Wednesday, 12 January 2011

A Graceful Vegetarian Dinner

(This particular entry is not in order compared to my earlier Christmas break posts due to my initial lack of photographs of this dinner.  Special thanks to my sis for the pics!)

It was very nice to be able to see family and relatives after a fairly long absence.  Though my parents did visit me in the spring (see my post on my Mother's Day dinner), I hadn't been back in either Ottawa or Toronto since November 2009, which therefore was the last time I saw my sister.  I also hadn't seen my favourite uncle and aunt since 2002, so it was a very nice treat to meet them again.  After the requisite hugs in the airport's arrivals hall dinner was a must, and we agreed to go to a restaurant my parents and sis enjoyed but only now did I get to experience, Graceful Vegetarian Restaurant.  Considering how I had to rely considerably more on less healthier than usual food during the previous week, it was a nice change of scene to have some Chinese Buddhist/vegetarian cuisine.

Chinese vegetarian cuisine originated from the spread of Buddhism in China and that religion's concept of non-violence, which included the killing of animals for food.  Over the years as the religion and the Chinese culture flourished, vegetarian cuisine, like its mainstream counterpart, became increasingly colourful to the point where there are many dishes now that can imitate meat dishes very well.  Wheat gluten is very prevalent in Chinese vegetarian cuisine and is mostly used to imitate meats especially in terms of texture.
Case in point, this appetizer dish, loosely translated as Marinated Mock Cold Meats.  The wheat gluten has been prepared and processed in different ways to create various concoctions such as vegetarian BBQ pork and vegetarian marinated duck.  This was a pleasant start to dinner.
Next up was some soup.  This one featured tofu, which is also a common ingredient in Chinese vegetarian cuisine, and seaweed, and it was deliciously light.
We also ordered a few mains, though not all of them were photographed.  Two notable ones were, including this one, Mock Roast Duck with Taro in Coconut Sauce.  The "duck" is again made with wheat gluten, fried on one side to mimic crispy duck skin.  This hearty dish was a good way to warm a belly on a cool winter night.
The second dish of note was a Mock Seafood and Vegetable Stir-fry.  Of all the dishes I tried that night, I was most impressed with this one due to how well the mock seafood imitated their real counterparts in terms of texture and, to a lesser degree, flavour.  The mock squid was most likely made of konnyaku, and apparently there were no fish/seafood products in either the fish balls or the mock shrimp, the latter whose bite also was very close to the real deal.

Like the Fresh Restaurant franchise in Toronto, Graceful offers another venue in the GTA for a delicious vegetarian diet.  Graceful faithfully and successfully highlights Chinese vegetarian cuisine's ability to use vegetable products to not only substitute meats, but to even go so far as to mimic them.

(A footnote: I heard through a grapevine that the commercial development in which this restaurant is currently located may be up for complete redevelopment.  If it's true, I certainly hope that this place can remain open elsewhere.)


Name: Graceful Vegetarian Restaurant
Address: 7131 Kennedy Rd., Markham, ON
Cuisine: Chinese, Vegetarian
Price Range: N/A
Accessible: Yes

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