Kanu Café: Plant-based Cuisine
10803 Jasper Avenue
No listed delivery service
Monday to Friday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. (Thurs. and Fri. 11 p.m.)
Saturday and Sunday, 4:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. (11 p.m. on Sat.)
Dinner for two excluding tip, taxes or beverages: Basic, $40; loaded $60
Food: 5 of 5 Suns
Ambience: 4 of 5 Suns
Service: 4 of 5 Suns
By GRAHAM HICKS
Never in a million years would I have thought a vegetarian restaurant worthy of a perfect — i.e. five out of five Suns — food score.
But here we are. Canada’s first Kanu Café: Plant-based Cuisine, at Jasper Avenue and 108 Street, is worthy of the honour: Five out of five for food it is.
Even more exceptional: Not only is Kanu vegetarian/vegan etc., etc. it’s a (sort of) franchise!
Celebrity American vegetarian chef/personality Matthew Kenney is a chef and partner. Kenney has some 15 plant-based restaurants across the United States, with different names and different concepts.
Kanu’s culinary success appears based on a three-way partnership.
Kenney is the overall concept guy bringing his expertise to the table. Kanu’s own Chef de Cuisine Justin O’Reilly is considered an authority in plant-based cooking — and, believe me, vegetarian cooking at this level is a skill unto itself. Owner and managing partner Sherry Schluessel brings a passion for plant-based and holistic lifestyles, coupled with previous business success.
Sherry and her husband George Schluessel built the ProCura real estate development company from scratch into a major Western Canadian developer, including Century Park in the city’s southwest. Kanu is on the ground floor of the newly-opened, ProCura-owned, downtown Mayfair Village South apartment high-rise.
Kanu is a prototype. With Kenney, Schluessel plans to open plant-based restaurants across Canada.
So what’s the secret? Why is Kanu head and shoulders above the (vegetarian) competition?
Presentation: Every dish is aesthetically beautiful, gorgeous colours artfully arranged. The vegetarian lasagna is so pretty, it feels criminal to start eating!
Taste: This is where Kenney and O’Reilly’s mastery of plant-based cooking shines. There are 10 times the tastes and flavours — not dependent on tofu and beans — than you’d find in other meatless cooking.
Innovation: By example, Kanu offers something called kimchi dumplings.
You automatically think of spicy, fermented, chopped Korean cabbage wrapped in frozen factory-made wonton/dumpling dough squares, usually fried or deep-fried. Not the case: O’Reilly spent days experimenting to come up with a unique in-house made wrapper, much smoother and more elegant than your usual dumpling.
This is no standard kimchi — it is blended and smoothed out — with none of kimchi’s traditional searing rawness. Three chlorophyll-green baked kimchi dumplings are presented with a sesame and ginger foam. The result is so subtle and smooth, it’s a taste of (vegetarian) heaven.
The nachos are not coated with gummy melted dairy cheese, but with a beautifully textured butternut squash puree. It has the same look and mouth-feel as dairy cheese, but doesn’t pretend to be cheese. Layered onto blue corn chips with guacamole, a lime crema (cream) and a touch of radish, this is one delicious snack.
There’s not a dish on Kanu’s menu that disappoints. In fact every dish — from a cashew raclette to spicy udon noodles to a mushroom and veggie burger — surprises and delights. Yes, Kanu charges a few bucks more than the competition. It’s a small price to pay for such exceptional quality.
This column concludes a series on the growing number of vegetarian restaurants in town.
Excellent includes Kanu. Die Pie and An Chay (Vietnamese vegetarian) are close behind.
Very Good would include The Moth Café and Loma House.
Good – Good Stock and Noorish.
Boring and limited – Green Moustache.
Not reviewed would include Cafe Mosaics, The Clever Rabbit, KB + Co. and Arcadia. Soon to open is Copper Branch.
While “plant-based” is an interesting trend, likely less than 1% of restaurant food eaten in Edmonton comes from these vegetarian eateries. The lesson for smart restaurateurs is to add interesting new veggie dishes to complement their meaty proteins.
The venerable Parkallen Restaurant on 109 Street south of 72 Avenue, for 36 years a destination for its pizzas, Mediterranean cooking and extensive wine list, is closed but not for long. Joe Rustom and his family sold the building. Rustom plans to re-open The Parkallen in new digs next year.
The demise of Vue Weekly means its thoughtful and thoroughly independent restaurant reviewer Scott Lingley has lost his platform. Let’s hope Lingley continues to review in the online magazine DAZE, a new venture by former Vue editorial employees.
Expanding is Louisiana Purchase. The long-time Cajun cookery on 111 Street is opening a second location in a 300-seat (!!!) location in the northwest Christy’s Corner shopping complex at St. Albert Trail and 137 Avenue.