Sherman's Food Adventures: Festal Paleo Cafe

Festal Paleo Cafe

Yes, the last post on Manna was about plant-based meals, so the conventional thinking would be that an unhealthy gluttonous food adventure was to follow.  Well you would be wrong as we did some paleo and keto dining at Festal Paleo Cafe in Downtown.  We did get back on the meat train, but went easy on the carbs.  As much as paleo and keto diets have become more mainstream, there is a general lack of dedicated restaurants.  Now the biggest problem for me isn't the availability, rather it is about taste and texture.  I was curious if Festal could win me over.

We ordered a wide range of dishes including the deliciously-looking Butternut Lasagna featuring local grass-fed beef, butternut squash, spinach, cashew cheese, creamy coconut tomato sauce & fresh Italian herbs & spices.  Sure, there was a lack of noodles in this lasagna but I really didn't miss it due to the "layers" of textures and flavours (sorry for the pun).  This included tender meat, creamy cashew cheese and a noticeable spiciness to go with the tanginess of the tomato sauce.  This was so large of a portion, it could easily divide into 2 meals.

My absolute favourite dish  had to be the Bolognese with zucchini noodles, raw cashew cheese and cassava foccacia.  Zucchini can be a finicky vegetable as it can overcook easily.  The "noodles" in this dish were perfect being soft and cooked through without becoming mushy.  It was bathed in a flavouful and meaty bolognese with the sweetness of onion and carrots.  We fought over this dish and finished it easily.

Another well-executed item was the Butter Chicken with marinated chicken breast, spiced tomato, cashew and coconut sauce.  For a version that did not include heavy cream, this was still rich and ate very much like butter chicken.  The sauce had a thick viscosity while being "creamy".  There was a nice balance including a tangy finish with spice.  The large cubes of chicken were tender and moist.

Sticking with the theme of the restaurant, the Sirloin Burger did not come with a bun.  I really could care less as the grass-fed beef patty was topped with thick cut bacon and a giant glob of bacon jam.  The patty itself was rather lean, so it wasn't exactly juicy.  Yet it wasn't dry either.  There was plenty of natural beef flavour and when combined with the tangy jam, it was just plain delicious.  Definitely a fork and knifer.

Working our way through the menu, we decided to get a couple slices of Paleo Pizza including Wild Hawaiian (crispy bacon, Canadian black forest ham, pineapple, cashew cheese and tomato sauce) and Meatlovers (beef, bacon and Canadian black forest ham).  As much as the pizza crust was a bit dense (no grain dough), it wasn't heavy and was relatively thin.  There was no lack of toppings, which made it a hearty meal (I guess it justified the $13.95 for 2 slices).  The creamy cashew cheese was a fine substitute reminiscent of Virtuous Pie.

Completing our savoury dishes, we tried the Spicy Chicken Waffle Sandwich sporting local free-range chicken breast, bacon, no-grain waffle bread & colelsaw.  Once again, the lack of grains didn't detract from the waffle's texture.  It was soft and fluffy while holding everything together.  The chicken was thin, yet still moist and the abundance of crunchy coleslaw added moisture and messiness.  The side of cassava chips were light and crunchy.  Completing the dish was a generous portion of real maple syrup.

Onto dessert, we had a good selection including Keto Almond Croissant, Raspberry Log Cake, Keto Blueberry Muffin, Keto Chocolate Brownie and Keto Boston Cream Donut.  Since all of them employed alternative flours such as coconut and almond, the textures were predictably more dense.  However, they were still good in their own way.  I thought the raspberry log was fluffy enough and had a good balance of sweetness and tartness.  The donut was mildly sweet and almost pudding like.  I found the muffin to be close to custard quality while sporting enough sweetness from the topping.  The croissant was rather dense while the brownie ate like a typical version being chocolaty and rich.  Now I've had paleo food before at various other restaurants in town, but the one thing that sets Festal apart is that they elevate the food.  In this way, I didn't feel like I was giving up anything necessarily to go paleo and keto.  Flavours were impactful and they did their very best to keep the textures appealing.  I would definitely return with the lasagna and bolognese at the top of my list.

*All food and beverages were complimentary*

The Good:

- Impactful flavours with spice

- Nearly all the items had an appealing texture despite the lack of conventional flours

- Wide range of items

The Bad:

- Predictably, some textures were more dense, not much you can do about that

- Pizzas are a bit pricey


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