1509 West 12th Ave
Tastiness Factor: 4.5/5
Locavore Approved? CERTAINLY! Seasonal ingredients (yams, carrots, squash, mushrooms) with nightly specials featuring the best of the season. Much of the produce purchased locally.
I have been waiting for this place to open for a long time now. It is in my neighbourhood of South Granville and I have been watching its progress very closely ever since I first saw the sign a couple of months ago. A few months ago as I was walking by after my yoga class, I peaked in the window and the manager kindly invited my in to see the space and even offered me a drink! What a way to welcome your neighbour! And, now that I have eaten there, I recognize that this gesture was a premonition of the good things that were to come...
I am saddened by the fact that I did not dine at Heirloom until over a month after its opening (my work month in Victoria put me behind the eight-ball). Right after returning from Victoria, I made plans with two friends also living in the neighbourhood to go check out its dinner offerings. Heirloom is opened for both brunch and dinner (until 1am), 7 days a week.
For those of you who ate at the mexican restaurant that used to be in Heirloom's location (Primo's), this place has underwent an extreme makeover and you will likely not recognize the space. In my mind, the space they have created is absolutely prefect for the restaurant's ceoncept. The white walls, white tables and white accents perfectly compliment the vegan/vegetarian cuisine that is served. Very clean. The little patches of exposed brick add a little extra character. I also loved the Bosc Pear crate-like piece hanging at the back of the restaurant. As a whole, it does justice to the whole concept of fine-dining vegetarian while maintaining simplicity and warmth.
As I experienced the day I passing by after yoga, this place evidently strives for good service. On our visit, we were served by a training server and a supervising server. Both were excellent. Very attentive, very friendly, and both knew the menu extremely well. I was very impressed at the dish descriptions given to us by the training waitress. The dishes here are quite complex, with many types of vegan "creams" and other garnishes that she was able to roll off her tongue like a pro. They refilled our water constantly before it had run out (big points for the water by the way- love the addition of cucumber!). For such a new restaurant, these guys have customer service pretty well mastered.
The chef at Heirloom is Georgia Morley, a holistic nutritionist who apparently worked as a private chef for one of the Lululemon founder before coming to Heirloom. She has designed a menu complete with something to please every food preference, from vegan to gluten free to "plain old" vegetarian. There are deep fried treats, hearty stews, light salad and vegetarian takes on old favorites. She has really done a tremendous job of appealing to a broad range of tastes and has been extremely creative in using vegan replacements for cream and butter that are extremely flavourful. Not an easy task.
Based on the advice of our kind servers, we ordered 4 dshes to share between the 3 of us. I am glad we chose to do so for several reasons. First of all, we got to taste more of the superb dishes. Secondly, contrary to popular belief, vegan food can actually be quite rich due to the "good fat" from nuts and avocado that is used for flavour and texture. To eat an entire plate of some of these dishes would have surely left you stuffed.
Here is our meal rundown:
Dips with fried bread and veggies: This dish (meant for sharing) includes two delectably rich dips, one walnut and one beet, served with fried bread triangles and an assortment of seasonal veggies as dippers. We enjoyed both dips very much (the beet was my favorite) and the presentation of the dish, with the miniature carrots and watermelon radishes, was beautiful. My only suggestion would be to serve more of the veggies and less of the fried bread which can be quite heavy with the richness of the dips.
Yams with avocado cream: DELICIOUS! My favorite dish. Although this is also meant for sharing as there is probably 3 whole yams on the plate, I could have probably eaten it single-handedly! The yams were served in big chunks, peel intact, and seasoned with delicious sea salt. On the side was a luscious avocado cream, perfect in both flavour and color. Such a simple dish, but so amazingly good!
Foraged mushrooms with walnut crostini: Mushrooms have become one of my favorite of the fall vegetables. So many varieties and such great texture. This dish is all about local, foraged mushrooms, done in a rich vegan "cream" sauce. The thinly-sliced walnut crostini is light in contrast. Again, this dish works very well for sharing and may be a bit rich for a main dish for one diner (although I would have given it a god shot had I had the chance!).
Black bean chili with cocoa and cashew-cilantro cream: This was the special of the night, and was the one dish that could have been conquered by one person as a main. The thick stew, full of black beans and corn, had a subtle taste of cocoa that added another dimension of flavour to an already delicious chili. It was served over a generous portion of brown rice, and topped with a delicate cashew-cilantro cream, that added both color and flavour. A simple dish cleverly elevated to the level of fine dining.
I have seen several reviewers describing Heirloom as "costly" and "overpriced", but I beg to differ. I was actually blown away by the value for this high class service, classy atmosphere, and quality and quantity of food (the three of us were unable to finish the 4 dishes and asked for take-away boxes). With tax and tip, only $25/person! That is a steal in my books.
I would like to take this opportunity to wish Heirloom a warm welcome to South Granville! Although this area has seen the downfall of many a restaurant in the past, I am confident (and hopeful!), that Heirloom is here to stay.
I can't wait to pay another visit this new South Granville success story soon!!!