Showing posts with label plant based. Show all posts
Showing posts with label plant based. Show all posts

Azhar Kitchen & Bar (Toronto)

Azhar Kitchen & Bar is one of the many restaurants that forms the Gusto 54 chain, and it is no less inviting and delicious. After attending an event in Ossington, we were peckish and in search for a satisfying dinner before calling it a night. After being turned away from other Ossington establishments, it was Azhar that took us in and welcomed us onto comfortable seats at the bar.

Famished, we opted for shared starters, and I was excited to find zucchini flowers ($15) on the menu. The delicate flora is stuffed with a smooth cheese filling, which the menu describes as feta based but I tasted a faint blue cheese element as well, and deep fried giving the flower petals a light crunchiness, the centre a heat that blends with the creamy cheese, and the stem that zucchini texture and taste. Now these are the kind of flowers I like getting.

The babaganoush ($12) could easily satisfy four people, a huge mound of the roasted eggplant with a tart hit of date and molasses syrup and added crunchiness from a sprinkle of seeds. I appreciate Azhar’s use of vibrant high-quality olive oil that can blend with the eggplant or shine on its own. Either goes so wonderfully with the hot-from-the-oven pita that so soft and chewy. We thought one pita would do but after the first glorious bite, we immediately wanted another. The second arrived in no time and was equally piping hot… like singe your fingertips type of hot.

Being a weekday vegetarian, I appreciate the host of meatless options on Azhar’s menu. Although, I found they are generally a series of dishes (a side, a plant-based protein, etc.) that need to be ordered together, rather than having one dish that works as a complete meal. Accordingly, unless others at the table also want to go meatless it would be too much for one person.

In the end, I thought the Mujadara rice ($21) would be the best bet for a main, albeit a tad heavy for one (there were leftovers to bring home). The fragrant stewed lentils and caramelized combined nicely with the basmati rice studded with raisins and spices to create a flavour-packed dish. Generally, I’m not a fan of fruit with rice, but when combined with the creamy labneh, the raisin’s sweetness helped tone down the yoghurt’s acid. I wish there was the option to add another vegetarian protein to really round out the dish, a handful of roasted mushrooms might be great with the rice.

Service was top notch even sitting at the bar. The bartender was by to make sure we were satisfied and taken care of whenever he had a chance, and despite also having to man the bar was engaging and welcoming. In fact, if I had to describe Azhar with one word it would be ‘welcoming’, from interactions with staff members to the dishes that draw you in for another bite - Azhar would be one big welcome mat.  

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 96 Ossington Avenue


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!

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Planta Yorkville (Toronto)


Planta’s meatless burger was once the talk of the town, admired for its “likeness” to the beef version, thanks to the tinge of pink in its patty. Chef David Lee was ahead of his time, creating a string of plant-based restaurants at a time when Meatless Mondays was a stretch for most people.

Oh, how times have changed. Vegetarian burgers are now a dime-a-dozen with fast food chains joining the party. Even the patties have been upgraded – having a hint of pink is now the norm. Which is why my first experience with the Planta burger, prominently featured on their Winterlicious menu ($33), was such a bust.

After hearing about how great it was - so much so that burger-only restaurants were spun off - one bite into the mushy patty left much to be desired. There were some good qualities: it was hearty with the thick queso and truffle mushroom sauce; and generally, it tasted nice. But it lacked texture… everything was so soft that my 90-year old grandmothers would have no trouble biting through these babies.


The soft bun and delicate lettuce didn’t make it any better – maybe if either an element of crunch it would help the main. At least the fries were amazing: hot from the fryer, crispy as ever, and tossed with just enough salt. We hungrily devoured these.

Overall, it just wasn’t an impressive meal. While the warm rapini salad tastes better than it looked, when the plate of butter lettuce topped with chopped wilted rapini arrived, I was momentarily taken aback that a restaurant would be okay with serving a dish that looks like one I’d make at home. Looks aside, it was an okay salad, the warm rapini enhanced with olive and sun-dried tomatoes so the greens were actually flavourful. I just wished there was more of it to go around.


The only dish I’d get again is the young Thai coconut dessert. The passionfruit sorbet was a great balance of tart and sweetness and the coconut &chia seed pudding added a lovely creaminess. Although it appears fairly simple, the tropical flavours were such a blessing during the dead of winter.


If you’re going to visit any restaurant in the Planta chain, the Asian menu of the Queen location is much better, in my opinion. Maybe it’s time for David Lee to reinvent the menu again. Burgers are so overdone… and being done so much better than Planta.

Overall mark - 6 out of 10
Is Winterlicious worth it (based on my meal selection)?
Winterlicious - $33
Regular menu - $50 - salad ($18.25), burger ($19.75) and young Thai coconut ($11.95)
Savings - $17 or 34% 
How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 1221 Bay Street

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:



Fat Choi @ Soos (Toronto)


On Monday and Tuesdays, Soos temporarily hands over their kitchen to Fat Choi and the menu morphs into a vegetarian’s paradise. While Soos’ menu is based on Malaysian street food, Fat Choi expands across the world, drawing inspiration from Malaysia, India, China, Indonesia, and Japan (to name a few) – anything that’s tasty and vegetarian.

I would have never ordered the cold tofu ($9) without prompting from a friend… why would I want something cold, especially if it’s tofu? But, as I bit into the silky soy bean block, swimming in a salty Szechuan hot chili oil and topped with onion frizzles, green onions, garlic, and peanuts, I wonder what inventive thinker came up with such a delicious take on tofu. This isn't your regular boring soy bean dish.


