Poutine with a special ingredient

Vegetarian supremacy on Parc

Assessing the third branch of this McGill Ghetto staple, a bistro with a sweet terrasse that’s perfect for a late-summer nosh and booze-up.

The burrito plate

Lola Rosa is a McGill Ghetto staple, a cozy, no-frills vegetarian eatery on Milton. A year ago, a second location opened in the Shatner building, in the heart of the university’s campus. And then a third Lola Rosa came to Parc Avenue, occupying the sprawling space that formerly housed a tacky Mexi-Cali joint, El Zaziummm — there’s another one on Laurier E., if you’re into fruity cocktails, mediocre Mexican food and excessive decor.

White sangria, heavy on the lychee

Lola Rosa has stripped away the interior kitsch and made good use of the terrasse, which is where my guy and I sat down to lunch last Friday. We spotted a big pitcher of pale beverage at a nearby table and asked the waiter what it was: white sangria. We ordered two tall glasses ($7 each) and had zero regrets. In both its glass and pitcher formats, the drink isn’t adorned with fruit, which is slightly disappointing, but I knew that when I ordered it. What I didn’t expect was the strong lychee taste — so be warned, lychee haters, though if it’s the texture that turns you off, know that there’s not a spec of the actual eyeball-ish fruit inside. In any case, it’s a refreshing summer drink with the right ratio of juice, white wine and a splash of vodka.

Caesar salad

There was no bread or chips to snack on, but we hardly noticed, the appetizers arrived so quickly. He had a small caesar salad ($5) that he proclaimed to be the best caesar ever, even without the bacon bits. I doubted his hyperbole until I had a bite — it was really, really good. Somehow, all the elements, from the lettuce to the croutons to the crucial dressing, were perfect in consistency, texture and taste.

Stuffed portobello mushroom

I ordered the stuffed portobello mushroom ($8), a cap packed with a meld of half-melted cheese and olive oil, and topped with chopped tomato, green onion and walnut. What really sold this taste sensation were its grease and fat quotients, as minimal as they were. On the side, some greens in a featherweight (but surprisingly oily) raspberry dressing couldn’t really compete, though I think my body appreciated the break from Indian food and poutine (both way too prominent in my diet).

Then the main event was upon us. As usual, he couldn’t resist ordering the poutine ($11). Lola Rosa’s twist on our plat national is a dark gravy, darkened further by the inclusion of puréed black beans. This could go so wrong: too much black bean would overwhelm the mild taste of the fries and curds, and possibly the gravy itself, not to mention over-thicken the sauce and turn the bowl into a goopy, clumpy nightmare. But as with most everything else, Lola Rosa got the quantities right.

Poutine with a special ingredient

I had a good, solid burrito ($14), stuffed with black bean, cheese, tomato and corn, with a brown rice/quinoa mix, yet more greens and a dollop of guacamole on the side. The whole-grain wrap was a little stiff, and I can’t say that the burrito tasted “authentic,” but why would it? Okay, so “Lola Rosa” is undoubtedly Spanish-ish, but somehow I didn’t expect taqueria heaven when I made my order. In retrospect, I should’ve requested a sauce to kick up the heat, but I consume enough Sriracha and chilies as it is. My plate was tasty first and healthy second, with a dab of decadence that once again sealed the deal. Sorry, vegans — it’s the cheese and the drizzling of creamy sauce that put the burrito over the top.

The mason jar trio

And speaking of minimal decadence and things that aren’t vegan, we divvied the “mason jar trio” ($9) for dessert. I was hoping for three layers in one jar, but their presentation was cuter and easier to share. The creme brulé, raspberry cheesecake and chocolate mousse, each adorned with an herb (and you could really taste the basil in the creme brulé), were pretty much perfect.

It’s not often that I come away from a restaurant meal with no complaints, but with its great harmony of flavours, varied selection, subtle twists on classic dishes and drinks, friendly, attentive service, reasonable prices and somewhat central location, I really don’t have a bad word to say. Maybe their bathrooms are horrible? Next time (which will be soon), I’ll head downstairs and check it out. ■


Lola Rosa

4581 Parc


Booze: Indeed

Vegetarian-friendly: Obviously. Some vegan items, too.

Wheelchair-accessible: One step up

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