1748 Notre-Dame St West
Montreal, Quebec
H3J 1M3, Canada


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May 5th, 2005

Bonny intentions
Maeve Haldane

At health food joint Bonnys, virtue never tasted so good

It's like walking into an explosion of cuteness. But in a good way.
The small resto Bonnys is bonny indeed, what with its décor of little plants, homey paintings and small shelves with gewgaws like wee pots, a copper teapot and an old wooden coffee mill.

The two wooden inlay tables flanking the doorway are pieces of art in and of themselves. "I want to sit at the bees," my honey said, when we nipped in for a late lunch. "Oh, look at the fish one," he paused. But the hexagon-shaped table with a honeycomb motif and bees won over the design of pretty swimming fish. We sat on wood chairs with floral cushions and perused the chalkboard menu.

Bonnys serves simple fare, really, but with an important twist. Nearly all of it is organic, much of it is vegan, and save for a tuna sandwich, the wooden fish are as close to meat as you'll get.

We shared a mushroom-barley soup to start. "It's got finesse," my swain said of the hearty mix of grains and multiple mushroom types.

The special that day was "gourmet lasagne" made with brown rice pasta and tofu ricotta. (Stop groaning, pasta purists! It was nice indeed with a tangy tomato sauce, thoughtfully spiced.)

My Boca Burger was an ersatz meat patty comprised of black beans, chickpea flour and well-chosen spices on a kamut flour bun. It was topped with dollops of sour cream, avocado and salsa. Both meals came with salads: a medley of greens sprinkled with flakes of dark purple dulse (a.k.a. seaweed) for a barely-there boost of salt.

Other options include whole-wheat cannelloni, black bean chili with king-of-grains quinoa, pesto and noodles, and sandwiches made with humus, végé-pâté, tuna or tempeh.

As befitting the emphasis on healthy crunchy goodness, there are salads of tofu, wild rice, and more variety in veggies than you can shake a carrot stick at.

Lest you think they're too serious, frivolous mousses and puddings and carrot cake will assuage your sweet teeth, if not the puffed rice squares that smell of nut butter and cinnamon.

I could see a staff member rolling out dough in the open kitchen. The soft taupe rounds were for empanadas stuffed with spinach, tofu and sheep's cheese. Hot from the oven, I couldn't resist one, and the tasty beast made me glad to be so weak of will.

The server with a sparkling nose gem urged me to take a muffin for later, fresh made that morning. "It's so full of good stuff it'll make you feel like a million bucks!" She paused. "Well, I mean, it's just a muffin." (There are limits, I suppose, to the miracle of multi-grains.) We settled on the probability of the tasty bomb of virtue making me feel like a C note, a pretty good return on a toonie.

Bonnys weaves a potent spell. When I said to the server she must be happy working at a place she obviously loved so much, she agreed, and said, "I came as a customer, and I stayed." The only downside to the upbeat neo-hippie joint is that it's only open until 7 p.m. That will change soon, though, and virtuous vegans and others seeking tasty wholesome food will be able to linger until 9. Just phone first to check, or pop by in time for their take-out options.

1748 Notre-Dame W.; 931-4136
Meal for two, not including tax or tip: $18-$26

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