If you must have vegetarian…

I have been to Unbuntu Canteen several times now and it has always been excellent. The dishes are delicious and consistent. The chef puts out refined, creative, and not overly gimmicky dishes. To their credit, they have a herbivore and omnivore tasting menu. On this occasion I decided to try the vegetarian tasting menu.

One nice thing about the dining room, and our table in particular, was the great view of the open kitchen where we could watch the chef work his magic. I observed and extremely well organized and prepped kitchen. From what I could see, the chef was cooking by himself this night, and he did so while remaining calm. It was a true treat to watch such a talented individual cooking, plating, and sending out multiple dishes for multiples tables, without any long gaps in service, and cooking everything to perfection. He was working the combi, saute, smoker etc etc all at once, and even washing dishes on occasion.

The first dish was the smoked rutabaga. I think it could replace smoked salmon in a vegetarian diet in terms of texture and complexity of flavor from the smoke.

Next, a bread salad and some pickled veggies. Since the place is a bakery/cafe in the morning, they used their own bread in the salad which was very good.

The next dish was the oyster mushroom and potato.

Roasted cauliflower with mole. Simple but well cooked and a little heat on the mole at the end.

Ancient grains, smoked parsnips (which made the dish “creamy”) with pecorino. The dish was not what I expected in a good way. I was expecting some sort of grain salad but this was more like a risotto. Very creative and well executed.

The chef/owner came out to give us a crab broth/soup that was not on the menu and we discussed about the kitchens he previously worked in. Aside from Vancouver, he had previously worked at some high end restaurants in Europe and Chicago.

Although I am not a dessert person, the last dish was my favorite. Tonka bean custard tart. (we also had the raspberry soft serve).

The texture of the tart was perfection. It reminded me of a Filipino leche flan and Chinese egg tart. The crust was perfect and delicious. The top was lightly bruleed. Maybe one of the top 10 desserts I’ve had – ever! Overall the service and meal were excellent and I would continue to recommend this and Anna Lena as Vancouver’s best tasting menus.

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