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CLOSED: ZenKitchen

  • Vegan Vegan
    ( 31 reviews )


Contact 613-233-6404

634 Somerset Street West (at downtown), Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1R 5K4

Re-opened July 31, 2014 after brief closure, this is a full service vegan restaurant that offers gourmet meals created from organic and local produce. Features an extensive wine list. OCT 2014 REPORTED SHUT AGAIN, NO PLANS TO RE-OPEN.

Category: Vegan, International, Japanese, Organic, Beer/Wine, Asian Fusion, Gourmet

Reviews (31)

First Review by jessienotjames

Best vegan meal I've ever had - Edit

I ate here in March 2014. The food was fantastic - easily the best vegan meal I've ever had. Just gorgeous. When we arrived the waitress asked if we had any food intolerance's and we said no but we are vegan and she replied so are we! It wasn't advertised as vegan so we were really pleased.

Sadly it looks like it might now have closed for good:(

Cons: closed down?

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Met my high standards ! - Edit

Very good place, I went only once but the meal was absolutely delicious (lemoned creamy sauce with mushrooms on gnocchis, leeks and greens)and the smiling staff. Have been treated like a princess.
Not cheap though, but excellent quality of food. They also get me a piece of grilled yellow Japanese watermelon with spices, surprising and very tasty, and a plate of bread with butternut squash aside.
Too bad the desserts where not as good (or maybe because I ate too much I couldn’t eat no more !) : the brownie was too dry (or I should have wait for the coconut ice-cream to melt maybe) and basically a bit too sweet for the other desserts (lemon tart and peanut butter/chocolate tart). Highly recommended.

Pros: Nice place, Interesting menus, Very friendly

Cons: Opening hours, Not cheap

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Amazing! - Edit

Food was excellent! The desserts are to die for!
It was my first time there, but will be returning over and over. Service was superb. Don't let the exterior fool you
Updated from previous review on Monday May 19, 2014

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Best Vegan Meal EVER!! - Edit

My family enjoyed one of the meals we've ever had… both pre and post becoming vegan. So creative and tasty. Hard to believe it was even vegan. I highly recommend this restaurant. Staff was friendly. Owner was welcoming and went above and beyond to accommodate our family's food intolerances. Even went so far as to ask about any special needs when we were making a reservation and had a copy of the menu edited with possible options when we arrived.

Pros: Food, Service, atmosphere

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Vegan Paradise - Edit

This place was perfect in every way. And not just by vegan standards (vegans you know what I mean). Service was top notch, food was amazing, atmosphere was pleasant and cozy. Easy to find for an out of towner. Highly recommended.

I had the ploughman's, and my husband had the oyster po boy. YUM YUM YUM!

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Amazing! - Edit

Absolutely one of the best restaurants I tries as vegan. Everything is 100% vegan and DELICIOUS. The place is very nice and the people super kind. I LOVED everything. Excellent, the tofu was the best I have ever tried and the seitan with polenta was amazing.

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Fantastic - Edit

Don't be fooled by its unassuming exterior: it was at ZenKitchen that my partner and I had the best meal of our weeklong trip to Ottawa and Toronto.

We had a tapas plate of fried oyster mushrooms to start with, then the sope and ravioli for mains. The mushrooms were excellent, crispy but light, and went beautifully with the dipping sauces. The ravioli were great as well; the sauce was delicious. The sope comprised the sope as the centerpiece and all the regular fixings (rice & beans, guacamole, salsa, and sour cream). The sope itself was very tasty, but the accompaniments were slightly disappointing - they weren't bad at all, just average. I've had better. Then we had the chocolate cake for dessert to finish off our dinner. It was scrumptious - chocolatey and perfectly sweet.

Service was prompt and attentive. Our water was constantly refilled, and all our food came out in a timely manner. Initially I found the $90 bill (a beer and tip included) a bit hefty - a dollar or two off each dish would have been appropriate - but then when I took into consideration the complimentary tidbits served throughout the meal (the appetizing azuki bean hummus with country bread at the beginning and the divine chocolate truffle at the end, just to name two), this price point was actually quite reasonable.

Pros: food, service

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SUPERB! - Edit

wow...i've never had vegan food like this, or really, food period. hands down the best meal. ever. they had homemade gf vegan ravioli...need i say more? i haven't had any ravioli in forever, and it was just blissful. loved the appetizer sampler (potato chips, various homemade pickles (not something i usually would eat, but they were amazing), summer rolls, apple butter tofu w/ peanut sauce...holy mole! and the deserts were to die for. they were so happy to accommodate allergy requests and make sure everything was perfect. such nice people, and amazing fresh, organic, local food :D.

