Vancouver is quickly becoming one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the world, with an array of restaurants to choose from.Â Hereâ€™s the first part in my series of the best vegan food Vancouver has to offer.
Â 1. The Naam
I'm sure most Vancouverites have heard of The Naam, whether they are vegetarian/vegan, or not. It is hands-down the most popular vegetarian/vegan restaurant, and probably the oldest in Vancouver. I recently went for the first time a couple of nights ago, after the many times I've passed by it on the way to UBC or back home. I was lucky to be seated right away, as there are often long line-ups; even so, there were quite a few customers already, considering that it was around 6pm on Thursday. The decor is quaint, quirky, and cozy enough for a comfortable dining experience, with mismatched wooden tables and chairs. The service wasn't spectacular, but given the number of people that soon started flooding into the restaurant, it was reasonable.
Â The best part about the restaurant anyways is the food. The Naam has a lot of variety on their menu. There are burgers, Mexican food (burritos, tacos, enchiladas), pasta, rice bowls, hotdogs, and more. And while many of their dishes contain cheese, most of them are egg-free; they also offer a vegan cheese substitute. I ordered the Naam burger platter, which came with sesame fries and a salad. My first impression of the dishes when they first came was: that's a lot of food. There portions are BIG, so I advise that you share a dish or go only when you're extremely hungry. The burger was filling enough, but they literally piled a lot of salad onto my plate. There were also a lot of fries that were really like potato wedges. My sister ordered their fettuccine pasta with Daiya cheese (the vegan alternative), and it was huge as well; by the time she asked the waitress to pack it up to go, it looked like she hadn't even touched it.
Â Even though I was full, I had to try their dessert. I ordered the hot apple crisp, which is supposed to be their signature dessert. Once again, quite a big portion, but so delicious; itâ€™s better than apple pie! Â My sister tried their shatki cake, which is essentially carrot cake with hemp, pumpkin, and some chocolate. I didn't think it sounded very appealing on the menu, but good thing I tried some..it tastes just like carrot cake with a hint of chocolate, with just the right amount of frosting. The best vegan baking is the kind where you want to double check to confirm that it is, in fact, vegan. Overall experience: 4/5.
2. Panz Veggie
This restaurant is one of the newest 100% vegan restaurants in Vancouver; Panz Veggie is actually a Buddhist vegan restaurant.Â I loved being able to order anything I wanted on the menu without having to make adjustments and worry about the ingredients!Â Obviously, the cuisine is basically Chinese food - we ordered deep fried tofu (my favorite), wonton soup, hot and sour soup, curry vermicelli, Taiwanese cabbage, and sweet and sour steak bites. My mom and sister ordered the hot and sour soup, so I can't comment on that, but they seemed to enjoy it. The wonton soup was really good too - it was a tad bit bland but still enjoyable.Â The deep fried tofu was the best, in my opinion. I always order this at Chinese restaurants, but Panz Veggie's version of it is one of the best I've had, as they don't season the tofu to the point that it's too salty. It was also crispy enough without being too dry. Everything else was excellent as well, although I didn't like the steak bites that much.Â Be warned: people that donâ€™t like faux meat-type dishes should stay away from this dish.Â The food is delicious at this restaurant, and the dÃ©cor is very calm and clean.Â
Â One negative point is that the service is a bit awkward.Â Iâ€™ve had the same server every time I went to this restaurant, and while he was adequate in doing his job, he wasnâ€™t the friendliest, and made us feel a bit uncomfortable when he thought we ordered too much food.Â Again, this is a Buddhist restaurant; it is disrespectful to waste food and eat more than you need.Â The thing is, my family and I love to eat and try out different dishes.Â Nonetheless, we pack everything up that we donâ€™t finish.Â If youâ€™re like us, you may run into this problem.Â The food is still great though! Overall experience: 4/5.
3. Radha Yoga & Eatery
Radha Eatery might just be my current favorite spot for a scrumptious vegan meal.Â Offering yoga classes during the day, Radha is transformed into an elegant vegan restaurant at night.Â The candle-lit, open space looking out onto a quiet street gives the perfect ambiance to the lovely meal that awaits you.Â Radha is a unique experience in Vancouver, as they have a seasonal menu to compliment the local, organic ingredients that are currently available.Â I had their quinoa nut burger platter (I think this dish is available all year long), which included generous portions of salad and potato wedges.Â The chipotle mayo that came with the potato wedges was amazing!Â It tasted exactly how I remembered the non-vegan version to be.Â The burger itself was packed with veggies and extremely filling.Â All in all, a very satisfactory dinner set at a reasonable price.Â If youâ€™re looking for anything that resembles a fine dining, vegan experience in Vancouver, Radha is the place for you.Â The food is delicious, the presentation flawless, and the service attentive and friendly.Â 5/5.
4. Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House
We went to Paradise Vegetarian Noodle House last night.Â It's a small restaurant that's kind of easy to miss, as the exterior isn't particularly attention-grabbing; the modern and tasteful decor inside makes up for it though. We were the only customers there at first, at around 6:30; there were soon at least 4 other tables though, which is significant for such a small restaurant.
Â There are many items on the menu that I unfortunately only glanced over, as I was only interested in eating one thing: my beloved pho noodles that I missed so much! I used to eat pho a lot, so naturally Iâ€™ve missed it dearly, as traditional pho noodles come with beef and a broth made with beef. We're incredibly lucky we have such a restaurant in Vancouver, as I don't believe there are very many vegetarian Vietnamese restaurants in all of Canada.
Â The appetizers came first - fresh spring rolls - and they tasted just as good as the ones I used to eat! These are not the fried rolls, but the soft ones stuffed with thin rice noodles and lettuce, with a peanut dipping sauce. Instead of the usual prawns, they were stuffed with some sort of faux meat.
Â I ordered a large beef rice noodle (100% vegan), and I wasn't disappointed. There was little difference between the traditional pho and this veg-friendly alternative. The only thing I realized was different was the lack of grease in the broth, and of course, the meat! The broth was still really good though..I actually prefer it lighter and not so salty and greasy. The noodles were cooked to perfection, and the faux beef was also good. I'm not a huge fan of faux meat myself, and I don't like to think of it as faux meat...but what I liked about the 'beef' at this restaurant was that it didn't try too hard to imitate the real thing; it was just good on its own without trying to taste so much like real beef.
Â For dessert, I just had to try the cheesecake. They only had one topping last night - chocolate - but it went great with the cheesecake. I was once again skeptical to try it, but thank goodness it turned out to taste great. The cake itself has the exact texture and consistency of a New York-style cheesecake - seriously. It had a hint of a cheesy taste, but not much..for some reason, I kept on tasting blackcurrant.Â The texture and consistency was so convincing it didn't matter.Â
Â If youâ€™re in a hurry and decide you want to eat vegetarian/vegan pho, you might want to pick another day to go.Â The restaurant is small and appears to be run by 3 people (two of them being the owners). Â One can imagine how difficult it is serving, cooking, ringing up customers, and dealing with take-out orders between 3 people.Â Iâ€™ve had dinners that took 2+ hours at this restaurant, while a trip to a regular pho restaurant takes 45 minutes.Â The food is definitely worth the visit, but just be aware that when it is busy, the service is very slow.Â Overall experience: 4/5.