I must admit I was a little worried that I would be given the evil eye by the serving staff and other patrons for wearing leather boots to a vegan establishment. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a laid back and non-judgmental environment.
We entered the restaurant and were seated promptly. Water was poured and orders were taken. I ordered the jicama and celery root salad to start and the Moroccan-style stew as a main. My dining partner ordered the seared polenta on spinach to start and the gluten roast main.
The food is all prepared as it is ordered so expect to wait a while for the food to come out from the kitchen. In the meantime, we were given some really lovely, dense, dark rye bread to munch on.
When the appetizers arrived, the waitress informed us that there was a mix-up in the kitchen and they had prepared the incorrect appetizer. She brought the incorrect appetizer for us to consume (on the house) as we waited for the correct appetizers to be prepared. The incorrect appetizer was a baked mushroom and spinach phyllo pocket served on top of creamed spinach. The flavours were nicely balanced and it was quite pleasant, though I wouldn't say it was spectacular.
The correct appetizers arrived as we polished off the incorrect one. The jicama and celery root salad had a chili lime dressing and was light and refreshing. The salad was garnished with mint leaves, walnuts, and orange slices, all of which worked really well together. I thoroughly enjoyed the salad.
My dining partner's seared polenta probably could have been seared a bit more to give it a crunchy outer crust, but otherwise, it was very pleasant.
One important thing to note is that the appetizers were all served in dinner-sized plates. The portions here are truly generous. After finishing our appetizers we were actually full and could have skipped the mains entirely.
Although we were both full when the mains arrived, we decided to at least taste what we had ordered. My Moroccan-style stew was homey and warm. It was richly flavoured with cumin, and the tanginess of the tomato sauce was balanced by the sweet butteriness of the sweet potato. I quite enjoyed this dish.
We generally enjoy gluten in Chinese Buddhist preparations, but my partner's gluten roast was a disappointment. The gluten roast was too salty and the texture was too rubbery. It was served with a red wine reduction that just did not work. However, the vegetables that came with the gluten roast were very well prepared.
We both took only a few bites of our mains before asking that they be packed up. Let me reiterate that the portions are quite substantial! If you're looking for an inexpensive meal, just order one of their over-sized appetizers (most are around $7), and chances are you will be full.
Despite being comfortably full, we couldn't resist trying the dessert. It was a chocolate almond terrine served with chocolate cashew ice cream (all vegan). The terrine was very dense and there was something slightly off-kilter with the flavour of the chocolate (I couldn't quite put my finger on it) that made it difficult to eat. However, the ice cream was light with a slightly floral flavour that complemented the chocolate nicely. It was beautifully presented with a lovely selection of fresh fruits.
All in all, we both enjoyed Fressen, though it likely won't become one of our favourites. The food was generally well prepared and wonderfully presented, and the service was adept. However, there's a feeling that perhaps they are trying too hard to give vegetarian food meat-like treatment (you just can't roast gluten the way you can roast a lamb leg, and red wine reduction just doesn't work the same way). If you stick with simple preparations though, you won't be disappointed.