Pros: local, organic, gluten free, delicious food, nice vibe

Cons: not wheelchair accessible

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Unsurpassed brunch - Edit

Came here for brunch, and wished we didn't have to return home to Toronto.

The brunch was spectacular, though I wasn't expecting much. Zen Kitchen makes me think of run-of-the-mill Chinese-Buddhist veg cooking. But with smoked tempeh bacon, a complex gravy and homefries - such attention to detail and balance - I could immediately tell that the chef was a cut above, and indeed, Caroline Ishii trained at Millenium in San Francisco among other legendary US restaurants. There is no other chef in Canada who comes close. Ottawa has no idea how lucky it is.

This place needs six or seven stars, at least.

Fun fact, the owners were the subject of a TV show called 'The Restaurant Adventures of Caroline and Dave' which aired on the W Network.

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Okay - Edit

We showed up without a reservation for an early lunch (11am) and the restaurant was mostly empty, so we were seated without a problem. The table had crusties on it, so the waitress came and wiped my side down, but not that of my guest. I ordered the zen burger with poutine. The tomato and pickle were fresh, for sure, and I was so pleased to get a whole wheat hamburger bun. The bun was huge, hard to get your mouth around (although I could do it), and I couldn't find any flavor from the burger. I eventually gave up and ate the burger separatly, but I couldn't detect flavor. There were some lightly deep fried onion strips on top, and eating them individually I could almost detect some flavor. The poutine had a lovely texture, but nothing resembling cheese curds, which is great for me as a vegan. If I had been a meat-eater, I would have been completely irritated. Just a token amount of daiya (one might say miserly) which I liked. However, it was over the top salty. I must say, the staff took excellent care of me, when I inquired about spiciness, and were able to leave that out of everything that might have spiceiness in it (maybe that is why the burger didn't have any flavor? But a burger really shouldn't be spicy).
My guest had the zen burger also. It fell apart in her hands. Her salad was excellent.
Given the name is Zen, I would have thought the ambiance would be simple and peaceful. It had an element of that, but also the feel of a busy downtown nightclub/franchise, with disorienting patterns from floor to ceiling and at least 3 different styles of lighting. I'd give it a 3 happy cow, but because it is overrated, I'm going to give it a 2. It is fantastic to have a resto where you don't have to worry about the vegan eligibility of ingredients. That said, I'm in no rush to go back. I'll make my own poutine...it will taste better and I'll try it on a bed of greens to balance all the heaviness.

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Interesting food - nice to try something different - Edit

We ate here on a Thursday evening; the restaurant is not large and it was very busy. I had reserved ahead and asked for a quiet location but that is not really possible in a restaurant this size. Aside from the noise, the food was great with quite a complex mixture of tastes. Suggest you go hungry since the food is filling. We had an Ottawa area beer which was good. The staff made us feel very welcome. It was not a cheap evening but good value nevertheless.

Pros: Great food, Positive staff

Cons: Noisy

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Very Creative - Edit

Since becoming vegan, I haven't had eggplant parmigiana or Caesar salad. This was my opportunity at 100% vegan Zen Kitchen. Both dishes were wonderful and very reminiscent of the originals but much more interesting, lighter and healthier. Every table was full so highly recommend reservations. Service was excellent and very attentive from server and Dave, who made our drinks.

Pros: Healthy, Creative, Excellent service

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Perfection - Edit

Caroline has set the standard - vegan cuisine has done arrived. The Zen Kitchen is sophisticated, welcoming, and the food... the food is divine.

We are regulars and are constantly amazing.

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Highly recommend - Edit

Best vegan food in Ottawa! The brunch is amazing! My favourite is the Sopé but then again every thing had from there had been fantastic!

Pros: All vegan, Excellent variety

Cons: Can be very busy. Need a reservation.

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rinzai - Edit

in toronto i have sampled the cuisine at Graceful Vegeterian at Pacific Mall. And, this place has food of a similar quality and finesse. And, a more lively setting on Somerset in Ottawa's Chinatown to take a stroll after the nourishing joy food. We are truly blessed to have such a wonderful restaurant in Ottawa! Despite the sophisticated vegan dinning the patron chef and servers are quite warm and welcoming and happy to make you feel at home in this dinning room called kitchen !

Pros: Friendly Warm, Exquisite Simple, Delightful Satisfying

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Reviewer Avatar

lovely - Edit

I have probably been to Zen Kitchen four to five times now and the consensus is pretty clear: Zen Kitchen is awesome. The atmosphere is quite nice and the owners have done a lot with a small space.

