raw person you know will want to come back for seconds too.

Raw Lasagne - OrganicLives

Lasagne with nutmeg-macadamia-pinoli cheese and Caesar salad.

Raw Nachos - OrganicLives

Nacho platter.

Raw Mexican Spirals - OrganicLives

Mexican Spirals.

Raw Crackers and Cheese - OrganicLives

Crackers with three cheeses.

Raw Strawberry Shortcake - OrganicLives

Strawberry Shortcake.

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake - OrganicLives

Chocolate Cashew Cheesecake.

Raw Tiramisu - OrganicLives

Tiramisu.

Dharma Kitchen

100% vegan

Cuisine: Asian
Tofu puffs: 3.5 out of 5
Price range: $$
Time visited: Several
Location: 3667 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC V6R 2B8
Hours: 7 days a week, noon to 10 p.m.
Contact: 604-738-3899

Dharma Kitchen

Dharma Kitchen.

You know how some restaurants play their music so darn loud you almost can’t hear yourself talking to your friends? Dharma Kitchen is definitely not that kind of place. It’s a humble little space that doesn’t seem like it has much going on. In fact, if you’ve never been there, it’s unassuming facade can make it easy to miss. But, as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. Well, most of the time anyway. And this is very much the case for Dharma Kitchen. Hidden behind the modest blue exterior is an inviting, tranquil atmosphere. This tranquility is embodied by the very polite and attentive staff. Yeah, the place looks a little tatty, but simply put Dharma Kitchen is like a warm, fuzzy blanket, especially on drizzly, chilly Vancouver evenings, when all we wanna do is hibernate.

Dharma Kitchen differs from many Buddhist eateries in that its fare is not the typical Chinese cuisine laden with mock meats. And it uses both onions and garlic, unlike most strictly Buddhist eateries. The simple Thai-inspired menu offers rice bowls, burgers, salads, soups, fresh juice cocktails and smoothies, hot beverages, and a few desserts. It’s not fancy food, but the simplicity is quite refreshing if you’re someone who gets overwhelmed or indecisive when there’s too many options on a menu. And the prices are reasonable as well. A typical meal for two with entrees and chai will cost less than $30, including taxes and a 15% tip.

Indochine Bowl

The Indochine Bowl with miso gravy.

So, what about the food? Honestly, it might not knock the socks off most people. In fact, it could be said that The Naam has better comfort food than Dharma Kitchen, that is if you like your table grimy, your servers a tad disinterested, and your food run-of-the-mill. But Dharma Kitchen offers comfort food that is prepared with care and attention. That’s more than obvious when you finish your meal and, for a brief moment, feel serene and as if all is right with the world. Well, that’s how we’ve felt anyway. A bonus is that, like the Naam, Dharma Kitchen is one of those places you can bring a meat-eater to and they’ll probably leave just as pleased with their dinner as you are.

We highly suggest beginning your meal with a large steamy cup of their delicious soy chai. Like any masala chai worth its name, the Dharma Kitchen’s chai is perfectly spiced black pepper with a bit of lemongrass. Yes, we said black pepper and lemongrass. Never mind how weird that sounds. Just try it. We’ll bet you won’t be disappointed.

The appetizers, such as the Tamarind Soup, Dharma Miso Soup, and the garlic and lemongrass sauteed mushrooms are also light but tasty. They’re the perfect size to keep you from totally gorging on the main course, though we can say that, along with a drink and main course, getting an appetizer pretty much means no room for dessert. This is fine, though, if you aren’t a fan of pudding-like desserts. We’re particular fans of Chinese-inspired tapioca desserts, and the warm Banana Tapioca Pudding definitely won’t disappoint. Dessert like this is comfort food at its finest. If that’s not your taste, there’s also the equally tasty Sweet Rice Pudding with raisins, cinnamon, brown sugar, and coconut milk.

Blue Jean Buddha Bowl

The Blue Jean Buddha Bowl with coconut gravy.

As entrees go, our favourite by far is the Indochine Bowl with its mouthwatering marinated and grilled tofu, freshly grilled veggies, and perfectly savoury miso gravy. Dharma Kitchen’s miso gravy could win a kitchen brawl against the Naam’s miso gravy any day. The lip-smacking Buddha Bowl with its marinated tofu cubes, fresh veggies, and a Thai peanut sauce is also worth a try. Then there’s the Thai Burger with Thai peanut sauce, cilantro, bean sprouts, and green onions, as well as the Bengal State Burger topped with a curried peanut sauce, fresh spinach, and tomatoes. Burgers are accompanied by your choice of roasted potato slices or a fresh salad. We’ll admit that sometimes the “roasted” potatos leave something to be desired. We think they’re just boiled sliced potatoes that are browned a little under a broiler. So go with the salad instead—you’ll feel the better for it when thoughts of dessert come around. That said, the Blue Jean Buddha roasted potato bowl with sauteed bean sprouts and onions, marinated tofu, and your choice of four gravies or sauces is pretty good. The yummy Red Curry Tofu dish is large enough for two people and is laden with freshly grilled bell peppers, tofu, and mushrooms, all on a bed of freshly cooked brown rice.

