Friday, April 1, 2011

Ethical Kitchen: Maybe my hopes were too high?

One of my favourite cynical comedians Norm MacDonald had a great line at a stand-up performance I caught at The River Rock Casino last year. "It seems like whenever I hear or see the word 'hope', the word 'dashed' always seems to follow. Hopes always seem to get dashed..."
That brings me to my recent experience at "The Ethical Kitchen." I had heard great things about this place from some North Shore people recently, one of them being middle sister. I went on their website and started getting pumped.
Ethical Kitchen front garden
My online research had me pumped and pysched. What's not to love about this place? According to their website, they serve all organic and mostly local menu featuring nutrient dense and traditionally prepared foods made in an cozy open-concept kitchen. They use only grass-fed, organic, BC meats, BC cheeses, sauces and condiments. They have a garden out front of the building where they grow their own greens. They provide re-usable take away containers for leftovers (for a small refundable deposit). They even host full moon feasts, and seminars on nutrition, candle, and basket weaving.
So even as I struggled through traffic over the busy Lions Gate Bridge on Saturday to meet with Tricia and Jayme, I remained positive and eager, looking forward to the feel-good hippie feast I was about to eat. I feel like I actually skipped into the restaurant, pausing to check out the expansive garden in front of the Ethical Kitchen. It's sandwiched between Capilano Mall and busy Marine Drive with large pubs (Hurricane Grill/ Taylor's Crossing) and Indigo book store chain as neighbours.

The inside feels like a country kitchen with antique furniture and an interesting dine-in seating set up with 4 large tables...I think mixed group seating is encouraged. When I arrived just before 1:30pm, there were maybe 5 other people, but due to the set up, it still felt kind of busy.
The deli counter with yesterday's specials
I expected a warm hippie welcome as I sat down and waited for my dining companions, but didn't get it. Jayme and Tricia arrived and we walked up to the counter to grab menus and make our order. At this point, my high hopes started to droop. First of all, on the chalkboard were the daily specials. Many of them sounded tasty (gingerbread pancakes) but when we asked about them, our server was quite short in letting us know that those were Friday's specials and not available. Why hadn't they changed the board on Saturday by 1:30pm??? The menu has a couple of egg/sausage/hashbrown breakfasts, pancakes, sandwiches, soups, burgers, and salads. There was no poultry on the menu (unless eggs count), no fish, and the biggest surprise were that there were only a few vegetarian options and nothing vegan.
Tricia ordered the Chai Pancakes ($10) and a latte, Jayme ordered their quesadilla ($8), and I tried to order the Chorizo Burger, but they were quick to let me know that they couldn't make it for me because they were out of some ingredients. Instead, I went with the Mushroom and Onion Burger ($14). Aside from the cryptic, unavailable specials and regular menu items, I was disppointed with our server at the counter. I was expecting a bubbly, outgoing hippy, eager to tell me all about their philosophy, where all the ingredients were sourced, and recommendations on the best dishes. Instead, she was quite short with us- pretty much giving one word answers to the questions we were throwing out, and not once did she bring up anything about the food being local, organic, peace, waste-free. Overall, my experience at EK was lacking passion and enthusiasm-, which was a real disappointment for me because I'm really excited about businesses that are making an effort to be eco-friendly, healthy, and good for the environment.
Around 15 minutes later, a different server brought us the food.
Jayme ordered their Kraut and Cheese Quesadilla with Herb Quark($8). What is Quark? it's a fresh kind of creamy cheese. It tastes like a super creamy herb cream cheese with a ricotta, sour cream-y taste and texture. The kraut was really fresh and tasty but it was a bit overpowering and the flavour was a bit one note. The flatbread was really nice- a thicker, sour dough-y version of your typical tortilla.
After not being able to order the delicious-sounding Gingerbread pancakes on the board, Tricia went for the Chai Pancakes ($10). This was a good looking dish- approx 10 chai-flavoured, silver dollar pancakes with slow-cooked apple slices, topped with powdered sugar and a dollop of yogurt/ricotta (maybe it was dessert quark?) served in a large clay bowl. I had a few bites- I didn't really taste any chai flavour, but the pancakes were light and fluffy and the cinnamon apples were amazing and bursting with flavour.
This was my mushroom and onion beef burger with a side of quinoa salad ($14). Looks awesome right! And taste wasn't the problem with my meal...The beef patty was amazing, rich, full-flavoured, and not-too fatty. The grilled onions and mushrooms were plentiful and wonderfully cooked. The salsa verde topping and pea shoot garnish were fresh and the flavours popped in my mouth. And the quinoa salad was light and refreshing.
LOOK AT THIS PLATING! This messy, open burger is on a long narrow plate and is actually hanging over the edge. I immediate asked for a side plate because I knew this was going to be a challenge. Simply sandwiching this burger meant fillings spilling all over the table. Then I tried to cut through the crusty baguette bun and dropped 3 knives in the process. It was a really tasty meal but extremely awkward and ridiculous to try to eat. I was actually embarrased when I left because the table was pretty much covered in food when I left. But it was absolutely delicious.
Man, even though my meal was tasty, I really didn't love my Ethical Kitchen experience.
The service wasn't great, I didn't feel any of the enthusiasm about being local, organic, and enviro-friendly that was all over their website, I found the menu to be really limited and was disappointed that many dishes weren't available, and the the bizarre plating that made eating my meal an extreme challenge sadly put me off. Hopes....dashed.
Ethical Kitchen on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My experience was strange and have not been back. The food I ordered was excellent, beyond delicious. They do not have a set menu, so don't expect anything like a menu. My husband is vegan, can't eat gluten and is fussy. There was nothing for him to eat the day we went. I noticed one of the dishes had some side vegetables that he could have asked for, but got flustered and ordered something totally random that he would never eat-crepes with caramel sauce! It was yummy, but he couldn't eat it. His kids ordered delicious things too.
However, the service was TERRIBLE. We went in not knowing what to expect and it was strange, not sure who was staff, nobody came and helped us or explained how the menu worked or if there was anything else available. Not friendly at all, not willing to engage...We stood there waiting and waiting for someone to help us out and take our order. It was expensive. I so wanted to like it as I support their philosophy, and the food I had was excellent, but what is going on there?
I would go back and try again-without my husband as they rarely have a vegan dish. I get their newsletter and everything sounds yummy, but am rarely ever in the area.