By Riva Soucie
It was only a few years ago that places like Toronto’s Black Hoof and our own Murray Street Kitchen turned us onto nose-to-tail cooking in a big way. You know the kind of food I mean. One where sheep viscera are considered haute cuisine and no part of the animal is wasted.
Turns out that the trend was just the beginning of a wider movement toward eating more holistically, and lately, the fad has turned toward plant-based cuisine, elevating grains, greens and legumes to a higher level. Here in Ottawa, the options are growing quickly, with adorable veggie-focused bistros, like La Belle Vert in Gatineau and Cafe My House down in South Keys, alongside Caroline Ishii’s high-end vegan fare at ZenKitchen. But we also have faithful standbys, and chief among them is The Green Door, a vibrant pay-by-weight vegetarian restaurant on Main Street.
The Dish: Here, ‘the dish’ is typically a picnic-style plate consisting of ‘a little bit of everything.’ As such, a spoonful of runny raita soaks into the spanakopita, while a slice of quiche gets hidden beneath a pile of fresh dandelion greens and soft spelt bread inadvertently sops the eggplant curry.
I take a different approach, constructing a simpler plate from the rotating options at the buffet, by taking only as many items as I would make for a single meal at home. Recently, I did this using TGD’s locally-famous stir-fried tofu and broccoli as my ‘entree.’ This is a recipe so legendary that diners have been known to ‘lurk’ at the beginning of the buffet, waiting for a fresh tray to come out from the kitchen. The allure is surprising, given how simple the dish seems: cubes of springy tofy, bright, crunchy broccoli florets, and thinly sliced carrot, and a simple sauce made from tamari, ginger, and garlic. Gently cooked beets and some red chard round out my plate.
On another visit, I went for a completely different combination. The centrepiece was an addictive salad of emerald-coloured kale, shredded finely and tossed with lacy strands of arame and a kiss of toasted sesame oil. To this, I added a scoop of quinoa (tastes sort of nutty and contains all eight amino acids, if you didn’t know) and a spoonful of house kraut to help with digestion.
A deliciously hale lunch and a great chance get into plant foods in a big way.
The Price: Around $10-12 for a good-sized portion (hot and cold buffets $19.25/kg).
The Place: The Green Door Restaurant, 198 Main St., 613-234-6771, www.thegreendoor.ca. Open Tuesday-Sunday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. (closed Mondays).