CLOSED: Awai revisited for their new menu (Toronto)

Awai first launched as a vegetarian restaurant offering tasting menus without a price – customers eat as many dishes as their stomachs can handle and set their own price. After a number of years, they decided to scrap the concept citing diners felt awkward figuring out the “value” of food offered. Instead, the restaurant now offers menus in 5-course ($48 Sunday - Thursday; $62 on Friday & Saturday) and 7-course ($75 Sunday - Thursday, $95 on Friday & Saturday) options – still in a plant-based format.

I’m happy to see the creamy mushroom soup stayed on the menu as it’s something Awai creates beautifully. The smoked porcini and cauliflower soup gets a kick from jerk spice, but is still silky and decadent with puréed mushroom pieces and truffle oil. My only complaint was the portion wasn’t big enough.

A coca flatbread also makes an appearance, a chewy bread prepared in their wood burning oven so there’s a smoky essence. That evening it was topped with a white cauliflower and truffle cream sauce, which would have made it similar to the soup, but in the flatbread there was a tangy herb drizzle for differentiation. I love the big chunks of artichokes topping the bread, but could have done without the chewy figs – although for those who like a sweet, savoury, and sour element, it does work.

Cauliflower continues the meal with pieces of it mixed with sous vide beluga lentils and a potato string nest. The deep fried potato balls were so hard that they’re impossible to bite through – instead, I resorted to breaking it up with my hands to mix into the lentils. Overall, the dish was too fussy with textures that didn’t exactly work with each other, the miso and lemon vinaigrette a little off with lentils, and the temperature too cool.

Luckily, the last savoury course ends strong with a tortellini filled with sunchoke, amaretto and almond butter. It’s a lighter dish with pea foam topping the butternut squash. Pasta is another item that Awai does superbly, the dough thin but still chewy. The only slight flaw was the snap peas didn’t have their ribbing removed making them difficult to chew through and detracted from the otherwise crunchy vegetables.

Before dessert, we added on the faux-mage cheese board ($25) - we’re told all the vegan cheese is made in-house. While I’m not a plant-based cheese expert, I’m told by a friend who eats it regularly that there are much better options available for sale. Overall, we found the texture - whether it be the cheese ball, cashew-based blue cheese, or the truffle cheese made with almonds – tasting like spread. So, it felt less like you’re having cheese with crackers and more like flavourful hummus.

Two desserts were presented at the table for sharing: on their own not the greatest but worked well together. The coconut butter pudding had a rather odd texture since instead of being being dense it was very fluffy. The chocolate ganache was understandably rich and dressed with a lot of cocoa powder so it was overpowering solo. Once blended together, the two desserts were better balanced and reminded me of a tuxedo royale cake.

With a set procession of dishes, the meal did seem longer as there was a lag between each plate – perhaps the kitchen’s way of timing a 5-course and 7-course meal to similar durations. True to its purpose, I enjoyed not having to conduct a strategy session amongst the table at the end of a filling booze-filled meal. The process of settling the bill and leaving was definitely easier and less labour intensive. Mission accomplished.

Overall mark - 7 out of 10

How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 2277 Bloor Street West

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Gastro World's Grading System

  • Anything under 5 - I really disliked and will never go back
  • 6 - decent restaurant but I likely won't return
  • 7 - decent restaurant and I will likely return
  • 8 - great restaurant that I'd be happy to recommend
  • 9 - fantastic restaurant that I would love to visit regularly and highly recommend
  • 10 - absolute perfection!

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