Pulp Kitchen, post renovation [Mark]

898 Queen Street E
416 . 461 . 4612
http://www.pulpkitchen.ca

I originally visited this place when it was a juice bar in summer 2002 and really liked the selection of fruit smoothies and vegetable juices. I went in late December with a friend and to my surprise they now serve a full meals and most dishes are vegan and healthy. My friend and I ordered the vegan Phad Thai, which consisted of glass rice noodles, chunks of tofu, homemade peanut sauce, and a lot of vegetables, all sauteed in a nice stir-fry.

We also had a thick delicious smoothie with vanilla soy milk, wheatgrass, spirulina, raspberries, strawberries ,and bananas. It was terrific. We also shared a warm salad of sauteed mushrooms, green beans, long cucumber slivers, and sauteed tofu in a rice vinegar type dressing. The salad was heavenly, not too greasy but the viniagrette was perfect. In addition we each ordered five vegan dumplings with homemade peanut sauce. What a healthy feast!

Decor is funky and tables are not too cramped together. Large front window makes the place bright during the day. The place has about 10-15 tables, sells protein and energy bars, fairly traded products, and they sell healthy desserts, bars, squares, cakes, and still runs as a juice, smoothie, and vegetable juice bar. Located right in the heart of South Riverdale, I will definitely go back. The menu is similar to Juice for Life, without the artsy-fartsy pretentiousness. The bill came out to $45.00 which was kind of pricy but the quality and service was excellent. Staff are very friendly and knowledgable with respect to food content and health benefits of the dishes.

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Schillings Cafe and Bakery [Mark]

135 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, ON
416 466-9100.

From the outside, it looks like a hoity-toity bakery. In terms of presentation, the cakes, pastries, squares, breads, and other baked goods are beautifully displayed by the window. The smells draw people in like bait and in no time customers can’t resist. They’ll buy little tarts, fudge, cakes, danishes, and other fattening treats.

I did not know that they served brunch until I went in with a friend to buy a German bread called “Schtolen”. I was surprised to find out that they also serve a healthy brunch too. The next Sunday, I went with my two friends and we enjoyed our brunch. Nestled in the back, there are about 15-20 large tables which sit about 40 people. Walls are multi-coloured and overall decor is fun and funky. I enjoyed an egg white omelete with broccoli, cauliflower, mushroom, mozzarella cheese, and spanish onion.

My other friend has a mushroom and cheese omelete and my other friend had roast beef in a baguette. The service was incredibly slow [one server had quit that very morning] but four different servers were very nice, attentive, and always brought us fresh milk for our coffee, free coffee refills, and were always coming around to see if we were generally happy.
I admit it must be difficult to manage a pastry and bakery shop and a restaurant with only 4-5 staff.

For the slow service, they apologized profusely and gave us a complimentary bag full of cookies. I do not mean chocolate chip cookies to dunk into milk, but fancy, schmancy cookies that look too nice to eat. I gave them to my two friends since cookies are not “Mark-friendly” The omelete was $7.95 and there was no extra charge to make it an egg white omelete…thank goodness….Both of our dishes were served with a large bowl of organic greens with a homemade raspberry viniagrette which was sweet, tart, chunky, and fruity. It may have looked like jam but it was clearly a viniagrette. I would recommend this place for the food and service are stellar.

Salad King (post-renovation)

335 Yonge Street
(416) 971-7041

Bright lights, shiny decor, metallic, kind of postmodern, hip, trendy, industrial (sort of), right in the middle of downtown at Ryerson University. Seats are very close together, almost packed in like sardines. Don’t bring someone on a first date here, it’s not a romantic place to dine. The menu is a plain piece of paper, like a placemat. This place serves Thai fast food, that is fresh, flavourful, hot, and spectacular looking.

The dishes are served on funky, trendy plates, and dishes are colourful and cool. I ordered the Bangkok Stir Fry with vermacelli noodles, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, peanut, (hold the egg) and the sauce was this spicy, aromactic sesame oil based glaze…tres yummy! I found out four visits later that the Bangkok stir fry was not completely vegetarian but made with fish sauce. Salad King’s staff are notorious for being unaware of vegetarians’ needs.

I tried again to find the perfect meal in my second visit. I was determined to find a dish that would be filling, tasty, and completely vegetarian. I ordered a spicy tofu dish with Chili level “3”, hold the white rice. For a side dish I had the cold veggie rolls with peanut sauce. The peanut sauce was most likely made with fish sauce but I only found out after the fact. The cold rolls were excellent. The spicy tofu dish was outstanding. I later found out that the Spicy Tofu was also made with fish sauce. As it turns out the word “vegetarian” means nothing to Salad King. I did not know fish was considered a vegetable. All waiters and waitress may be nice but they are unaware of the ingrediants in their dishes.

On my third and fourth visit, I found out that all items on the Veg. Lover’s menu (Emerald Tofu, Country Tofu, Golden Tofu, Spicy Tofu, Vegetarian Hot Thai Noodle, Vegetarian Bangkok Sir Fry, and Vegetarian Kari noodle) are all made with fish sauce except Golden Tofu and Country Tofu. The concept of vegetarian is not clear to this restaurant. The staff claim that these items are vegetarian when in fact they are not. You have to grill the waitress to actually admit that these dishes are made with fish sauce. Even the delicious cold rolls are vegetarian but the dipping sauce is made with fish sauce. At Salad King, it’s a don’t ask, don’t tell policy where innocent vegetarians must take the risk since staff won’t tell you if items are completely vegetarian. It has been a frustrating experience even more for me since all dishes come with rice and I do not eat it. Without rice, these dishes are not filling since portions are so small

My first dish was a bit dry, not saucy enough for my liking and not enough vegetables. Level is spice is on a “Chili” scale from 1-5. I have ordered dishes ranging from “Chili 1” to “Chili 5” and these dishes were all very good, yet not spicy enough. Hmmphh. Meals are from $5.95-$7.95. Strict vegetarians beware!

