The NCVA is pleased to announce the latest addition to our list of restaurant discounts: 10% off at Hareg Ethiopian Restaurant and Coffee House.
First, the key stats:
1) Where: 587 Bank St. (just south of the 417 at the tip o’ the Glebe)
2) What: Traditional Ethiopian food, which includes meat but has lots of vegan options. You can order off the menu, but the most popular thing is the buffet, which is available 6 days a week, and is all vegan on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday.
The vegan part of the buffet is clearly distinguished from the meat part, though, so don’t feel you can only go on the all-vegan days.
Hareg is also a coffee house. They serve up traditional Ethiopian coffee—roasting, grinding, and brewing the coffee beans right in front of you. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I thought I heard somewhere that Ethiopian coffee was really strong. But it tasted very much like the coffee I’m used to, only delicious enough for me to drink black and without cookies, which I wouldn’t dare do with either Tim’s or Starbucks.
3) When: The buffet is available 11am–8:30pm Tuesday–Thursday and Sunday, and 11am–10pm Friday and Saturday. The buffet is all vegan on Tuesday–Thursday and Sunday. The coffee ceremony is free every Friday from 6–8:30pm and Saturday from 12:30–8:30pm.
4) Why: Awesome food, lots of vegan options, gluten-free injera (which is the bread you use to scoop the food), uber-friendly staff, and a comfortable atmosphere. And experiencing the making of traditional Ethiopian coffee is a real treat—it was a highlight of our visit, so do it if you can.
I moved to Ottawa more than 11 years ago from a small town. While Ottawans like to think of Ottawa as being similar to a small town, to me it was a big and impersonal city where I was just another face in the crowd. It was a difficult adjustment, and it took many years for me to feel like Ottawa was my home. The girl who worked at the little bagel shop I used to frequent back home (this was in my pre-gan days) would see my car coming down the street, and start my order. It was always ready by the time I walked into the cafe. Now that’s customer service!
Back to Ottawa, I think it has helped to be part of a subculture. There are a limited number of businesses catering specifically to vegetarians and vegans, but it also presents the opportunity to develop relationships with many of the business owners and staff of the places which I patronize. Partly as a result of my work with the NCVA I am on a first name basis with many of the owners of veg-oriented business in Ottawa, which is a great feeling. It helps me to feel good about many of my consumer choices, because I know where my money is going; it’s often supporting the very community of businesses and people who support me as a vegan.
While it’s very difficult to follow the money trail for every purchase we make, I do try to support companies and organizations that are good to their workers, make an effort to operate and source ethically, and which give back to the community. I want to give a shout out to one in particular which is supportive of the veg community, and without their support, we may not have been able to put on two Veg Fests.
For many Ottawa residents—vegetarian or otherwise—their first encounter with plant-based cuisine occurs at The Table Vegetarian Restaurant. In fact, The Table serves some 400 people each and every day! But what diners and the public may not know is that not only is The Table a great place to eat, but its owner, Simon Saab, is an outstanding corporate citizen.
“From day one, my philosophy has been to give back to the community that we operate within. Sponsoring is a way of letting the people who come in, who enjoy the restaurant and the food we serve, know that I really appreciate their support of my business,” Simon says. “I do believe that if you give, you receive so much back.”
The Table is the NCVA’s biggest corporate supporter, including as the title sponsor for both Ottawa Veg Fests. When the NCVA first considered holding a festival, Simon was the first business owner to sign on. It’s largely thanks to The Table’s sponsorship that Veg Fest has succeeded, and remains a free event.
The Table has also sponsored other local events and publications, including the SimplyRaw festival. Simon says from a business point of view, sponsoring events like Veg Fest is a good way of keeping the restaurant’s name recognition up. “And from a personal standpoint, I really enjoy what I do.”
Simon’s family has a long history in the restaurant business, and he’s been a part of the industry for some 35 years. Ten years ago he decided to combine his interest in restaurants with his interest in a healthy vegetarian lifestyle.
“Vegetarian and organic have always been personal interests of mine, for more than 30 years. Since I opened the restaurant my commitment to the veg lifestyle has been very strong,” he says. Indeed, everything served at the restaurant’s buffet-style set up is vegetarian, and most selections are vegan. Some choices are raw, and/or gluten free. In the past few years the restaurant has focused even more on purchasing produce from local farmers.
“People are so much more aware of illnesses and what to do and eat to help themselves, a lot more than they were 15 or 20 years ago,” Simon says.
