Bandra Cafe - Vegan Options

There are enough menu items marked vegan at Bandra Cafe that people who don't want to eat animals or animal products can dine in without being content with french fries or salad! A lot of Indian food is vegetarian but omitting butter and cheese ( to make things vegan) is not as easy as one might assume. It takes an effort to make Indian food vegan! So we finally made it to Bandra and enjoyed the owner's friendliness and the whimsical decor of this casual eatery.

Located at the west end of Strawberry Hills Shopping Centre (Scott Road and 72nd Ave., Surrey), we arrived Saturday at 1ish and were able to get a table right away. It was not long before the owner (or one of the partners) checked on us to make sure we were being looked after (which we were). He told us a little about Bandra (at our prompting), a part of greater Mumbai and where this project originated.
We started with Elco Pani Puri. We have had this Indian treat before but this is the Bandra street food version. It's sort of a fun dish as you first crack the top of the pastry balls and then add filling and sauce. A little bit spicy or a little bit sweet and a little messy, depending on how you assemble it, this is a light tasty way to start a meal.
Next up was Khanda Bhajiya which was the second dish to come on this little cart that I photographed so poorly. It does show again, some whimsey in that a dish would have been fine but if you can use something with wheels, why not? These were crispy and substantial considering they are basically vegetable fritters. They came with a nice chutney and some sweet tamarind sauce. Very nice!
The Salt and Pepper Wings are made from soya chaap which is ridiculously like chicken. The texture and tear-apart quality made us question whether we were being bad vegans! Hot, crispy and salty is what we had hoped for and what was served! After lunch, we went next door to the Chula Freshco and got soya chaap, which surprisingly comes in a can in brine, as it warrants further exploration.
I think that this is Dal Khichdi (our menu with the vegan items marked is different in the restaurant than the online version). It was similar to the curried lentils that I practically live on at home from day to day but with some serious upgrading. Served with papadam, some fried onions and coriander, it was a warming and satisfying dish.
Some wall art, old photographs as well as tables set up for chess and other games, make this a place you might want to hang around. They have a pretty impressive coffee and baked goods menu as well. This is certainly one of our new favourite places for plant-based eats!
Food                      4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options       4 1/2 out of 5
Comfort                 4 1/2 out of 5
Service                  4 1/2 out of 5
Value                     4 1/2 out of 5

Vegetarian or Vegan? Some Random Thoughts

I watched a YouTube video about I can't remember what vegan topic (possibly of the athletic variety) and I was struck by the fact that almost all of the experts interviewed referred to how long they had been vegan and in most cases, how long they had been vegetarian before that. Most started as vegetarians and later became vegan. What is that about?

It makes sense that many people become vegetarians because they object to killing animals. Of course, many had become vegetarian for their health, their pocketbook, or the planet as well (the most significant thing that you can do to reduce your carbon footprint is to become vegetarian or better, vegan), but often it is the killing of animals that is the great motivation. Paul McCartney said that if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian. Or maybe if we had to kill our own dinner, we would move along from eating animals.

Gradually people realize that vegetarianism is just a first step. As I learned more and more about factory farming which produces more than 95% of our dairy and eggs, I realized that I could not support it anymore. The cruelty in those places is in many cases but not all, shocking and disgusting. I realized that no animals should have to suffer and die so that I could eat my grilled cheese sandwiches. So I am forgoing my beloved Taleggio and Manchego so that cows don't have to be made pregnant just so they will produce milk. I am not eating any more fried eggs so that no chickens have to spend their lives in cages and then be ground up into mink feed when they are past their egg-laying prime (No kidding. My first chicken-catching job as a teenager, involved old hens, an industrial grinder and a dumpster). You can certainly learn the details yourself and have no need to accept my dronings on. Look for Earthling Ed on YouTube to start with. Of course, there are farmers who care very much for their animals, but in the end, they kill them long before their natural lives would normally end. They have to do this to make the economics work!

In another direction, the number of vegans is slowly climbing year by year (you can add me in 2022 for example!). We are still not enough to be held responsible for the environmental damage caused in the name of avocados and almonds. Amazingly, many non-vegan people (more than 90% of the population) eat these things! If anything, vegans, who are typically more environmentally conscious than most, are more likely to avoid them ( Personally, I prefer oat milk to almond!). Piers Morgan, a well-known anti-vegan, is an idiot about this. But I digress...

