4631 Boulevard Saint-Laurent
Metro: Laurier, Mont-Royal
Bus: STM 11, 46, 51, 55
Visit: April 10, 2012
You probably have a few questions going through your mind right now. The first thing you might of thought of was if I got some really bad news from my doctor. I can assure you, this visit wasn’t an order from my cardiologist. The second thought going through your mind is whether or not I finally ran out of burgers to try. You can rest easy, I still have quite the long list of burgers to unleash on the unsuspecting masses in the future. With all that being said, I have to explain how this all came to be and what the results were.
Last year, I started thinking about the actual longevity of the Great Burger Search in its current form. The one thing I knew was that eventually, there would be a real issue finding quality locations to try burgers from. Luckily, it’s a burger search, not a restaurant search. It’s about trying different, individual burgers, even if they come from the same place.
Along that same line of thinking, I started to wonder about different kinds of burger. I actually went back and forth on this question over the last year. I even threw the question out a few times to gauge reaction. It was quite the deliberation, but the final decision was that if it contained the word ‘burger,’ it’s fair game for Mr. Lew. So, in a little bit of an announcement, for Season 4, you can expect to see at least 4 non-beef burgers going down my throat. Yes, that’s the best way I could describe eating.
So, after making the promise that Burger 140 would officially be a ‘veggie’ burger, the task was to find the right place to do that in. Of course, there is the option of going to a normal burger place and order the non-beef option, but I wanted something a little closer than that. This is when I found Aux Vivres, an actual Vegan restaurant, catering to the kind of clientele that definitely isn’t like me.
The one thing that’s abundantly clear is that I’m not Vegan, nor am I anywhere near vegetarian. The last actual vegetarian dish I had dates back to 2002, when I didn’t have a choice. So, this is new terrain for me to cover and one that will add a new dimension to the ever-growing eater that I am. With 139 regular burgers in me, I was ready to tackle something that’s really out of my comfort zone.
The restaurant’s entrance was my first really minor issue with the day. When you come in, you have to be careful to go in the right door. Cleverly located on the right, the dining room is the place you want to be. The door to the left leads you to the express take-out counter. Me being me, I walked into the left, quickly saw the take-out counter, turned around as quickly as humanly possible, stepped outside, and finally entered the proper door. It’s not the first time that’s happened to me and probably won’t be the last time ever.
As you can see from the picture above, I had a great view of the comings and goings of this restaurant. At the time I entered, the place wasn’t too busy. There was only one server on hand, working the majority of the tables within my view. It was at this point where I noted, in confusion, the mass of other servers getting ready to begin their shift. Were they expecting a hungry Vegan army? As minutes went by, it was when the flow of people starting coming in, that’s when I understood what all the staff was for.
One of the things I wondered about was what kind of people ate at a place like this. You kind of have that image of the laid back hipster, sitting back and eating food that you’re not that used to. I can tell you that the people who were here on that day were nothing like the preconceived notion I had in my head. They looked like your normal, average, happy go-lucky human beings. Even though it was predominantly a female crowd, there were a good number from the male side of things.
The service, for my first time in a Vegan restaurant, was exceptional. If you look at me, you wouldn’t get the Vegan vibe. I was actually happy that the server who primarily dealt with me didn’t seem to be phased at all. Even though I did my business in French, I really liked the fact that the majority of the staff were fully bilingual to the point where you didn’t know which language they were more comfortable in.
I’m taking a moment to note the water bottle. If you want to know, Vegan water tastes like normal water. I had 2 and a half glasses of water and I can attest to that fact.
This burger contains caramelized onions, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, and chipotle mayo.
Before I get to the burger, I want to touch on the side dishes a bit. The first side dish was the coleslaw. Of the 2 side dishes, it was the far better one. It was one par with some of my favorite coleslaw from my past meals.