Reviewed by Mark

Cafe 668

 

Having the distinction of NOW Magazine’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant is quite a feat. It is also quite an accomplishment considering Cafe 668’s low key atmosphere and dingy location near where Dundas West curves at Bathurst Street. Obviously, there is something special here.

My first visit did not result in the "wow" I had expected from the glorious ravings bestowed by NOW’s Steven Davey; however after my second try, I now see what the hype is about (now). Even the tea that was served before our first dish was delicious. I sub-conciously polished off several cups before realizing how much I was enjoying it. The menu itself is quite extensive, something I always find a tad overwhelming in Vietnamese restaurants. So without much perusal of the menu I quickly decided on a Hot and Sour Soup and from the "Chef’s Suggestions" list on the wall I chose the Hot and Sour Spicy Pad Thai. The heat was definitely present as about halfway through the soup the sniffles started. This continued while I started into the pad thai, slightly disguising the taste of that dish. After the spicy sensations dissapated I was really able to enjoy the subtle and aromatic spicing of the pad thai. Interspersed in the noodles were wonderfully cooked pieces of tofu, eggplant, mushrooms and other vegetables. This was hands down the best pad thai I’ve had in the city.

To my knowledge, there is only one server in the tiny establishment. My bet is he is also the owner and he definitely carries an air of dignity and respect about him. The prices are also very reasonable at Cafe 668 solidifyng it as a regular stop within my immediate locale.

Pickle Barrel

Pickle Barrel Locations:
Yonge/Eglinton
Yonge/Dundas
Leslie/Cummer
Yonge/Steeles
Yorkdale Mall
Promenade Mall [Thornhill]
Markville[Markham]
Web site: http://www.picklebarrel.ca

This place offers a vast menu (over 300 items) of different kind of food: low fat, healthy, vegetarian, many Jewish-style entrees, Italian, Asian, pasta, fish, chicken, a menu for all tastes. There is an extensive list of desserts with a beautiful display of gorgeous cakes, pies, HUGE ice cream sundaes, and they have the best Frozen yogourt smoothies. Smoothies are served freezing cold, smooth, thick, and creamy, and served in a tall glass.

For dinner, I usually order a vegetable stir fry that is kind of bland (please note that food at the Pickle Barrel is more on the bland side) and I also order a Frozen Yogourt Smoothie with juice, fruit, and soft serve Colombo Frozen Yogourt, always low fat and tastes just like ice cream. My friend ordered the grilled salmon with an orange glaze that came with salad and potatoes. Although I do not eat fish, it looks nice and it was $11.95.

Prices are decent, portions are huge. Entrees are between $7.95 – $12.95, desserts are between $6.95 and $8.95 and appetizers are between $5.95-$9.95. Last time I ordered the roasted vegetable quesadilas with roasted zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, onion, with cheese. I got four large quesadilas with an order of salsa on a bed of lettuce for $5.95. Most other vegetarian items, unfortunately, involve big thick buns like the veggie burger, or vegetarian lasagna or pasta dishes or pizza. The California wraps are not vegetarian but there are healthy wraps like grilled chicken, fish, and turkey. Lisa Weinberg, a registered dietician was the one who initially developed the low fat, healthy menu which consists of about 20 items. Catering is offered for more than ten people and take out is also available. I would recommend this place for good old “North American trying to be ethnic” comfort food.

They accept every card in the world so this is convenient. Portions are big so be prepared to eat a lot. Check out the menu at Yonge and Dundas at http://www.picklebarrel.ca/picklebarrel/dundas.pdf. There is also a low carb menu, a kid’s menu, a take out menu, and a low fat menu. It seems that every location has a slightly different menu, depending on the demographics. Check out their web site at http://www.picklebarrel.ca

A Taste of Manchester

 

It’s always nice to discover a new, tasty restaurant. It’s even nicer to discover a new tasty, restaurant that’s opened right across the street from your office. Especially if the only other palatable restaurants are within driving distance. I guess that’ s what you get working in Scarberia.

Luckily enough I recently discovered just that thing in “A Taste of Manchester”, a Carribean fare establishment recently opened in the Warden/Eglinton plaza. Its small, clean room and sparsley decorated decor is still finding its place in this harsh suburb but the food has found a place for me– in my stomach.

Serving a variety of jerk and curried chicken, curried goat, and some different rotis I went straight for the jerk — an island favourite. My previous experiences with jerk have been unsatisfactory but for a quick lunch that is neither fast food nor fine dining this meal more than sufficed. The jerk had a slight kick but I think next time I will “turn it up a notch” with some fiery peppar sauce. With any many dish there is a choice or rice & peas, white rice , or ground provisions (not sure what that is) and portions are quite substantial.

I should say that at the moment the food appears to be served only in styrofoam containers…. hopefully this will change soon as the restaurant has barely been open a week. If it doesn’t, I’ll still go there but just take it right back accross the street to eat in my cozy, jailcell…. er cubicle.