Madras Dosa House – Vancouver, BC

Madras Dosa House
5656 Fraser St
Vancouver, BC
(604) 327-1233

Recently my daughter told me that her favourite cuisine is South Indian vegetarian…this is after many years of sushi as here top choice when dining out. A couple of years ago, I had taken her to the Vancouver location of Saravanaa Bhavan – a restaurant chain hailing from the city of Chennai that specializes in the cuisine of Tamil Nadu. She was smitten. She always asks if we can dine there whenever we are nearby and she held here birthday party with her friends there recently. (She and a number of her friends are verging on vegetarianism). I am only too happy to oblige her.

Being a carnivore, I find Indian vegetarian food to be the only meatless food that truly satisfies me. Unlike the typical “beans and tofu” vegetarian cuisines endemic to this city, I truly do not miss meat at all when I eat this food. Also, I had traveled through that part of India a couple of decades ago and fell in love with the cuisine and had always wanted to explore it first hand. With impetus, I am now in the midst of exploring this cuisine with my daughter by learning to cook it. I would like her to grow up knowing that vegetarianism can actually be a delicious lifestyle. I have stocked my kitchen with the requisite pantry items – luckily all very easy to find here in Vancouver. I already had a number of great cookbooks (I’m a bit of a cookbook hound), and there is no shortage of websites from which you can learn this cuisine.

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Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House – Burnaby, BC

Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House
8681 10th Ave
Burnaby, BC
(604) 527-8138

Branching out and exploring new cuisines and ingredients I believe is part of the appeal of doing what we do, as I’m sure other regular food bloggers will attest.  Vegetarian cooking is one that I’m not wildly enthusiastic about, because let’s face it, carnivorous dining is where it’s at.

So you can imagine the hesitation or perhaps curiosity that was swirling around in my mind, when I decided to drop into a visibly named vegetarian establishment that served up Vietnamese food.  Would it be a new found paradise for me, as their namesake showed, I just had to find out for myself.

With blinds obstructing the view inside, as well as the sun’s glare off the front windows, I wasn’t sure what waited for me inside the Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House.  Upon entering, I found several tables already occupied.  By what looked like a middle aged man and his elderly father, another had a trio of big young gents dressed in utilities worker overalls, and then a group of four office workers.  And everyone was being attended to by this petite smiling woman, who was hustling back and forth from the kitchen.

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Foodosophy & Politics of Foie Gras – understanding, and misunderstanding of a touchy issue

Hate to interrupt the burger stream, but I read a letter today that I felt was important to get out there. It’s discusses the strengths and faults of the Foie Gras debate, and more importantly, gives a balanced view on food-related issues in general that should reinforce to anyone the importance of getting educated on the issues and challenges our society faces, especially as it relates to food.

Beware my soapbox, but I believe the key part in all this is to GET EDUCATED. Don’t hear a story and feel like you have the facts. Don’t project your own personal values onto an issue and assume you know what’s going on. We’re all guilty of that to some extent. The best thing all of us can do is to continue to talk, study, and understand the challenges we face together, and the best way to address these problems.

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Gratitude Cafe – Calgary, AB

Gratitude Cafe
227 10 St NW
Calgary, AB
(403) 984-4433

Most people know me as a complete unabashed carnivore. But i have a confession, as I have gotten older, I’ve actually started to appreciate vegetables! Shocking, i know, but im starting to feel out of balance when i eat too much meat, or neglect the fibre and vegetable part of my diet. While I am not turning vegetarian, I can say, I do appreciate good vegetarian food. Like food produced at The Coup, and, i was hoping, the food produced at Gratitude Cafe.

Gratitude Cafe, located in the heart of Kensington, is a rip off of Cafe Gratitude from San Francisco. Much like Delux Burger (Edmonton, ripped from Delux Burger in Phoenix), or Belgo, they have completely stolen the concept, the look, and the menu from an existing establishment. Unfortunately, Gratitude Cafe fails to get the most important part right – good food.

