Vancouver wouldn’t be the beating heart of Canada’s left coast if it didn’t offer a plethora of vegetarian and vegan restaurants, right? There’s a lot to pick from if you’re meat-free (which yes, I can be from time to time), but the hippest and most innovative spot in town is The Acorn.
As you can see, a line forms on Main Street as early as a half hour before the doors finally open at 5:30 on the weekend. It’s a tiny, well-manicured room that screams earthly and fresh as loudly as the menu, all very tasteful and sharp and considered. The servers are all sirens, aging much better than their customers for the most part.
My friend and bartender extraordinaire Dylan recently took over the small cocktail list, so it’s equal parts old school and contemporary. Elite. Indie, even.
The food is amazing, and not in a "I didn’t even miss the meat!" type of way - if you’re seriously going to walk into a vegetarian restaurant like a fat American at an all-inclusive in Cancun and act like you’re going WAY out of your comfort zone by eating really fresh garden veggies, herbs, nuts and cheese, then you don’t really have any business eating there.
Anyway, the dish pictured above is the “Peas and Carrots,” a chilled pea soup with pickled carrots and mascarpone. The soup base itself would have been delicious, but the one-two hit of creamy luxury from the cheese and crunchy acidity from the carrots takes this bowl to the moon, and is a perfect way to start a meal on a hot summer night despite its hearty portion.
Note: Portion sizes in general are pretty decent here, which could be an effort to justify prices ($16-19 for mains) to “regular” diners who expect a slab of beef on their plate for twenty bucks. Maybe? I mean they’re not huge and silly either. Either way I was stuffed when I left the place, like need-a-couple-hours-before-going-out-again stuffed.
This is the beer-battered Halloumi over smashed peas, a zucchini cake and herbed yogurt. A very hearty, delicious dish that manages to feel clean and bright while indulging in a certain degree of crisp-fried decadence.
I love fresh Halloumi cheese, grilled or fried. I bet you could eat it fresh and make a really cool Middle East-style caprese salad with it. Ashley used to bring Nabulsi cheese back from Quebec in the summer, which is similar except saltier and dotted with black sesame seeds throughout. That cheese, fried in a pan so that it’s crispy on the outside and oozing through the centre, may be the single most exciting flavour my mouth has ever experienced. The Acorn’s Halloumi is great, though my encounter with it was decidedly less climactic than those first few bites of Nabulsi in the Rose kitchen, my knees weak and my eyes rolled all the way back into my head…
The words “raw,” “vegan,” “cold” and “gluten-free” are typically antithetical to lasagna, but that’s exactly what this is, with zucchini, pesto, cashew cream and candied olives. Another beautiful dish for a hot day, this “lasagna” really makes the most of its flavours and textures. The pesto is really bright and - dare I say - traditional, which serves as one of the plate’s sole nods to the dish’s Italian heritage. Bellissimo.