Cuisine: Vegetarian/Vegan/Gluten Free
Last visited: Feb. 2, 2014
Phone: (604) 620-8822
Location: Vancouver, BC (Kensington)
Address: 3980 Fraser Street
Price Range: $20-30 (Mains $17-19)
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: FMF Must Try!
Food: 2.5–3 (based on what I tried)
- Executive Chef: Karen McAthy
- Vegetarian only
- Vegan friendly
- Raw friendly
- Gluten Free friendly
- Plant based menus
- Organic options
- Seasonal menus
- Casual, but nice ambiance
- Weekend brunch
- Reservations recommended on weekends
- Mon – Thur – 5 pm – 10 pm
- Fri – 5 pm – 11 pm
- Sat – 10 am – 11 pm
- Sun – 10 am – 10 pm
- Twitter: @grazevegetarian
**Recommendations: Fig & Cashew Pâté, Perogies
Super Bowl Sunday. Where to go for dinner? Vegetarian, of course! No crowds or line ups and it’ll be relatively quiet on a Sunday night, right? Wrong. It was Dine Out Vancouver and they were full with reservations. Mind you, they recommend reservations on weekends, so I’m assuming it’s usually quite busy. I was lucky to get a seat at the communal high top counter which was comfortable, but they were short on staff and the service was friendly, but very slow.
Given that it was the last day of Dine Out Vancouver and keeping in mind my “Do’s and don’ts of Dine Out Vancouver“, my experience wasn’t necessarily representable of the restaurant on a regular night. However service is service and a paid experience is a paid experience. Despite it being understaffed for an expected busy night, I enjoyed the cozy ambiance, neighbourhood feel and rustic charm.
Graze opened in the old Fray location last year, a little after the wave of vegetarian restaurants opened in Vancouver – The Parker, Heirloom, and The Acorn. I haven’t been to Heirloom yet, but Graze was more rustic and homestyle than the other two. The plant based menu is designed to be very allergy friendly with vegan, gluten-free and dairy-free options. There is a written emphasis on organic, local and seasonal ingredients, but the menu didn’t quite commit to the seasonal philosophy. Being the winter, the ingredients were already limited so I’d be curious to come back for the spring/summer menu or even brunch which isn’t as reliant on seasonal ingredients.
My first encounter with Graze and Chef Karen McAthy was at FarmFolk CityFolk’s Metro Vancouver Feast of Fields last year. Karen’s background is Ukrainian and she is a professionally trained chef specializing in vegetarian and vegan cooking. She’s passionate about what she does and her style is a bit country and comfort more so than modern. She puts a lot of effort in the menu, which isn’t easy having to cater to so many sensitivities and diets. The dishes didn’t always live up to menu descriptions or expectations so it was a bit hit and miss.
I wasn’t keen on the desserts, mind you the desserts were specially made for Dine Out Vancouver and the portions smaller. I’ve never been a fan of this, but a lot of participating Dine Out restaurants do it. As for the appetizers and entrees, half were from the regular menu and the other half were testers.
Although I didn’t love the menu, I found some dishes good but overlooked in details and a bit scattered in flavours. At times the hot food was served cold or things were a bit under seasoned as well. I appreciated how every sauce and component was made from scratch and the flavours come from spices more so than salt. It’s relatively healthy food and it takes a special chef to do this kind of plant-based/allergy sensitive cooking. The textures and flavours will be slightly different since there are many alternative ingredients used.
As a meat eater who enjoys vegetables, I might not be the typical clientele. I preferred The Parker and The Acorn, but the styles are so different it’s not really fair to compare. It’s good for the area and I admire the thought and effort behind each dish. I wanted to like it more, but I’ll refrain from judging too much given the Dine Out event context.
On the table:
- Original organic lemonade or Lavender lemonade or Fresh fruit lemonade $4.50
- I was recommended the fresh fruit lemonade, so I ordered that.
- The fruit was strawberries, but it was winter so I’ll assume they were from California.
- I don’t always eat seasonal, but if it’s emphasized on the menu then I expect it to follow through.
- I found it a bit sour instead of tart and it actually wasn’t that sweet at all.
- There was a bright lemon flavour, but I couldn’t taste much of the fresh fruit.
- Local corn, cracked black pepper, lightly curried, smoked paprika $8
- It was a yam and red pepper puree thickened with perhaps potatoes because it had a starchy texture.
- The local corn was likely frozen and had a chewy texture.
- I’ve never been keen on frozen corn, so perhaps a root vegetable soup would be better considering the season.
- I could taste the curry spices, but it was borderline bland.
- It was a very homestyle soup and less sweet than expected.
- It was good, but not necessarily a soup I would have to order again.
- Filled chard rolls with a light cumin orange dressing About $11-12
- It was a bit small, so I’m hoping the a la carte version will be bigger given the price point.