Located in a high turnover location in Kensington, the space is a bit utilitarian, but reasonably comfortable.


Started with a vegetable bean dip/salad. Whatever you want to call it, it was oily, bland, and lacked any semblance of balance, or taste.

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The Naam Restaurant – Vancouver, BC

The Naam Restaurant
2724 4th Avenue West
Vancouver, BC
(604) 738 7151

Naam on Urbanspoon

As I settled down to write this review, it struck me that it could lead to examining one of the most polarizing Vancouver-area restaurants in Foodosophy‘s brief history.

After a couple of visits to The Naam Restaurant, speaking with folks who live in the neighborhood and/or have eaten there in the past, and a superficial perusing of general online chatter that surrounds this establishment, I strongly sensed that this restaurant generates as much a fierce two-sided debate as say a discussion about the best political party to lead the province through these dire times,  what is the best balance between using tax payer money to promote the 2010 Olympics versus helping fund solutions to remedy the growing homelessness plaguing the city, or even what to do about Coach Vigneault.

Much like the other similar sounding ‘Nam, there is always controversy brewing and plenty of those around who think they have it all figured out and are correct in their judgment.

To begin, a little history and background on Naam.  It proclaims to be vegetarian.  Reporters have noted it to be one of the oldest natural foods restaurants in the city.  It is open 24/7, everyday except for Christmas Day.  And although the sample size is smaller, I’ve found that each time I’ve dined in there is always a lineup out the door especially at mid-day or on weekend brunch.

Once you are able to get a table, the overworked (and I think outnumbered) wait staff might come to your table in a timely manner.  And I’m not saying that to be fescious.  They truly are overwhelmed by the crowds, and given the laid back nature of this restaurant (heck, it has its roots in Vancouver’s hippie culture after all), diners are forewarned not to expect quick, attentive service or responses to any of your usual dining needs.

This could include things as just getting a menu, having your water served, the time it takes for the meal to come out of the kitchen and brought to your table, and hailing them down to receive the bill, etc.  Be patient, as it will come… in time.  As with any restaurant, as long as you know what you can expect, I think you should be willing to bend and adapt to the local customs or way they do things around here.  If not, I recommend you find your vegetarian or 24-hour food needs elsewhere.  The Naam is best left to those who are in no hurry, not pressed to fit their meal into a nice tidy one-hour time frame, and who generally are by nature, more accepting and relaxed.

For the food, there is part of me that welcomes the slightly funky twist that comes with the eclectic offerings at Naam that are different from your regular greasy spoon or neighborhood diner.  As an example, pictured above is the Croissant Witch.  Basically a split-in-half croissant is topped with what is dubbed “tofurella” (a cheese replacement) mixed in with scrambled eggs (of more tofu if you so desire) and veggie sausages.  On first glance, it looks like a regular hot top creation, and although I only had a few bites, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it.  And I am a noted carnivore.

As intriguing as the assorted more healthier options looked, I have never been a fan of whole wheat pancakes.  So I went with the Pancake Sandwich on this visit, which came with some fresh berries, whipped cream and maple syrup.  It felt more home-y to me, and it was a good sized portion, not overwhelming so that I felt stuffed.  I’m finding its not only the ingredients but also the portion control that is key to “eating healthy”.  Sorry for the diet-speak.

For die hards, I am sure The Naam will continue to be a favorite haunt for them.  For those who have heard the talk about this place, I am sure many will try and be satisfied and conversely an equal number will come away wondering what the hype is all about.  For me personally, I’m going to have to go the route of Switzerland here, neither extremely for nor adversely against.  It is what it is, a long standing business on the west side, catering to a specific clientele in a generally health conscious city, with an interesting take on classic breakfast and brunch items served up in a very casual, some would say slow, style.

