|My first blogger brunch was a Zen experience!!|
|The staff at ZenKitchen thought me far out to lunch
When I told them of 15 bloggers coming for brunch..
In the end, we were just four
Though we’d clearly hoped for more…
Perhaps next time there will be a whole bunch!
This adventure started a few weeks ago now when I stumbled across a group on Facebook called themselves the Ottawa Blogger Brunch. Since I blog, live in and blog about Ottawa and generally enjoy brunch, this seemed like a reasonable fit for me. At first, it didn’t seem like people could select a venue. However as the time drew close a decision was finally made in favour of ZenKitchen even though some felt that it was overly expensive. Nevertheless, as of noon on the 20th March, the allotted date, there were 15 confirmed attendees. That seemed like it would be a perfectly-sized group. I had wondered, though, who had taken upon themselves the task of making a reservation.
Where we went: I had never been to ZenKitchen before but knew that it was in the Somerset & Bronson area of Ottawa’s Chinatown. Even though I was running tight for time, I entered the restaurant on the dot of one o’clock. One of the staff members asked me if I had a reservation. I answered in the negative explaining that I was with the blogger group. The perplexed look on his face made me somewhat uncertain. There was no reservation for any sized group at 1PM and one for 15 would be hard to miss. Could I have the wrong date? he politely enquired. 💡 I wielded my trusty smartphone and punched up the event on Facebook. I showed the event listing to the waiter and he deflated somewhat explaining that they would likely have some difficulty finding space before 1:30 for that size of a group. In the meantime, he asked if I would like to sit at the bar and sip on a coffee.
To cut a long involved story short, I finally discovered at 1.25PM that there were two solitary members of the group sitting at the back of the restaurant: Ming Wu and Katy Watts. I would have recognised Katy immediately since we had met before but unfortunately she was blocked from my view. Shortly after I joined them, our final member, Samantha Everts arrived. Boy did I feel naïve, foolish and not just a little old-fashioned for thinking that if 15 people confirmed, something close to 15 would turn up. Surely in the world of instant communication, it is not too hard to log on and change your status. Indeed, when I logged onto the event page on Facebook, my phone informed me that I was marked as attending and would I like to change my status? Since there was no option for slightly miffed, I declined the offer.
What we ordered: Well, at least accommodating our group was no longer a problem! We were seated at a table for four and we were now just four. Many people, when they see a brunch advertised, will assume that it is a buffet-style affair. This is not the case at ZenKitchen. In reality, brunch, being a combination of the words breakfast and lunch, simply refers to a meal that is a combination of the two. See the full ZenKitchen brunch menu here. I had not been aware until recently that ZenKitchen is fully vegan, which means, among other things, that no milk, cream, cheese, eggs or butter are used in their kitchen. I could imagine tolerating the absence of meat, but breakfast without dairy products barely seems possible. My personal choice was between the pancakes and the apple fritters with granola and fresh fruit. In the end, I opted for the latter. Others ordered the Reuben sandwich and Dragon Bowls with crunchy maple tofu (see pictures in gallery below).
What we got: I would be truly remiss if I did not mention the quality of the service. Not only were the staff knowledgeable proponents of their cuisine, they were also attentive but in an unobtrusive manner. Sometimes I find that over-eagerness can be worse than lack of attention. That was not the case here. If I was initially a little concerned that my chosen dish would be short on quantity, nothing could have been further from the truth. It was a totally novel concoction for me. The only slight minuses would be that there was an excess of sugar on the fritters and not enough of the vanilla bean crème anglaise for the quantity of granola, which made it rather dry. On the whole, though, it was a treat, although very filling. When I saw ‘a slice of our daily loaf’ as part of the dish, I expected a piece of home-made bread. Instead, I received a slice of what I took to be banana bread (also pictured below). A small dish of home-made jam accompanied it. Although I was too full to partake of dessert, Samantha and Ming ordered the bread pudding and Katy the black rice pudding.
Worthy of note: When I checked in to ZenKitchen on FourSquare on my cell phone, I discovered that I had earned 3 bonus points for my first visit to a gay bar. 😕 Some people had complained that ZenKitchenwas too pricey, however, including a beverage and tax, my bill total was still under $20. For the quality and amount of food, I consider this to be good value. Caroline, the chef & owner, took the time to come to our table and talk a little of the philosophy (sic) behind her restaurant. She also offered us a sample of a new Treleche pudding she was introducing (see picture below). This I was able to sample and would not have believed that it could have been made without dairy products. For any celiacs out there, it is also worth mentioning that many items are gluten-free and many others can be made so to order.
- Positives: A very healthy place to eat but don’t expect to save any on the calories. Caroline maintains that many of her calories are less fattening than junk food. I’ll have to meditate on that one for a while 😉
- Negatives: If you really insist on meat and dairy every day, then this might not be the place for you!
- Recommendation: Step outside your comfort zone if you are not vegan and into it if you are!
- Website: http://www.zenkitchen.ca
|Food Quality||****||Interesting & different|
|Price||$$$$||Still value for money|
|Decor||***||Clean & bright|
|Service||*****||Knowledgeable & attentive|
|Overall Rating||****||You’ll forget it’s vegan!|
|Frivolous Foodie Facts|
|Zen is unique among religions in the sense that it has no doctrine or philosophy or teachings that can be learned from books. It stresses only experiential understanding. Zen is touted as being the fastest way to enlightenment.|