- The pâté was creamy, nutty and rich in texture and flavour and it reminded me of cottage cheese. It was a bit mealy, but in an enjoyable way.
- There were pieces of dried figs mixed into the pureed cashew pâté for a bit of sweetness and chew which contrasted the crunchy chard.
- It was a bit smoky from the cumin orange dressing and it tasted Middle Eastern.
- The dressing had a lemony-orange zing and a bit of heat and I actually really enjoyed this.
- (5) Yam & eggplant perogies, sautéed oyster mushrooms, crispy shallots, pickled beet shreds, crisp smoky eggplant & mushroom strips, smoky coconut cheddar sauce, sour coconut cream, spicy tomato jam. $16
- This is the signature dish and it was my favourite of the night. I would re-order this.
- It was rich, hearty vegetarian comfort food and it would satisfy meat eaters.
- Perogies aren’t all that difficult to make vegetarian, but it was the perogy dough that took a lot of effort for Karen to perfect.
- They were a bit thick and chewy rather than crisp, but they tasted like normal perogy skins except they were gluten free. I couldn’t even tell and I can usually tell.
- The filling was creamy and smooth and I could taste more sweet yam than eggplant.
- The smoky coconut cheddar sauce was rich, sweet, salty, and a bit cheesy, but well balanced.
- I loved the texture of the pickled beet shreds and crispy shallots, but could have used more sautéed oyster mushrooms and crispy smoky eggplant.
- The meatiness of the mushroom jus was fabulous and it gave the dish umami. It almost tasted like it was seasoned with tamari.
- The mushroom jus had a bacon like quality and I was really impressed with all the bold flavours in the dish.
- The sweet and spicy tomato jam wasn’t necessary, but I liked it. I could taste rosemary, but the perogies had enough flavour even without it
- The sour coconut cream was a bit thin, but nice and tart with a sumac sprinkle. I wished there was more to finish the perogies with.
- There was a lot going on (3 sauces for one dish), but I like sweet, savoury and spicy and this dish had a lot of flavour.
- Chef Karen has a Ukrainian background so this dish is close to her heart.
- Toasted almond and herb ‘mignon’, roasted carrot & grilled corn puree with sautéed red pepper & oyster mushroom in a juniper-tulsi glaze About $16-18
- I expected more from this one and the description sounded more exciting.
- It wasn’t heated all the way through so the centre of the ‘mignon’ was still cold.
- The ‘mignon’ was pretty much a mashed potato cake with roughly chopped almonds throughout.
- I could taste thyme, dill and herbs and the texture was quite starchy, but I got a bit bored of eating it.
- It was pan seared, but not quite crisp and I’m not sure if an almond crust would have helped.
- The roasted carrot & grilled corn puree was mildly spicy, but a bit bland and needed salt.
- I wasn’t keen on the juniper-tulsi (holy basil) glaze and found it bitter and unexpectedly herbal.
- The juniper was a bit overpowering and I could taste either cinnamon (?) or nutmeg (?) too.
- The juniper-tulsi glaze was supposed to imitate a black pepper sauce served with steak, but it didn’t quite work.
- The potato cake was topped with sautéed red pepper, fennel & oyster mushroom, but it didn’t deliver as strong or as unique as the description.
- It just seemed a bit too homestyle and experimental, but the idea was interesting.
- Lavender coulis (Dine Out special – desserts around $6-8)
- This Dine Out dessert was smaller than what they would normally serve on a regular night.
- I could taste a bit of lemon in the mousse, but the lavender was just sprinkled on top as garnish.
- I would rather the lavender be infused in the mousse because the few drops of coulis didn’t contribute to much flavour.
- The lemon mousse was the texture of cottage cheese (but not the flavour of it), so I’m not sure if it was curdled or intentional.
- I couldn’t taste the almond (?) wafer cannoli shell and it was almost like a Melba toast in texture.
- Again, strawberries are not seasonal, so I would have preferred another garnish.
- Layered with toasted cashew crumble (Dine Out special – desserts around $6-8)
- I wasn’t keen on this Dine Out dessert either and it was a smaller portion than what they would serve on a normal night.
- It was rich and sweet and almost like chocolate pudding.
- The chocolate was a bit grainy so I’m not sure if it was tempered properly.
- The texture and flavour came from the toasted cashew crumble, but it was soggy instead of crunchy or crisp.
- There were a couple pieces of sour cherries, but I couldn’t taste the rose.
- It was a gluten free trifle version of a Black Forest Cake, but a bit too homestyle and I just know they could do better.
- I usually love vegan/raw desserts because they use a lot of coconut and nuts which I love, so I was a bit disappointed.
- These two desserts were designed for the Dine Out Vancouver menu though, so I’d still try their dessert menu again on a regular night.