Thursday, December 28, 2017



On August 22nd 2017, something miraculous happened in the world. Ashley’s Restaurant landed in Montreal’s Notre Dame de Grace neighbourhood. Arriving with it was Ayesha Gidwani, a remarkably gifted chef whose vegetarian cuisine is tongue wagging wonderful.  Together with owners Chantal and Sina, Ayesha created a menu that has elevated vegetarian meals into Nirvana magic. Here Asian, Indian, and a moment with Mexican flavours turn casual dining into an exciting experience of discovery.
Twenty-five divinely-inspired dishes deliciously demonstrate Ayesha’s awesome talent and instinct for ingredient combos that create the “wow” factor.

Each food-fabulous creation attests to Ayesha’s long-time love affair with cooking.
“When I was a child, I was always playing in my mom’s kitchen back in India. She was a great cook, and I watched what she did.”
 Since moving to Canada (2002) after a 14-year-stint as a Bollywood costume designer, she became Montreal’s “it” girl for vegetarian cuisine, creating veggie menus for several restaurants – her biggest coup was as Executive Chef at Cantley Suites for six years.
“I live, breathe, walk, talk and dream about what I do. I am very passionate about cooking and I do it from my soul. Here, at Ashley’s I have created vegetarian and vegan options using flavour fusions from Asia, India and beyond.”

Novice Designer Makes a Notable Impression

The Zen appeal also resonates in Ashley’s décor. Sina was responsible for its interior design.  It's hard to believe that Ashley’s was his first design project; it’s nothing short of genius. The result is outstanding, even daring. “I wanted to create a cozy, authentic place using the old and new,” said Sina.  Seemingly incongruous elements – both organic and modern, blend beautifully. Its visual aesthetic conveys an eternal feeling of serenity.

Natural wood restfully warms the restaurant in every space: the walls, benches and irregular shaped tables. Leather, brick, ceramic facades, even a peek-a-boo tall black column distinctly enhance the dining areas. Highlighted by top hanging lighting, Ashley’s embodies fluidity in aesthetic appeal.
Sina went all out in the loo rooms. They’re outrageously whimsical and colourful.
             Take a peek.         

Menu Health in Exotic Ingredients

Never mind that the dishes come with some pretty funny names: Avo’Cuddle toast, Umami Burger, the Bodhi Bowl or Jungli Yogi Bowl, the irony is palpably pleasing. Each wondrous dish is composed of nature’s most coveted flavours and ingredients. Everything is naturally grown, devoid of sugar (natural maple syrup is used) and almost zero % gluten free. Common to almost every plate is the extraordinary variety of different foods that go into each dish. I counted an average of 20 different ingredients for each, including a maze of veggies, grains, mysterious Asian and Indian roots, peppers, berries, seeds, noodles and more. One of Ayesha’s signature sensations resides not just in the presentation factor but the many hidden layers of differing foods that add never-ending surprise to the eating experience of that particular dish. Herbs and one-of-a-kind Asian dressings – served on the side are blended to perfection; the taste is exquisite, the texture sometimes crunchy, such as in the three different chef-inspired macro bowls. Each instantly brings a wealth of vitality and exoticism to the name, ‘salad’. Sensually addictive and creamy gorgeous both in taste and colour is the main dish, “From Berma with Love”. One of four favorites and an Ashley creation, this meal consists of coconut spiced lentil curry on konjac noodles, hash browns, roasted chick pea tofu, onions, roasted chilli, garlic oil, smoked sweet potatoes, coriander and lemon juice. This dish is heavenly. If you could taste love, this is it.

Eating Splendidly
My companion and I started with two salad dishes. I had the Urban Hippie Bowl whose 20 ingredients included purple kale, pilaf quinoa with a fig, yellow beets, kombucha dressing, roasted tumeric papaya, faro salad, roasted chickpeas, apples crisps a smattering of nuts and pumpkin seeds and more – topped by a big orange dollop of harissa hummus at the centre of it all. How’s that for healthy!

My companion dove into the Jungli Yogi Bowl – a sure bet for healthy eating accented with Greek, Mexican touches: Kalamata olives, cilantro lime dressing, mango house chutney, and heaps of kidney beans with alfalfa sprouts, spelt salad and cauliflower rice.

What’s great about this place is vegetarians and vegans can dine together since options are always there for family members to choose. As a peanut-free establishment, 85% of the ingredients are also organic including the sunflower and olive oil in the dishes.

That could account for the totally non-greasy pan-fried leek and vegetable dumplings we ordered for starters. I loved the house tamari and sesame sauce. We gobbled up the four on the plate as fast as we munched away in surely the most extraordinary side dish I have ever tasted: Mumbai Bhel. 

Superb and inspired by Goddess Ayesha, this wonderful dish consists of the perfect blend of puffed rice, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, sprouted mung beans, chick pea crisps flavoured in tamarind and coriander chutney.
There is nowhere else in Montreal to find such astounding dishes that are light yet filling and oh so healthy.

Ashley's is Awesome
I could go on and on about other dishes I have eaten here; suffice it to say Ashley always has healthy surprises. Whether you’re from Montreal or Timbuktu, you must eat here. How many times can you tell someone, you just tasted gluten-free fava bean crust and you really really liked it? Where else can you boast about biting into a chocolate beet brownie with organic chocolate truffle and roasted hazelnuts? 


By the way, did I mention there’s a class-A wine list and bar?
Menu prices are low. That’s another plus why the entire family can enjoy this place, and there are weekend brunches. 

Ashley’s is located at 5942 Sherbrooke ouest, Montreal, H4A 1X7.
Call (514) 369-7566.

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