As an omnivore, I will admit that dining at vegetarian and vegan restaurants is partly to satisfy my curiosity. This isn’t to say I’m the kind of person that needs to have meat with every meal – it’s quite the opposite actually, as Mack and I have been actively expanding our non-meat repertoire at home. But in many ways, in order for vegetarian and vegan restaurants not to be pigeonholed into a subcategory of “alternative” or “unconventional” choice for the mainstream population that does eat meat, the food just has to be tasty. And I’m always game to see firsthand if that’s the case.
In Edmonton, Padmanadi, Café Mosaics and Noorish are among the most popular vegetarian establishments, and as I have experienced them, I really didn’t miss the meat. I was hoping to have a similar meal at The Clever Rabbit, a vegetarian/vegan eatery that opened in March in the burgeoning High Street area.
Amanda was back in town last week, so she, Felicia and I decided to meet up for brunch at the restaurant on Sunday. When I had called about reservations (and was told they don’t take them), they warned that they are usually fairly busy in the early afternoon hours. When I arrived just before noon, I was a bit relieved to find that there were only two other parties in the dining room.
There were different rabbit-shaped salt and pepper shakers on each table – too cute!
The baking case was tempting, and I considered ordering a doughnut while I waited for my sisters to arrive. But it didn’t make sense to spoil my meal, so I held off. I did order a coffee to sip while waiting, and was a little surprised when it arrived not in a mug, but in a disposable cup. Perhaps many of their patrons ask to take their remaining coffee with them after their meals?
Perusing the menu, it is made up of just three breakfast items and six lunch options – for a small establishment, I think it is great for them to focus on doing a few dishes well. I decided to order the vegan egg and tofu biscuits ($9), while my sisters opted for lunch plates, which each came with a side. Felicia chose the Seitan vegan donair ($12) while Amanda selected the walnut chickpea burger($12).
Service was good – besides an initial blip when our server disappeared when we were ready to order, she was by a few times to refill our coffee and check in on us. Our food also arrived in a reasonable amount of time.
It was easy to see that the kitchen did their best to garnish my mostly empty plate, but the focus was on the biscuit sandwiches. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy them. The vegan egg was the best part, fried up crispy on the outside, but soft and loose on the inside, but its accompaniments overshadowed it. The tofu was hard and chewy, and paired with the dry biscuits, made me long for some sort of sauce or soy cheese to add flavour and moisture.
Vegan egg and tofu biscuits
Amanda also thought her burger could have used some sort of ketchup or other liquid garnish, though as a whole, she enjoyed her dish. She especially liked the fresh salsa side, which really was large enough to share.
Walnut chickpea burger
This was Felicia’s first encounter with Seitan, also known as wheat gluten, a simulated meat product. She wasn’t a fan of the taste of the Seitan, though I didn’t mind it as much (it tasted somewhat like tofu to me). Her side of green salad was also quite generous, and was rife with avocado, tomato and dried cranberries.
Seitan vegan donair
Based on our meal, I’m not sure I’d be rushing back to The Clever Rabbit for breakfast, but I’d be willing to come back to give their lunch menu a try.
The Clever Rabbit
10722 124 Street
Tuesday-Sunday 9am-4:30pm, closed Mondays