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Located at 634 Somerset St W, ZenKitchen is a full-service gourmet vegan restaurant. They also offer cooking classes for small groups, as well as wine pairing and wine-maker events.

They use all-natural ingredients, with no genetically engineered foods, preservatives and chemical additives, and the freshest of ingredients that are as organic and locally sourced as possible.

Weekend Brunch at ZenKitchen
Foods from ZenKitchen

2011 Aug 31
One "next morning" comment: This is very rich food!

Granted, we ate too much, but we've done that many times before and only rarely do we have no appetite for breakfast the next day. The fact is, vegan does not mean low calorie -- it takes a lot of vegetable oils and fats to make food satisfying and tasty without meat. Healthier than meat, to be sure, but only less caloric in controlled portions. :-)

2011 Aug 30
This is one of Ottawa's unique little gems. Food was interesting and of great quality, service was uniformly friendly and genuine.

* Winterflower Cocktail - I originally ordered this because I've been toying with getting some St. Germain elderflower liqueur. The base of the cocktail turned out to be sparkling wine, which is more my wife's thing than mine, so I passed it on to her. The elderflower liqueur shone through and was nice. The little edible flower blossom floating in the glass was a cute touch.
* Colaneri 2009 Pinot Grigio - An absolutely spectacular white that was recently mentioned by @ZenKitchen613 on Twitter: "Dave says the Colaneri 2009 Pinot Grigio may be the best ON VQA white he's tasted." A real find! It utterly invalidates my declaration that all whites other than Rieslings are only fit for cooking. ;-)

* Sunomono land and sea salad with cucumbers, radish, root vegetable spirals, sea vegetables, yuzu-ginger vinaigrette - This was a good but small and mild salad. My wife was a little disappointed that it had no noodles (as typically seen with sunomono in local Japanese restaurants), but the menu did not promise noodles.
* Zen salad rolls with Thai peanut sauce, dengaku tofu skewers, house pickles, kale and handcut potato chips - Spectacular! The tofu skewers were reminiscent of wonderful chicken kebabs and the salad rolls were somehow cold *and* fresh -- a combination we've never encountered when ordering Gỏi Cuốn (Summer Roll) at any Vietnamese restaurant. Kale chips were a little spongy but the potato chips were good. My wife commented that there should be two spoons containing peanut dipping sauce, since this dish is intended for two people.
* Crusted Mushrooms - Not sure exactly what this is called, as it was a complimentary gesture from the kitchen due to a delay in bringing out our mains. OMG!!! Unbelievably delicious -- exotic mushrooms, dusted in what seemed to be seasoned cornmeal, then lightly fried and served with sweet hoisin and spicy chili sauces. This was like Calamari only better! Highly recommended.

* Panko-Crusted Seitan - This is the perfect main for a meat eater. The seitan is reminiscent of a hearty, tender patty of ground beef. Very satisfying and tasty, served with a slice of lemon on top. The bed of alfredo pasta underneath was a little gummy, but it tasted nice and was filling.
* Sopé - My wife loved this Mexican style plate. The leavened corn tortilla was hearty and sweet in that "corny" way. Everything was satisfying and of high quality.

* Spicy Mexican chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce and berry coulis - I ordered this because everyone raves about it. It was quite incredible and well made, but I'm not too crazy about gooey, chewy chocolatey things (like brownies). If you like brownies, you will LOVE this cake. I didn't really notice any spiciness...
* Fresh lemon pie in a nut crust with coconut whipped cream - The crust is super tasty and the coconut "cream" is incredible. The lemon filling is mild (not very tart) and is spiced interestingly with cloves or allspice. Unusual and nice.
* Zen "Cheesecake" - Of course there's no cheese in it, and it really doesn't taste much like a cheesecake. But it's *better* than most cheesecakes I've had. With a hint of lemon and a delicious soft-pie-crust kind of mouthfeel going on, this is the dessert I would order next time!

ZenKitchen is an interesting asset to Ottawa's culinary scene. There are unusual and welcome touches, including real flowers on every table and even in the washrooms. Both Dave and Caroline came around to all the tables to see if everyone was enjoying themselves, and all the servers were friendly. This is yet another business where the devotion of the owners comes shining through!

2011 Jan 23
i tried zen kitchen for the first time last night. i don't normally eat out and this was the second fancy dinner (fancy for us) in 2 weeks (went to allium earlier in the month).

we were given chipotle hummus and flax bread to start. it was delicious, the best hummus i have ever had. the bread was very fresh and had tons of flax in it.

there was one flaw with our server, she didn't take cocktail orders. she left us with menus for a while and then came to take food orders and still didn't ask what we wanted to drink. we did get some drinks, they had a nice ontario beer selection and one of us had the winter cocktail of elderflower liquor with ontario sparking wine - very yummy.

i had a dinner of starters. i started with the ceasar salad. i liked it, but didn't love it. i wasn't crazy about the dressing. if it had been called something else i would have been happier, because it tasted nothing like ceasar dressing.

next was the black bean cake with guacomole. this was great. it was small, but i shared it with the table.

next was the tapas for 2 (all for myself). i shared tastes of it with the table, since i was becoming pretty full. it was my favourite of the night and i would definitely recommend this as a main for one person. it was zen salad rolls with peanut sauce, homemade kimchi (so spicy and good), homemade daikon pickles (i could have eaten a lot more of these), kale chips (everyone at the table loved these), potato chips, and tofu skewers. the tofu skewers were perfectly done, but i found the marinade a bit sweet.

i loved having a plate with so many options and i realize that is how i prefer to eat as a vegetarian. i don't always like to have one main dish at a meal, i prefer to have a variety.

one of my dining companions had thai curry and two had mushroom risotto. all were happy with their meal. my husband liked his curry, but didn't love it. for his money he wanted a little more wow. i blame his choice in main because that is something we make a home.

for dessert they gave me a free dessert for my birthday. i had the lemon tart with coconut whipped cream on a nut crust. divine. i loved the coconut whipped cream and could have eaten an entire bowl of that.

during our meal the chef was constantly coming out into the dining room to check on the diners, which was nice.

i was very happy with my meal. we can't afford to go here very often, but i would return in the summer months and do the chef tasting menu.

i am going to sign up for the cooking courses caroline does at the lcbo. i can't wait to learn how to make some of her dishes.

for my husband and i, it was $160. that included 3 starters, 1 tapas, 1 main, 2 beers, 1/2 litre wine, a glass of port and a coffee.

2010 Jul 29
After a crappy day at work yesterday, my partner suggested we make our way to ZenKitchen as I have been wanting to try it for a while and we figured we could get in sans-reservations at 8:30 on a Wednesday night. We were correct! We were quickly seated on the patio. I had very high hopes for my meal.

I won't go into the amuse too much because I can't really remember much about it - oops. It was good though.

My sangria was very yummy and went perfectly with the patio setting. For my starter I had the "hand-pressed corn tortillas with sweet potato filling, tomatillo salsa, sour cream". The tortillas themselves were very good and hearty, however I found the sweet potato filling to be a little lacking in flavour. Once I swished it around in the tomatillo salsa and sour cream it was fairly good though.

For my main I chose the "caesar salad with dengaku tofu skewers, romaine, carrots, roasted garlic polenta croutons, tempeh bacon bits". My hopes were so high for the dish; the description sounds amazing and I really love caesar salad. The high point were the garlic polenta croutons, they were delicious - crispy and garlicy on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside. I found the dressing to be lacking in flavour a little; it was just 'okay'. The tempeh bits on top were a nice addition though, and I wish there had been more of them. Unfortunately, I found the dengaku tofu skewers to be downright gross. They were pieces of soft tofu on skewers which tasted as though they had been slightly warmed and then doused with hoisin sauce. I took a big pass on them. Overall, I found my main to be on the disappointing side :(

We decided to give dessert a try since we were still a little hungry after not finishing our mains, and we were SO glad we did. I had the "spicy Mexican chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce, creme anglaise, and berry coulis" and OH. MY. GOD. It blew my mind. I ate the entire thing (quite a sizeable portion) with a ridiculous grin on my face. There was loads of decadent melted chocolate over a super rich, slightly spicy cake. It was perfect.

Verdict? I would go back for drinks and dessert.

2010 Jul 22
Four of us celebrated a friend's birthday here last night, and we enjoyed it very much. Who says vegan can't be decadent?

