Udupi Palace

1460 Gerrard Street East
416 – 405 – 8189,
416 – 405 – 8138,
416 – 405 – 8384

Located right in the heart in Gerrard’s India Bazaar (Little India), this place has locations in Queens, NY plus a bunch in southern California, this place serves South Indian vegetarian dishes. The decor is all white and sterile. It resembles a large hospital waiting room. Decor is minimalist and waiting staff are friendly and informative. This place only serves South Indian vegetarian items. The place is very noisy and most of the clientele are Indian.

This place lacks the ambiance but has high quality, affordable, vegetarian, healthy meals. The portions are huge and meals are highly spicy and very flavourful. Plates are metallic and not fancy. Presentation is colourful and attractive. I ordered a simple vegetable curry with potatoes, varied vegetables, and it came with pappadum and chapati-like bread (like roti) with a cool yogourt dip. My friend had a complete vegetable medley meal containing a spicy tomato Indian soup, three vegetable curry dishes with rice, green beans, peas, potatoes, and cauliflower. The dessert consisted of a rice noodle dessert with rice noodles, raisins, nuts, sugar ,cinnamon, and boiled milk. Both our meals were very saucy and soupy, unlike North Indian cuisine.

Both dishes came with chapati (whole wheat paper thin bread), rice, and yogourt with tomato chunks. Both dishes were highly flavourful and very spicy. Meals were under $10.00 and they accept Interac and VISA. The only drawback is that it is very noisy and since the restaurant is in the basement, it’s not that bright.

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Ban Vanipha

 

From the outside, there seems something a little off putting about this Thai/Laotian restaurant. Perhaps it is the immediate area on Dundas West that it encompasses, not quite apart of Chinatown or Kensington Market but comprising its own little mini area with two other restaurants to the west. After dining here twice; however, all of my doubts have been neatly put to rest due to the delicious fare and thoughtful service that is provided.

My first visit, I was taken here by a friend for my birthday. I had never tried Laotian food before and I couldn’t even pronounce any of the items on the menu. Thankfully, my friend had recently been to Laos and knew exactly what to order. We took our time by sharing several appetizers , a chicken, vegetable and seafood main, and dessert to finish. I don’t recall exactly what each dish was but we were both duly impressed. The atmosphere of the restaurant is completely laid back and serene which is a nice respite coming off the busy Dundas strip.

My second visit here was different from the first. Instead of sitting and “dining”, we ordered and ate quickly. The staff were quite attentitve to our needs and sensed that we did not desire to have a long drawn out meal. The quality to sense what pace the customer wants to eat is difficult for wait staff to master but can be crucial to enjoying a meal.

This time around I remember we ordered the Khao Glum for an appetizer which was black sticky rice and beans wrapped in a banana leaf with a side of spicy sauce. A tad difficult to share, but tasty nonetheless. For our main course we shared two dishes. A chicken dish called Ping Gai, was, according to the menu, spiced “Laotian style”. I’m not sure what that means exactly but it was very well seasoned and came with a delicious coriander sauce. We also had a shrimp dish called “ping gou yai”. The tiger shrimp were huge and juicy and came with grilled zucchini and a grilled tomato. I would have preferred to take my time, but my friend was in more of a rush. Despite this, it was still an enjoyable meal and I will be happy to return here again.

Mercatto

15 Toronto St.
(416) 366-4567

 

For several years, Mercatto has been attracting the “see” and “be seen” crowd of young, downtown urban professionals. There is plenty of eye candy to scope out here, and the food ain’t half bad either. If not nearly as well known, Mercatto is comparable to Terroni’s in terms of a gourmet lunch serving up a variety of fancy paninis and pizzas. The dining room is larger and more lit than Terroni’s and there is a small patio out front. The kitchen is visible behind a food display counter. I believe they do catering as well but I am not 100% sure.

I have frequented this restaurant several times for lunch, and on my most recent visit, I stuck to the typical yet delicious grilled vegetable sandwich. Served on a large, ciabatta roll, this sandwich is equipped with grilled zuchinni, red pepper, spanish onions and some creamy goat cheese. A salad accompanies the dish with a tart and tasty vinagrette. My “lunch buddy” ordered the most expensive item on the menu: a grilled calamari salad ($13.95). I had a taste of this dish and it was fantastic. Four large pieces of calamari placed in a clock like formation around the salad, with smaller pieces in the centre. Grilled and seasoned to perfection.

Though, I do not work in this area anymore, I still try to come down to this lunching spot to look just as much as to eat.

