Taste, comfort, ethics, value added and education all found at local restaurant
The last few times friends have asked me to go to EnVie I’ve convinced them to go elsewhere. I hadn’t given it a fair try. I had, maybe, one plate the first time I went in its first few months of opening. Since then I’ve heard a lot of praise of the small vegan restaurant that opened in 2013 on the corner of Charles and Agricola streets, so I decided to take another look.
On a quiet weekday night I sat alone at a two seater in the upper area of the window laden dining room. Having just gone through a messy break-up, I hadn’t gone to eat alone in the last few years. I feel like we’re often caught up in the act of constantly trying to grasp for a person’s hand, or knock shoulders, or lock eyes, whether actually or virtually, and it’s no wonder we start to feel some sort of unwarranted self pity at the thought of eating alone.
My server was good company enough, and only kept smiling while I stood over my food for photos and moved tables into better light. I can be a demanding customer, and I know it.
I ordered the ABC fresh pressed juice, poutine, Thai dragon bowl, Buffalo barley burger and cashew alfredo. I knew I wouldn’t finish it all, but I wanted to try a variety.
The pressed juice of apple, beet, ginger, lemon and carrot was cold and flavorful, and even served with a metal straw. (The owners have thought of all the environmentally conscious details.)
I leafed through the menus on my table which were complemented by a description of certain less familiar ingredients, and information about the health benefits of eating vegan and eating local. The information was concise and interesting, and whether vegan or not, made the experience eye opening and accessible.
Having ordered many options on the menu that look to imitate other non-vegan foods that I already love, despite their gluten, dairy and meat, I wasn’t sure what to expect, or if I should lower my expectations of flavour.
The poutine was outrageously good, and I’d gladly trade the dairy and gravy option to have this again. It satisfied the same comfort food craving with big fried potatoes, dairy-free curds, black beans and a rich gravy made from charred leeks. I added barbecued jackfruit (like artichoke, but sweeter) to the poutine, and would highly suggest it, as the kick of sweet and tangy barbecue sauce complements the salty rich dish. It felt like I was being bad, but I wasn’t.
The Thai dragon bowl was a mix of raw spiralized root vegetables, cabbage, sprouts, and kelp noodles (with the post satisfying popping texture.) The seasoning of Thai almond sauce and gomashio (ground sesame seeds and salt) really brought all the healthy, earthy flavours together.
The Buffalo barley burger was topped with crispy savoury mushrooms, buffalo sauce, greens, bechamel and a vegan blue cheese. The patty was a mix of barley and mushroom, and tasted fantastic, but didn’t stay together all that well. It didn’t stop me from eating the food debris with my hands. The mixture of spice from the hot sauce, the round, meaty flavor of the barley and mushrooms and the tangy, funky sweetness of the vegan blue cheese made for a satisfying burger. And the gluten-free bun was just the right texture and thickness.
Often my problem with some gluten-free pasta is the texture. Most people who’ve gone gluten free, or developed an allergy still search for the bouncy elasticity found in regular pasta, and are often left with gritty, mealy pasta instead. EnVie’s gluten-free pasta was delicious, smooth and held the sauce well. A rich, thick, herbaceous sauce, with the nutty cashew flavor was the star of the dish, and some lightly cooked mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and greens added lively contrast, although there could have been more sprinkled throughout.
I finished the meal with a chocolate peanut butter cup which had the ideal balance of salt, sweetness and bitterness. It felt indulgent, but natural, with real peanut butter flavor, peanuts, very dark chocolate and punches of coconut.
Leaving EnVie I felt happy, satisfied, full and fulfilled. The space is calming, the food well executed, healthy and comforting, and the staff lovely and exceptionally accommodating. Despite being a self-described carnivore, I’ll return soon.