Dharma Kitchen

September 21st, 2005 · 18 Comments

Dharma Kitchenexterior dharma kitchen
Address: 3667 West Broadway Avenue, Vancouver
Tel: (604) 738-3899

Mon. – Sun. – Noon – 10 PM

Mindful Dining

By Russell Ball
Vegan/Vegetarian Columnist
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

** (of four stars)

Dharma Kitchen is a new establishment near the Alma and Broadway intersection, an area that is slowly growing in population and commercial variety. Hopefully the restaurant-going populace of that area can reach enough of a critical mass to support a specialty restaurant such as Dharma. The Kitchen’s slogan is “The Food of Mindfulness”, which is reflected in the fully vegan, Thai-inspired menu. In that same vein, Dharma does not serve any alcohol, or any sumptuous desserts. Personally, the lack of a dessert menu seemed confusing, what is it about dessert that speaks of mindlessness – is it the absence of nutritional value?

I visited Dharma as part of an Earthsave Canada Dineout, in which the entire restaurant (eight tables of four) was reserved for our group. Fortunately we filled out the room perfectly. The dining room is basically the entire restaurant, save for a cash register/smoothie bar, plus a hallway leading to the rear kitchen, and washrooms. The décor is very simple, perhaps due to the high startup costs involved in the restaurant business. The room is painted a deep, warm shade of red, with only a mirror and a small piece of art on the side walls. The tables and chairs are study wood, nothing fancy but comfortable for the most part.

As part of our “Dineout” experience, we received a fixed menu, in which each table of four received six dishes to share: two salads, two basmati rice bowls, and two main dishes (tofu) served with steamed jasmine rice. Dharma has five salads available, each for $7; three veggie burgers (served with roasted potatoes or salad) for $8 a piece; five rice bowls for $9 each, and five tofu main dishes costing $10 a plate. Finally, there are several fruit smoothies and fruit cocktails available for $4-6, plus lemon ginger tea or chai tea latte for $3.

Our wonderfully fresh salads came in generous bowls, more than enough for one person given that each of us received a reasonable serving when sharing amongst four people. The avocado salad, like all those available, was served on a bed of (annoyingly large) pieces of romaine. I would have liked to have seen a few more mixed greens myself, but the ingredients were varied, and the avocado was excellent – served at just the right time in the ripening cycle, with no blemishes apparent. A topping of steamed spinach was a pleasant surprise, and the grated beets and carrots, along with alfalfa sprouts were fresh and tasty. The second salad we tried was the “Protein Salad”, so named because of the inclusion of tasty grilled marinated tempeh steak. The grated beets and carrots made a welcome return appearance, but this time alfalfa was replaced with buckwheat sprouts, along with red onions and a sprinkling of sunflower seeds – of which I would have appreciated a few more. With both salads we had a choice among sun-dried tomato, Thai, or ginger dressing. I tried both the tomato and Thai dressings and they were excellent, although it is hard to ruin sundried tomato dressing. The Thai dressing was particularly flavourful and I would definitely ask for it again.

The rice bowls were served next, starting with the Dharma bowl, of which I can only guess is a particularly original recipe, but one which sadly tarnishes the restaurant’s name. Although the rice was excellent, many of the ingredients were either over- or under-done – it was hard to tell. The artichoke hearts and mushrooms seemed all right, but the Japanese eggplant was tough, and the zucchini oddly chewy. The red onion was appreciated but under-cooked and as a result slightly overpowering, along with being served in overly large chunks. Lastly, the sun-dried tomatoes had not been rehydrated and were better off being removed entirely. On the plus side the dressing was good but not very memorable. One caveat however, the various cooking-related issues could be the result of our particular style of meal, with the chefs struggling to cook and serve eight bowls concurrently, so I can’t fault them too heavily, especially given the tiny kitchen I saw when visiting the rest room.