We had lovely little Caipirinhas while waiting for everyone to show up - they were fresh, flavorful and packed a punch! Dave (I am guessing from the poster on the wall upstairs!) brought us multigrain bread with edamame hummus while we waited, and later our server brought an amuse-bouche, halved cherry tomatoes served with a balsamic reduction. Delish!

We shared the black bean cake and corn nacho appetizer, which we made very short work of. The guacamole was perfect! We also shared a bottle of the Strewn Cab Rosé, which was perfectly dry and fruity, although I found the markups on wine (generally 3x) a little high.

We tried three mains, my favourite of which was the panko-crusted seitan, (amazing!!) followed by my choice, the wild mushroom risotto, and then the pesto "cheese" ravioli, which although I didn't try, was apparently the least impressive meal on the table.

We followed with three of their desserts, including a spicy chocolate cake, a chocolate tart and a lemon scone served with fresh strawberries and strawberry coulis. All of the desserts were fantastic.

The atmosphere is very welcoming, everything on the menu looked scrumptious, and we all enjoyed the food. The service was very friendly and well paced, however the one tiny flaw I would note was that the girl that came to take my card processed it right on the table and managed to leave the cheque exposed for long enough for everyone to see, which I would usually try to avoid. But that doesn't change my opinion that ZenKitchen is a great addition to the Ottawa dining scene. I am very happy to see gourmet vegan, and I recommend you visit ASAP!

I should also note that I got brownie points for "Best Birthday Dinner Ever", in case anyone is looking for birthday gift ideas. :)

2010 Jul 7
I cannot wait for brunch!

I love all their smaller plates - appetizers and tapas, but I have to say that I am consistently underwhelmed by the mains. The last two times I went I found my orders (a noodle plate one time and a curry the other) to be too heavy and monotonous.

The beverage list is fantastic, service is consistent, and I love the apps, but I think from now on that this is going to be a snack and drink place rather than somewhere I go for a solid meal.

2010 Jun 30
They announced in their June newsletter that they will be serving Sunday brunch starting on July 18 from 11am to 3pm. Can't wait to try it!

"The menu will incorporate current lunch menu items and include brunchy goodies that we have been developing, including pancakes on the griddle (regular and gluten-free), freshly baked scones with house jam, my personal favourite – the dragon bowl, seitan sausages, hash browns, and much more."

2010 May 20
Well, I finally made my first real visit to Zen Kitchen. I say real visit because my first time there was for the launch of their TV show, The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave. That night I had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with all those who made the show possible, and of course, indulging in yummy finger foods. I told myself I must return for a proper meal. So here I am.

A couple of weeks ago I looked after a friend of mine’s dog. Although I wasn’t expecting anything in return, I was thrilled when she asked to treat me to dinner.

The décor in this restaurant is warm and welcoming. Walls coloured in natural earthy tones of deep oranges and yellows and decorated with bright local art. The floors have an unassuming look but offer an awesome non-slip grip that would stop any woman in any heel from slipping.

We ordered a half litre of Strewn Cab Rosé to start. As I perused the menu, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat overwhelmed by my choices. Not that there were many, it’s a small menu. But everything looked mouthwatering. I finally decided on the raw land and sea salad and one of the tapas plates.

A fun fiddlehead-inspired amuse-bouche arrived at the table. It was cooked (or not) quite differently than any fiddlehead I’ve ever had. It was crunchy, or should I say crisp? Really quite interesting. Either we’ve been overcooking our fiddleheads or this is a new way to enjoy them. I liked it!

Next came my salad, a tower of colourful spirals of root vegetables, sea vegetables and a delectable sesame ginger dressing. I honestly think you can make anything tasty with sesame. Not that these fresh veggies needed it. I could feel my body filling with excitement at the healthiness of it all.

My main was a combination plate, actually an appetizer meant for two. Perfect as a main course. I just can’t help but order anything that gives me a selection. I love trying different things. Nirvana housemade dumplings, sautéed organic edamame, the freshest and tastiest stuffed grape leaves I’ve ever had, served with raita, crispy age-dashi tufu cubes, and yummy slivers of housemade pickles that cleansed your palate as you jumped from item to item.

