Last February, chef Caroline Ishii left the Somerset Street vegan restaurant of which she was co-owner (and at which she had earned accolades and honours) to pursue other interests. Sommelier and current owner of Zen Kitchen, David Loan, continues to run the front of house; in the ZenKitchen kitchen now is Kyle Mortimer-Proulx, formerly of Brookstreet Hotel.
My first taste of Mortimer-Proulx’s cooking came at a lunch last week. Available on Thursday and Friday only, the Zen lunch menu is pretty new and I found, a pretty good deal. Main dishes run between ten and fourteen bucks.
Other than the possible error of not being warned that the ‘Harvest Vegetable Soup’ was full of beans, as it were, and that the second dish I had chosen (a white bean cassoulet) might be A Bit Much in the legume department, both dishes were highly successful. As were the grownup french fries (yellow sticks of crispy-soft polenta with a basil-greened chipotle dipping sauce) and my buddy’s pasta dish.
We ended up swapping as buddy was pretty taken with the cassoulet (meaty with roasted portobellos and smoked celeriac, and with a toasty-crunchy bread and pepita crust, served with great bread) and I with her (beanless) pasta dish. It featured corn fettucine plumped with roasted squash, charred brussel sprouts and sweet onions. The creaminess came from a sage and almond pesto with ‘parmesan’ fashioned with ground pepita seeds and nutritional yeast. Sounds yucky, I know, but its nutty, cheesy, salty hit was remarkably good.
Service was kind but green, unfamiliar with the intricacies of the dishes.
I’m looking forward to returning for the dinner menu, to really sink my teeth into Mortimer-Proulx’s cuisine.
Cost: pasta, $12; cassoulet, $10
Open for lunch, Thursday and Friday, brunch on weekends, and daily for dinner.