Food kills, and no, I’m not talking about contaminating bacteria or choking on a chicken wing. For those of us with a severe food allergy, eating out is like playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette…every bite could potentially be our last.
Normally, us “allergics” are filled with sweat-inducing dread as we try to pick the most innocuous dish on a restaurant menu. Our blood pressure rises as we explain over and over again to the server the ingredients that are absolutely forbidden.
And then, when it comes time to taste test our selection? We silently pray that the hapless staff will not have to resort to stabbing us with an EpiPen or, as in my case, rush me to the hospital.
Luckily, those disastrous days can now fade into distant memories. Finally, there is a restaurant where food-challenged people are able to eat delicious meals without the fear of respiratory and dermatological malfunctions ensuing.
The name of this amazing place: Zero8 Resto-Bar on St-Denis.
Zero8’s name comes from the fact that the entire restaurant and menu is free from the top eight allergens listed by Health Canada. That means: no fish or seafood, no sesame seeds, no dairy, no soy, no eggs, no wheat or grain containing gluten, no peanuts and no nuts.*
If your allergy or intolerance doesn’t fall under the common eight list, then you need to speak directly with the Zero8 staff to determine if the menu is suitable for you.
For the rest of us, it’s time to pig out on taste bud-exploding carrot and ginger soup, homemade bruschetta, chicken drumsticks, boneless rib steak, vegan lasagna, and my all time favouriteâ€”the Zero8-style poutine, which consists of home-cut fries cooked in canola oil, covered with a sweet and tangy sauce, and thinly-sliced pieces of smoked duck. If duck isn’t your style, they have a “build your own fries” section complete with choice of mushrooms, venison bolognese, chicken, roast beef, and/or vegan “mayo style” sauces. The menu also conveniently labels vegan meals for the non-carnivores.
All the dishes are packed with flavour, cooked from scratch with fresh ingredients, and served in moderately-sized portions.
Celiacs will love the gluten-free pasta selections and homemade chickpea bread, while for others, the meat, salad, soup, and fries selection will have your mouth hopping.
My non-food-allergic friends, who can eat anything they like, have commented on the flavour and deliciousness of the meals. However, I would caution any Italian food-loving wheat-pasta fiends to skip the Zero8 gluten-free pastas and stick to other menu choices to avoid disappointment. No matter how tasty and well made, gluten-free pasta will never fully replicate the texture of a wheat-based pasta.
And what about dessert? No longer do we food-allergics have to sit and watch our friends inhale drool-inducing sweet delicacies while sipping our glass of water. Finally, we too can enjoy that sugar rush from a great selection of Zero8 creations.
I recommend the “Fondant au chocolat.” The moist, gooey, chocolate-laden treat is pure ecstasy.
The decor at Zero8 strikes a good balance between modern sophistication and casual comfort. It is perfectly suited for a French-fry-feast with friends or to a classy firstâ€“date dinner. The menu reflects this dining diversity as well, with prices ranging from $7-$28. Reservations are highly recommended on Friday and Saturday nights, particularly during the winter when they lose their patio space.
And Zero8 doesn’t just cater to the restaurant crowd. It also has a full line of microwavable frozen meals for home, including delicious slices of chocolate cake that are perfect for late-night study sessions.
So, no more complaining, my food-challenged friends, that you can’t go out on a Friday night or stuff your face with French fries and cake. Finally, it’s time to live it up!
Location: 1735 St-Denis (a short walk from Berri-UQAM metro)
Open Tuesday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. â€“ 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. â€“ 9 p.m.
Friday: 11:30 a.m. â€“ 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. â€“ 11 p.m.
Saturday: 11:30 a.m. â€“ 11 p.m.
Sunday: 11:30 a.m. â€“ 9 p.m.