Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Restaurant Review: Rise Above in St. Catherines, Ontario...

While we were on vacation in September we got to eat at so many wonderful vegan restaurants, and one of them was the amazing Rise Above, an unexpected surprise we found in St. Catherines Ontario. The original plan after sightseeing at Niagara Falls was to grab lunch at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Sarira Stupa which is a Buddhist Temple that provides a Buddhist Vegan Buffet lunch for around $7. They do this seasonally from June through October, and it’s all volunteer run, which means you need to get their early because when the food runs out it’s out. Since the lunch only runs from 11:30am - 2pm and we weren’t done at Niagara until 1:30pm we needed another option. Luckily the nice woman who rung us up at Veg Out in London, mentioned that Rise Above was a good place for Vegan eats near Niagara.

Cute little Rooster Salt & Pepper Shakers 

When I did the original research on Vegan food in Ontario I didn’t realize that St. Catherines is only like a 15 minute drive from the falls and so this restaurant wasn’t on my radar. I’m so glad we were told about it though because it was a real lifesaver. Our hotel didn’t have much in the way of a vegan option at the free breakfast and so by the time we were done sightseeing we were pretty famished. If we’d have had to wait until we got to Toronto - only a 60-90 minute drive - we would have been quite cranky I think.

Cappuccino with Chocolate Almond Milk

Just as we were getting ready to leave the falls it started down pouring. It had been lightly sprinkling on and off for most of the morning but this was real ‘cats and dogs’ stuff you know? Lucky we saved our Maids of the Mist ponchos otherwise we would have been soaked walking back up the hill to collect our car. By the time we got to St. Catherines and Rise Above I was ready for something toasty warm to eat and drink, and so my husband and I started with Cappuccino’s made with Chocolate almond milk. Oh yeah, you read that right! Not plain soy, not plain almond but CHOCOLATE almond milk! This my friends is a revelation and I ask “Why doesn’t everyone do this?” Amazing.

Cauliflower Sandwich

Next we debated whether or not to get an appetizer because the apps looked so fantastic. The Buffalo Seitan and the Sweet Potato Taquitos really stood out to me, but in the end we decided against an appetizer as we knew we’d be ordering quite a few desserts, not to mention we’d be getting our eat on big-time once we got to Toronto. We played it conservative and only ordered a main dish each.

Cauliflower Sandwich with Curried Cauliflower Soup

For my main meal I ordered the Cauliflower Sandwich. Something about that sounded so good right at that moment - though I did have quite a hard time choosing, the mushroom mac and cheese was tempting me! The sandwich is made with roasted cauliflower, picked red onions, and broccoli pesto served on house made bread. This was so fantastic I can’t even describe it. The pesto was delicious, and the pickled red onions gave it a nice tart crisp flavor. Loved the cauliflower too obviously my only complaint is that there wasn’t a little more of it. Since cauliflower is quite mild it gets a little overshadowed by the pesto, so a bit more Cauli next time would be good. With my sandwich I decided to order the soup of the day. I was still quite chilly from the rain. The soup of the day happened to be a curried cauliflower soup, which may seem like cauliflower overload to you but I really wanted soup and so I didn’t mind doubling up on my cruciferous veggie intake for the day. As it turned out the soup was phenomenal! Just really, really good and it quite hit the spot. My husband also got a bowl of the soup - despite his not particularly liking cauliflower - and loved it too.

Curried Cauliflower Soup

For his main meal my husband went with something simple. The Crispy Seitan Wrap. Which is made with crispy, tender seitan dumplings, red onion, romaine lettuce, and a lemon garlic aioli, on a flour tortilla. He really enjoyed it, and was kind enough to give me a bite. I thought it was tasty, and I liked the texture of the seitan but couldn’t really taste the Aioli.

The Crispy Seitan Wrap

After all that it was time for dessert. Now originally we’d been looking forward to doughnuts and cinnamon buns, but on the day we were there they didn’t have doughnuts. No matter. We ordered two cinnamon buns, a Peanut butter blondie - a peanut butter bar with fudge brownie chunks and chocolate and vanilla drizzles. - and a Nanaimo Bar, which I mean Vegan Nanaimo Bar? How could I NOT get that? I mean the Nanaimo Bar is like Canada’s thing you know? Plus it’s even more of a necessity for me to get since I’m actually from B.C. where this dessert originates from. I just couldn’t pass up the novelty of it.

Vegan Nanaimo Bar!

Unfortunately when we were paying for our desserts there was a bit of a mix-up. Another server accidentally gave away the cinnamon buns that our server had put aside for us. Which wouldn’t be a big deal except we’d already paid for them. So then there was some confusion over what should be done, personally I thought we should be reimbursed for the payment, but they didn’t seem very willing to do that and so in the end we settled for taking some other pastries at the equivalent price. Those pastries ended up being two fudge brownies drizzled in chocolate sauce, and they threw in a couple free chocolate chip cookies.

Nanaimo Bar

So how were all of those desserts? Fantastic! I quite liked the peanut butter blondie which had great flavor, and the fudge brownie was also very good, though to eat a whole one myself was a bit much I think. The Nanaimo Bar was alright, but then I have to admit I’ve never, ever liked Nanaimo Bars. When I was a kid I used to peel off the chocolate top layer, lick all the custard/frosting out of the middle, and then throw both the bottom and the top half away. Something about the taste and texture of the bottom half always put me off. However, I have to say that this particular Nanaimo Bar is one of the best I’ve ever had - probably because it’s vegan!  The chocolate chip cookie was good also, but I would have preferred the cinnamon buns!

Peanut Butter Blondie 

Oh well, overall our experience at Rise Above was good. Our server was very nice, and very helpful, and he felt quite bad about the cinnamon bun incident, even thought it wasn’t his fault.  The service was also very prompt, and as I already said the food was great. Prices here are a little high if that’s a concern for you, however I did not find the prices here any higher then other high-end or independent vegan restaurants in Canada or the U.S. for that matter. That seems to be the way of it, vegan restaurant are always either expensive or dirt cheap and it just depends on what they’re selling and what the market is, you know? I thought this particular place also had a very nice atmosphere. It was chic, but cozy, comforting on a cold, rainy afternoon, and exactly the place that I would make a weekly ritual of visiting if I lived in the area. Definitely your best bet for vegan fare in Niagra if the Temple is closed. I highly recommend at least paying them a visit for coffee and dessert.

Fudge Brownie 

Rise Above
120 St. Paul St
St. Catherines, Ontario
Open Tues-Sat - 10am-9pm. Sun - 11am-3pm

1 comment:

  1. Such a good lunch! I really enjoyed the wrap & the soup really was delicious (despite the cauliflower. ha). I enjoyed the coffee & the desserts were good but I was really looking forward to the cinnamon buns. Bah! We should've been able to get our money back but oh well. Still a good place for food!