As for the food, my favourite meal so far has to be the ravioli. It's smoky, creamy, and somehow still completely vegan. Very impressive.

The other food highlight was definitely the Sunday brunch. I enjoyed the buckwheat pancakes while my partner had the breakfast burrito. We both left satisfied.

Wine pairings were also great. I'm new to the wine world and I found the service extremely helpful.

Really, the only unfortunate thing I can say about Zen Kitchen is that because the bathrooms are up a flight of stairs the restaurant isn't wheelchair friendly or particularly accessible.

Do try to enjoy this restaurant if you have the chance to.

Pros: helpful staff, delicious food, great atmosphere

Cons: not accessible, can be expensive

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Zen Birthday Dinner - Edit

I took my vegetarian daughter to the Zen Kitchen for her 20th Birthday. We went all out and had the Chef's Tasting Menu with the wine pairings.

Her experience of being able to eat everything brought to the table without reservation made the meal worthwhile on its own!

Everything was great! The wine pairings were wonderful (neither of us are wine experts - and all of the pairings worked).

We started with a delicious spicy butternut squash soup - very smooth and tasty.
That was followed by a sauted mushrooms over puf-pastry with a red-wine, cherry and chocolate sauce.
The main was a home-made tagliately pasta with tomato sauce, with sauted endive and fried seitan.
The desert was a decadent chocolate lava cake with ice-wine and mango coulis.

The only complaint we had was that the seitan that was part of the main (along with home made pasta in a tomato sauce) was a little bland. It was the first time having seitan for both of us - so we are no experts there.

There is no doubt that we will be back.

Pros: excellent food, friendly staff, healthy cuisine

Cons: a bit expensive

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didn't answer phone or return a reservation call - Edit

I visited Ottawa this week and was looking forward to Zen Kitchen. I even selected my hotel to be close to Zen Kitchen. Since they were closed on Mondays and were closed on Tuesday due to a special event, I had one shot on Wednesday. I wasn't sure when I could go and so I couldn't make an advance reservation. I called for a same-day reservation (as required by their web site), and got their answering machine. I explained that I was only here for one more night, wanted a reservation for one at any time they could fit me in, gave them two numbers to call me back, and asked them to call me if they couldn't accommodate me so I could make other plans for the evening. I called many times after that and never reached a person. Two hours later, no call-back. I gave up and went elsewhere. I'm back from that, four hours since the first call, still no call back. If they are so booked up that they can't answer the phone or return calls, they can afford to hire another person or at least a proper answering service. I am VERY disappointed with them, especially since it sounds like their food is quite good. I'm not sure if I'll be in Ottawa again, but if I am, I'll try to go again -- and will read them the riot act about this experience. There is no excuse for such poor customer service!

Cons: poor customer service, nobody answers phone, nobody returns calls

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Excellent!! - Edit

Just got back from Zen Kitchen and it was absolutely amazing! My family and I began with a slew of appetizers including polenta "french fries" with chipotle mayo, flash-fried exotic mushrooms, and seasoned edamame. Each one was as delicious as the next. Our entrees included ravioli, seitan, curry and the raw special. My only critique would be a bit too much garlic in the raw salad tomato sauce. Other than that, fantastic! To finish off we had the peanut butter chocolate tart (fabulous), the lemon tart (delicious), the apple and ginger cobbler with whipped cream (fantastic), and the trio sampler of desserts, which included the superb Mexican Chocolate Spice Cake! Everything was delicious, the service was quick, the staff was very helpful and also knowledgeable. As the only vegan in my family, this is the only restaurant I feel comfortable taking everyone too as I am so confident in the food, love the restaurant, and enjoy overall the entire atmosphere. The amazing and unique quality of the food always keeps me coming back for more!! I can't get enough of Zen Kitchen! I'm so happy Ottawa has this restaurant to show the city how much vegan cuisine has to offer!

Pros: delicious food, great atmosphere, friendly staff

Cons: fairly expensive

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fantastic find - Edit

I was in Ottawa a few weeks back as a single traveler and thoroughly enjoyed my meal at ZenKitchen. The service was fantastic with food to die for. It was a complete joy to know that I could eat everything on the menu. I would highly recommend that you visit this restaurant. I will definitely go back the next time that I am in Ottawa - this one is a keeper.