I would like to make a fuss about restaurant menus for a moment. I see that more and more restaurants are including and identifying vegan items on their menus, which is great. I love that! My list of places to visit and blog about grows longer every day! However, consider that less than 1 % of the world's population has celiac disease and another half to 1% have gluten intolerance. Meanwhile, a minimum of 6% of all people are lactose intolerant and in some populations such as South East Asians, it is close to 100%. About 5% of the world's population is vegan but the number is growing. Yet, what dietary restriction gets the most attention on restaurant menus? It is certainly the gluten-free thing. This is not because we are so considerate of people with Celiac disease (although we certainly should be) but because such a large percentage of people think that a gluten-free diet is good for them and will help them lose weight. It certainly is not good for them! Ask your doctor! We are so stupid for fad diets when we think they will help us look like movie stars! Restaurants, pay attention here! Emphasize your vegan options for the sake of the planet and the world in which your children and grandchildren will have to live! Don't be swayed by pseudo-scientific fad diets.

Another menu problem I see is that many places don't seem to understand the difference between vegan and vegetarian. Vegans do not consume any animal products including dairy and eggs, while vegetarians often will eat these things. Menus can get very confusing. A Chinese restaurant may label a noodle dish with no meat as vegetarian but it may actually be vegan! Rest assured that vegetarians will not avoid a vegan dish but vegans will avoid a vegetarian dish! Besides, most vegetarians are thinking about becoming vegan, aren't they? In reality, making vegetarian choices is a good start...but its just a start!

Restaurants need to recognize that veganism will continue to be a more and more important part of their business. By the way, the best thing that you, as an individual, can do for the environment and to mitigate climate change is to eat more plants and fewer animal products. I know, I know! I already mentioned that, but it is important! It stands to reason that this would include restaurant owners and what they chose to serve! In the foodie community (I am specifically talking about bloggers now), I don't see much of a shift away from meat (and frankly, it took me a long time but now I am all self-righteous AF about it!) and certain kinds of cuisine are more meat-centric than others (and I don't just mean steak houses). Again, give some thought to the kind of world your children and grandchildren will have to live in! Have you noticed how fucked up the weather is? Scroll forward 20 years and imagine what we are looking at! 

I know that I kind of swerved all over the place about this but my point is: Try to move to a more plant-based and cruelty-free life and you food bloggers and restauranteurs, do the same because you have some influence! Check out YouTubes Vegan Twosome (of metro Vancouver)  if you need an example of how it can be fun and fulfilling it can be!! I hope your consciences move you to do at least a little (to start with)!

Vegetarian good

Vegan better!

To Live For - Vegan Bakery

The opening of To Live For Bakery and Cafe has been highly anticipated. Their vegan bakery goods have been available, for I am not sure how long, at many places around Vancouver and as far away as Calgary, Whistler and Victoria or through various delivery services or online for pick up from their commissary kitchen. Now you can enjoy their goodies or amazing bread with a coffee or soft serve ice cream in a beautiful and comfortable space at 1508 Nanaimo Street from 7 to 5 daily!
Admittedly, arriving at 11 am on Sunday morning to a new and exciting opening was not the most brilliant move, but we cheerfully joined the quickly moving line and endured the chill. Not surprisingly, things were a bit chaotic inside but we were impressed by how the staff were handling things. We liked the idea of sitting down to enjoy the space but there will be time for that when things settle down a bit (assuming they will settle down). Instead, we opted to enjoy our coffees on the road (btw, if you have not tried oat milk in your latte, you are missing out!) and our baked goods at home.
In the meantime, we recommend the same approach as we suggested during the height of the pandemic when seating was limited. That is to enjoy your meal but go somewhere else to do your lingering. Taking up space that is limited and people are waiting in the cold? Well, we call that slightly shitty behaviour (although we defend your right to be shitty!). Admittedly, we did not really see any of that and don't want to be too judgemental. We're just sayin'.
I could not wait to get my hands on their Whole Wheat Sourdough (shown here with vegan butter, of course). It did not disappoint. A just slightly chewy crust and a mild sourdough flavour, we had to put it away before we ate the whole thing in one sitting!
Mharie spotted the croissants on TLF's Instagram feed and that was it! The Almond Croissants were as good as they looked and the Pain Au Chocolat also hit the spot. Puff pastry is apparently in no way compromised by using plant-based ingredients which leads me to ask, why would you use anything else?
Of all the cinnamon bun styles, I am able to pass up many but not the ones that are upside-down and covered with sugar icing (I know that's not what it is called) and pecans. This is big enough to share and will keep us satisfied until our next visit to TLF.
We had to order at least one cookie. This is more of a chocolate chip meal. It was rich and sweet and built for 2 for sure. Vegans don't take chocolate for granted!
Back to savoury and we loved this Cheddar Biscuit! Where did they get this cheese? It was amazing and melty when gently warmed up. The biscuit was just crumbly enough and perfect as far as this biscuit expert is concerned!
It is so nice to walk into a place and not have to ask if there are eggs or dairy products in items. We can order anything we see! I look forward to trying their soft-serve ice cream when summer returns. It will be nice to sit down and enjoy a coffee and pastry when things calm down too. They are not the only vegan bakery around, but they have the best selection and the nicest room. Well done, folks!
Food                         5 out of 5
Vegan options          5 out of 5
Comfort                    4 out of 5
Service                     4 1/2 out of 5
Value                        5 out of 5

Arike - Vegan Tasting Menu

Described as Nigeria meets the Pacific Northwest, Arike is another one of those places that have been on my must try list for a long time and survived my transition to vegan. You have 2 dining options right now, the Fall Tasting Menu and the Vegan Fall Tasting Menu! Both have a wine pairing available, but we are water people. How boring we are!

