Vancouver has been undergoing a vegetarian renaissance of late with a number of new restaurants opening that have the novel ambition of catering to veggie enthusiasts while simultaneously seducing even the staunchest carnivore. The latest venture to enter this rapidly expanding market is Heirloom Vegetarian which opened last month on the South Granville strip, an area dominated by high-end pricey fare, generic pubs and a plethora of take-out options. Heirloom, which comfortably occupies that middle ground between high and low, is a welcome addition to a neighbourhood in desperate need of casual spots serving well-executed, innovative dishes that won’t devour your entire paycheck. And if the lively and enthusiastic crowd of diners that we witnessed on a Thursday evening shortly after their grand opening is any indication, Heirloom is eager and more than capable of filling this void.
What distinguishes the latest batch of vegetarian restaurants in Vancouver from old staples like the Naam and the Foundation is their attempt to redefine our expectations of what vegetarian food can be, to create original and unexpected dishes that would be welcome on the menu of any high end restaurant. Heirloom is an excellent ambassador on this front; the menu includes a diverse range of options that employ surprising yet appealing combinations of flavours and textures. While the offerings are divided into “some” and “more,” with few traditional hefty mains, all items are best experienced shared tapas-style.
We had difficulty deciding what to order as everything on the menu was quite tempting with simple West Coast ingredients reinterpreted with a Mediterranean flair. We settled on a selection of six dishes and found them all to be well crafted and flavourful. The avocado frites – avocadoes coated in a light cornmeal batter and deep fried – were an unexpected treat; while we’ve never considered frying this supple vegetable we were amazed at the intriguing combination of the crispy exterior and the velvety interior. The lentil pecan humus – served as part of a dip platter accompanied by chips made from Iranian flat bread – was also a highlight. Dense and rich, it had all the flavour and complexity of a paté without the meat. The wild and foraged mushrooms was our favourite; served with hearty slices of fresh baguette to soak up the rich coconut broth, the mushrooms were intense but delectable. The deep fried olives and Persian sheep’s cheese platter was also enjoyed heartily; the tartness of the olives paired perfectly with the soft, mild cheese and the sugary sweet medjool dates. To complete our meal we ordered the chai pumpkin mousse – a creamy dessert that had the smoothness and flavour intensity of a pumpkin pie without the crust. While this concoction was both vegan and gluten free, the vanilla cashew cream was so rich that we were shocked to discover that it was prepared without dairy.
Heirloom’s open-concept, vast space is warm and inviting with a contemporary décor of whites and wood that seems reminiscent of establishments we’ve frequented in Toronto or Montreal. A long wooden table occupies the center of the space and serves as a visual focal point; we already have it earmarked for our next large dinner party. With a fun and fresh cocktail list – our vegan bloody mary was one of the best drinks we’ve had in ages – and a small but intriguing selection of organic wines, Heirloom is the perfect spot to grab after work snacks and drinks with friends. When you’re in the mood to sample many different dishes – which is really our preferred way to eat – Heirloom is the ideal place to indulge.