Showing posts with label salad. Show all posts
Showing posts with label salad. 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/

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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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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!

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Dinner With a View (Toronto)


If you asked me 5 years ago if I’d like to eat dinner under the Gardiner Expressway, a look of confusion and an adamant no would have followed. Yet, the underpass space is undergoing a revitalization, starting with this winter when it was transformed into a skating trail. Now that the ice has finally melted, a small portion of the space near Fort York plays host to Dinner With a View.

Let’s start with the latter half of the title - With a View. As you first arrive, it’s an underwhelming feeling when you find the view consists of black gauze and the metal and concrete highway. But once you settle into one of the domes ($149 and seats from 4-6 people) you start to get into the spirit.


The décor and furniture vary in the domes. As I relaxed into the comfortable wooden chair (which felt like I was getting a hug) and pulled a blanket over my legs, that feeling of experiencing something different added a sense of excitement. Interestingly, the cozy enclosure makes the dinner feel intimate, but being able to peer out into the Bentway also ensures you don’t feel claustrophobic.


I just wish they didn’t keep harping on how the items within the dome weren’t complimentary and that staff members conduct an inventory count before and after the meal. Were guests really pilfering the pots of fake plants? Way to ruin the experience.

Now the first part of the title – Dinner. After reserving a dome, guests are required to select a dinner option (additional $99 per person) within 48 hours and can choose between meat, fish and vegan mains.

Let’s just say you don’t come for the food. The quinoa salad with ranch dressing was something I could have easily whipped up myself. Moreover, the random boring garnishes thrown in – chickpeas, pitted black olives, and frisee – felt like someone was cleaning out their fridge and decided to throw a bunch of ingredients together. Seriously, is it that difficult to at least roast some beets?  


I left hungry as the paltry portion of whitefish (with many soft bones left in) barely made a dent in my appetite. Sure, they could skimp on the protein but at least load-up the plate with more sides (slivers of mushroom, turnip puree, and roasted vegetables). At the very least, give out a bread basket. Note, the beef is slightly larger – although my friends complained it was too salty.


Dessert was a minor improvement with a fancy sounding rosemary vanilla crème brûlée topped with pear tuille. While the actual dish didn’t resemble the name – there was no brûlée and somehow the rosemary was chocolate instead. At least it tasted decent.


I’m sure Chef René Rodriguez tried his best with the challenging outdoor conditions. But, the meal was a flop. They should really stop touting his accolade of being a Canada’s Top Chef winner. I’ve had better meals attending conferences.

Nevertheless, our 7:30pm dinner was the perfect seating – at the start there’s plenty of sunlight so you’re able to navigate easily into the dome; we’re treated to the descending sun for the first half of the meal; and after it gets dark, the lighting and illuminated domes creates a dazzling back drop. I loved the night-time experience and couldn’t believe the one and half hours was over … I didn’t want to leave and felt like I could party all night. You’re definitely here for the experience, not the food.


I can’t finish this post without correcting a piece of fake news – no homeless people were forced to vacate the site to make room for the domes. During the opening weekend of the dinner, OCAP made a lot of fuss that a homeless camp was demolished and people were evicted in preparation for the event. In reality, that camp was located 2km away and the City of Toronto removed the tents for safety reasons; over the winter fires have broken out killing people in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disputing there’s a growing homeless problem in the city. It’s a visible issue that’s not only confined to downtown Toronto and something that has to be addressed. What I can’t agree with is how OCAP reacted to the event. Instead of protesting something that supports the Bentway and adds tax dollars into system, they could have approached the organizers to donate a portion of the proceeds to their cause or alternatively set-up a booth outside to raise awareness and solicit donations.

In a city where there’s a growing divide between the rich and the poor, do we really want to make the chasm even larger? Instead of pointing fingers and throwing insults, wouldn’t it be better to work together to enact positive change? 


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 250 Fort York Boulevard

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


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Maha’s Egyptian Brunch (Toronto)


It’s a common joke amongst people over 30 that waiting for brunch is the new line for clubbing. For Maha’s Egyptian Brunch, they are that tiny exclusive place that everyone wants to get into. On a nippy day, in the early winter, my friends and I waited one and a half hours (a common occurrence), before we could secure four of the twenty two spots in the dining room.

As soon as I saw the line of about 20 people, I questioned whether we should stay. But, there’s little choice in the area and we decided to wait a bit to see how quickly the line moves. The turnover gradually happens and after waiting for 45 minutes we’re stuck… we’re waiting for the long haul. When I finally walked through the door and the heavenly aromas enveloped me … I knew it was worth the perseverance.

You didn’t wait so long for traditional brunch plates like omelettes, eggs benny, and pancakes. Glancing at the menu, the first dish - the Cairo classic ($16) – already promised a meal of exotic items. The classic is a plate of foole (creamy fava beans stewed with tomatoes, onions, and spices) that’s topped with boiled egg slices, tomato feta, and a light falafel. It’s a lovely messy dish as you try to squish as much of the beans and other items into the soft fluffy toasted balady bread. Then when everything’s about to burst, you bite into it to find an eruption of flavours and textures.