He says the recent addition of several new vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the Ottawa area has been complementary to his own business, and shows the high level of demand for plant-based alternatives in Ottawa.
The Table is one of the veterans: on July 24, it celebrated 10 years in business.
The NCVA is grateful to all of the businesses that have supported us, from sponsoring Veg Fest, to offering our members discounts, to buying advertising in Capital Veg News, to making product donations, and more. Without their support it would be an uphill battle!
The Table Vegetarian Restaurant
230 Wellington Street West, Ottawa
On Sunday my partner and I visited the East African Restaurant to try out their all-you-can-eat vegetarian (actually, vegan) Ethiopian buffet. We were going for a long hike after, and wanted something that would give us a lasting source of energy.
For $8.99 per person, you really can’t go wrong. The buffet features a half dozen hot dishes, mostly lentils and vegetables in sauce ranging from mild to very spicy, as well as a few cold options. There was no shortage of injera. I filled my plate twice.
Only one of the options at the buffet is on the restaurant’s usual vegetarian platter, and I’ll admit that I missed the other two. But there were new options I’d never tried, including spiced zucchini, which was delicious.
The buffet runs seven days a week, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. While NCVA members have a 10 per cent discount here, it does not apply to the buffet. But if you’re looking to fill up on the cheap, this is a good way to do it. We followed our meal with a two hour hike on some of Gatineau Park’s toughest trails, and were still satiated five hours later.
I suspect that a lot of Ottawa vegans have already tried Green Earth. I’ve decided to review it anyway, however, each time I try a new item. I figure this might be helpful since their menu is so large that it’s certain there are things on it that even frequent visitors haven’t tried.
A few general comments. First, I’ve just got to say that the food is damn good. I haven’t had a bad or even mediocre meal there yet. Second, all-you-can-eat-buffet Green Earth and order-off-the-menu Green Earth are almost like two different restaurants. The latter is dominated by an almost obscene profusion of fake meat that will have you floating home like a buoyant ball of wheat protein on a sea of sodium. Deserving of a shouted “Nom!” followed by a week of only raw kale.
The regular menu is quite a different story. Once I, a veteran of the glutton’s utopia that is the buffet, got over the shock and disappointment of the sensible portion sizes, I was very impressed by its diversity. It not only combines east Asian and Indian, but offers a number of Italian and several Mexican dishes as well.
Last Thursday, my partner and I got the “Harmonic Veggie Delite,” which is your standard combo of fake meat and veggies in an east Asian-type sauce. It was very good though the portion was, as I mentioned, of an annoyingly sensible size. We also got “Conchiglie Ripiene,” which is large pasta shells stuffed with a ricotta-type mixture and served with marinara sauce. Green Earth often serves a very delicious lasagna at their buffet, so I had pretty high hopes for the stuffed shells. Upon reflection, I suppose it might strike me as disappointing that I didn’t actually try anything new, since the shells really turned out to be the lasagna, differently shaped. But then the bloody things were just so good, how can one really complain? The faux ricotta had no tofu-y aftertaste and their marinara is rich and flavourful (and plentiful! God loves those who are not cheap with sauce).
We also had an order of “Paradise Sushi” to start. I’m incensed by the obscene markup on sushi and since the stuff we make at home has it all over most restaurants, I rarely have it when I go out. On the rare occasions when I do have restaurant sushi, I tend to critique it pretty harshly. I will grudgingly admit that Green Earth’s sushi is good…and since it’s a small, inexpensive appetizer, my anti-markup madness doesn’t get too out of hand. If I want to be picky, I’ll note that the pieces are a bit too large for a single mouthful…that’s a problem for sushi since it’s pretty much impossible to bite a piece in half without spilling the innards all over yourself.
We ended our meal with the chocolate cheesecake. Now I must say, I have had many a gross vegan chocolate cheesecake in my time. Grainy, beany, soupy, I have tried them all. But I honestly defy even the most seasoned cheesecake connoisseur to distinguish Green Earth’s chocolate cheesecake from a regular dairy cheesecake. It is dense and chocolately, with that amazing tang for which cheesecake is known. As good as it was, though, I’ll try the almond chocolate cake next time. Two our our supper-mates got it and it looked amazing. All chocolate layers and fluffy mocha frosting – mocha looking anyway, as I gazed longingly at it from afar.
So another marvelous meal at Green Earth – and all for $28, I should add. Needless to say, if you haven’t been, go. Until next time (when I think I’ll try one of the Mexican dishes), happy vegan eating.