There were four of us at the table. Everyone ordered two apps rather than an app and a main. Mine was the only meal equivalent of a full dinner. I started to feel a bit like a pig for having ordered so much, but had I not I would still have been hungry. I couldn’t understand how they did it. Until my plate was taken away and our server asked us if we wanted to see the dessert menu. All three women answered with an obvious YES (um, of course!!) They purposely ate less to save room for dessert. Are they brilliant or am I just dumb? I hardly ever get dessert. I much prefer to fill up on the savoury vs the sweet. But when I saw that menu, I was envious at the room they had saved for this special moment. Did I pass? Of course not!

The table was filled yet again with some pretty nice dishes, spicy Mexican chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce, crème anglaise and berry coulis, fresh lime mousse pie in an almond cookie crust with vanilla bean cream, and 2 servings of apple ginger cobbler with vanilla ice cream. I had the cobbler. And I enjoyed every second of it (did I mention that my body was made with a separate stomach for desserts?). The chocolate cake was unlike any cake I had ever had, so moist and dense it was rich like a dark chocolate brownie would be. Since it’s vegan, the chocolate is made using coconut milk instead of cow’s milk, probably another reason for it’s decadence. If you’re in a place with good desserts, be sure to save yourself some room.

Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly take anymore, 4 lovely little chocolate truffle balls were served. There’s always room for chocolate.

Prices are very reasonable, starters from $7 to $10, tapas plate $16, desserts $8 to $10, and mains $21. Menu is fully vegan with most dishes gluten-free or available gluten-free.

2010 May 9
I've been to Zen twice, and both times it was great.

The panko crusted setian was sooo delicious, as was the asparagus soup. Their dessert sampler was great too, getting to try a little bit of everything. (the keylime pie was the best one fyi)

I can't wait until their patio is open again. Hopefully they will serve the same delicious strawberry sangria as last year.

2010 Mar 26
I had the good fortune of visiting the Zen Kitchen for the first time last Saturday evening.

It was a complimentary meal paid for by my host(s) so I was game for anything, and definitely not disappointed. The atmosphere at the Zen Kitchen is perfect for conversation and the food is presented in such a way, that you are anticipating the arrival of each course as a 'work of art' arrives at the table. A delicious work of art that is fresh tasting (not heavy or 'salty' as one of my adjoining table-mates pointed out) and truly celebrates the beauty of food in its' best form!

I ordered the soup as an appetizer. Curried sweet potato. It was fantastic. A hint of spice and warmed the palate for the wonderful entree of mushroom risotto that followed. (Many of us were sampling from the appetizer plates of those next to us..everything was mouth-watering to look at, and impossible not to comment on!)

The risotto was incredible. I didn't order any alcohol at that meal, but would have been curious to see what wine would have been suggested by the somelier to compliment the rich and full flavor of the chantrelles, porchini and other exotic mushrooms that were selected for my dish.

Dessert was another adventure. Luckily there were some 'sampler' plates ordered around me...and I was able to indulge in the chocolate cake that was irresistible! I ordered the lime mousse cheesecake with an almond crust. A flavor that was refreshing (the lime) and lingered in a lovely way.

That is how I would describe the Zen Kitchen experience, in fact. A lovely, lingering outing. One that I will seek out again.
I highly recommend this restaurant for its' expertise in food preparation (must be the years of catering behind the owners' precision)and the great atmosphere for the sharing of ideas and food!

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2012 Aug 11
An extensive brunch menu (maybe 10+ options?) and by rights they are probably all delicious!

I opted for the Reuben sandwich, which involved moist dark rye with a lightly toasted exterior, meaty tempeh, and a wonderfully sauced cabbagy filling. Tasty and satisfying!

The soup of the day was corn chowder so I chose this as my side and was very glad I did! Without a doubt this was the best corn chowder I've ever encountered.

This dish was a reasonable $14. The coffee was a somewhat less reasonable $3, but it was good coffee and it was served with a cute creamer and sugar bin so I hold no grudge. ;-)

It was pretty empty on a Saturday. They are busier on Sunday, when they have live jazz.

Service was wonderful, friendly, and it involved generous refilling of water glasses.





2012 Aug 29
The vegan burger at ZenKitchen is delicious. Texture similar to meat, fixings beautiful, on a nice whole wheat bun. Vegan poutine was fab as well. Have eaten here several times for lunch and dinner, always have had a good experience.