Date Night: Mirepoix Trio and the Princess Theatre

Just as food trucks have been a means towards establishing a storefront or brick and mortar restaurant (see: Filistix and Woodwork), I think pop-up restaurants have the same potential. It seems like ages ago now, but before RGE RD moved into their permanent digs, Chef Blair Lebsack hosted pop-up meals in the city and out on the farm (and even now, continues with the latter).

The Mirepoix Trio (made up of Chefs Rylan Krause, Jade Wu and Adam Zarycki) has been organizing special one-off vegan dinners in Edmonton since last summer. The functions not only let them collaborate and cook outside the box, but the meals have also allowed them to build a name for themselves and some money to boot – with the hope of one day establishing their own restaurant.

Mirepoix Trio

The Mirepoix Trio

Based on their Easter weekend suppers, I think the Mirepoix Trio is gaining quite the following in this city. They had generously invited Mack and I to dine as their guests as an engagement present (so sweet). Held at Upper Crust on Good Friday, the five course meal would have only set us back a very reasonable $40.

We started off with some refreshing drinks – a Mirepoix soda (Limoncello, vodka, basil, mint agave and soda) and an Orange Blossom (sugar, orange biters, St. Germain and Prosecco).

Mirepoix Trio

Drinks

Kudos to the chefs for preceding each course with a personal explanation – it’s always great to see the people behind the food! It was also insightful to hear about their direction for the meal – to make sure each course would flow into the next, each dish would adopt an ingredient from the previous one, ensuring some continuity.

The first course was a straightforward but delicious mushrooms and toast, served with an underlay of fennel pesto. Those two bites packed a punch, and set the tone at the start for a meal all about simple comforts.

Mirepoix Trio

Mushrooms and toast

On that blustery, snowy day, nothing was more welcome than the tomato soup with grilled cheese croutons (the cheese in this instance was Daiya). I could have eaten more than a handful of those crispy croutons, but I did particularly appreciate the brightness that the roasted tomato drizzle lent the dish.

Mirepoix Trio

Tomato soup with grilled cheese

Mack found the palate-cleansing iced tomato granita a little strange, given the extreme temperature shift from the earlier dish, but being a fan of caprese salad, I enjoyed the combination of tomato, basil and creamy cashew cheese.

Mirepoix Trio

Granita

We were both looking forward to the potato gnocchi, to be served with a creamy cheese sauce. The gnocchi themselves lived up to expectation, plump, seasoned well and satisfying. However, the accompanying asparagus seemed out of place texturally; the spears didn’t hold up to roasting at all.

Mirepoix Trio

Gnocchi

To end the night was Mirepoix’s take on a classic – strawberry shortcake. Here, the addition of basil tied it into the main, but what really made it sing was the sweet dollop of coconut whipped cream. I didn’t miss the dairy at all!

Mirepoix Trio

Strawberry basil shortcake

The meal was a great introduction to what the Mirepoix Trio is trying to do – elevate expectations of vegan cuisine, all within a scope of familiarity for those less accustomed to the possibilities of vegan cooking. It was clear Rylan, Jade and Adam are passionate about what they do – and given the growing niche of vegan establishments in Edmonton, I have no doubt a Mirepoix restaurant would help meet this need. Best of luck to them as they continue to raise their profile with these pop-up dinners! Follow them on Twitter to find out when their next event will be taking place.

After dinner, Mack and I walked over to The Princess Theatre to continue our evening with food on film. I had earmarked The Lunchbox during last year’s Edmonton International Film Festival, but due to time conflicts, I wasn’t able to watch it. Lucky for me, The Princess brought the film back to Edmonton.

It’s been some time since we’ve caught a film at The Princess, but this visit reminded us why we should be back more often – clean, intimate and retro, it was a much different experience than a trip to the typical multiplex. So much so that we indulged in popcorn, something we never do!

The Princess Theatre

Salty snacks

As for The Lunchbox – I highly recommend it, and not just for the food (even though the styling inspired immediate Indian cuisine cravings). My interest in the movie was initially to see the dabbawala food delivery system in action, but it is so much more than that. It’s a lovely story about the connection between two lonely people in bustling Mumbai, subtle and beautifully acted. Though The Lunchbox is no longer playing at The Princess, it’s now moved to Landmark City Centre, so you still have a chance to see it in theatres. Go, now!

Off the Beaten Path: Oriental Veggie House

I took it upon myself to accompany a visiting consultant for lunch, and having worked with her over several months, thought I knew her well enough to suggest we try a new place within walking distance of the office. As it was one of those gloriously sunny spring days, I thought the brisk walk would do us both good, a refreshing change from the morning long fluorescent-lit meeting.

On Chowhound, the two most frequent responses to the question, “Where can I get good vegetarian/vegan fare?” is Padmanadi and Oriental Veggie House (both lean heavily on soy and taro root products to create a “meat”-like texture). I had been to the former for their monthly buffet, and was curious to see what the latter had in store.

We reached the restaurant just after noon, and found it empty on a Friday. Though that wasn’t a good sign, the friendly proprietor quickly greeted us and led us to a table. The space was larger than I had expected from the outside, and filled with natural light from a bank of windows. Décor was minimal, and though I pointed out to my dining companion that the vinyl tablecloth was in dire need of replacement, our surroundings were pleasant enough.

The menu, printed in an attractive font and bound on thick cardstock, was a pleasant alternative to the large plastic-encased folders typically found at Asian restaurants. Though the combination for two ($28.50 for the specified soup, appetizer, and two entrees) looked interesting, my companion didn’t like the chosen dishes. So instead, we put together our own meal that included a seaweed and tofu soup ($5.95), shredded veggie tofu wrap ($5.95), country style tofu ($8.95) and rice noodles with veggie seafood ($9.50). We opted not to order rice due to the steep $5 charge.

Menu

Over the course of our meal, two other parties joined us, but for a restaurant in the Chinatown area with free parking, it was much too quiet. The upside to this of course, was quick service. We received our first course soon after putting in our order. As we had ordered the small, I was expecting a portion meant for an individual. Instead, we were confronted by a bowl that yielded each of us three servings, brimming with contrasting textures of crunchy seaweed, silky tofu, and pea poppers. The broth was not overpowered by seaweed flavour though, and I found the mildness to be the perfect way to start off the meal.

Seaweed and Tofu Soup

The intriguing tofu wraps were next – I ordered them purely based on the concept, thinking it would be the healthy equivalent of a spring roll. It turns out tough bean curd was used to enfold shredded carrots and bean sprouts, among other vegetables, then pan-fried. The wraps were actually quite greasy, and without the crunch that I was hoping for.

Shredded Veggie Tofu Wraps

The next two dishes came fast and furious, and we struggled to keep up. The country style tofu was reminiscent of a dish that could be ordered at most Chinese eateries serving more traditional fare. Filled with plump cubes of tofu and vegetables, we both wished we had ordered the rice after all – rice would have been the perfect way to soak up the delicious sweetness of the sauce. The rice noodles in our second entree were moist and cooked well, but I wasn’t too fond of the overly chewy “seafood”.

Country Style Tofu

Rice Noodles with Seafood

Our lunch totalled about $40 (with a $3 pot of tea), definitely not inexpensive when compared with other area establishments. The owner did point out their two chest freezers containing products that customers could take home to prepare themselves. For example, a popular item was their faux chicken.

Oriental Veggie House did provide an interesting alternative to the usual Asian cuisine, and is worth a try if you’re looking for something different.

Oriental Veggie House
10586 100 Street NW
(780) 424-0463