The Dragon Bowl was a significant improvement in bowl-cuisine over Dharma’s namesake Bowl. Topped with four large pieces of grilled marinated tofu, and an excellent miso gravy, the Bowl also included grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, and zucchini, along with a refreshing and well-matched sprinkle of green onions and cilantro. Although not quite Naam quality, the miso gravy went very well with the contents and I would certainly order the dish again, especially given the very generous helping of zesty, almost citrusy tofu.

A bowl of steamed rice came next, followed by two large plates of (medium-firm) tofu and vegetables in sauce. The first to arrive was the much-anticipated Tofu in Thai Peanut Sauce, which included green and sweet peppers, along with mushrooms. The peanut sauce was well-spiced with red-peppers it would appear, but not so much as to require another glass of water (at least for those with experience). The following dish was a virtual clone in terms of ingredients but containing a deceivingly-named coconut-milk-based basil sauce. Customers anticipating a delicately-flavoured fine herb dish would be well-advised to steer-clear of this mysteriously pepper-laden creation! I’m at a loss as to why the chef felt it necessary to dump a handful of black pepper in the otherwise pleasantly-sweet sauce, as it completely dominated every other flavour. With that in mind, I personally enjoyed the fire, but my table-mates did not, and water suddenly became a scarce commodity. Both tofu dishes contained generous helpings of tofu as well as sauce, but there was plenty of rice in one serving to avoid wasting any sauce. I would suggest that the tofu be cooked in a some way beforehand (but after marinating), perhaps a light sautéing to crisp it slightly, rather than dumped in together with the sauce and served.

With full bellies and a few scorched tongues, we sat back and savoured our individual favourites. The server mentioned the availability of rice pudding to follow, of which I imagine is the extent of Dharma’s dessert menu. We all passed, but I don’t see any reason to avoid it if you feel like a taste, and have any room left. We did enjoy the (green tea) chai tea latte however, which was made with soy-milk and served in a large warm mug – no delicate tea cups here! My wife, who enjoys tea to a much greater extent than I, tells me it was well-spiced with ginger and cinnamon among other things; I can only say it tasted good and wasn’t too strong.

The six-course sample menu we enjoyed was obviously a one-time deal, and for $17 a person it was quite a bargain. For the same reasonable price a future customer could order a salad and a tofu dish, or even a burger and rice bowl if in possession of a very healthy appetite. I plan on returning for a burger myself, and to try one of their many smoothies (four available) and cocktails (seven entertainingly-named fruit juice blends).

If I found myself equidistant between Dharma and The Naam I would probably gravitate towards Naam, but I’ll certainly be revisiting Dharma, in part to see how a more typical dinner plays out. If you are one to enjoy healthy, tasty yet simple food and a relaxed, unpretentious atmosphere Dharma definitely beckons.

Russell Ball is a hard-working employee of the Ministry of Children and Family Development. He is an accomplished amateur vegan chef, but still tries to leave his kitchen for outside cooking once in a while.

Dharma Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tags: Thai · Vegan/Vegan Friendly · Vegetarian/Vegetarian Friendly

18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 frank // Mar 30, 2006 at 12:37 pm

    there was never black pepper dumped into the basil sauce, it is marinated in spicy basil sause!like you said, it is a specialty vegan restaurant, and should never be compared to fatty vegetarian restaurants, like the naam…earthsave are such snobs!!!!

  • 2 Russ // Mar 30, 2006 at 9:54 pm

    Whether or not the pepper was dumped in, or the tofu was marinated, the fact remains that the name of the dish does nothing to indicate it is extremely spicy. The dish was tasty, just completely unexpected (and for what it’s worth, full of black specks that certainly looked like pepper). Despite your snide and misplaced comments about Earthsave I still plan on returning because I like the food, and I suppose in some strange way, respect your passionate defense of your (?) restaurant.

  • 3 frank // Mar 31, 2006 at 5:03 pm

    they were basil leaves.if you ask, they will tell you..i don’t work there, it’s just our favourite place to go.they are a great addition to the vegetarian/vegan /buddhist/vancouver/green community.as for earthsave, i am a member, and my friend was at the recent dineout at dharma kitchen, and relayed the treatment that the staff recieved..all they (nancy, etc)did was pat themselves on the back for being volunteers, not just lowly members, and were treated extremely well by the staff, only to snub and make snide comments to them…misplaced? you tell me.

