Reviews & Previews

Ashley’s takes healthy vegetarian food to a whole new level

Let’s start with the décor. It’s gorgeous, with exposed brick on one wall, huge picture window facing Sherbrooke, two rows of wooden tables with black wooden chairs and a banquette on one side. There is a partial view of the kitchen and a bar in front of the kitchen serving beer on tap and flashing a major espresso machine.

Chantal is the hands-on owner along with her husband’s nephew, Sina. They opened at the end of August. We were there on a cold night in February just back from India where we loved the focus on “veg” menus just about everywhere, contrasting with Canada where it’s still the outlier in the restaurant scene. It’s becoming essential for health conscious Montrealers, which is why Ashley’s is part of a welcome trend.

As we studied the menu, swing era vocalists gave the room a jazzy flavor. Summertime was playing in the dead of winter, raising our spirits.

We started with soup to warm up, listed on a blackboard on the banquette wall. Irwin chose the tomato basil while Barbara opted for French Onion Soup au vegan, minus the bread.

For our mains we kept to our low-carb commitment and Ashley’s must-haves. The L’arte dei Sapori ($16) boasts red lentils rotini (lower carbs than pasta), cashew rosé sauce, seitan pecan meatballs, topped with raw zucchini, roasted peppers, parsley, and a drizzle of basic olive oil. All the corn they use is non-GM (Not Genetically Modified).

Irwin’s tomato basil velouté was served piping hot with fresh basil. My French Onion was topped with vegan cheese. Masi wine (vegan), is added to the caramelized onions to create the
rich broth.

Every time I’ve come to Ashley’s I’ve had the chili and so I asked to sample it again. It’s quite spicy, even after India, and topped with vegan cheese. It comes in two sizes, one for $7 by itself and another for $11 served on a baked potato. Extra avocado is $2.

The lentil pasta dish was divine, spicy with pasta that tasted richer than the ordinary pasta, coated in a sauce. All Irwin could say between mouthfuls of seitan meatball and pasta was Amazing! All I could say was Wow!

It was a good idea to share. That way, we got to have the pasta dish while it was hot and then the “salad” dish.

I don’t normally like the texture of seitan but these meatballs with their pecans and rich rosé/cashew sauce were a treat. The cashews are what make it creamy and give it its colour. Brilliant!

The interesting combination in the “salad,” or as it is called “Chef inspired Macro Salad Bowl,” makes it an elevated food experience. The textures and taste, all topped with a perfectly balanced
cilantro lime dressing, was a fitting second course. And the colours! The beets, carrots and, lucky for us on our keto diet, the cauliflower rice could have sufficed as a meal in a bowl.

The ingredients: Cauliflower rice, yellow beets, purple cabbage, carrots, kidney beans, cucumber and spelt salad, kalamata olives, mango cubes, sauerkraut, purple kale, apple and mango house chutney, roasted red pepper, and sweet potato sauce, roasted chickpeas, tofu cubes, alfalfa sprouts and sunflower seeds. Need I write more?

The all-vegan dessert menu includes cherry cheesecake, chocolate tarte, and coconut and
pistachio blonde, to name but three. All are $6-7.

We didn’t do the smoothies. No room. Among them is the Royal Berry Bliss with Greek Yogurt, blue berries, raspberries, strawberries and apple juice. ($9) The thing about smoothies is it always seems to me I could make them at home easily, only I never do. I was much more interested in sampling the intriguing desserts. Oh well, I was too full to do so and then there’s the sugar content— forbidden. I’m waiting for a sugar-free option and I’m confident Ashley’s will oblige. They do in every other way.

Ashley’s is an egg and peanut-free establishment and they write on their menu that 85% of their ingredients are organic, including organic sunflower and organic olive oil.

The tea and coffee list is extensive and includes staples such as Americano but also the more unique “flow alkaline water,” maca Sutra (coconut, pineapple juice and maca – an herb with energizing properties – and Kombucha.

Dinner for two including tax was $56.34

Ashley’s are updating their menu to suit their diners’ demand to “try new things.”

Note to Chantal: please continue to serve what we had tonight. It was heavenly!

5942 Sherbrooke W., 514-369-7566

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