Naam on Urbanspoon

Burma Superstar – San Francisco, CA

Burma Superstar
309 Clement St
San Francisco, CA 94118, USA
(415) 387-2147

I find ritual and routine are comfortable signposts in an otherwise hectic life. By creating rituals, they put the mind and heart at ease by helping surround you with familiar experiences that you enjoy, and of course, wish to repeat. Burma Superstar is one of those rituals for me. Any time i am in the Bay Area, I meet up with some good friends of mine, one whom happens to be vegetarian. Usually, trying to find a restaurant that can accommodate a vegetarian, and a serious meatatarian is a difficult prospect.  Burma Superstar happens to be one of those perfect compromises.

Let’s start with the basics. The room is a bit crowded. While things are tight, i do not find it uncomfortably so. .Service is extremely friendly – though they will often pretend to remember you, even when they don’t.  There are no reservations, so there are often long lineups, and a crowded “lobby”. Arrive during non-peak times for your best chance at a table. Let’s face it – San Fransisco is not exactly short on vegetarians. If you happen to end up on the list, and starving, there are a lot of other snack options nearby (including a crepe place across the street) that can provide excellent pre-meal snacks.

Once you finally get a seat, order a Ginger lemonade. A perfect balance of sweet and tart, with a nice ginger zing, it used to be non-stop refills. I believe too many people taking advantage of this has resulted in only one free refill being offered.

As you peruse the menu, you’ll notice that most dishes can come in a meat option, or a vegetarian option. Surprisingly enough, go vegetarian for many of your choices – they are just better.

Whenever we go, we always start with one of their signature dishes – the Tea Leaf salad. Like table side Casear salad, the server will toss together the tea leaves, tomatos, lettuce, fried garlic, sesame seeds, peanuts, and yellow peas if you ask. This is really a can’t miss – a salad with a really unique flavour with a fantastic crunch, and bursts of flavour with every bite. It is both refreshing, and does a great job of readying your palette for a variety of flavours.

There are certain dishes that we’ve found that appeal to both vegetarians and non vegetarians alike. The Tea Leaf salad is definitely one of them. Another big favorite is the Samusa Soup. Samusas are Burmese samosas – handwrapped and filled with curry spices, potatoes, and then deep fried. Even though it’s vegetarian, it is a very popular soup with both vegetarians and meat eaters – in fact, it was on almost every table the last time we were there. Made with samusas broken up with falafels, lentils, cabbage, and onions, this is a delectable, curry flavoured soup, with great harmony between flavour, texture, and heat.

For those who are wondering if I have gone veg, I am happy to report they carry a good selection of meat dishes as well. As I mentioned, most dishes come in your choice of veg or meat. The Burmese Curry, available in lamb, beef, or pork, is a slightly spicy, nutty, flavourful curry. But it’s nothing exceptional, especially when compared to curries of many other nations. It will hold its own though.

I’ll be honest though, in most cases, the vegetarian dishes are all better. The Poodi, for example, is a potato curry served with puri breads – great for dipping! I like this better than the meat curry.

Lastly, another signature dish, the Chicken Dahl. Our “final” dish we always order a new random dish. This has included tofu dishes, sea food dishes, veggie dishes, etc. Too many to list, but usually, quite hit and miss. It’s never bad (hard to go wrong with anything on the menu), but just not as exceptional as some of their other dishes.

First, let’s be clear on something. My distaste for vegetarianism is well documented among those that know me. While i can accept the idea that some people just don’t like meat, I refuse to accept that there is anything immoral, or wrong, with eating animal flesh. My point isn’t to stand on a soapbox, but to point out that any pseudo-vegetarian restaurant that can hold my interest is something special indeed. Burma Superstar is a rare place that truly appeals to both vegetarian, and meat eaters alike. If you find yourself on the west side, and need a good value restaurant that will satisfy that all the different types of eaters in your group, this is the place for you. This is not apologetic vegetarian food, nor is it mock meat. This is Burmese food, and it’s tasty, meat or no meat.

Burma Superstar on Urbanspoon