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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

2010 Feb 23
My husband and I visited ZenKitchen with another couple after months of hearing rave reviews. Let it be known that I am a meat eater, but in the past I was both vegan (1 year) and vegetarian (5 years) and by no means do I think that a meal has to contain animal products to be delicious. That being said...

Space: It's a very good thing we received some practical directions prior to our reservation as we almost missed ZenKitchen! Maybe we're just not used to busy Somerset and were distracted by the lights. ;)

The dining space itself is modern and quite bustling...I did feel a wee bit cramped, but then again, I'm beginning to feel that way no matter where I eat, as I get more and more pregnant and fit less and less on booth-side tables. Our coats were taken for us (and when they were returned, felt so cold they might have been outside!) and we were seated quickly.

Service:The service from the host (who I presume to be Dave) was very amiable; the service from our waitress was average at very best. Drinks were not refilled, questions about the food were not answered...and the presentation of the dishes left a lot to be desired (three of the four mains arrived at once, the fourth was about 2.5 minutes off, which seems like a long time when you're hungry).

Menu: The menu was short and easy to read. My menu was sticky and had food on it, which was a little gross (and has nothing to do with the menu itself, but I digress). It was so nice to see a variety of non-meat protein options available, from seitan to tempeh. The beverage selection was nice as well, and I do enjoy BlueSky root beer, so that was a happy treat while my dining companions partook in their harder drinks. ;)

Food: Here's where it gets truly disappointing. Our amuse was interesting - a tortilla chip with an avocado mousse (basically, a less-flavourful guacamole) but nothing special.

My appetizer was the caesar salad, my husband had something unremarkable and unmemorable, and the other couple had the crusted mushrooms. The caesar salad was "OK" but tasted wholly of soy and not much else. The mushrooms, from what I hear, were quite tasty.

Both myself and another member of our party had the thai lemongrass curry, my husband had the seitan medallions and the fourth person had the cannelloni. The lemongrass curry was the flattest thing I have ever eaten - there was no pep, no zip, no brightness at all to the meal, even with the bits of mango. It was very heavy and incredibly bland. My husband's seitan medallions were quite good, he had never eaten seitan before and was impressed by the interesting texture, which was well-accompanied by the sauce and pilaf.

For dessert, our waitress told us quite bluntly that they were out of the raw chocolate cake. My husband went for the Mexican chocolate cake, myself and another member of our party had the lime mousse pie, and the fourth person had the crisp. The Mexican chocolate cake was a little too intense - the cake itself was quite rich, but the chocolate sauce on top was gooey and excessive. This dessert won, though, as the lime mousse pie was bland and dry, and the crisp was lacking in really anything special...including any temperature (I've never had a crisp served cold before).

Overall: I was quite disappointed with our visit to ZenKitchen. At such a high price point, I would have expected more from a restaurant. Overall, my main complaint was the lack of depth to the meal -- there was no acidity or umami present in the meal to bring any of the dishes from just OK to excellent. I was most surprised at the lack of miso or citrus on the menu, which would have been great ways to bring out the flavours of many dishes.

Truly disappointing, as an excellent vegan or even vegetarian restaurant in the city would be a real treat...we will not be returning to ZenKitchen. I echo Tiana in thinking there are places in the city where you can eat better vegan and vegetarian fare.

2010 Feb 11
Finally, I can scratch this one from the top of my wishlist... and, put me down as a fan!

For our first time here, we decided to keep it simple, and opted for the special Taste of Winterlude menu. They started us off with some bread with a carrot spread, and a delicious pear-ginger chutney on tortilla amuse-bouche. For the appetizer, we had the soup, a very tasty spicy black bean concoction with good texture (not pureed into mush). For the main, we both opted for the harvest root veggie pot pie, with pickled eggplant, greens, and chips (not sure what they were made of) - it was hearty, filling, and very satisfying. The dessert, a combo of hazelnut creme brulee and "Mexican" chocolate cake with warm chocolate sauce, was also a hit. This was accompanied by good coffee (organic fair trade, of course).

They have an interesting and fairly reasonably-priced wine list, most of it Canadian. We had a couple from Prince Edward County, an 08 Norman Hardie Chardonnay, and 07 Sandbanks Cab Franc. I was particularly taken with the Chard, which isn't normally offered by the glass, but they happened to have a bottle open. Though I didn't have any, I noticed they were offering a glass of Osoyoos Larose (BC) for $12 - that's a pretty darn good price for a high-end red that sells for $40 a bottle at the LCBO.

Genial host Dave roamed the room, and was happy to chat about the wine, the food, the TV show, and, one assumes, just about anything else. He was also doing some of the serving. The service in general was first-rate. It's a cozy room with a nice lively vibe to it, but not overly noisy (we arrived early, at 5:30, and it seemed to be nearly full by 6:30).

Neither of us are vegetarians, but we aren't huge carnivores either, and we usually have several meatless meals each week. We're looking forward to our next visit to ZenKitchen - it's a great addition to Ottawa's restaurant scene.

2010 Jan 1
As mentioned in the forum, ZenKitchen was our one and only big eat out occasion over the holidays. We decided to go for the second seating on New Year's Eve. And it was wonderful!