  • 4 frank // Mar 31, 2006 at 5:07 pm

    in buddhist tradition, dessert isn’t necessary, like it is here in the west..the menu was created to be easy to digest…the dharma bowl is our favourite, as the veggies are lightly grilled enough to retain the nutritional value of the meal..lol

  • 5 Russ // Apr 1, 2006 at 11:46 am

    I feel that I should reply again to clarify a few things. First, Frank, in case you didn’t notice, my review was very positive, I like Dharma! I agree with you wholeheartedly that it’s a great addition to Vancouver’s vegan restaurant community. Sure it’s not perfect, but no restaurant is; I would certainly go back any time. Readers should note that I visited shortly after it opened, last year, so I imagine there were a few kinks to work out – the Dharma bowl is probably improved by now for example. In fact, I joined Earthsave for the opportunity to attend that first Dharma dineout. It’s certainly disappointing to hear that some members did not treat the staff well recently, considering Dharma’s generosity in hosting another dineout. As for the ongoing Basil Tofu debate, I don’t feel that it’s my job as a customer to ask if every dish is spicy or not, it should be indicated on the menu in at least some fashion (and it may be so by now, in the six months since my first review). I want to thank you Frank for your contributions, I would encourage you to see if you can continue to do so as a reviewer, we could use another vegan/vegetarian columnist. Cheers!

  • 6 Abba // Jul 30, 2007 at 6:52 pm

    Frank is the owner of Dharma Kitchen who regularly polices public websites, scouring any less than positive reviews of his restaurant. He caused a scandal recently by threatening a woman on VancouverVeg who posted a medicore review of his joint.
    Seriously, for a guy always on about Buddhism, he’s wound up as tight as a Nazi zeppelin.

  • 7 Tommy // Aug 1, 2007 at 1:11 am

    Hi Abba,

    Fame, celebrity or tittle is not a buddhist’s concern. Have you ever met or talked to the true and only owner of Dharma Kitchen.

    May compassion be around all of us.


  • 8 frank // Aug 8, 2007 at 4:07 pm

    hello, abba;
    tommy is right, as i have never, ever, on any website (this one, or the one you are talking about) claimed to be the owner of dharma kitchen, or anywhere. at that time, my profile stated that i managed one in a volunteer capacity, which i no longer do.
    if you check with the webmaster of that site, you will see that it was a personal message to someone spreading lies about different restaurants. not just dharma kitchen. her comments were malicious, and she claimed to be a militant activist, on many sites, the webmasters were deleting her propaganda left, right and centre, even sending apologies for her words.i asked her kindly to refrain from such abuse to businesses, since she was new here, and the vegetarian community probably would not stand for it.she also said that vancouver restaurants were racist, as when she visited them, there weren’t many asians eating there at the time.needless to say, our staff has always had an asian majority.
    thank you for the comments, abba, but before you broadcast them, you should make sure that they are correct.
    also, see above comments: i wasn’t even working there yet.
    peace to all!

  • 9 Jeff // Aug 1, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    The most horible restaurant in Vancouver,
    Last Sunday we took two of our best friend (from US) to show them off this restaurant. We had the most horrible experience ever eating in a restaurant. As we began eating my wife saw two cockroaches when we told the server (a very gay guy) he simply ignored us and walked by. Finally I walked to the back to tell him in person – and oh my god he was picking his nose and answering me at the same time. I’d heard about this restaurants bad reputation but I saw it with my own eyes.

  • 10 mal // Dec 5, 2008 at 9:19 pm

    Been here only once. Tonkin Bowl rocks!

