The Road Less Eaten
Sharing my experiences traveling and integrating my surroundings through local vegan cuisine.
ZEND CONSCIOUS LOUNGE
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Food style: 100% Organic Plant-Based Cuisine and Botanical (non-alcoholic) Bar
Veg Scale: 100% vegan and gluten free!!!
Part of town: Yaletown
Yes, you read that right. This incredible venture from Steve Curtis, the creator of the proprietary botanical elixir known as Zend, is more than just a restaurant and is intended as a community gathering space for conscious shared experience. 100% of the profits go to support the partner-driven philanthropic initiative ZAG Heartbeats. The food is delicious on its own, but knowing the philosophy behind it all makes the experience all the more rich and rewarding. I deeply hope that this business model takes hold and becomes the norm in order to foster more sustainable communities around the globe.
Right upon entering you can tell something is different about this space. Words of intention are organically displayed along the walls, a card game of conscious conversation is stationed at every table and the staff greets you as a member of their community not simply a customer.
We wanted to ward off the wet cold from outside so started off with a couple drinks. Their signature elixir Amour (GF) is cold, but includes a serving of the Zend proprietary blend. It was recommended to us to have any of the Zend drinks after the meal rather than before as they serve as a mild appetite suppressant, but Chris was so intrigued that he dove right in from the start! Immediately upon contact it tingles and numbs the palate, but in a relaxing not alarming way… as we were prepared for it. The botanicals have a tart quality, but are smoothed over by the cinnamon sweet vanilla almond milk and cut by a hint of citrus from the orange zest.
Their Bliss Hot Chocolate (GF) was my choice for a comforting drink to warm my bones. Mild and not overly sweet it was a little too milky for me, as I prefer a darker, richer sipping cacao, but was still perfect for the rainy day. A denser chocolate drink would have sent me fully into Bliss Town.
Moving on to more solid sustenance we ordered the 5-Spice Pear & Sweet Potato Pancakes (GF). Though Chris is not generally a fan of sweet potatoes, these buckwheat cakes topped with coconut whip and a coconut nectar drizzle smelled like dessert and offered Chris a new perspective on his previous yam revulsion. Three dense cakes approximately 4” in diameter arrived topped with stewed spiced pears and sprinkled with cinnamon. Not overly sweet to begin with as the buckwheat was a stronger flavor influence than the yams, due to their multidimensional toppings they didn’t need much syrup. Their grainy texture and crispy edges only added to the earthy appeal and made for a filling first dish.
Next up was the Green Plate (GF) a savory smorgasbord of made-from-scratch quiche, house made sausage, roasted Roma tomatoes, avocado and toast with spread. The quiche was very rich and creamy, almost reminiscent of pumpkin pie filling in consistency, with a distinctly non-egg flavor. Carrots, celery, and seasonal veggies played hide and seek among the cashew-based filling. There was no distinct crust but rather just somewhat spongy, browned edges which was just as well as the filling was so dense on its own. Interesting in construction, it could have used some more diverse flavor and spice, perhaps some cumin for depth or dill to lighten it up. The sweet roasted tomatoes and avocado on the side were a nice accompaniment that added a fresh quality. Though called a sausage on the menu, its chickpea/black bean/flax meal/beet base was neither smoky in flavor nor meaty in texture and did not allude to its namesake. Chunks of apple and green onion added robustness to the texture. Generally not one for faux meats regardless, I found it delicious in its own right. The flax caraway toast was accompanied by homemade jam and coconut cream that I could have eaten for days. Not overly sweet, the jam blended perfectly with the cream to create the sweet end of this eclectic plate.
Rounding out our experience was the Chocolate Torte (GF). Knowing that Canadian avocados just aren’t as rich and buttery as the ones I’m used to in Southern California, this mousse unfortunately suffers though the texture is on point. Topped with cacao nibs, hemp seeds, and goji berries the chocolate they used is delicious, but sadly the bland taste of the avocado breaks through. However, the coconut cacao crust is so rich and creamy that it would be delicious as a bar on its own, perhaps with just a little more date thrown in for better hold and consistency.
Regardless of little tweaks here and there that I would make recipe-wise, the heart and intention of this place is palpable and will bring me back every chance I get. The more we can support holistic business models like this, the healthier both our local and global communities will be. Much in the same way that if we support our bodies with wholesome, natural, unprocessed foods as nature intended, our lives will flourish to their greatest potential. Leaving you with tummies and hearts full of good vibes.
I am an actor/writer/content creator based in Los Angeles. I travel extensively both as the host of the new vegan food travel show The Road Less Eaten and on my own. This blog will chronicle my journey around the globe as I hunt down all the vegan options in every part of the world, no matter how big the city nor small the town.
Copyright © Ally Iseman 2016. I own my awkward. Thanks for enabling me.