There was a five course set menu with optional wine pairing for the later seating. We decided not to opt for the wine pairing and ordered a bottle of wine of our own choosing. I kept the menu so that I could tantalize you all:

Amuse bouche: house dumpling with Kelsey's sauerkraut, sour cream and caviar;

Zen salad trio: beet rawvioli, greens with pomegranate vinaigrette, quinoa salad with citrus dressing;

Risotto with Le Corpin mushrooms and black truffle shaving;

Smoked pimiento and spinach pate with assorted pickle and garlic crostini;

Seitan wellington with bordelaise, roasted potatoes and braised red cabbage;

Caramel pecan tart and cardamom ice cream; and

Bubbly and midnight sweet and savoury sampler.

Some courses or parts of courses definitely shone over others. I wanted to lick the bowl after the risotto, and the seitan wellington was amazing! The cardamom ice cream was delicately flavoured. The quinoa salad was flavourful, citrusy and just a bit sweet (and my hubby liked it despite generally turning his nose up at quinoa). The stuffed dates and the truffle with fleur de sel in the sweet and savoury sampler were perfectly balanced with both sweet and salty.

Some things missed the mark for us a bit like the beet rawvioli, the pate and pickle plate and the framboise liqueur kanten (a japanese sweet made from agar agar - weird texture that kind of melted into flakes in your mouth and had a bit of an odd after taste), but with so much food, something was bound not to please completely.

The service was excellent. Dave gave us a primer on a couple of wines that we hadn't come across before. The servers were friendly, quick with water refills and managed the tricky bill paying when everyone wanted to leave at the same time very well. Caroline made several appearances in the dining room during the second half of the meal and chatted with almost everyone about the food.

I'm definitely looking forward to the next special occasion to go back. The question is can I convince my husband that we should go for both our birthdays which are a month apart in the spring? :)

2010 Jan 1
This is a great restaurant. It isn't cheap, but it's nice for a special occasion. I consider it a bit overpriced for what you get, but I'm happy to support a new vegan restaurant in Ottawa so I don't mind paying so much from time to time.

2009 Nov 29
Both times I've eaten there, I've been surrounded by the amazing smell of this curry... it's been tempting, but I've resisted the urge to order more unique items off their menu (I do a mean green curry at home). I have to say, the times I have seen the dish it looked nothing like it's been described by liza... maybe an off night? It happens... I hope you spoke to the manager, the service there is very attentive and helpful and I'm sure they would have tried to make up for your disappointment.

2009 Nov 29
liza bleu, your comment about ZenKitchen's Thai curry comes across with such vehemence that it makes me want to go and try it to see just how bad it is! ;-)

Anne DesBrisay has the following to say on the topic ( Of the main dishes from a short list, I like the Thai curry best, the sauce intricate and aromatic, clinging to farmer's market vegetables topped with roasted pine nuts. If you're into seitan, you'll like these panko-crusted medallions of vegetable protein, and the lemon-scented Israeli couscous dotted with capers has an intensely buttery flavour without, of course, butter contaminating any of it.

Can anyone else who has tried this dish cast a vote in favour of one side or the other??

2009 Nov 28
Just a note on the pink sea salt, Liza: The only way you are going to get hot pink sea salt is with died. The pink sea salt, most commonly coming from the Himalayas is a light pink colour. I wouldn't have ordered it for the aesthetics, but rather the taste.

2009 Nov 28
I have never been more appalled at a restaurant than I was at Zen.

I was interested to see what the hype was all about so my BFF and I went for dinner.

The hemp oil and sea salt as a bread dipper were totally uninspired.No taste at all and the "pink" sea salt was white.

My Thai curry rice dish for an astounding price of NINETEEN dollars was overcooked rice swimming in green muck, one badly cut and cooked carrot, tossed with a few overcooked edamame and topped with a few strands of sprouts.

I could see passing this dish off for less than ten dollars but to charge nineteen dollars?
Shame on them.

2009 Nov 20
I have been turned on to applewood smoked tofu thanks to Zen Kitchen! Amazing in their udon noodle soup concoction. Also had some of their truffled ravioli in an ancho mushroom sauce with sauteed king oyster mushrooms... AMAZING for the mushroom lover. We had the togarashi seasoned chips and the assorted pickle antipasti platter to start. Everything was delicious, yet again! Definitely my favourite vegetarian restaurant in Ottawa. Oh, and the service was phenomenal from start to finish - they checked our coats, served an amuse bouche and just had excellent attentive service.

2009 Aug 31
Well I'm going to go against the grain on this one. We were a group of 4 at Zen Kitchen on a Saturday. Luckily we had reservations.

2 of us are vegetarians and 2 are omnivores. I know we two vegetarians were expecting more.

I had the potato corn chowder with smoked oyster mushrooms. Pesto filled ravioli with ancho sauce and the spicy mexican chocolate cake.

Everything I had was good but not great. Every dish just had a little something (or more) that could have been done better. The chowder was probably the best executed of the three, but I felt like I could do equivalent or better at home. The chocolate cake had some spice but didn't have much depth other than over sweet chocolate and flavourless spice. The ravioli was nothing to write home about but the sauce and the mushroom garnish were good. The random radishes in the bottom of the dish didn't seem to work well in my opinion.

I'm going to put this into perspective with the price. For two people, drinks and tip, I payed about $120. Now, for more to much more cost than that, I have had excellent to perfect vegetarian meals in Ottawa. For less to far less than that, I have had okay to good vegetarian meals in Ottawa.

Admittedly, in my experience, there is a huge gap in vegetarian cuisine in Ottawa between utterly awesome and pretty good and zen kitchen does fall into that gap. I just think they overcharge for the quality of the dishes or they need to bump it up a notch to get a few ouus and ahhhs out of me and my dinner mates.

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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.