Eat Vancouver: Heirloom Vegetarian
In honour of my husband’s Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, we went out for more than take-out falafel this week! Not that there’s anything wrong with takeout falafel, mind you. I surely didn’t eat it three times this week. Nope. Not I.
My husband surprised me with the restaurant this time, which is no small feat considering how keyed into the local food scene I am. When we pulled up and I saw the sign outside, I could barely contain my excitement. A new vegetarian restaurant, called Heirloom Vegetarian, that hadn’t even been open a month yet!
I could hardly sit still; I was so excited when I looked at the menu. I had been assured that one of their appetizers was so perfect for me, it could have been created with me in mind, so I frantically searched the menu for that item. Was it the crispy chickpeas? The raw cauliflower risotto? Oh, no. This was it. They knew I was coming.
We started out with drinks, and I was hooked by the nightly special – a Red Cedar. Forgive me for not remembering the mix, but it had cedar infused vodka, sweet vermouth, a cherry garnish, and a sprig of scented cedar. We were told by our server that the head bartender, Vanessa, was a holistic nutritionist and created all the inventive drinks herself. I loved watching her make drinks all night, spraying the cedar with some concoction, using an eyedropper to scent or flavour other beverages. She truly brought back the art of the cocktail. As a fan of gin and juniper, I figured I might like the different twist that the cedar brought to the drink. I was not disappointed.
Our initial order somehow did not make it to the kitchen, but just as we were getting a bit grumpy our server offered a bowl of not-so-average popcorn and apologies to tide us over. This is also on their late night menu, and I highly recommend it as something to munch while deciding. It was lightly coated in a mix of coconut oil, nutritional yeast, and beetroot powder! I suspect the beet gave it the hint of sweetness that matched perfectly with the rich coconut oil and salty, cheesy nutritional yeast.
As our food finally came out, my initial excitement came roaring back with a vengeance, along with my hunger that had been temporarily quelled by the bowl of popcorn I nearly inhaled. The handpicked greens salad was beautiful and while I don’t usually prefer frisee lettuce, its bitterness married perfectly with the toasted hazelnuts, sweet ginger poached pears, roasted brussel sprouts, and the floral orange blossom vinaigrette.
The avocado frites came out next. I was afraid I had built up the crispy wedges to something unattainable in my head, but I assure you, we were not disappointed. Smoky, crispy, buttery and accented perfectly by the sweet and fruity homemade ketchup. I rationed these for the rest of my meal, making sure they lasted until the bitter end! You’ll have to forgive my phone-quality photos and just trust me that every dish was enticing and beautiful.
The other star of the night, (How many are we at, have you kept count?) was the wild and foraged mushrooms in coconut cream with fennel, garlic and dry cider, served with a walnut onion baguette. I really wished that I could swim in this dish. I took no photo, as I was too focused on digging into the bowl of mixed mushrooms in cream. Again, not a single disappointment with this perfectly spiced dish. Delicately anise hinted from the fennel, rich and unctuous thanks to the coconut, it was probably our favourite dish of the night. Thanks to our server, whose name I did not get – for shame, for solidifying our ordering of this dish. We all but licked the bowl clean and then mourned the loss.
Heirloom’s dessert selection was like the rest of the menu, inventive, creative and thoughtful. There was a gluten-free semolina chocolate cake, a vanilla chia pudding, and the dish that we ordered, a pumpkin mousse with vanilla cashew cream and a date-walnut crumble. I figured I could have chocolate anytime, but this might be seasonal.
I wasn’t sure with my first bite as it wasn’t what I was expecting. Chilled, not sweet and pumpkin pie-y like I had anticipated. However with each bite, I loved it more and more. I particularly ended up loving that it was barely sweetened, delicately spiced and felt so light. We finished the glass off with no problem, of course. Did anyone have a doubt?
Heirloom thanks their local suppliers boldly on their menu and focuses on delicious vegetarian and vegan fare with many gluten free options and sources as much as they are able, locally. No tofu, no fake cheeses, the menu at Heirloom Vegetarian was exciting to read and it became very apparent by the creativity of the offerings, that the chef simply loves good food.
The atmosphere was clean, elegantly lit by candlelight and I couldn’t help but look around to take in all the antiqued light boxes, gardening tools turned artwork and vintage veggie prints on the walls. The staff were lovely and knowledgeable and took care of us well, recommending dishes, offering suggestions and helping us when our order had us waiting.
I cannot say enough about this new restaurant in Vancouver. While not an everyday restaurant for us probably, I just can’t wait for another occasion to dine at Heirloom Vegetarian. On the way out I noticed they serve brunch and my budding love of this local spot combined with my faithful relationship with brunch guarantees our return for sure. I’m excited to dine again with Heirloom and can’t recommend it enough for vegetarians and omnivores alike.
And of course, I loved the message at the bottom of the menu.