Showing posts with label gluten free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gluten free. Show all posts

LOV (Toronto)


LOV looks like your typical vegan hipster restaurant – sparkling white everything with hints of greens and natural contrasts. Just looking at the dining room makes you feel healthier. For a moment, you wonder if you should skip the wine and order kombucha instead… then you remember how terrible it tastes and order a bottle of Prosecco instead. They’re both carbonated - same same, but different.

Once you start with the wine, it goes downhill from there. Somehow, two orders of fries end up at the table. The LOV poutine ($11) looks great smothered with plenty of miso gravy and vegan mozzarella but tastes like fries covered with a flavourless thick sauce. Stick with the kimchi fries ($8) instead, which at least has the fermented cabbage and a creamy sesame dressing for interest.


Perhaps an order of Brussel sprouts ($9) to keep everything healthy? They’re deep fried and smothered with way too much of that tangy buffalo sauce.  


And then the Zen salad ($16) arrives and the guilt momentarily washes away. It’s a tasty combination of konjac noodles, shredded vegetables (cabbage, lettuce, daikon, carrots), and the extras thrown in for flavour and contrast (chilis and cashew). Maybe healthier options are better at LOV as this was the best of the starters. I thoroughly enjoyed the refreshing cilantro and mint elements. What? Am I a secret healthy eater?


Then I take a bite of the mushroom risotto ($19) and taste my favourite dish of the night. Done traditionally, the creamy rice and peas would have been good, but is made even better with the roasted oyster mushrooms. Okay, so perhaps I haven’t turned into nutritionist.


Yet, the LOV lasagna ($19) didn’t really excite. While the pasta looked delicious smothered with the vegan mozzarella and cashew cream, it tasted bland. The best part of the plate was perhaps the Caesar salad.


The gnocchi di casa ($20) was an interesting take on the classic Italian dish, except at LOV it’s made with sweet potato and buckwheat so there’s antioxidant and fibre strewn throughout the dish. The sweetness did help balance the hemp, basil and arugula pesto, which by itself could have been too strong.


Aside from the risotto, it’s the coconut curry ($18) that impressed. Who would have thought cubes of squash and carrots with a blanched kale could be so delicious when smothered in a cashew and coconut milk curry?


You should definitely heed the advice of those working at LOV, they know what’s tasty. Our choice of desserts, the crème brûlée ($8) and cheesecake ($7) were both good, for vegan alternatives, but run-of-the-mill.


Our waitress highly suggested the chocolate carmelita ($5), a dessert I didn’t think I’d enjoy, but had me reaching for another bite. It’s like having a chocolate butter tart bar but with the texture (and lack of stickiness) of a date square. Our table can certainly sing it praises.



For a place that looks so healthy, LOV’s menu does have its fair share of comfort foods. But perhaps what’s most surprising is how much I enjoyed and even preferred the “healthier” options. Maybe the surroundings were rubbing off on me. Could it be, one day I may actually order kombucha? 

Overall mark - 7 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 620 King Street West
 Website: https://lov.com/en/

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Rosalinda (Toronto)


It’s getting easier to have a plant-based meal in Toronto. Newly opened in the spring, Rosalinda serves vegan Mexican cuisine and is probably the fanciest meatless eatery you’ll find in the Financial District. Their airy dining room feels carefree and is polished and pretty enough for business lunches and socialites alike. The love child of Grant van Gameren, Jamie Cook, and Max Rimaldi, these owners know a thing or two about creating trendy hip restaurants.

Their multigrain chicharron ($9) provides a tasty nibble while waiting for the other dishes. You’ll want to gently spread the thick tangy guacamole onto the crispy multigrain crackers as they're not nearly as strong as pork rinds. But, they do have that puffy crunchy texture, the various seeds giving it a nice nutty flavour. 


It’s not often you’ll find fritters light and moist. Rosalinda’s veggie fritters ($7) contained plenty of shredded vegetables bound together with a bit of chickpea flour, enough to hold it together without forming a lump of dough. Accompanied by a tamarind-ancho dip, to give it that Mexican flavour, I could have easily eaten them plain if there was a bit more salt in the batter.


If I didn’t know Rosalinda’s menu was vegan, the young coconut in the ceviche ($14) could almost fool me for squid. There’s the blast of acidity you’d expect from ceviche, but the dish lacked the herbs and onion to balance out the lime juice. Moreover, if the coconut was cut into cubes, it’d combine better with the diced apple and celery for contrast. With the coconut slices, the dish felt fragmented as it’s difficult to get all the elements in one bite. 


Our waitress described the chilaquiles rojos ($15) as “nachos”. While not entirely untrue (since the dish is made with a base of tortilla chips), my friend described it better as “soggy Frito Lays”. You really need to get to the bottom of the dish for the ones soaked in sauce for flavour; the ones on top merely taste like moistened chips. With nearly half a dozen ingredients listed on the menu for the dish, it was still bland and uneventful, even just a drizzle of crema on top would have been nice.


Not surprisingly, there are a variety of tacos and tostadas on the menu. I’d skip the roasted cauliflower tostada ($7) - the fried shell was brittle (not crispy) and breaks into shards with a slightly bitter finish. Although the cauliflower florets were nicely roasted, the sikil pak (a pumpkin seed spread) and herb salsa verde were all colour and no flavour. The chorizo verde taco ($14) was better, at least the corn shell was warm and soft with great flavours seeping through from the poblano tomatillo salsa and cucumber pico de gallo. Just don’t order it expecting the salty spicy taste of chorizo as the filling tastes more like spinach paneer than sausage.