Make sure you’ve finished your conversation before biting into the satay wrap ($11)… once you start you just have to keep eating it as it’s impossible to put down and if you wait too long, the filling will start sliding out. The seitan adds a meaty texture against the delicate Bibb lettuce and the crunchy pickled vegetables; it’s then drenched in a diluted peanut sauce that starts out slightly sweet but ends with a spicy bite.


Even before finishing the okonomiyaki ($13) we were already contemplating if another order was needed. The light thin chewy batter with the crispy edges is slathered with flavourful shallots and spicy kewpie. On its own it would have been too heavy, but Fat Choi balanced the dish off with raw crisp red cabbage and Brussels sprouts to create a slaw topping on the savoury pancake. A dish that seems so simple but is surprisingly delicious.


In general, all the flatbread-like dishes were tasty. The stuffed roti ($15) consisted of two pan fried flaky roti sandwiching a spiced chickpea, onion, and potato mixture. A curry garlic sauce comes with the hearty roti, which is thinned and the spice level restrained.


Make sure you get the nasi goreng ($16), this Indonesian fried rice was oh so flavourful. To make it vegan, a tofu crumble is added that still gives the fried rice an eggy texture, while bits of okra and bell peppers provide a crunchy texture throughout the rice. I love the black pepper bite to the rice… and the smell, oh the smell.


The no mapo no tofu ($17) is an interesting dish incorporating the sweet, beany, spicy sauce you’d expect from the traditional mapo tofu. However, the name of no mapo and no tofu calls out the fact that the dish contains no pork and no tofu. Instead, it’s replaced with creamy eggplant with flecks of pickled vegetables, the sauce cooked so long together that it becomes thick and caramelized; all sticky and sweet with the rice. Served in clay pot, this would be even better if the rice was lightly toasted so the bottom so that it develops a golden crispy crust – I can just imagine how epic it’d be if the mapo sauce is enhanced with crispy rice.


We finished off with the daily nood, that evening a curried laksa ($18 for a large bowl or $11 for individual portions). The smaller bowl is a great option as you really need to dig in and have spoonfuls of the coconut and curry broth to really augment the experience, although the soup should be a hotter temperature. Pieces of smoked tofu gives an interesting heartiness to the noodles in place of meat. In the past, I’ve had laksa with rice or egg noodles; at Fat Choi, they use a combination of the thicker miki noodle and a thin vermicelli, the mix reminiscent of a bowl of Fukien noodles at Kim Po.


People ask if I miss having meat during weekdays. Truthfully, we have such amazing plant-based options in Toronto that no, I can happily forgo animal protein Monday to Thursdays, with some exceptions. Fat Choi is an example of one of these restaurants. When the vegetarian dishes are this good, who needs meat? 

Overall mark - 8 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 94 Ossington Avenue

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!

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CLOSED: Paintbox Bistro (Toronto)


With what seems like the recent revitalization of Regent Park, it’s hard to imagine that PaintBox Bistro is already six years old. In celebration of the milestone, they threw a party where customers can try any of their mains for only $6 (regular menu prices provided below for reference purposes) with $6 wine to boot. 

As soon as I stepped into Paintbox’s airy space, I felt healthier. The restaurant is a mixture of large tables and couches so you can go and read a book or gather a group for a scrum. Set as a quick service restaurant, guests order at the caf√© area and then are provided with a sign so you can sit and wait for the food. 

Small eats like pastries are available and then there are a few options that are in between a snack and full on meal. The clumps of meaty brown butter white beans makes the Ontario harvest flatbread ($11) surprisingly hearty and along with the crunchy pumpkin seeds, melted brie, carrot puree, and fresh arugula creates a well toasted flatbread that’s filled with flavours and textures. This works great as a shared starter or a main if you’re in the mood for a smaller bite.


The mac, cheese & greens ($14) is also rich and creamy, the four cheese sauce balanced by broccoli florets. The kale that’s mixed into the pasta gives it an interesting taste – one friend felt it almost tasted like bacon. While I didn’t find it overly smoky, the kale was a nice addition to the pasta adding 
an extra flavour and textural element.


What a great idea to wrap the enchilada filling in collard greens instead of a tortilla! Paintbox’s enchilada ($14) is stuffed with spicy rice and a protein mixture that gives the filling a ground meat texture. In the end, the creation tastes like a delicious cross between a cabbage roll and enchilada. The roasted pepper coulis and scallion lime aioli were great additions that provided the traditional enchilada flavour but with an extra flair.


The only disappointing dish was the tofu green curry ($15). Firstly, the tofu was baked/fried so long that it became dry and hard (even being steeped in curry couldn’t rehydrate it). Moreover, the curry was too sour, which is strange as I expected it to be fragrant and coconutty since the menu describes it as “Thai-inspired”.


If a meal of plant based dishes doesn’t have you leaving the restaurant feeling good, at least know that by eating at Paintbox Bistro you’re supporting their ethos of providing job opportunities to those living in the neighbourhood and being mindful of their environmental footprint (there was no disposable cutlery used despite the fast casual environment). And with that, I left Paintbox feeling as snug as an enchilada wrapped in collard greens.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 555 Dundas Street East 


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:

Paintbox Catering & Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato