I had the great fortune the other day to have brunch at Zen Kitchen with a couple of vegan friends.  As you know from my veggie challenge, I have been struggling with vegetarian meals in the winter and even more so with vegan meals at any time of year. Zen Kitchen makes it look easy! Chef Caroline Ishii is so talented, you could take the most meat and potato guy you know, and he would still be able to enjoy a meal. Just maybe wait until he’s done eating to let him know that it was vegan. Perception is everything.

It really is. I’m pretty open minded about my food, and I was a bit nervous about the tofu scramble that hubby ordered.

The untraditional breakfast ($14) of tofu scramble, tempeh bacon, baked beans and potatoes is actually… pretty traditional. Minus the animal products.

It scared me. I’ll admit it. Tempeh bacon? What the hell is that? Delicious is what it is. Smokey and wonderful – it is everything you love about bacon without the grease. The scramble was flavourful and light and fluffy. I was jealous that some people were so gifted that when they work with tofu it turns into something edible, unlike when I attempt to use it.

I went with a gluten free, Mornay sauce and crispy onions Mac and Cheese ($14). Go big or go home I say – and I feel that ordering something with cheese in the title when you know that no traditional cheese will be anywhere near it is going big. Or bigish. It was a-maze-ing.

So creamy and delicious I really enjoyed it. I would say that it isn’t the best Mac and Cheese I’ve ever had, but it it is definitely up there. And that’s really saying something. I loves my mac and cheese. I often find that the first couple bites of a mac and cheese are good, but then the flavours and textures become redundant and you lose the enthusiasm for eating it. Not with this one. The crunchy topping and layers of flavour had me finishing the dish happily. I had it with the daily soup which was a curried carrot… one of the best soups I think I have ever had.

The food rocks – the prices are reasonable ($14 for any brunch dish), lets move on to the restaurant itself.

It’s not a huge place, but it is so homey and trendy it feels like you are visiting a very cool friend. You are instantly comfortable in your surroundings and the servers are as warm and welcoming as the decor. It is a wonderful location to sit back and enjoy some wonderful food and terrific company. Laid back and relaxed, yet there is something about it – you know that you are experiencing something unique and truly special.

A wonderful meal at a wonderful restaurant. 4.5 out of 5 stars.