Zend is the newest offering in Yaletown and the only one that is vegan, with a focus on feeding the body, and feeding the soul. The ingredients are all high-quality organics, sourced from the finest vendors. This is a place that takes your health seriously, even when you don’t.
The Brunch Blog Boss, her “Young Sir” and I made plans to meet when the doors opened one Saturday. No, it wasn’t what you think. There was no dragging of a child at the crack of dawn to a restaurant. Zend opens at a civilized eleven in the morning, with breakfast served until two in the afternoon.
Service is as friendly and open as you’d want it to be. Have questions about the menu? No problem. Everything was answered and explained fully. This is the kind of menu you’re going to want to have explained. While the names feel familiar, the techniques and final dish may not seem so. The quiche is not quite a quiche as there are no eggs in the restaurant, and the benny is a benny in name, as again, this is a vegan establishment. Zend is a place where you come to with an open mind; where delicious food is more important than the expectation of what the name means, and where texture and taste rule the plate.
Zend’s menu speaks to a refined vegan experience. This isn’t the place where a heaping mound of salad is meant to take the place of the bulk of your meal. There’s attention to the details of the sensory experience of your dish. This also isn’t the ideal place to bring a youngster if they aren’t adventurous and open to different foods.
The “Young Sir” had the buckwheat pancakes made with blueberries, coconut nectar drizzle and dehydrated bananas. The bananas were a smash hit but the pancakes elicited a more subdued response. He enjoyed them, but the child-level wow factor was missing. Buckwheat tends to be dense and grainy in pancakes, and that took our youngster some getting used to. Was the final verdict a thumbs’ up? Yes, it was. It was a prelude to the consistent comment, “not what I was expecting, but very tasty.”
I ordered the Sunchoke and Potato Rosti/Benny; star anise beet cream, beetroot and cashew creme fraiche, carrot “lox” and seasonal vegetables. The rosti was not crisp and I brought that up with the owner, who stopped by for a chat. He was very apologetic and told me that next time it would be. I have to admit, I also found the carrot lost in the beet cream; however, the flavours were anything but bland. I’m a huge fan of beets and the sweetness of the beet made the flavours in the whole dish pop. The plate looked small when it was delivered but the meal is just as they advertise, nutrient dense. I walked out feeling satisfied regardless of my initial response to the size of the serving.
The Boss ordered the featured quiche; seasonal vegetables, vegan sausage, avocado, house dried roma tomatoes, toast & spreads. The dish was denser than a quiche, but still reminiscent of one. The house dried roma with the avocado was a revelation. I could have ordered a plate of just that. The toast was delivered with coconut butter and a house-made marmalade. Honestly, it was the best marmalade I’ve had in years. I wanted to steal it off the Boss’ plate. The only knock I would have was the vegan sausage. I believe the key to enjoying vegan food isn’t expecting it to replace a meat dish, but in accepting that it is a great dish on its own that brings about a memory of the familiar. The flavour of the vegan sausage did that. The taste made me think sausage, but the texture didn’t.
Zend’s menu includes a botanical bar, and a commitment to Kava. Kava Kava comes from the South Pacific and is a natural treatment for stress and anxiety. It’s a big part of what Zend is doing, and the Boss and I are excited to return to try the Kava options.
What’s fantastic about Zend is the commitment to community and charity. Zend supports a charitable foundation called Zag, as well as a speaker series, and tastings. The executive chef makes her own nut cheeses, and you can come down to the restaurant, order a cheese tray and a bottle of Kava and not worry about that bloated hangover the next morning. It’s all good for the palate and the body.
Zend Conscious Lounge is a very “Vancouver” idea whose time has come. Come down for the health of it, stay for the flavour and the exceptional service. The Boss and I are planning to come back one evening, minus the “Young Sir”, and try more of the creative menu that Zend offers. Say hi if you see us.
Movie Recommendation: Amelie (2001) A story about an open-minded innocent woman who just wants to help people, and along the way, helps herself. Watch this feel good film, after enjoying your feel good brunch.
1130 Mainland Street, Yaletown
Open for brunch daily from 11 am.
Michelle Muldoon is a writer, filmmaker, and avid foodie. You can find her on twitter @chat2michelle.