The Acorn - vegan / raw / gluten-free
The Acorn opened up last week at Main and 24th, replacing that old Italian restaurant, Cipriano's.
Anyone had a chance to check it out? I'm hoping it's good; the Naam and The Foundation are often recommended for vegetarian dining but, personally, I've never been a fan of either.
Visited the Acorn for the first time last night with a friend. She ordered the harvest which was arancini (fried risotto balls with a quinoa flour breading), served with seasonal vegetables, including some really incredible beets, roasted garlic, jam and pesto. A great dish, although we both felt it should have been hotter when it came to the table. I ordered a zuni bean cassoulet with fennel confit and slices of baguette. The broth was very flavourful and the diced veggies were nice and crisp. The confit fennel wasn't what I was expecting - it was sweet and firm, and tasty, not oily but I have to admit that I was expecting something a little more fatty -- I wasn't able to forget that I was eating cassoulet without the duck. The baguette was nice to have for mopping up the sauce in the dish after I'd finished eating. It was good comfort food, but I'd probably order something else next time.
For dessert, my friend got the olive oil cake with candied olives, white chocolate frozen yogurt, apple puree and lemon balm. The candied olives were quite intensely flavoured and not really sweet - to me they were more like dried olives than candied. Even a small bite was overwhelmingly olive-y, so we weren't really sure what we thought of them, but the cake was extremely good - dense, moist and yummy, and it went well with the frozen yogurt & the puree. I ordered the coconut and lemongrass panna cotta, which was served with crumbles of toasted coconut & a fresh pineapple and cilantro salsa. This was a good dish but as a dessert it completely lacked in sweetness, leaving me feeling a little confused and wishing for a bit of sugar. The lemongrass flavour in the panna cotta was lovely but subtle and could not be tasted when eaten alongside the salsa or the toasted coconut.
The Acorn is clearly in a different league from the Naam (not really sure how that place stays in business, based on the extremely disappointing meal my family ate there recently). The Acorn's food is nicely presented, and I liked the emphasis on seasonal and local produce and the way the menu accommodates gluten-free and vegan diners. Although I think there are some areas where they could improve, it's clear they are doing quite well as the place was packed - we showed up at 6:30 on a Monday evening and got the last available table, the bar filled up very quickly after we arrived, and by the time we left the room was full, volume level was very high, with quite a few customers waiting for a free table. I'll certainly go back and try some different menu items.
PS sorry I didn't get the entire menu in the photo!
I've had two amazing dinners now at The Acorn... you basically have to go into the experience understanding that you are going to get a delicious, high-end, but definitely healthier and less rich and meaty meal. That being said, I'm always satisfied by their emphasis on flavour, freshness and mixing textures - no bland pablum available.
One of the meals I had there was family style with a large party, so I had the good fortune to try a lot of the food. Their kale salad is a stand-out, and I really don't like kale. Much like a north american caesar salad - thick yummy dressing and great croutons. All the salads we had were tasty, the coffee-rubbed celeriac one is very unusual if you have a chance to try it. We also had a faux pate (mushroom and nut, I think) that was delicious.
The beer-battered fried cheese is the thing you get your reluctant dining partner to order to win them over. It's actually super-rich, and works really well shared as an appetizer.
I've enjoyed all the mains I tried there, but it's harder to comment, since they change them up on a regular basis. Like geekmom stated, it's clear that there is no duck in your cassoulet - but it's still a darn tasty dish. I think you have to grant them a bit of leeway, since they are taking meat-inspired dishes and veganizing them, while still keeping taste and texture at the forefront. They do try to keep the umami in the dish, but it can be a challenge.
The mushroom in particular works really well for this. I ordered a raw, vegan "lasagna", which had two very tasty sauces - a cashew one and a green one, but it really didn't resemble lasagna very much at all, except in presentation. But how do you expect it to be hot, melty and cheesy if it's raw and vegan? It could be argued that they should not use misleading dish names. I guess we'll see what they decide in future.
Long story short, I'm still dreaming of that stupid kale salad, and I know I'll be back sooner rather than later to fight for a table. Also, the room looks great, stunning design, light fixtures, glass and tableware. It's a fun spot to visit, especially if you have gluten-free or vegan people in your life - but even if you don't.