When you’re in the mood for Chinese Buddhist temple food, and I know this happens to everyone just all the time (j/k), there isn’t any place much better to go than Yuan Vegetarian at Sherbrooke and St Denis, where one can get a surprisingly peaceful and quick vegetarian lunch with some interesting options like steak, sushi and eel if you feel so inclined.
There’s even a grocery store crammed full of all those delish imposter-flesh goodies, including my favourites, the chicken drumsticks with the little plastic bones inside and the massive pink flaky fake salmon with the black skin.
Yuan does a simple take on what could be a complicated and overthought approach to a bento – a savoury and sticky mock-main dish (steak or fish or what-have-you) arranged with a palette of fresh steamed broccoli, nutty brown rice, a decent little iceberg salad, some oranges (w00T) and a little bit of crispy fried nori condiment. It really does the trick and is genuinely nourishing, too! I don’t remember the pricing but I remember the lunch bento is one of the better deals on the menu and it comes with a soup – hot & sour or miso – as well.
We tried both, and while neither were reinventing the soup-wheel, both were deeply warm and MSG-goodyum and could stand proudly among their more fish-based cousins. The “steak” that my friend ordered was not incredibly beefy tasting, but it was good and came with a nice thick breaded coating if you like that sort of thing. The fish had a sweet and sour sauce and I enjoyed it even more, especially next to the fresh vegetables.
This post by Food at First Sight has an even more in depth investigation of Yuan’s food and I recommend checking it out if you’re curious. I ate here a long time ago and it was just a quick stop so I didn’t get a chance to really explore the wonders of the neo-Chinese menu.
I will have to give mega points for the atmosphere, which was remarkably like eating in a water garden, and effect which was helped by being alone in the restaurant on a friday morning, save for one patron who seemed to be a regular. The space is quite sizeable and I can only imagine the numbers it must accomodate at nights and when the buffet is on! Yes, there is a lunch buffet option, an All You Can Eat style where you select menu items and the servers bring them round. I would love to try that with a group!
All in all, I was pleased with Yuan. Nothing seems expertly prepared, it’s all pretty basic stuff, but it’s a nice change from it’s meat-heavy versions and the location/atmosphere is attractive. I filed it away under “places that will make brown rice FOR me” and walked out just perfectly full and satisfied for under 12$ (if I remember correctly). Bonus!