Is Ethiopian food the best vegetarian food you’ve never had? Quite possibly!
By Shaun Desjardins
We Ottawans are a fortunate bunch. No, not because we’re the shawarma capital of North America. We’re fortunate because we have not one, not two but FOUR Ethiopian restaurants in town. And guess what? They’re all GREAT!
Most large Canadian and American cities have one or two restaurants from the horn of Africa if they’re lucky.
Like many of you I had driven up and down Rideau Street countless times without seriously considering a meal at one of the three East African restaurants lining the street. (Ottawa’s fourth Ethiopian restaurant is Blue Nile on Gladstone)
Also like many of you I usually ended up spending my hard earned Canuck bucks at one of the seemingly dozens of Lebanese Restaurants in the area.
My infatuation with Ethiopian cuisine started about a year ago when I was bored with my usual rotation of restaurants and wanted to try something different.
My wife Amanda and I were meeting another couple for a sit-down meal in the market area and our friends being the good sports they are agreed to try out Ethiopian food with us at the East African Restaurant on Rideau Street. The rest, as they say, is history.
So you may ask, “Shaun–aka Ottawa’s self proclaimed Ethiopian cuisine expert–what’s so great about Ethiopian food and what’s the best Ethiopian restaurant in town?”
And I’d probably respond, “Well, fictitious person asking questions, the answers aren’t as complex as the flavour of perfectly balanced berbere, a staple spice blend in Ethiopian cooking. The reasons why I think Ethiopian cuisine is great are:
1. LOTS OF VEGETARIAN AND VEGAN OPTIONS
Ethiopians traditionally eat vegetarian more than 200 days a year which means that Ethiopian restaurants will have an abundance of vegetarian and vegan dishes.
2. A VARIETY OF FLAVOURS
East African cuisine also caters to the palates of spicy food lovers as well as those who don’t fancy needing a fire extinguisher table side. For example mesir wat (my favourite) is a red lentil stew made up of red lentils, onion, garlic, ginger and berbere spice is a delicious and SPICY stew while kik alicha (Amanda’s favourite) is a mild yellow split pea stew with some garlic, ginger and turmeric in there.
3. GREAT FOR SHARING
The wats are served on a large slightly sour crêpe type bread called injera which is placed in the centre of the table.
4. INEXPENSIVE AND EASY TO MAKE AT HOME
Ethiopian stews or wats as they are known are generally pretty easy to make at home and are SUPER easy on the wallet to boot! I buy my injera from either East African Restaurant or Habesha as it’s quite difficult and time consuming to make at home.
5. HEALTHY AND NUTRITIOUS
This is some seriously healthful food! Since these dishes are usually comprised of beans, lentils or legumes and spices you’re getting a bunch of fibre and complex carbs and that ever so important macro nutrient for vegetarians, protein.
6. FEWER DISHES TO CLEAN
When eating Ethiopian cuisine you break off a piece of injera and “scoop” up the stews or wats as they are known. Also, everyone eats from the same dish. No utensils and one plate mean fewer dishes to clean!
As for the best Ethiopian restaurant in Ottawa, there is no clear winner.
Seriously, I’ve had delicious food at all four of Ottawa’s restaurants. However, a special mention goes to East African Restaurant as they offer a 10 per cent discount to all NCVA members and they have an $8.99 Vegetarian lunch buffet from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. (seven days a week)
“Great Shaun,” you might say, “I’m sold on trying this supposedly scrumptious cuisine from eastern horn of the great continent of Africa but….WHAT DO I DO NEXT???”
Well luckily for you I’ve prepared a list with the answer to that very question!
Here’s what you do:
1. Pick one of Ottawa’s four Ethiopian restaurants
East African Restaurant (NCVA Members receive a 10% discount) 376 Rideau Street (613) 789-7397
The Horn of Africa 364 Rideau Street (613) 789-0025
Habesha 574 Rideau (613) 761-6120
Blue Nile Restaurant 577 Gladstone Avenue (613) 321-0774
2. Get some friends to come along with you. Remember, Ethiopian food is great for sharing!
3. Order the vegetarian combination plate (which is vegan) and enjoy!
4. Send the NCVA an email to thank us for introducing you to some of the most flavourful, healthful and just plain tasty food you’ve ever had.
I’ll be posting a few of my favourite tried and tested Ethiopian recipes in the coming weeks so stay tuned!