A Great Escape: Padmanadi

My officemates and I are very fortunate to work in Central McDougall, which grants us easy access to Somali, Eritrean, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine and well, fast food, all within a few blocks of our door (and that doesn’t even include the assortment that is Chinatown!).

Sometimes though, what we crave in a restaurant isn’t necessarily the food, but the atmosphere. And there doesn’t seem to be a better office escape than Padmanadi.

Though I was first introduced to the vegetarian and vegan sensibilities of the restaurant at their original 97 Street location, I have to say I didn’t fall in love until I had a meal in the bright, calming interior of their new digs on 101 Street (it also happens to be a five minute walk away from our office).

I think the natural light helps, as do their neutral wall colours and appealingly modern furnishings (check out those funky chairs!). But perhaps what is most reassuring is how personal the room feels – the walls of taped snapshots of regular customers at the first location has been replaced by framed professional photographs. Even cooler, some of the regulars even have personalized, carved reservation placards! Padmanadi ultimately feels more like a community than a restaurant (similar in many ways to Elm Café and Duchess) – and there’s something wonderful about that feeling of being a part of something bigger than the physical walls.

The menu is a vegetarian one, leaning heavily on the use of soy and gluten-based meat substitutes (their brunch, Ellen tells me, is particularly good). Though I still mourn the termination of their lunch specials, Ellen and I decided to give their combo meals a try at lunch just before the Christmas break – a “dinner for two” priced at a very reasonable $32.

I thoroughly enjoyed the soup, a very tasty hot and sour. The texture was surprisingly thick (as in, if it had time to cool, it probably would have become an aspic), but it worked.


Hot and sour soup

The spring rolls were, as usual, pretty good, especially considering they only contained vermicelli and cabbage – no meat.


Spring rolls

Two entrees accompanied two petite bowls of rice. The lo-han vegetable was unfortunately bland, but the curried mutton was fantastic – the creamy, coconut milk-based sauce could make many worldly ills disappear. The “mutton” had a well-simulated texture, chewy and very much like bean curd. My only nitpick was that the potatoes and cauliflower in the curry were still quite hard, and would have benefited from a longer stewing time.


Lo-han vegetable


Curried mutton

Dessert was individual servings of rice pudding, garnished with cinnamon and a slice of apple, but reminded me of cold congee more than I would have liked. It was probably the healthiest dessert I’ve had in some time however, though a heavier hand with the mango syrup would have been appreciated.


Rice pudding

Even if the food was a bit hit or miss this instance, I’ve been to Padmanadi enough times to know they can do better. See you again soon, neighbour!

10740 101 Street
(780) 428 – 8899
Monday-Sunday: Lunch 11am-2pm, Dinner 4pm-10pm; vegan brunch Saturday/Sunday 10am-2pm

Tofu Five Ways: Padmanadi

I shouldn’t have suggested another buffet (my third in six days) for a catch-up supper with Bettina, but a monthly event put on by the Vegetarians of Alberta at Padmanadi (10626 97 Street) was too irresistible to walk away from. Buffets in general are a great way to economically sample a multitude of dishes, but in particular, this “niche” cuisine of vegan food (in addition to no meats, no dairy or animal byproducts such as honey or gelatin can be used).

Padmanadi has quite the cult following in Edmonton and is very well-known for their vegetarian cuisine. The t-shirts for sale at the front of the restaurant, with the words “we (heart) padmanadi” were proof enough to me that their popularity had reached a critical mass.

“we (heart) padmanadi”

The restaurant was packed, but table turnover was fast – I’m sure the sauna-like conditions had something to do with the dine-and-depart mentality. The servers had big smiles plastered on their faces, and it was clear they were enjoying the work – their cheerful demeanours demonstrated what restaurant service strives to be – carefree but efficient.

We grabbed large plates off the communal table, loaded up with some rice, and proceeded to taste each of the eight vegan dishes. Bettina was disappointed with the small variety, but given that this was a fundraiser for the non-profit Vegetarians of Alberta, I didn’t mind. Beyond recognizable spring rolls, green beans, and stir-fried deep-fried tofu, I struggled with the tofu stand-in dishes of sweet and sour “pork”, deep fried “chicken” balls, “chicken” curry and stir-fried “beef” and vegetables.  

The vegan line-up

My plate

Bettina really liked the rich, coconut-milk infused curry, and both of us agreed the spring rolls were great. While we were stuffed at the end of our meal (two or three plates later), I couldn’t help but think the tofu, though disguised in sweet sauce, a battered shell, or adopting a similar consistency to beef, was still tofu. It was an interesting experience, but I’m much too used to the variety of meat to limit my consumption to tofu and vegetables.

Padmanadi Vegetarian Restaurant
10626 97 Street NW
(780) 428-8899
Tuesday to Sunday 4-10pm