    Plan to come later on. Hygienic, clean and friendly. Things do change as time goes. The place is certainly under good stature. =)

  • 11 Tommy // Dec 7, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    Dear Jeff and the Mod,

    This is the fourth time I am writing the same content message, responding Jeff. My previous postings have been deleted for unknown reasons. For democratic matter and un-bias speech, I would like to ask to mod to let my voice stay on this page.

    Since day one, Dharma Kitchen has implemented and continued its mission and philosophy. The restaurant has existed with its own definition, and gained much popular lately without any paid advertisements or publicities. This fact has proved that Dharma Kitchen’s patrons choose to rely on comments and critiques from Food Inspector, and words of mouths from the people who have ACTUALLY been to the restaurant.

    If by any mistake we caused anger in you, we, staffs and member of Dharma Kitchen, truly apologize, and hope you will forgive us.

    May compassion always be around you.


  • 12 premprakash // Jan 12, 2009 at 6:18 pm

    my first experience @ Dharma kitchen as far as the food was concerned was a very good one; but my experience with the staff was not: on my way out through the rear exit i and my friend who was with me, noticed a tray on the floor near the exit filled with cigarette butts and i decided to mention this, as an unattractive and hygenic concern, to the woman who was our server at this time. i did so in a respectful and friendly way and was responded to in like. Strangely, on my next visit to the dharma kitchen i was approached by frank, while i was eating, and accused of badmouthing him because of this incident! i was shocked as i had at no time mentioned him to this woman and cannot even imagine what reason i would have in doing so…i did not know or care who was responsible for the butts, just that it was my opinion this was an unhealthy and unpleasent sight and could they please remove it. however, for some reason this woman told frank that my critcism was intended for him and during the middle of what should have been a quiet and pleasant meal, became an interrupted and charged emotional attack on me by frank. my friend and i left soon after my attempt to convince frank that not only was he wrong, but the information conveyed to him by the woman who i originally spoke, with was somehow misconstrued, intentionally or not. i have since returned to the Dharma Kitchen and carry no grudge with frank in this regard, but still wonder what issues the woman has, that my request to remove the unsightly butts ever provoked a response that she would have anything to say to Frank in finger pointing??? it was made all the worse by being in an environment where you feel relaxed and @ home due to the atmosphere and professed beliefs of harmony and compassion. However, except for my comments here, have decided to try to let it all go, and hope that in the future this eatery will just focus on the quality of service and food and i will still eat there because the bottom line is: this place is a blessing; perhaps a little hunger would go a long way to making us all realize the amazing good fortune of having such nourishing and inexpensive food available…as far as my bad experience with the ‘butts’ issue, this is another opportunity for me to forgive and try a little harder to change myself rather than others…i was very upset when frank accused me with such personal intensity while relaxing and trying to enjoy my food; he does not know anything about me, but, ‘ to thine own self be true’ [ dharma ] i would lose more if i chose to be overly concerned at franks misunderstanding….as i see it, his, and that woman, probably have redeeming qualities that far outweigh the mistake i believe they made in this matter with me, and, the dharma kitchen has some of the best tasting and most nourishing food i have ever eaten! and, it is worth my efforts to try myself to be more understanding before writing them off due to a misunderstanding. much metta to one and all. prakash.

  • 13 premprakash // Feb 24, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    p.s. just read jeffs comments [aug 2008 ] and am still trying to figure out what the h… ‘ a very gay guy ‘ has to do with anything! is it because jeff is a ‘ very bigotted guy . hmmm…jeff, your alleged experience with the service, food, or hygene, has nothing to do with anything other than your own issues.

  • 14 Carl // Sep 14, 2009 at 2:18 am

    I have been dining at Dharma Kitchen for a year and a half. I have nothing but great experiences there with the food and the staff.

    The food is delicious, and the decor and music are enlivening.

    I particularly like the protein salad, with the amazing tempe patty on a bed of delicious greens, beets, carrots, sprouts, etc, and the incredible thai/something dressing that goes so well.

    I read some of the comments above – I have always found all aspects of this restaurant to be extremely clean.

    Dharma Kitchen rocks!