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Amazing! - Edit

The first time my boyfriend (a part time vegetarian) and I (full time vegetarian)went to this restaurant was in May I beleive. We were celebrating and so we chose the Chef's suprise menu. The theme was south America/latin cuisine and it was the best meal we have ever had! Everything was delicious and we were excited for the next courses. The wine recommended by Dave, the sommelier, was match perfectly to the meal. Chef Caroline even took time to come talk to us and explain how she made certain items we had loved.
We went back in June and it was still delicious. We ordered meals from the ''regular'' menu this time. We were not disapointed.
We are going back next week to try the Chef's menu for the month of July (italian theme). Being a student, I usually do not spend a lot of money on restaurant, but I don't mind when the food and service is this good!

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Nice dining experience - Edit

I personnaly enjoyed Zen Kitchen. I've been here once, and that was my best vegan experience in Ottawa. We had a table for 2.
We ordered, as a starter, the endamames with pink himalayan sea salt. The house also offered us to taste their bread, and we also received some really good veggie rolls.
We had drinks ; one with apple cider and one gin tonic. Not the best i've had. I should have chose some wine to go with my food...
I had the seitan scallopini and my boyfriend had the ravioli with mizuna scape pesto and mushroom-ancho sauce. Both dishes were really tasty. I liked the taste of my vegetables : not overcooked, with subtile flavors. We tried 3 desserts : Peach cobbler was a bit too cold. Blueberry lemon pie was good. Coffee creme brule was the best. The desserts were not as good as the main courses were, but were far from bad.
The service was great : the owner, the chef, and 2 servers took care of us. Everyone came to our table to welcome us and asking us about how we found our food. That was nice from them to take time for their customers considering the place was full.
It can get expensive to eat there but in my opinion it worth giving a try. I'll probably be back next time i'm around Ottawa.


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Believe the Hype - Edit

For a long suffering veg community such as Ottawa (if you think the Green Door, the Table or the funky cult places are good, you probably have not been to Montreal or Toronto), this is a great addition, and it is garnering a ton of well deserved buzz. While I unfortunately can't afford to eat there on a regular basis (it's fine dining after all), the food is exceptional, and the service exquisite. The pasta dish that I had on my first visit was excellent, but has been discontinued from the menu, and the green curry that I had the second time was superb, with a ton of nuance to the flavours.

Perhaps the most ringing endorsement came from my mother, who is not a vegetarian; "I think could be a vegan after a meal like that", she said it better than me.

Pros: Amazing Food, Great Service, Good Wine

Cons: No Lunch Service

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Reviewer Avatar

Don't forget your reservation! - Edit

If you're a fan of casual fine dining, this is a great vegan option for you. If you prefer a big bowl of something filling, it might not be your best option. The food was good, but tiny. The service was great and both the chef and her husband visited our table. It was an expensive meal ($185 for two) BUT we had the 4-course chef's table plus the wine tasting menu. It could have been quite reasonable had we simply ordered off the menu and limited the alcohol. Do make a reservation. We came the night before and were turned away because they were full, so we had to reserve for the next night. I was impressed that this restaurant gives all their compost to a local farmer, uses local foods where possible, and does not serve bottled water. Also nice that bread with dip, an amuse bouche (tiny appetizer) and two tiny mint truffles were all part of the meal, at no extra charge.

Pros: good food, friendly staff, environmental

Cons: small portions, bathrooms upstairs

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Rushed rude service... - Edit

We reserved at table at Zen Kitchen for 6:00 pm. We love the restaurant as the food is superb, upscale (expensive, but worth it) and all-vegan. Warning. This restaurant has become a victim of its own success. Throughout our meal we felt rushed by the servers who would do things like bring us another glass of wine from the wine pairing (in the Chef's Table menu) even before we were half-way finished the previous glass - Let's go - glug glug glug was the message we got from our server. We were not offered coffee and tea (which was part of the four-course meal) and it did not arrive with our deserts. The cutlery for the desert was placed directly on the surface of the table (not on a plate or napkin). Then the bill was brought to our table. We had to ask for our tea and coffee or we would never received it. When I finally got it, my coffee was stone cold and tasted off. To top it all off, right after I paid (but while we were still having tea) the Sommelier came to our table and asked if we wouldn't mind leaving now because he had other guests who needed the table. We left without objecting but with a different opinion of this restaurant. We were never advised at the time when we reserved that there was a "time limit" for tables. We arrived on time and expected a relaxed dining experience to celebrate a special occasion. Instead we were made to feel as if we had to hurry up and beat the clock for the sake of the restaurant. It appears that Zen Kitchen has become too popular and is now motivated by maximizing and possibly over-booking reservations. Consequently this leads to a tension-filled atmosphere and diners being asked to please leave. I would not be critical if patrons were advised in advance this was what they could expect. But this is a supposed to be an upscale restaurant. The bill for four came to $440 with tip. Too bad really. There aren't any other upscale vegan restaurants in the area...