Then add some of the tangy crispy balady salad to the mix and all the flavours change - the acid of the cold pickled vegetables cutting through the hot thick foole. Just be warned, family style dining at Maha’s is a must as there’s so many things to try and dishes are rich, so it’d be too heavy to have one thing on its own.

The Egyptian falafel ($16) is akin to the Scotch egg where soft boiled eggs are encapsulated in a crispy falafel. What an inventive dish! Biting into the golden brown sphere, I’m greeted with a combination of creamy yolk, moist spiced chickpea, and a bit of crispy coating. The eggs sit on a pile of home fries, which at Maha’s are tossed in cumin so they’re earthy and aromatic.


Even the scrambled eggs get a boost of flavours: the Basturma scramble ($15) incorporates pieces of beef cured with fenugreek, garlic, and spices. Their menu describes it perfectly, “an incredibly savoury combination is unlike anything you’ve tasted before”. As you taste a forkful, you’re met with a wave of rich tastes before it finishes with the fluffy egg texture. Who knew the tried and true scrambled eggs could get this yummy.


After all the fantastic egg dishes, Maha’s mind blowing chicken ($16) seemed less mind blowing. Indeed, the mountain of roasted chicken pieces (reminded us of shawarma), had enough spices and garnishes (tabbouleh¸ mayo, and generous drizzles of tehina) to entice taste buds. But it was almost too much as the small toasted egg bun was so tiny that it merely melted into all the juices. The chicken would be better served as a platter with some of the charred balady bread so diners could make your own wraps. That soft toasted bread would be better matched with the salty saucy meat.


The meal was all washed down with a honey cardamom latte ($5.75 for the large), which was warm, rich and fragrant. Because it was a fairly decadent latte, I really should have just gone for the small size. Sitting beside the bar, we were able to watch the drinks being prepared - a painstaking process where the inside of the glass gets painted with a dark honey before any liquids are added. It would explain why each drink arrives separately and it took half the meal for our table of four to get all the lattes.


Brunch at Maha’s was absolutely delicious and it’s certainly worth all the hype. But like clubbing, you may want to bring a roadie, except in this case filled with a hot beverage, as you’ll need something to fuel the wait.

Overall mark - 9 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 226 Greenwood 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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Maha's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Amano Pasta (Toronto)


Amano consists of a pasta bar, café, and market. Within their small footprint in Union Station (in the concourse area close to York street) there’s a bit of everything: the “market” is really a shelf with cans and jars for sale; the café, a coffee bar, includes some takeaway items at the front; and the most sizeable portion of the establishment, the pasta bar, a sit-down dining area at the back of the restaurant.


While the menu isn’t overly long, there are enough tasty sounding options that makes deciding difficult. Their starters are relatively simple Italian staples. The arancini ($9; actually arrives with three) were decent, the best part was the molten smoked cheese centre. Yet, I found the risotto and in need of salt, so that the most prominent flavour doesn’t end up being the honey on the plate.


Nonna’s salad ($7) is a very lightly dressed pile of spring mix with cucumbers. A better salad option is the stuffed squash ($11), which also arrives with greens but also has an entire roasted squash with stracciatella, which makes it soft and savoury. Unlike the other starters, the squash doesn’t lack flavour thanks to the miso brown butter dressing, bread crumbs, and pomegranate sprinkled around.


Amano’s menu, not surprisingly, goes back to Chef Michael Angeloni’s Italian roots while blending in Canadian new world flavours. You’ll find this blend the most in the “not your nonna’s” options. The addition of the crispy shallots really makes the little ears ($19) dish pop, giving the pasta extra crunch and a zip of interest. Of course, the orecchiette is cooked perfectly and tossed with bite-sized roasted broccoli florets and plenty of cheese (white cheddar, aged gouda, and pecorino). It was a delicious main.


While you can’t taste the Dungeness crab or pancetta in the black trumpets ($22), the flower like campanelle pasta has a chewy al dante doneness and is vividly black from cuttlefish ink. Personally, I’d like the dish to have stronger seafood flavours, but realize it’s not everyone’s preference. In fact, with the healthy sprinkling of chives and mustard seeds, the dish has a surprisingly light taste.


For a more traditional option, Amano’s rigatoni is cheekily called fat tubes ($18). The beef Bolognese with parmesan is simple and not earth shattering, but hits the spot if you want a traditional hearty tomato-based pasta.


In terms of drinks, the Sophia Loren ($13) goes down way too easy thanks to the cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and red wine, which covers the Pike Creek whiskey. It’s like grown-up sangria and works great as an after-meal cocktail.


Personally, I’d just go with another cocktail, in lieu of dessert. The leaning puff tower ($9) is really two profiteroles stacked on top of each other … that don’t even lean. They’re at least tasty cream puffs, stuffed to the brim with chocolate cream. It’s a dessert for chocolate lovers, with disks of it topping the cream puffs. It’s much better than the sweet cream ($7) or panna cotta, which tastes like Greek yoghurt - with the almond butter crumble and raspberry pieces, it’s like eating a parfait. Not terrible, but more breakfast than dessert.


I can overlook the disappointing dessert, it means more calories for delicious fresh made pasta.

Overall mark - 7.5 out of 10


How To Find Them
 Location: Toronto, Canada
 Address: 65 Front 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!

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Amano Pasta 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