While on a recent vacation, we decided to expand our restaurant reviews to the international scene. Montreal is a lovely, artistic, and interesting city that feels like a mixture of Paris and San Francisco. Not surprisingly, a major city such as Montreal has a wide array of vegan options and a few all vegetarian restaurants. Located in the Latin Quarter, we passed a delicious looking restaurant a number of times before deciding to try it. Yuan Vegetarian Restaurant (although the Y is missing from the sign, in true urban fashion) is situated in the basement of a building housed by tourist shops and clothing boutiques. From the outside it may appear a bit shabby, especially since the Y is missing from the sign, however, once you enter the spot it has a tranquil, modern, and has a classy appearance.
We arrived around 8pm and the joint was packed. The busy wait staff seemed a little confused and stressed with the crowd. It was my impression, they aren’t normally this busy. When we first arrived, we were quickly sat at a nice table and given water, however, we were not noticed again for about 20 minutes. We were willing to forget this, because their menu looked absolutely delicious. The menu has a wide array of vegetarian and vegan Pan-Asian options. With menu offerings such as Lemon Crispy Fish, Pan Fried Steak, Japanese Eel, and Sushi Pizza, how could one not immediately be intrigued? It appears their online menu does not encompass all they offer, but do not be fooled, this place has an extensive menu!
The truth is there are several vegan Pan-Asian restaurants, in fact it may be the most common style of vegetarian cooking. No matter how common they may be, we still love to try them out! There was one thing incredibly unique about this place, it was buffet style. Not just any buffet style, but you were given a huge list of dishes and you checked which ones you wanted from appetizers to entrees, as many times as you like. You just check off on a piece of paper each time and order as much as you want for $20 a person. I am definitely not used to this ordering technique and coupled with my minuscule knowledge of the French language, this created some confusion. Once we figured it out and were no longer ignored by the staff, we were really excited to order but nervous not to let our eyes be bigger than our stomachs (as they charge you extra for leftover food and do not allow you to take any to go).
For our first round we ordered Miso Soup, BBQ Tofu Briquettes, Raviolis with Peanut Sauce, Stir Fried Mushrooms, Crispy Lemon Fish, Seaweed Salad, California Sushi Roll, and the Sushi Pizza. It may seem like a lot of food, but each dish was split between two people and the portions were pretty small. Even though it is listed as buffet style, every dish appeared to be made fresh to order. So fresh that it took a while to receive each dish and they often came out of order. Our sushi came first, followed by one entrée and soup, then the appetizers, and finally our last entrée. It was definitely a different style of eating for us! The sushi, soup, and salad were all tasty and the vegetables were really fresh. We especially enjoyed the Sushi Pizza, which was unique and delicious. Basically, it was seaweed battered, fried and covered in a vegetable vegan mayo sauce. It was tasty and crunchy for the palette. This may have been my favorite dish we ordered at this restaurant and certainly one I will not likely find anywhere else.
About five minutes later our first entrée was served, Fried Mushrooms. The older I get the less I enjoy mushrooms and I had a suspicion I would not enjoy this dish completely. My suspicions were right! Although the flavor was good and the mushrooms were mixed with goji berries and some sort of yellow bean, I couldn’t get into the oyster mushrooms. Don’t get me wrong, the dish was cooked deliciously but I just personally did not enjoy it. However, quickly following this dish were our two appetizers which were incredibly scrumptious. The BBQ Tofu Briquettes were delectable shish kabobs with plenty of flavor and the Raviolis in Peanut Sauce were almost perfect. Really, the peanut sauce was superb and I could have eaten it on every dish. Unfortunately, it seemed the kitchen staff forgot about our Lemon Fish and we had to wait another ten minutes or so for it to be prepared.
As we waited, our appetites grew for some dessert, so we received a new buffet ordering sheet. Much to our surprise the buffet did not offer dessert! Feeling a little defeated, we opted for some fruit based sushi to satisfy our sweet cravings. Both our late Lemon Fish entrée and Mango Rolls provided a little sweet ending to our dinner, although I think they should definitely add dessert as an option. We are happy to announce we did not over order and finished our plates, while still being satisfied. Despite the odd ordering technique, Yuan’s provides its patrons with a variety of unique and flavorful fare, as well as a classy and cool environment. Although, not the best vegan pan Asian I have ever had, I definitely recommend it to those visiting Montreal. Bon Appetit!