Pros: great food

Cons: pushed out the door, rushed - hurried, expensive

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Chic but needs some Tweaking - Edit

We dined here twice this summer. I was more impressed with the food the first time. Both visits the staff was helpful and attentive. They served an amuse bouche which was a nice touch and set a welcoming and sophisticated tone to the dinner. For our first visit I ordered the Thai Curry. The flavour was balanced but they put the curry on top of rice and unfortunately by doing this it became starchy, heavy and thick. It would have been a better dish with the rice on the side. The second visit I ordered the Ceasar Salad and it was really overdressed, wilted and salty. The polenta croutons were thick, oily and hard making them inedible and really not appetizing at all. My husband had the Ravioli with Mushroom Sauce and he said it was delicious but the colour of the sauce (pureed mushrooms) was a real turn off. The best thing about the evening? The Mexican Chocolate Cake, a divine and light dark chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and with the addition of hot peppers it has a bit of a bite. Delicious.

Pros: Refined Cuisine, Formal, Location

Cons: Price, Lighting, Some of the Dishes

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Welcome addition - Edit

We visit Ottawa frequently and were thrilled to see the addition of Zen Kitchen, an upscale dining experience that is entirely vegan. Keep in mind that it is upscale and priced accordingly! But the food was very good. The menu changes frequently, but it is hard to imagine you wouldn't find something yummy to eat. We enjoyed a wonderful tapas plate with scrumptious salad rolls wrapped in rice paper. I was less thrilled with the black bean cakes, which i found bland.

My main was a delicious ravioli, and my friend had grilled seitan which was done to perfection, with a lovely sauce.

I found the desserts a little disappointing, and I've definitely had better. The Mexican chocolate cake had a poor texture, and my lemon pie was uninspiring. The Peach cobbler was the best of the bunch.

Overall, a very good experience. Loved the service which was helpful and attentive. I'd like to see better desserts and more interesting appetizers, but those were minor quibbles. Will definitely be coming back!!!

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fabulous find - Edit

Let me start by saying, my started out by driving 6 hours to quebec to bungee jump. Then we drove back to ottawa and found a hotel for the night. We were exhausted and dirty. I used happy cow on my phone to find a restaurant in the nieghborhood of our hotel. We didnt know what to expect when we walked into Zenkitchen. We were definetly underdressed and they seemed a little finicky about reservations. I thought it seemed it bit pricey but when we tried our food I realized it was worth every cent. We had a bit of everything and it was all fantastic. The service was exceptional, 2 hosts?, our waitress, and the chef, caroline, all checked up on us. I would drive all the way from Niagara to ottawa just to eat here again.

Pros: clean, friendly, excellent dining experience

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Just what Ottawa needed! - Edit

As a long time attendee of Caroline Ishii's Zen Kitchen dinners, I definitely made a point of attending opening weekend at her new restaurant! Unfortunately, I wasn't well that day, so I only got to try a few dishes.
The menu will be based on what is seasonal - I don't yet know if that means that she'll be changing the menu daily, weekly, or seasonally, but I appreciate the variety.
The menu was broken down into appetizers, mains, tapas platters for 2 or more to share, and desserts. Each section had 2-4 options in each, so there was a decent amount of selection. Our table shared all our food - we tried the new Caesar salad, a tapas platter with pickles, tofu skewers, homemade chips, and rice paper rolls; the creamy mushroom soup, and the sundried tomato pesto tartlet. We were served a lovely roasted red pepper dip and bread to start, and a complimentary amuse of rawvioli (yellow beet with pesto filling).
Gotta be honest: we weren't entirely thrilled with this particular menu - the tart filling was delicious, but the crust was a little tough and dry. The soup was a little bland, and the tapas platter, while tasty, was a little underwhelming. The new caesar salad was definitely a hit, as were the amuse and roasted pepper dip. I believe that there was supposed to be a complimentary 'happy ending' dessert, but I think there were some difficulties with the heat that weekend.
However, this was her opening weekend, and I have had many dinners served by Caroline which I have absolutely adored, and I look forward to more. The restaurant is beautifully renovated, and I would estimate that, with the patio, they could seat about 50 at a time. The wine menu is clearly very well planned, and the overall cost, while pricey for my wallet, was certainly reasonable. I will most definitely return again when I'm feeling 100%, and after they've had some time to settle into the new kitchen. I have a feeling that this will become a great restaurant - Ottawa desperately needed a classy, upscale place for vegans and the vegan-inclined to take a date, a non-vegan they're trying to win over, or themselves for a sophisticated night out, and I think this is going to be it.

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