The potato wedges, on the other hand, was a different story. Other than the fact that they were really nice in size, I didn’t get the appeal to having them there. When the majority of the meal is at a decent temperature for consumption, you have these wedges that are so hard to eat because they are blazing hot. It took a very long time for them to cool down, far too long for me to pace myself accordingly. The potatoes were nothing special and the chipotle ketchup didn’t really do it for me. Then again, I’m not here for the side dishes, but the burger.
Choosing one of the four burger choices was one of the more difficult decisions to make. Honestly, none of the four options available were really appealing to this carnivore. However, I promised that I would choose one and I’m a man of my word, I’d like to think. After doing some research, I landed on tempeh.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with tempeh, let me take this moment to explain it to you, to the best of my limited abilities. Tempeh is a fermented soy product that resembles the firmness of a traditional vegetarian burger patty. The big thing to note here is that you will get a nutty taste when taking a bite. It seemed like the most appealing choice of the four and I was willing to go into this with an open mind.
For the normal burger components, I have no real complaints. The chipotle mayo played its role quite well. There were some times where I thought there was cheese in the burger, but knowing Vegan cuisine, I had to have known better than to think that. The mayo was that appropriate for this burger. I didn’t really like the chipotle ketchup, but the mayo, since it fit in really well, hit the spot for me.
The structure of the burger was as close to a normal burger as you can get. The only real concern was with the unusual shape of the tempeh. There were times where the buns were slipping off the tempeh, forcing some quick manoeuvring to keep things together.
The actual taste of the tempeh is where things got interesting. Before I got to the restaurant, I had a real fear that I would not be able to get by the first bite. In a big sigh of relief, the first bite went by and we were good to go. The first thing that hits you when you take a bite is the aforementioned taste of nuts in the tempeh. At first, it’s a little off-putting, but you get used to it. You may be surprised to hear this, but there were a few moments in the burger eating process where I forgot what I was eating wasn’t my norm. Though the taste of tempeh didn’t really bother me in the long run, it didn’t have that same kind of lasting effect beef has.
For my first veggie burger, I’ll say that I was satisfied with the experience. What I had here surpassed my expectations. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to get vegetarian burgers, I would be happy to go one more round if the opportunity ever presented itself again. As for this particular burger, for what it was, met my expectations. If you’re looking for a veggie burger, I would definitely recommend trying the options at Aux Vivres.
I wasn’t quite done at the burger. There was something else that led me to choose Aux Vivres as my destination for my first ever Vegan burger. In my research, I noticed they offered a very interesting take on chocolate cake. So, after perusing the interesting dessert menu, For those of you who know me, you’ll know that apples have a soft spot in my heart when it comes to dessert. I was really anxious to find out how well it paired itself with another love of mine, chocolate.
For me, this cake was hit and miss. I had such high expectations for this seemingly magical tag team combination. In reality, it had really nothing to do with the actual apples, they were fine. The issue came with the actual cake itself. The cake was a tad too dry for my taste. A nice chocolate cake, no matter what you claim it to be, is moist and easy to eat. This cake wasn’t like that. I actually had trouble finishing it. The only thing that saved this cake outside the apples was the icing layer. The frosting part of the cake delivered when the rest of the cake lacked.
I’m posting this picture of my bill because of something that caught my eye. You really see this kind of thing every day. If you haven’t noticed it yet, you’ll see that a hand-written thank you appears on the bill. I found that this was a nice touch and really takes customer service to the next level, whereas other places put advertising in their billfolds. I’m now kind of hoping that they do this for every customer. If not, I got another whole bunch of questions I need to be asking with my shrink.
I’m in no way an expert on Vegan cuisine, so my word might not mean too much in this respect. What I will say is that the burger I had at Aux Vivres was better, for what it was, than a majority of the other 139 I had in the last 2 and half years. Of course, for a meat lover, it will never compare to an all beef burger, but even the vegetarians of the world need their fix. The other aspects that will win you over are the over-sized portions and attentive level of service I saw throughout the 60 minutes I was there. No, I’m not a Vegan, but for that 1 hour, I’m glad I got to experience it.