Zen Kitchen, Ottawa

Zen Kitchen, Ottawa

All I can say about Zen Kitchen is 'WOW!' The food was so awesome, I can't wait to go back. Throughout the entire meal, our table kept saying 'can't believe vegan can be so good!'

The owners of Zen Kitchen are Chef Caroline Ishii and Dave Loan. To learn more about them, check out my Spotted Interview at this link.

Zen Kitchen's style is very similar to that of an Izakaya: friendly, genuine caring and appreciation for the customer, honest, and fun. Chef Caroline loves it when her customers inquire about her food, and says that it reminds her of when 'we were curious kids'.

When I asked Caroline and Dave when they decided to become vegetarians, they each had two different stories to tell.

Dave has been a vegetarian for 7 years, and slowly moved away from meat when he started working for the International fund for Animal Warfare. At that job, he learned about zoonotic diseases, and the health & environmental effects of eating meat and of certain farming practices. For him, "there are too many reasons not to eat meat".

For Caroline, she calls herself a 'flexi-vegetarian'. Her diet consists of mostly plant based foods, but she does eat meat once in a while so that she can see where her customers are coming from. Caroline believes in the Buddhist philosophy of no human and animal suffering.

It was fascinating for me to hear the two stories shared.

Instead of ordering off the a la carte menu, our table decided on the Chef's 4-course menu. This means that you are served whatever tickles the Chef's fancy that evening.

As soon as we sat down, we were served a small plate of Art-Is-In Bakery bread.

Art-Is-In Bread
Art-Is-In Bakery Bread

Our amuse bouche was endive leaves with nut cheese.

Endives with Nut Cheese
Endive Leaves with Nut Cheese

Our first course was a delicious roasted marinated beet and Asian greens salad. The beets were wonderfully flavored, and the greens were served with a nice apple Dijon vinaigrette. On the side was cashew cheese and roasted pumpkin seeds. This salad didn't look like much at first, but the taste was quite the opposite.

Beet Salad
Roasted Marinated Beet and Asian Greens Salad

The second course was glazen vegetable gyozas served with yuzu miso sauce, sesame seeds, and dino kale salad. This was a nice dish overall.

Glazen Vegetable Gyoza
Glazen Vegetable Gyozas

Shortly after the second course, a palate cleanser was brought out. It was a refreshing lemongrass, lime, and ginger sorbet.

Lemongrass Sorbet
Lemongrass, Lime, and Ginger Sorbet

The main course was a root vegetable pot pie with raw kale chips, togarashi chips, and home made pickles. The togarashi chips were spicy, and the raw kale chips were blended with nutritional yeast and some lemon juice. The crust of the pie was well seasoned, and ingredients in the pie included parsnips, carrots, and black eyed peas.

Root Stew with Tagoroshi Chips
Root Vegetable Pot Pie with Togarashi Potato Chips and Raw Kale Chips

Dessert was chocolate cake topped with orange confit, and poached pear with caramel sauce. Everything about this dessert was delicious.

Poached Pear and Chocolate Cake
Chocolate Cake with Orange Confit and Poached Pear with Caramel Sauce

It as my friend's bday that evening, so as a happy birthday gesture, she was given a hazelnut vanilla creme brulee. We couldn't believe that this dessert had no cream or butter.

Hazelnut & Vanilla Creme Brulee
Hazelnut Vanilla Creme Brulee

If you are interested in learning how to cook vegan, Caroline holds classes at the Urban Element, and at the LCBO on Rideau.

Zen Kitchen has also announced that their TV show, 'The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave', premiers Jan 6th on the W Network. It is a 13-episode documentary showing the process of opening their restaurant. They have been busy filming for the last year, and this is a show that hides nothing. From the early stages of business plan development, to seeking financing, to menu construction, and beyond. They were a couple that started out with no money, no experience, and as Caroline puts it "no sense". Caroline and Dave overcame their challenges and created a little gem in Chinatown Ottawa.

Zen Kitchen
634 Somerset Street West
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Telephone: 613-233-6404

ZenKitchen on Urbanspoon


the food looks amazingly good! although I'm always weary of the idea of vegan and vegetarian. I always think I'm not gonna "feel" full. Can't wait to see the TV premiere. thanx for the heads up.

We all thought the same and didn't think we were going to feel full, but it was just the opposite. We were STUFFED by the end of our meal. The food was delicious, and we were pleasantly surprised.

Everything looks great!I hope we have the W network!

Thank you!Do they use Agar 2 for their CB?

I've been wanting to go here for ages! I'm so jealous... and now this post has made me super-hungry! I can't wait to experience Zen Kitchen.

La Table De Nana,
You know what, I'm not 100% sure whether or not they used Agar 2 for their creme brulee. I'll find out the next time I visit Zen Kitchen.

Audrey C,
Zen was a nice change from the meat I usually have when I eat out. Everything was delicious. Hope you have a good meal there!

r show on Food Network..what fun to have read about them here first!