I answer the call of the narrow patio at Be Love and enjoy the sun while awaiting chef Yasunobu Uchida for an early dinner. I peruse the menu as traffic flows by on Blanshard.
Raw designations on the vegan and vegetarian “thoughtfully sourced” menu tempt even this meatetarian. For example the ZLT – zucchini, lettuce, tomato, avocado, red onion and sprouts with honey mustard ‘mayo’ – sounds pretty darn tasty, despite the lack of bacon.
Uchida arrives with a cheery hello, and quickly settles down with the menu, professing his hunger.
The owner and chef at Uchida Eatery chose the locale because he enjoys a good vegetarian meal and the selections on chef Heather Cunliffe’s menu don’t disappoint. Be Love’s concept is similar to his, made from scratch using as much local and organic product as possible.
“I like when the chef try something different and new, and care about the ingredients,” the Japanese chef says.
Uchida’s quick to select spring rolls (those are raw) and the Green Bowl. “It’s popular here, lots of people order it, so I wanted to try it. Experiment,” he says with a grin.
Under advisement, and because he’s previously tried the lasagne (loved it), a Carmanah Bowl gets the final nod alongside a couple of house-made sodas.
“Nice atmosphere, not too fancy, not too casual,” Uchida says, glancing inside the fast-filling restaurant – a decent crowd for a Monday.
Drinks arrive and Uchida prefers the sweet Quetzal cola while I’m digging the undertone of apple cider vinegar in the Lavender Strawberry Bush, a nice contrast to the pink berry colour.
Jasmine arrives with the appetizer that Uchida notes looks “more spring than the regular spring roll.” He grins at the brilliantly coloured bouquet of red peppers, orange carrots, mango, avocado and sprouts peeking from two halves of the bundle wrapped in brilliant green blanched collard greens.
The spiced Thai almond dipping sauce balances the sweetness of the fresh, raw veg perfectly, Uchida says, reaching for more.
Then the main.
The Carmanah carries a lot of flavours. Uchida starts ticking them off: wild nettles sautéed with shiitake mushrooms, onions and kale on steamed quinoa with local seaweed, house sauerkraut and hunks of roasted sweet potato. But they don’t combat, rather complement. Again, a light drizzle of the miso-ginger sauce provides the figurative cherry on top.
We both prefer the thick comfort of the Green Bowl with its creamy coconut texture. Baby bok choy, dark greens brocolini, mushrooms and veggies mingle in a coconut cream curry on steamed brown rice, topped with sliced avocado and toasted cashews, fresh cilantro and scallions.
The favoured plate has only a slight edge, and we have no problem polishing off the bowls, and the super seedy accompanying cracker.
The cracker nearly stole the show, and I’m willing to fight for the last bite, but the chef easily concedes.
Uchida settles back, a silly pat to his stomach. “It’s very light, you never feel like you had too much.”
My fear of the wheat, gluten, dairy and most of all meat-free meal is abated.
We deny dessert, despite the delighted sounds of the ladies at the next table sharing a slice of Matcha blueberry cheezecake.
“This food we ordered today, they wanted to make this food. Not just ‘here’s a recipe.’ They want to make it and they know how,” Uchida says. “I can taste the passion. They care about it.”
Living up to the Be Love moniker while sating the appetite.