Although the Spoonies are not big salad people, we have tried a few of the salads. The Dharma Salad is pretty good, and like many of the salads offered it’s large, fresh, and simply adorned with grilled baby portobello mushrooms, artichoke hearts, grilled eggplant, bell peppers, and zucchini with a tasty dressing served on the side. The Buddha Salad’s marinated tofu cubes, steamed spinach, and grated beet and carrot also make it worthy of a nosh. The salads are pretty much meals themselves, albeit light meals.

We know Dharma Kitchen’s not everyone’s favourite. It’s uncomplicated food in an uncomplicated restaurant. Go expecting it to be what it is, and you’ll enjoy it. The servings are decent sizes, and you’ll leave feeling plenty full. And since there aren’t too many 100% vegan eateries in town, this is one place where you can satisfy your hunger and not worry about what objectionable ingredients might be making it into your food.

Trees Organic Coffee (Granville Street)

Some vegan options

Cuisine: Coffee and Tea
Tofu puffs: 3 out of 5
Price range: $
Times visited: At least a dozen
Location: 450 Granville Street, Vancouver, BC V6C 1V4
Hours: Monday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Contact: 604-684-5060; www.treescoffee.com

Trees Organic Coffee

Outside Trees Organic Coffee on Granville Street.

Trees Organic Coffee is the second coffee shop that The Vegan Spoon’s reviewed, and while we don’t intend to make it a habit of reviewing every coffee shop we’ve been to, we do think there are a few that are worthy of mention.

The Trees location on Granville near West Hastings has been around since 1996, and we’ve been going there since 1998. In our dreadful pre-vegan days, we, along with everyone else, scarfed down their cheesecake. It is, after all, what the small Vancouver-based chain is most well-known for. It also offers a small selection of fresh sandwiches, samosas, croissants, and breakfast items—none of which are vegan. There are Italian sodas available, as well as juices, but we’re not sure if the soda syrups are vegan.

While Trees doesn’t have any vegan cheesecake, it does sell a vegan scone. And a fine scone it is, too. It seems to have the flavour of both a cinnamon-sugar donut and a cinnamon roll. Packed with pumpkin seeds, raisins, and dried apricots, it’s made with whole-wheat flour, so it packs quite an iron-rich punch. It also has a perfect moistness and texture that would convince any scone aficionado that it wasn’t vegan. We’re told that the scones are made fresh every day and that it’s always the same vegan scone on offer. This lack of variety is fine, though, because its cinnamony goodness is the perfect accompaniment to a soy latte. Don’t wait too late in the day to get your scone; by noon or late afternoon, you’re likely to find yourself scone-less.

Vegan scone

The vegan scone at Trees.

Speaking of lattes, it’s not so much the coffee at Trees as the soy-milk options that got us really excited. It’s the first place we’ve ever encountered where a dispenser of soy milk stands proudly next to cow’s milk and cream dispensers at the condiment bar. (Yes, that little station in a cafe where you get the lids and the sugar is called a condiment bar.) So, if you’re feelin’ the drip coffee, you don’t even have to pay extra for the soy. Some cafes will give you the soy-milk carton if you ask, but other cafes will still charge as much for soy as they would if you’d ordered a latte. And, at Trees, ordering a soy latte will cost you only 25 cents extra, opposed to the 45 to 60 cents charged elsewhere. Of course, still having to pay for subbing soy sucks.

While we’re discussing lattes, we’d like to say that whatever blend Trees uses for its decaf lattes is quite nice. It’s no Continental Coffee, but it definitely holds its own in terms of standing out from those other generic places. You know, Timmies, Blenz, and that other chain from Seattle? Star-something? Anyway, Trees’ decaf blend tastes, to us, very much like dark chocolate without the chocolate flavour, ya know? For some people, it might not be stellar enough to go out of their way for. But at $2.93 (before taxes) for a tall latte, we recommend giving it a fair shake at least once.

Soy lattes

Tall and grande decaf soy lattes at Trees.

Should you care to sit down to enjoy your coffee and scone (or tea, as there is an excellent variety of teas available), there is plenty of seating the length of the café, and there’s even a couch—right below the “tree” near the entrance. At the moment, the Canada Line construction leftovers on Granville Street make getting to Trees’ front door quite a hassle. That said, whenever we’ve been there there’s been plenty of customers who have made the roundabout trek to get into the café, and that’s gotta mean something when it comes to Trees’ quality. This also means that, while accessibility is usually no problem for the stroller set or peeps with mobility devices, at the moment this is not so.

Trees is also open later into the day, which is nice for date-night after-dinner coffee or for meeting up with friends before heading out for a movie or a bar. There is an events schedule on the Trees website, and it appears that the Granville location hosts music nights. Their Twitter feed has also mentioned movies. Lately, though, it seems that there is neither music nor movies at Trees. We assume this is because of the ghost town construction on Granville has created. When all is clear, we’ll update this post to let y’all know.

In the meantime, get your tush over to Trees and show ’em how much you love their vegan scones. Perhaps if enough of us show up and ask for Chi Cake, vegans and non-vegans alike can enjoy cheesecake at Trees.