  • 15 Nikita // Feb 17, 2010 at 1:02 am

    The regular server in this restaraunt is incredibly rude. I’ve been her to eat on a few different occasions, spaced months and he’s ALWAYS the one serving:

    Staff dinners :
    (for which we had a reservation and arrived on time, only to be greeted by the server “you’re late” I’m pretty sure those were the first words out of his mouth when we came in. We were definitely on time, if not a couple minutes early. The restaurant was empty, so I’m really not sure what the difference would have been if we were late anyway? During this dinner we all ordered drinks, and two of us ordered to same drink. When the server brought the drinks and there was only one, we said we ordered two, and the server literally said “no, you didn’t” Not really supposed to argue with the customers like that… we all agreed at the table that we had, indeed ordered two of the drinks.

    Lunch with friends:

    Again, the restaurant was empty, except maybe only a couple sitting at one table.
    My partner and I went with another couple, was immediately asked upon sitting if “we’d ever been to the restaurant before because everything’s vegan, and “sometimes people trick their family into coming in”. We assured him we knew it was vegan. (I’m vegan, bf is veg). Without any kind of prompting, He then felt the need to point out the menu items for “people who don’t like tofu”. Rest assured, we all like tofu…
    Only two other people came in the restaurant while we were there. I overheard him giving them the exact same spiel. He’s defensive in a condescending way.

    Lunch with my bf alone (most recent valentines day):

    No one in the restaurant, 3ish in the afternoon on a sunday. Used the bathroom, and then Sat down and ordered a salad, rice bowl and juice (flu fighter). My bf oders a buger and juice. the server said I ordered too much food for one person, but I said I’d probably take it to go after. I asked for no garlic in my drink.
    My bf goes to use the bathroom, and I go up to the counter after deciding it was too much for one after all, and can I have the ricebowl to go?
    He looks at me and says:
    “you know, there’s a reason why we put the garlic in the flu fighter. It’s not about the taste. It stimulates the immune system.”
    To which I politely reply:
    “yeah, I know, but I’m not fighting a cold or anything. Can I please have extra ginger though?”
    To which HE (SO defensively, I might add) replies:
    “Well I’m not trying to tell you what to do or anything, do whatever you want, “I just thought you should listen” to the reason why we do it.”
    He then abruptly turns away and gets back to making the drink.

    Did I miss something here? Are customers supposed to be talked to in such a condescending manner? I was literally speechless (Meanwhile I was biting my tongue from saying something rude in return.)

    When my bf gets back from the bathroom,
    I quietly whisper that I’m never coming back here again. He asks me why, and I say I’ll tell him later, because the server is whithin ear shot, and I don’t want some kind of weird scene to ensue. I’m worried the server might say something else rude to me.

    So the server brings over the drinks. When He’s back behind the counter, he yells over at me
    “how’s your flu fighter taste?”
    it actually tasted great.
    “it’s good” I have to yell back, because he’s like 30 ft away. He’s passive aggressive…

    So later, when the server goes in the back, I lean over to tell my bf what happened with the server. He’s stunned. He says when I was in the bathroom when we first arrived, the server brought over menus and said the whole “vegan restaurant, tofu, organic, have you been here before? ” thing. My bf said yes. The server then replies defensively that he didnt’t know that.

    Then he comes over to the table, asks us how the meal is, etc.
    He then asks us how our valentines day is going. How can someone go from being so rude to asking that question? Bizarre.

    There was one time I’ve been there with another server. He took our order, which we said we were going to share, so can we have some extra plates?
    When the server brings the food over (now it’s the rude server again) He asks wh’es haveing what, and I reply we’re sharing, can we please have extra plates, he says, defensively, yet again, “He didn’t tell me that!”. Okay… It was akward. Sorry the other server didnt tell you that? I dunno why he over reacted so much. Just get us some plates…

    Anyways, I’ve probably been there a half dozen times, and I’ve decided that my last visit will be my final one. The food is decent, but overpriced. The drinks are $7, and like people say, they ARE small. There’s not many all vegan restaurants in Van, and I like to support them. However, I’m not sure if this server is the owner, or just works there. If he owns it, I guess he’s not going anywhere, and I don;’t want to be treated that way when I go out to eat.