Located at 1725 Davie, near Denman, don't blink. This somewhat dark, romantic room is located down a set of stairs and not signed very brightly. Of course, walk in service is not a thing at the moment. Open Friday and Saturday evenings, reservations are required at least 48 hours in advance!
Not surprisingly, we chose the Vegan Tasting Menu. I have no problem with the fact that both the vegan and omnivore menus are $65 per person although I couldn't comment on how the cost of ingredients or chef's time compares. For some reason, vegan menus seem to usually cost more.
They started us off with Carrot! Carrot noodles, carrot puree just a nice little peanut crunch with a hint of orange. Not having an audio recording device (or at least not wanting to drag out my phone and record), a lot of the details got by me, and believe me there are a lot of details to these complex plates. We trusted our capable server Joel (sorry...not sure if I'm spelling that right) that it was going to be delicious. We delighted in the micro herbs that just beautifully crowned most of the dishes.
Next up was squash, nicely crusted with herbs, seeds and sumac. The challenge of the evening would be to scoop up every drop of the sublime sauces. The curry was mild although some of the dishes surprised us with just a bit of heat which is probably the Nigerian influence. The lemon verbena stood out as the unique flavour of this particular presentation.
Always nice to include a taco or two in any meal but this one was quite amazing. The Plantain in the shell made it rich and substantial. Miso glazed (and I want to say maple syrup?) plantain was the main body of the thing with assorted roasted pumpkin seeds etc. that gave it a crispy top.
It's been a long time since anyone served us a palette cleanser but this date and something tea could easily be my morning drink. Very nice!
I really felt like I needed chopsticks for the dumplings, but I don't think that's a Nigerian thing. The peanut sauce here needed to be licked from the bowl (and we've eaten a lot of peanut sauce). Sunchoke and ginger made up the filling along with whatever other magical ingredients as the plates get better and better!
When gnocchi is made with African Yam then we can certainly consider it Nigerian. These little pillows were served with an impressive mushroom mix and Ate Din Din Sauce. There was some mild heat to the sauce, but I think that the original version might be a scorcher judging by recipes I visited. A very nice fusion of wonderful flavours!
And finally, there was dessert! Olive oil cake with a lime jelly (?) cashew crumble and a lovely quenelle of more cashew maybe? You can tell I won't be trying to steal any recipes.
It is amazing what can be accomplished with fusion (Nigeria meets the Pacific Northwest for example) and chefs who clearly consider details and how elements that fit together. We feel like we were eating dishes that were greater than the sum of their parts. Some of these were playful and some homages to the head chef's father's Nigerian heritage. This is another win for the plant-based eating movement to my mind, as you can give up so little and eat brilliantly and cruelty free. Thanks so much, Arike. BTW, service was amazing and personable, and we loved the dining room music which was all Nigerian with a couple of Marvin Gaye tunes thrown in!
Food                        5 out of 5
Vegan options          4 1/2 out of 5 (still the matter of that pesky omnivorous menu)
Comfort                    5 out of 5
Service                     5 out of 5
Value                        5 out of 5

Straight Outta Brooklyn (Gastown) - Vegan Options

Quite by accident, we are participating in Vanfoodster's Pizza Crawl! While checking out the pizza lineup for the crawl, I noticed that one, and one only, participant was featuring a vegetarian (with vegan option) pie.