In fact, the taco led us into a conversation as to why vegetarian restaurants insist on naming dishes after meat to begin with. If it’s their way of appealing to meat eaters, anyone who orders these tacos expecting chorizo would be sorely disappointed. However, if they called them paneer verde tacos, it’s closer to the reality and would be just as appealing. I, for one, wish vegetarian restaurants will just showcase vegetables, legumes, and pulses proudly; not trying to disguise them as imitation meat.

The dish I was most excited for was the roasted Japanese eggplant ($16), which when done well can be so good. Rosalinda’s version was almost there, with plenty of flavours and textures from the salsa macha, sikil pak, cashew crema, cilantro, and pomegranate - I especially enjoyed the spicy kick from the salsa macha – it just lacked salt, something the spongy eggplant needs a lot of.


Thankfully, the Casare aioli on the Tijuana-style broccolini ($14) saved the day – adding it to the eggplant made the dish sing. Consider ordering both dishes together as a bit of the crunchy roasted broccolini paired with the softer eggplant is a nice combination.   


Although the spiced churros ($8) with cinnamon sugar and chocolate banana caramel looked and smelled great, they were so dense it was felt like we were eating fried bread sticks. Where is the airiness of churros? Since the recipe doesn’t call for eggs, it’s not as if making the dessert vegan is to blame.


Go for the rhum roasted pineapple ($8) instead. While the pineapple is a little sweet and there’s no rum flavour, the coconut whipped creamy is heavenly and the toasted coconut chips adds a nice crunch.


Even with my love for Mexican food, I don’t love Rosalinda … it simply doesn’t do the cuisine justice. Mexican fare has so many vibrant sauces and ingredients. While Rosalinda’s menu lists many of these, what shows up on the plate looks pretty but tastes bland. All pomp, but little substance.

Overall mark - 6.5 out of 10



How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 133 Richmond Street West

Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:


Rosalinda Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


CLOSED: Awai (Toronto)


As a person who eats meat, a completely plant-based menu generally doesn’t excite me. While I like vegetables, and know there are many ways to prepare them, I can’t help but anticipate a boring dish or worry the chefs will rely on fat and deep frying to make it taste good. At Awai, every dish is vegan and can be made gluten-free by request. After sampling eight, they were all flavourful without depending on fats. In fact, Awai’s whole cooking philosophy aims to use an ingredient’s natural flavours without manipulating it heavily.

A flatbread seems to always makes its way into the meal, thanks to their prominent wood burning oven. Ours was topped with babaganoush incorporating a healthy dose of cumin, sour tamarind (?) reduction, dressed greens, and nuts. While the flatbread was tasty, the gluten-free version, which arrives on a potato rosti, was even better with the slightly crunchy bits.


Our table couldn’t get enough of the porcini soup ... it smells heavenly! Thick and creamy (from cauliflower purée in lieu of cream), there was also a slight kick to the broth from mountain peppers. I could have easily had three more bowls of the concoction.


Of course, there was a salad. Thankfully, it was pretty tasty with the wild mustard greens and other leafy vegetables tossed in a white kimchi dressing, sprinkled with togarashi, and mixed with the fennel pesto along the plate. While the apple confit chips were a powerful pop of flavour, it'd pair better with dessert; on the salad, the hard and chewy shards stick to your teeth and was annoying to pick out amongst the greens.


I love how the kitchen draws upon so many cultures to create the menu. From India, the khichdi was a lovely warm mixture of ground rice, lentils, and potatoes mixed with spices and a bit of heat. On top, a contrasting cold sweet and tangy root slaw, gave the dish interest and a beautiful colourful crown.


My favourite dish was the truffle mushroom ravioli: the pasta soft and chewy, filled with chopped mushrooms and sitting in a lovely cauliflower puree. Underneath was another healthy portion of roasted oyster mushrooms. Between this and the soup, our table agreed that Awai knows how to prepare fungi.


While I like phyllo pastry, as a cannelloni wrapper it doesn’t work. Perhaps there was just too much of it compared to the edamame mixture inside, every mouthful just felt like you were eating crispy phyllo. While the dish was pretty to look at and their heirloom vegetables roasted wonderfully, it was passable.


Thankfully, we requested one more savoury dish and ended off on a high note with the humita, a steamed corn cake that reminded me of a tamale but with more spices. For even more flavour, it was accompanied by a lovely rich mole and crunchy bits to contrast against the softer humita


Personally, I could have forgone dessert for another bowl of porcini soup. The elderberry oat tart was dry and mealy while the linden berry and cherry pavlova square was only a touch better thanks to some moisture and more sugar. The soup on the other hand… perfection.


The astute Gastro World reader may notice there’s no prices above. This is because Awai runs on a pay-what-you-can concept for their food (there are set prices for liquor). It’s an interesting concept where diners are encouraged to decide on a meal's worth. While I didn’t find the experience troubling, it does make the paying process a bit awkward and longer. After our waitress explained the concept, our table strategized and agreed on $70 per person. Unbeknown to the first person paying, their machine also doesn’t have a tip feature, so make sure you ask them to add it on at the same time. 

With that said, by the time this post is out, there will be prices. In early March, Awai announced they would be ending the “experiment” as many found it confusing and stressful. Instead, they will offer a prix fixe menu. It’ll be interesting to see how much the restaurant owners value their food – for a place that makes vegan dishes tasty, it may be a lot.

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


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


Follow me on twitter to chat, be notified about new posts and more - https://twitter.com/GastroWorldBlog
____________________________
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!


Is That It? I Want More!

Other Gastro World posts similar to this:



Awai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato