Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spotted - Zen Kitchen, Ottawa


Meet Dave and Caroline (pictured below). They are the friendly owners of Zen Kitchen, a gourmet vegan restaurant that pushes the envelope on vegan cooking.

Before I share my meal from Zen Kitchen, I'd like you to get to know the masterminds behind the operation first. Caroline is also the Executive Chef of Zen Kitchen, and Dave is the manager & drink expert ;-)

They are a warm couple who have a deep respect and affection for what they do. When I asked them who or what their biggest life influences were, this is what they said:

Caroline: My mother for better or for worse. She was very hard to live with, but she had a strong passion for food and presentation, and was a woman with a good sense of style and taste. She was a perfectionist. She loved people, and presenting food to people. Both my mom and dad were great cooks. My passion for style and presentation came very early for me.

Dave: Farley Mowat, whose books were instilled in me as a kid. He had a passion for protecting and caring for the natural world, but at the same time, maintained a good sense of humour. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to take him to lunch, and took him to Fressen on Queen Street.

This month's Spotted interview is at Zen Kitchen, Ottawa.

Dave Loan and Caroline Ishii

Chef Caroline Ishii
  • Where are you from: I was born in Toronto but I've lived all over the world. I've lived in the Soviet Union, I studied in Quebec City, and I moved to Ottawa 20 years ago to study French.

  • One cooking utensil you cannot live without: A tasting spoon. I need to constantly taste stuff

  • Go-to dish when serving guests: I love serving hors d'oeuvres and small plates. I'll serve like 15 little plates of Japanese Cuisine. I'll serve a clear soup, then a sea vegetable salad, then rice, etc. I'll definitely do a Terriyaki of some kind. Maybe a Terriyaki fusion with wild blueberry. I usually change up the protein.

  • Weirdest thing ever eaten: Fish sashimi that was still alive. It was a whole fish cut up. It was so fresh, the meat was still hanging off the fish. I was a little kid at the time, and I just couldn't eat it. I asked the sashimi master to cook it, which obviously was a faux pas. He was insulted. It was horrifying. **laughs out loud**

  • Your last meal would be: I love Japanese food so it would be a simple Japanese meal of rice and homemade pickles.

Dave Loan

  • Where are you from: Southern Ontario, near St. Catharines. I've also lived in Huntsville and Sudbury.

  • One cooking utensil you cannot live without: My Chef's knife. It does everything from peeling to chopping to shaping. It is a Japanese knife from Japan. It doesn't have a specific brand signature, but it was handmade from a famous knife shop in Tokyo. The blade smith there makes only 2 knives a day.

  • What do you always have stocked in your fridge: Beau's Beer. That's an easy one.

  • Weirdest thing ever eaten: It was in New York at a sushi bar where the staff only spoke Japanese. I ordered a giant clam on rice. After I ordered it, the chef said something to Caroline in Japanese, where she replied 'oh'. They were telling us not to use the chopsticks to pick it up because the clam was trying to crawl off the rice.

  • Your last meal would be: Pasta...a nice ravioli. I crave ravioli all the time. It takes a long time to make.


La Table De Nana said...

Such interesting stories appear here..

Thanks as always for sharing so much:)

You have a fun life:)

Jen said...

I've always wondered what the food at Zen Kitchen was like. Looking forward to seeing what you ate. The clam story made me was interesting to read.

nooschi said...

La Table De Nana,
Thanks so much for your very nice comment.

Haha...I really enjoyed the clam story as well. Food was great, and will be sharing it with you soon. Stay tuned...

The Asian Pear said...

ack. I love sushi & sashimi. but the idea of the clam and the fish still moving. that's a bit TOO fresh for me. can't wait to see your Zen Kitchen post.

simon said...

I think Dave once lived in St Catharines, not St Catherine.