Mile End's Panthère Verte takes falafel, and other vegan staples, to a heavenly level
Perhaps you’ve seen him loping through the urban jungle, green cooler between his teeth. Or perhaps you’ve visited his verdant, restful, thrift-store furniture and plant-festooned lair on St-Viateur West. If you’ve yet to make the acquaintance of the Panthère Verte, you owe yourself the pleasure of doing so.
Sound like some sort of modern-day superhero? Creator Haim Shoham might like to think of the Panthère Verte this way. What started out as a smallish delivery service of organic vegan lunches to various businesses around the Plateau has morphed into a sit-down (or take-out) restaurant in Mile End, plus an ever-growing fleet of bike-riding, green cooler-toting, super-tasty vegan food-delivering staff.
The resto’s motto is "Good food for the urban jungle." Their driving principle? "To develop a more sustainable way of living in today’s urban reality by supporting and creating local alternatives through the use of organic produce – local when available – recycled materials and by raising awareness." What does that mean for you, the diner? Amazingly delicious organic vegan food and drink served up in a relaxed, hip atmosphere or, if you’re lucky, delivered to your office door (in recyclable or biodegradable containers, natch).
Now I’m as much in love with a fabulous pulled pork sandwich, hanger steak or heap of lardons as the next carnivore. And I’ve been burned before with dry and tasteless veggie burgers or just plain bad falafel. But… wow. The sandwiches, especially the now-justly-famous falafel, at Panthère Verte are truly crazy-good, not to mention good for you.
The recipe for the falafel comes from an Israeli neighbour of Shoham’s and the recipe is top secret. Somehow, these classic fried balls of ground chickpeas, onion, garlic and spices just has an added something magical. Perhaps it’s the winning sweet-sour-salty-creamy additions of in-house sauerkraut, diced pickle (fresh cucumber in season), shredded carrot, fresh sprouts and creamy tahini sauce that elevates this sandwich to divine; perhaps it’s the perfectly cooked and spiced falafel – five balls that are crisp on the outside and wonderfully moist inside – in a soft, thick, whole wheat pita that make it sing. Whatever the secret, I’m sold.
Not to overlook the rest of the menu, by any means. A veggie burger – generously seasoned with cumin and coriander – was one of the tastier and, yes, juicier versions I’ve tried. Barbecued tofu and tempeh also tempted. The soup of the day, squash and roasted garlic, offered a sweet, caramelized allium bite to the earthy squash purée.
Thirsty for more? Green Panther’s lineup of organic sodas, kombucha (fermented mushroom tea) and fresh juices should not be overlooked. But the smoothies are especially refreshing. A Funky Monkey gave creamy, frosty refreshment in a blend of mango, banana, coconut milk and agave nectar. Other smoothies ramp up the veg quotient.
Sweet tooth? The unbelievably good vegan chocolate chip cookie had a wonderful texture that fell somewhere between biscuit and brownie, the chips still slightly molten. Or keep the health kick kickin’ with an Energy Ball (think power bar in truffle form with such combos as "choconut" and hemp-ginger-cranberry) and a daily selection of organic fruits.
Being green never tasted so good.
La Panthère Verte
66 St-Viateur W.; 514-903-7770
Dinner for two before tax, tip and beverage: $16-$26