The Acorn Restaurant on Main St. Attracts a Crowd with Artful Vegetarian Fare

Vancouver's first modern gourmet vegetarian restaurant wows all types of diners

Credit: The Acorn

Try Acorn’s kale Caeser salad with crispy capers and smoked paprika croutons

Try The Acorn’s kale Caeser salad with crispy capers and smoked paprika croutons

Are you a bacon-weary omnivore? A bored vegan? The Acorn’s seasonal, gourmet vegetarian fare appeals to all Vancouver diners

Vancouver has more vegetarian restaurant options than Hill Country, Texas. But is a handful enough to support the city’s vegetarians and the growing number of flexitarians in search of tempting meat-free options?

The Acorn Restaurant’s owners, manager Shira Blustein and chef Brian Skinner, didn’t think so. That’s why they opened Vancouver’s first epicurean vegetarian restaurant at 3995 Main Street.

The Acorn sows where no vegetarian restaurant in Vancouver has sown before: the modern, gourmet restaurant sector. While vegetarian comfort food has long been available at casual joints like Main Street’s The Foundation, Kitsilano’s The Naam and Commercial’s Bandidas Taqueria, The Acorn moves away from gloppy miso gravy and chipotle tofu.

Zucchini tagliatelle with tomato cashew rose sauce, zucchini blossoms and candied olives. (Image: The Acorn)

Chef Skinner artfully crafts seasonal West Coast cuisine using fresh produce from local urban farms. Let’s indulge in food porn: Thus far, I’ve tried deliciously tart strawberry tomato gazpacho with creme fraiche, kale Caeser salad with smoked paprika croutons and crispy capers, and zucchini tagliatelle with decadent tomato cashew rose sauce, zucchini blossoms and candied olives (pictured above).

The Acorn Restaurant soft opened July 2; the response from Vancouverites has been overwhelming. From 5 pm onward, citizens of all ages and all dining preferences line up for the…cuisine. I can’t just call it food; The Acorn’s offerings go beyond that.

Each plate that emerges from the kitchen is gorgeous. Each flavour combo is a both a surprise and a pleasure.  This explains why non-vegetarians are joining the ranks of vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists and gluten free eaters who relish the array of menu options.

Seared king oyster mushrooms with creamed quinoa, pickled shallots, cauliflower and a rich, dark mushroom jus (Image: The Acorn)

The menu prices remain reasonable. Starters, salads and sides range from $3.50 to $10. Entrees hover around $18-19. During my evenings at the restaurant, polenta fries with wasabi pea mayo were a hot ticket. Five golden stacks passed me in under 10 minutes. I don’t think any of the charming waitstaff would have slapped my hand if I grabbed for one, but why make things awkward?

The seared king oyster mushrooms with creamed quinoa, pickled shallots, cauliflower and a rich, dark mushroom jus charmed my dining companion. We went for dessert instead of an extra side. I (unwillingly) shared raw maple peanut terrine with raspberry coulis, thyme, chocolate ganache, sea salt and whipped coconut with my date. Next time, I’ll order my own.

Cocktails at the Acorn are as pretty as the food. (Image: The Acorn)

Booze, too, is available. Local wines and craft beer vie for attention against a pretty cocktail list. I’m knocked up, so I can’t vouch for these, but everyone else seemed happy.

On the way home I visited neighbouring shop The Soap Dispensary only to hear the non-vegetarian owner rave about The Acorn’s aubergine and coconut rice tian with spicy Thai basil, mussaman potatoes and kaffir cashews.

Chef Skinner trained at Noma, the Copenhagen-based title holder for World’s Best Restaurant, and Michelin-starred Sketch in Mayfair. More recently, he’s taught at Vancouver’s Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts. His partner Shira Blustein is a musician with bands including Hard Drugs and Choir Practice.

They’ve been plotting a gourmet vegetarian restaurant for years and their dream is at last a reality, with uber chic restaurant design by man about town Scott Cohen. It’s always ideal when a restaurant’s atmosphere echoes the care found in the menu. The dark wood, geometric lamps and muted-green and chrome diner chairs do the job.

If you’re an omnivore who’s overtired of whole hog dinners, bacon mania and carnivorous food carts, head over to Main and look for the minimalist acorn icon. Make it your new summer home.