A few weeks ago, I spent an evening with my good friend Chantal whom I hadn’t seen in a long time. She loves great food and is also an avid vegetable gardener with a penchant for heirloom varieties. We share a lot of common passions when it comes to the food we feed ourselves and our families: we love to cook, try new recipes, explore ethnic cuisines and play with spices! It was not difficult for us to choose Pure Kitchen as our date destination since it had been on our radars for quite some time. We are both extremely attracted to vegetarian cuisine done right and find it pretty cool when an entire meal is plant based and no one missed the meat! There was a time when an animal protein of some sort used to be the star attraction at my dinner table but with the high cost of meat these days, the vegetarian meals have become prominently more frequent in my household, which is not a bad thing. I truly enjoy cooking vegetarian meals, even if these are not necessarily my King’s cup of tea (or so he claims even though he has gobbled up several meatless dinners in the past with gusto and zero complaints). He is a die-hard carnivore which is not surprising considering his East European heritage. You can imagine the challenge I face trying to get him to visit a vegetarian (or vegan) restaurant. He feels that he would be missing something… I don’t have the energy to fight him on that one and quite frankly, I think dining out should be enjoyable for all guests attending therefore, I am happy to skip what he doesn’t like when it is time to go out for dinner. It’s like sushi: he doesn’t even want to come near fish, let alone raw fish. So I get my sushi fix with other people in my life who also love sushi: a simple solution that keeps everyone happy!!! Since I am keen on exploring Ottawa’s wonderful plant-based restaurants, with or without his Majesty, and since most of my chick sidekicks enjoy vegetarian fare, I have found the perfect solution: it’s called The Girlfriend Date (TGD)!
Soooo thanks to TGD, I finally got my wish and landed at Pure Kitchen, Westboro’s famous vegetarian dining spot. Chantal and I went on a Thursday night: there was a line of eager diners spilling onto the sidewalk waiting for a table. Pure Kitchen seemed to be the only restaurant with a waiting list in the vicinity on that mild November evening (well, no other spots had people waiting outside for a table). I think that alone says it all… The restaurant has an organic feel to it: a simple decor set in an older charming building, comfortable, bright and inviting. It took us a long time to read through the menu and an even longer time to make up our minds! What to eat? What to eat? Everything sounded so good! Since most of the menu’s offerings were fairly different, we wanted to try it all! Our stomachs on the other hand, sadly, couldn’t handle that much food. To start, we opted to share an appetizer of mushroom dumplings. And just as the menu name suggested it, these were DIVINE! My only complaint was the serving of 5 dumplings when you are trying to share properly and fairly… An even number would be much better and deter any customer from engaging in food hogging wars!!! These dumplings were so full of deliciousness, we should have each ordered our own: can you spell C.R.A.V.I.N.G.S??? I am sorry the King will never experience these. Too bad for him and his carnivore “only” mentality. For our mains, we each opted for a sandwich. My friend selected the HAPPY burger with fries and I chose the LIBERTY wrap with both salad and fries (for a small supplement). We did not share a bite of each other’s meal as I find sandwiches are not sharing friendly. We were both thrilled with our own respective choices. Her burger, a smoky walnut and mushroom patty with coconut bacon and a bunch of other yummy stuff was devoured entirely! As for me, I loved the Buffalo style deep-fried cauliflower wrap I chose. It had the right amount of everything on it including an amazing garlic aioli. I seldom finish my meals in a restaurant (portion size) yet other than leaving a few French fries behind, we both cleaned our plates, smacking our lips with sheer delight. Side note about the fries: I have expressed my undying love of fries which I refer to as my kryptonite: I can’t stand frozen fries when I visit a restaurant, ughhhhh. Pure Kitchen’s fries are hand cut and ahhhhmazing! I would go back just for those and huge helping to boot. Maybe my next meal at Pure Kitchen will be BELLE, the restaurant’s version of poutine ( appetizer section), described as being smothered in mushroom gravy and served with your choice of cheese curds or cashew “faux cheese” Mmmmmmm, sounds delish doesn’t it?
After the big meal, was there room for a sweet ending? Traditionally, I am not a huge fan of “desserts after dinner” yet the selection offered by Pure Kitchen was tantalizing enough to lure me in. Sharing seemed like the perfect option to satisfy our curiosity. An this is how the Almond Caramel Tart was ordered. Whether or not my state of complete belly happiness and satiety had a role to play here, I must admit that this tart did not make my taste buds twirl and dance as I would expect caramel, chocolate and roasted almonds fused together would. I didn’t even finish my small half as I was not “gelling” with the flavour profile. There was too much cinnamon for my liking which overpowered all the other flavours. But hey, I am sure that is a matter of personal opinion that could be debated by many!
Other offerings: Pure kitchen also offers a lovely wine selection as well as non-alcoholic beverages including home pressed juices and smoothies. Knowing how labour intensive vegetables can be, especially when elevating them to become the star attraction of a meal, I found the menu offered by Pure Kitchen tantalizing, well composed and surprisingly reasonably priced. The service was exceptional: friendly, efficient, professional, knowledgeable and not at all intrusive. This is the kind of restaurant I will want to go to again and again. Girlfriend date night anyone?