    Hopefully he’s an employee, enough people complain about him, and he’s finally fired. He’s definitely a bully, and I was too nervous to ask him to speak to the manager/owner. The owners should know that he’s alienating their customers.

    I wanted to be thorough about my experiences so other people could understand the situations.
    Am I the only one who’s been treated this way? I find that hard to believe. He’s consistently snide and makes you feel “unworthy” of eating in the restaurant.

    BTW, I work in a veg restaurant, and I know what it’s like to be on both sides of the counter.

    ps, the kitchen staff seems friendly, as they always smile to me. The kitchen also appears very clean.

  • 16 Tommy // Mar 15, 2010 at 5:00 am

    Dear Nikita,

    This is Tommy from Dharma Kitchen. I have read your writing and thank you for your time. The length and content of your message have appeared to me that you must have a high hope and care for the restaurant’s well being.

    I am sorry that one of my servers has disappointed you. Over the years, I have heard many customers’ complaints about this server and suggested that I should fire him. If I let this self-struggling server go, I am very sure that he will be in trouble with his other employer. This circle will never be ended, if I don’t give him opportunity to practice being patient and process of training the mind. Buddha taught his students that: at an intersection, those students who have no sense of directions ahead should choose a roughest path. Physically, the unpaved path will strengthen the body and make it more flexible; mentally, this path will causes the mind more patient and focused on direction.

    I have always chosen the winding road. If you ever come back to Dharma Kitchen at different times, you may witness diversity in my staffs: from a teenager with his first job to an older immigrant with poor English speaking skill, or from a self-centric altitude to a calm and big smile… Yet, you may criticize me for having much compassion for my staffs and not for my customers. That is not true because I believe in my customers. I believe people have capability to practice compassion in their every day living. You acknowledged the “rude” server, but you had still come back to the restaurant until your last visit. You have practiced compassion for so long, why should you stop now. The trouble server could be one of your many tests for enlightenment.

    I wish I get to know you in person, so I can pay my gratitude to you for your writing.


  • 17 Nikita // Mar 25, 2010 at 11:13 pm


    Thank you for reading my feedback. I do appreciate knowing that my voice has been heard. Thank you also for explaining to me your philosophy in life. It would seem that you make a very patient and understanding boss.

    I would also like to say that even though I stated in my long triad that this visit was the last straw for me, I have in fact come back to the restaurant since. I was a little fired up and disappointed at the time I wrote that, and felt that I needed to make some sort of stand. I needed to vent and be heard, and once I had the therapeutic release, I felt much calmer. I do enjoy the food, and I feel like I am able to give the restaurant (but particularly this server) more patience.

    You have given me some words to think on, and practice in my daily life. Thank you for this.

  • 18 Josh // Jun 11, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    We do take-out at Dharma every week for several years now and have seen that same server evolve into a much nicer person over the years. He’s actually a very good server now (if we’re talking about the same person) and one who I always hope is on-staff when I call in my order.

    However, the only time we can’t tolerate the staff is when Tommy is away. When that happens the newer servers don’t take their job seriously. They messed up our orders three times in a row. The first time they blamed me, saying I must have miss-spoke. The second time they said I must be mistaken and the missing dish was actually there. The third time they blamed the kitchen and were quite rude with me.

    This time I am patiently waiting for Tommy to return from his trip before I can return to Dharma. While I should practice patience, I also should not practice foolishness. If a person messes up my order 3 times in a row, I should expect him to mess it up a fourth time. Since I am ordering for myself and a small child, I don’t have the flexibility to convince the small child to eat something more flavorable than she can handle.

    The food at this restaurant is truly amazing. I look forward each week to the marinated Tofu steaks and miso gravy. So now I look forward to Tommy’s return so that I can again enjoy one of my favorite meals.

    Come back soon Tommy!!

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