Straight Outta Brooklyn - Gastown
So, we ordered 2 pizzas to be picked up at 5:15 p.m. (timing was everything as we were between one Saturday activity and another) which were ready to the minute! I have to mention, that their website, email address, storefront and pizza boxes all say, "Straight Brooklyn Pizza" while the Kingsway location (and maybe others), Yelp, and Vanfoodster, all call it "Straight Outta Brooklyn." Whatever...I'm not gonna get all pedantic about it.
They have a good selection of pizza by the slice (a quarter of a pie for $5 or $6) but the vegan pies need to be ordered whole (ours were $22 each).
We ordered the featured pizza for Vanfoodster's Pizza Crawl, the Catalana, which is described as vegetarian with a vegan option (i.e., Mozzarella vs. cashew Mozzarella). The Romesco was brilliant, followed by artichoke hearts, mushrooms, onions and parsley. This was a great pizza. The thin New York (Brooklyn, I guess) style crust was amazing. Light leoparding (I borrowed that term from Sherman's Food Adventures! So cool!) and a wonderful chew, is the essence of a New York style crust.
The other pizza that we ordered is just called, The Vegan. I learned tonight that it is not just my wife, but all Filipinos that don't care for olives.... oh well, all the more for me! The cashew Mozzarella on these things is quite good. It was smooth and cheesy unlike my poor attempts at home (I still like the stuff I make). Another fine cruelty-free pie. You can build your own or probably substitute on any of their vegetarian pizzas. 
Our first brush with SOB (that's unfortunate) was great. Friendly staff and they had a couple of tables if you chose to eat in. Maybe someday they will make it out to Aldergrove. They currently have 7 outlets, all in Van. So make the move further out the valley, folks!
Food                              4 out of 5
Vegan options               3 out of 5 (there could be a couple more)
Comfort                         3 1/2 out of 5
Service                          4 1/2 out of 5
Value                             4 out of 5

Donuteria - Vegan Donuts!

The healthiest thing about going plant-based is perhaps the fact that it is so hard to get donuts! Damn you, Donuteria as you have cut our travel from Aldergrove to donuts in half. The temptation has increased exponentially and they are really great donuts as well!

Donuteria currently has vegan donuts on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They suggested that you call and check and see if they have any left, but we took a chance arriving at 10 am on Sunday morning. They are located at 656 Columbia Street in New Westminster.
6 vegan donuts
They had 6 types of plant-based donuts available this particular morning, so we ordered 1 of each and a couple of coffees.
It was not our intention to eat all 6 in one sitting and in fact, they did manage to last a couple of days but it required some self-control! I'm not sure what they call these but this one was chocolate-covered and custard filled and in no way a compromise when compared to the regular dairy and egg product. Delicious!
And then there was the jelly filled with powdered sugar. Also delicious and cruelty-free! If that is an option why eat the regular stuff? All the others were very good, as well.
This is a comfy place for a donut (even a non-vegan donut) and coffee on a cool day. Apparently, they have savoury baked goods as well although I admit that I was only paying attention to the vegan donuts. Staff are friendly and enthusiastic about their product. Thanks, Donuteria and I don't really hold you responsible for my own overindulgence.
Food                     4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan options      3 1/2 out of 5 (this will go up when they are available more often)
Comfort                4 out of 5  
Service                 4 out of 5
Value                    4 out of 5              

Jinya Ramen Bar - Vegan Options

As grumpy as I was when we went to Jinya a couple of weeks ago, only to learn that they had no vegan ramen, the vegan options on their menu are too tempting to be grumpy for long. Not only that, you know, supply chain stuff and all. I'm pretty sure that they didn't do that just to piss me off!

Located at the corner of Robson and Richards, you all know where JRB is. There was a 20 minute wait for 2 people already at 5 o'clock on Saturday. This is certainly one of the most popular ramen joints in Metro Vancouver. We got seated at the window bar (wait was more like 10 minutes) and placed an order with our very personable server.
Impossible Bun
We ordered an Impossible Bun which was quite excellent and no, it did not come with Kewpie Mayo but vegan mayonnaise. There was a little bit of guac there and some crunchy cucumber and we did not miss the pork belly at all!
Brussels Sprouts Tempura
The Brussels Sprouts Tempura was pretty solid as well. It wasn't well salted coming out of the fryer, so we added our own, but was very tasty just the same. Something about the texture put me in mind of a deep-fried oyster (I mean that in a good way). It would have been good for them to come with a dipping sauce.
Flying Vegan Harvest Ramen
The Flying Vegan Harvest is one of 3 vegan ramen on the menu. This one has Impossible meat which was nicely flavoured with Hoisin maybe? There was a rich miso broth, plenty of vegetables as well as tofu and very good noodles. Not a bad bowl at all.
Spicy Creamy Vegan Rame
The Spicy Creamy Vegan Ramen was not terribly spicy. This was a vegetable broth and I'm not sure what made it creamy, but it was. Garlic oil, chili oil, garlic chips and assorted other alliums gave this a nice rich flavor and we enjoyed it very much.
Jinya Ramen interior
We love the interior of Jinya and its noisy enthusiastic vibe. All the staff are friendly, and service was very quick. Jinya is expensive. Both of our bowls were $22ish but apparently, we don't mind and are even willing to line up. There are a few more vegan choices including a rice bowl and another appetizer that we would like to try on another visit! 
Food                          4 1/2 out of 5
Vegan Options          4 out of 5
Comfort                     4 out of 5
Service                      4 1/2 out of 5
Value                         4 out of 5

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Are you guys eating again? At some point Marie and I became the kind of people who take pictures of everything we eat, whether in a restaura...