The Best Vegetarian Meal I Never Had

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Niagara on the Lake, Canada

I must admit having a porky website name makes for some pretty awesome meals. There are so many restaurants in Niagara on the Lake but I knew after a day of tasting ice wine it would be easiest to have dinner at Zee’s Grill at my hotel the Shaw Club Hotel.

ALSO READ: 27 Things to Do in Niagara this Spring

The kitchen offered to do a tasting menu and I was so excited but I had to meekly apologize that Matt was vegetarian and when they responded it was no problem I again apologized, acknowledging the humour of me traveling with someone who did not share my love of bacon.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been so apologetic because I was about to learn a very important lesson.

Food envy is the worst feeling. You know when you order a meal but then you try someone else’s dish and wish you had what they were eating. That rarely happens to me, I always order the most interesting dish. But tonight I had a fantastic meal yet was still green with jealousy.


Zees Grill

First off I should say is that Executive Chef Jason Dobbie is incredibly talented. I have told many people that I am over pork belly and yet he made an amuse bouche that made me feel sorry for Matt.

The next 3 hours I was treated to a warm mushroom and smoked bacon salad, surf and turf of confit wild boar belly, seared scallop and the coveted black garlic, sorbet, crispy duck leg confit and ending with a dark chocolate mouse with brown sugar candied bacon.


This was a pork lover’s dream meal.


But it wasn’t until I had some of Matt’s meal that I realized just how skilled Chef Jason is. Bacon is magic because it can make things taste better with little effort, but making an amazing vegetarian meal is truly challenging.


zees restaurant

I cannot believe I am saying this but the vegetarian meal was better. I had food envy.

He started with a celeriac and apple veloute with black garlic and truffle oil and it was hard not to eat half the dish. Matt marveled that the Moroccan spiced lentil ragout was the best dish he had ever eaten.


zees grill

Afterwards we went back to meet the kitchen, really wonderful people in such a small kitchen I cannot believe they feed the entire restaurant. It also became very clear why Chef Jason was so skilled with vegetarian food, he had worked out in British Columbia so feeding vegetarians wasn’t so unusual.

Maybe I shouldn’t apologize for Matt being vegetarian but be thankful he shared some of his meal with me.


Are you also cutting back on meat? If you’re also looking to cook vegetarian at home, check out this Hello Fresh review from Micki.



Disclosure: I paid for my room at Shaw Club but they offered us dinner. They did not request that I write a review or anticipate I would have such meal envy.

Join the Conversation

  1. Tom @ Waegook Tom says:

    No matter what you say, I still can’t believe that a vegetarian meal was better than something that featured so much pork and bacon.


    I have food envy right now.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know it’s hard to believe, especially coming from me. Both meals were amazing but I think I was just surprised a bit more by the vegetarian meal.

  2. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Whenever I go to a new restaurant with someone, I make them promise that we will order different things and share. Meal envy is the worst!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s why I like the trend for sharing plates, you don’t have to hedge your bets on one dish.

  3. Martine @ Chompchomp says:

    As long as the envy is shared around between friends! Or better still the meals are shared!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Whenever I eat something amazing my first instinct is to share it with the person I am with.

  4. Alana - Paper Planes says:

    Bacon does make most things better…but so does truffle oil!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Don’t forget black garlic!

  5. Jonathan Look, Jr. says:

    As a committed carnivore I see the appeal of the occasional vegetarian meal. I hate to admit it but to me the best vegetarian meals are those spicy and rich enough so that I don’t notice.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      It’s a hit and a miss for me. Some people do great vegetarian food and other times it needs a bit of pork…

  6. I eat Vegetarian meals at home, but rarely when eating out as I always assume the dishes with meat will be better than the vegetarian ones.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think it’s because so few restaurants do vegetarian well. I will often only go meatless if I’m in a vegetarian restaurant or it has a great reputation for vegetarian food.

  7. I love seeing a veggie meal on your blog for a change, Aynge. 😉 Oh my gosh, it does sound delicious though.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I do eat a lot of veggie meals although none have been as good as this one. Just goes to show vegetarian can be amazing.

  8. TammyOnTheMove says:

    Being German I love my pork sausages and everything meaty, but I am married to a vegetarian. With us it is often the other way round though, as he always envies my meat dishes. 🙂

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I could never go completely vegetarian. I have cut way back on meat and only eat it if I think something will be delicious. I knew it would be fantastic here.

  9. Richard Crest says:

    I like vegetarian meals but whenever I see different meat dish that is really mouth watering delicious I can;t help it but taste it.

  10. It’s a toss up! Both dishes sound incredible! Best thing…when you get to share a little of each…unless of course, that leads to colossal food envy! Needless to say, after having a simple split pea soup chez moi…I am having food envy just looking at your photos!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I know some of my dishes I really wanted to be fair and share, but whoops there was pork in it.

  11. Vegetables have more individual flavor, as opposed to meats, which is why vegetarian dishes are usually more flavorful (I’m not a vegetarian by the way).

  12. I’m with Tom – the bacon… OMG sounds amazing.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      You can’t go wrong with bacon. At least I have never seen it.

  13. Interesting! Glad to hear of a chef for whom vegetarian cooking isn’t an afterthought! It does take some skill and not enough restaurants challenge themselves to craft high-quality vegetarian options that equal (or in this case, exceed!) their meat offerings.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I think this is a unique situation because he had so much experience on the West Coast where it really is embraced. It is a really valued talent to be able to create a meatless tasting menu that a meat eater envies.

  14. Camels & Chocolate says:

    Yeah, at least 50 percent of the time, I order a vegetarian dish even though I eat and love meat, mainly because they often sound so much better (or at least have better sides) than the meat dishes!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      If it’s a cheap restaurant where I think the meat will be poor quality I always go veg.

  15. I absolutely love the photo you took of the chefs in the kitchen — fantastic!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I love seeing the kitchen staff. It was a lot of fun talking about the food afterwards.

  16. Emily in Chile says:

    Yum! I love seeing creative vegetarian dishes mostly because my hang-up when it comes to eating less meat is that I feel like the options are limited. Of course, that’s not the case at all, I just need to learn more about veggie recipes and try new things.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Well they are definitely limited in South America, eating more greens is so foreign to them.

  17. I am so jealous — of the food, and Niagara. I’ve always wanted to go.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      Maybe after TBEX, but you have to stay overnight. I really loved Shaw Club and it was nice to stumble out of the restaurant and into my room.

  18. With super fresh ingredients and a chef who knows their stuff, vegetarian dishes usually win, in my opinion.

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      As a West Coaster I am sure you see that all the time.

  19. Lauren @ roamingtheworld says:

    hmmm. surprising.
    If you know how to mix and match veggies and cook them just right, they are always amazingly delicious!
    We’ve just been trained to think we always need meat to complete a meal!

    1. Ayngelina Author says:

      I have been trying to really minimize that, it’s kind of way Bacon is Magic, you only need a tiny bit to make an entire dish better.

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