Byzantium [Winterlicious 2004]

499 Church St 
416.922.3859 

I went to Byzantium twice so far, once for Winterlicious 2004 and enjoyed a boring thin-crust vegetarian pizza and an organic salad with raisins, cranberries ,and pumpkin seeds in a raspberry viniagrette- typical trendy salad and pizza. My latest visit to Byzantium was last Saturday night.

I went with 5 friends and we all chose this trendy spot in the village. I dressed “trendy casual”- … whatever the hell that means. Let me start off with the good points- the food is excellent and the service is excellent, quick, efficient, attentive, and staff are warm and friendly. The prices on the other are retarded. I order a tofu dish with two layers of tofu with a squash and sweet potato pudding/casserole filling that was layered with more tofu, and mango chutney for $17.00.

The dish looked like a glorified tofu sandwich with fancy jam (mango chutney), squash, and sweet potato filling. The dish came with yummy roasted vegetables (spinach, broccoli, and cauliflower) and a side dish of lentils that were highly spicy, in a nice hot red sauce. The dish was excellent and the portions were just right. I was not impressed with the price of my dish and all other prices on the menu.

Only a moron like me would pay $17.00 for tofu. One friend across from me had a cornish hen, another had a lamb curry on a funky, slanted plate and other friends had other meaty dishes like steak. Byzantium is also known for Martinis and my friend Aaron sure enjoyed many of them- one in particular was a spicy Martini with olives in it. He also ordered a pink Martini that looked like it could have been spiked grapefruit juice, such a shame that they were so expensive.

While waiting the friendly waiter brought out crispy bread (similar to Pappadums at most Indian restaurants), fresh cranberry whole grain bread, with a small platter of hummus. The decor is very chiche, trendy, urban, and hip. It’s obviously the place to be on Saturday night because after 11pm, the restaurant turns into a dance club and the lineups begin. We got a table right in front so we could see the people lining up just to enjoy the ambiance of a hip and cool place and an overpriced martini.

Towards the end of the evening, we had been there over four hours, dined on delicious food, enjoyed a prime sitting area (a large table right at the window in front of the restaurant) and our bill for 6 people came out to over $200.00

I found the place very pretentious, too expensive, and too trendy for my likings. I also found that there were not enough vegetarian items. Upon browsing the menu, I only found two vegetarian items –The Vegetarian Delight Platter and Thin-crust vegetarian pizza, Greek style. I was uncomfortable that at the end of the evening, it became a dance club, with very loud music, a lot of smoke, and way too many people roaming about schmoozing and trying too hard to be cool. I suppose it’s nice to go to trendy places from time to time, and dress up. I did find my meal very tasty and all other dishes were very attractive in their presentation and everyone seemed to really enjoy their meal. My experience at Byzantium was positive because of the good company, good food, and overall great service. Just be prepared to be ripped off and eat beforehand as trendy places tend to be skimpy on the portions.

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