If you ever happen to find yourself on a dinner date with my hungry self, I can pretty much guarantee that anything you see pass my lips is sure to have a high percentage of animal fat, meat protein and/or dairy. So if Nicki had have invited me to a vegan restaurant on any normal week, I may have found myself with a mysterious ailment which would have forced me to pass. However, this particular week found me fresh off a 5-day cruise and feeling overindulged and adequately bloated, so I was more than happy to tag along for what I was sure to be a much lighter dinner option… or so we thought.
On arrival at Grasslands, I was surprised to see a spacious bar area and small window lounge which would suggest a place that encourages diners, drinkers and nibblers alike. As we were escorted to our seats, I spied a row of cozy looking booths but alas, they were all occupied or being held for later reservations. Nicki and I did not think to make a reservation (we really should know better!) but we were immediately sat at a cozy little table by the kitchen.
After not seeing each other for almost two months, we were ready for a serious catch-up. Our friendly and very attentive server was extremely understanding of our girly dilemma and helped to speed up the settling-in process with the recommendation of a South African Sauvignon Blanc called Bon Courage. If you’re in to Sauv Blancs, this one shan’t disappoint!
After 30 minutes of solid natter, my tummy rumbles were beginning to drown out Nicki’s life updates, so we swiftly ordered some apps to get us started. As avid meat and cheese consumers, we have eaten more charcuterie boards than I care to mention, so it seemed only right that we gave the vegan offering a whirl so we could make comparisons. Along with the avocado salad, the crispy ‘oysters’ and the mixed mushrooms, we were sure that this would be just enough to quell the beast until we ordered mains. Now, either we underestimated the power of the vegetable or we massively overestimated the size of our appetites, but once we had polished all this off, the thought of getting through even one main course to share was utterly ridiculous…
The vegetarian take on the city standard charcuterie platter consisted of ‘turkey’ sausage, braised celery root, pickled king mushroom, spicy ‘salami’, a ‘cheese’ ball, mushroom pate and fig jam. Our server explained to us that the fake meat is gluten based. This was my least favourite offering… you just can’t beat the flavour or the texture of the real thing! The ‘cheese’ ball was made from cashews and bread crumbs. It resembled a little ball of goat cheese and was enough to trick my dairy radar into satisfaction. But, my favourite was the mushroom pate… creamy, full of flavour and apparently a generous helping of booze. Yummers.
Next, the avocado salad. Kale, mango, crushed almonds and root chips all combined to make a fresh and tasty offering and it was so well presented. The avocado had been taken apart and carefully reconstructed with sweet mango stuffed inside where the stone used to be. Along with the kale and the crunchiness of the chips, it really is one of those dishes where every flavour compliments the others so you gotta try everything at once.
The crispy ‘oysters’ saw cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms served atop a marinated kale salad with a sweet and sour jelly for dipping. The little additions that these guys put on their plates are really worth trying. The kale was just the right amount of tangy. And the mushrooms were cooked perfectly.
Surprise, surprise… More mushrooms! Sautéed in wine and lemon and served with sesame spinach, this was a simpler offering but still worthy of two solid thumbs up.
At this point, we were both beyond satisfied so we didn’t get to try any of the mains. But there was an inch of room left for dessert..
There is only one dessert choice of cookies and cream. Three cookies and a cashew, chocolate mousse. The cookies were really good, but I vote they just do a whole pot of that mousse!
Overall verdict: I am a full out carnivore but I’d definitely go back to Grasslands. ‘Nuff said.
Visit Grasslands at 478 Queen Street West.