New Generation Sushi

493 Bloor St. W.
(416) 963-8861

New Generation Sushi is like a second home to my roomate and his girlfriend. The very reasonable prices, large variety and mostly tasty dishes are very attractive to the student population who flock in droves here most nights. Located right on Bloor St., between Bathurst and Spadina near the University of Toronto situates it perfectly to accomodate this market. New Gen (as it is endearingly referred to) , operates like a manufacturing plant by pumping out sushi in record time in the way a Ford plant produces cars. While this may suit their customers, they may want to spend a little more time cleaning the floor as it does leave an impression of “fast food” service.

Regardless of the atmosphere, when I am looking for a quick, cheap, and decent meal I come here and more often than not I am quite satisfied. New Gen was also the first place I learned how to use chopsticks, a must for any sushi eater. My most recent visit to New Gen had me trying a large bowl of rice and teriyaki chicken with shrimp and vegetable tempura. In addition to that, I also had an order of spicy tuna rolls. Someone else at the table ordered the same rolls but we were not particularly impressed when both of our orders came on one plate. Most single orders comprise six rolls of sushi which is not filling enough for an entire meal. I always find it difficult to choose from the vast amount of options available and usually like a combination of tempura and sushi rolls. The teriyaki chicken was too much food and was not very good save for the accompanying teriyaki sauce. I am no sushi connoisseur, but from what I hear the spicy tuna rolls are one of the best things going. These were definitely the most enjoyable part of my meal. The tempura, especially the shrimp was fine but then again when does anything fried taste bad?

I may not come to New Generation for a romantic dinner, and it may not be my second home. But I will continue to return to New Gen as long as the prices are cheap and the sushi still enjoyable.

Vietnam Noodle Star

 4188 Finch Ave. E Unit 2
416-609-9796

Entering a room where everyone is a different culture than you can sometimes be intimidating. It can also be a richly rewarding experience. Such is the case with Vietnam Noodle Star. Walking into this restaurant, it is easy to see how people of similar cultures congregate despite Toronto’s diverse and eclectic nature. Literally everyone here from the wait staff, to the clientele to the people on TV are Asian. At least I knew I was getting an authentic Vietnamese dish and not some trendy, tourist crap.

Squeezing five people at what should have been a three person table and ordering a helluva lot of food made this experience crowded but very tasty. Starting with some simple small spring rolls that were slightly oily but crunchy we were quickly deluged with the rest of our order. A massive bowl of vietnamese beef noodle soup was enough to share between all of us though I had to resort to a fork to scoop up the rice noodles. My favourite dish was a beef curry that reminded me of a red thai coconut curry with a slight kick to it. We were also served beef and pork satay skewers which we could dip in an oily peanut sauce and a plate of delicious fried pork with white rice and veggies. If that wasn’t enough to ruin my diet week of Wendy’s salads we had a plate of sauteed bok choy.

A delicious if not diet-ruining lunch at what should become a new Scarberian staple.

Athens Pastries

509 Danforth Av
(416) 463-5144

Located right in the heart of the Danforth, right near Chester subway, this pastry shop serves a limited menu of quick pastries, take out only, [ you can order and sit down at the 5-10 tables but they do not serve you]. In the summer they have a small but cosy terrace that sits about 4 small tables. Sells mostly spinach, cheese, and cream pies, and sells other light dishes, as well as an assortment of North American, Greek, Turkish, coffees as well espresso and cappucino and other shi shi poo poo coffees. They also sell a large variety of soft drinks. They always have a sign saying “Help Wanted” which is weird [maybe the management treats the staff crappy] In any case, the food is good- not greasy, but yummy…I always order Spanakopita, which is Spinach and Feta Cheese pie wrapped up in Philo Dough. The lighting is quite bright and staff are friendly.

Armenian Kitchen

1646 Victoria Park
416.757.7722

A few blocks to the north of Armenian Kitchen, on Lawrence Ave. E between Pharmacy and Warden is what is known as “Little Arabia”. With tons of Arabic shops, bakeries and restaurants, some of who’s names are written only in Arabic, this area is truly unique and contains several well hidden gems. The Armenian Kitchen, by contrast caters to a more diverse clientele though still serving traditional and authentic middle eastern fare. Through all my searching for decent food to eat in Scarborough, the name of the Armenian Kitchen has come up the most.

For lunch, I settled on a typical vegetable platter with hummous, baba ghanoush, tabouleh salad, and labouneh – a thick, yogourt dip and pita. The hummous was smooth with tahina, the baba was creamy and garlicky but not overly so, and labouneh which I had never tried before was a wonderful addition. The pita bread was fresh, flat and soft and tabouleh salad was a good contrast to the dips.

Armenian Kitchen also does take out and I will surely be coming back here to take some dips up north.