Il Gatto Nero

656 College St
Phone: 416-536-3132

 

On my quest to find vegetarian, low carb, low fat, low sugar, and high fibre food, I must admit that it was a difficult task when my friend Daniel and I set out to eat dinner in Little Italy last Friday night. I could only think of two dishes we would encounter : pasta or pizza. I was hoping that there would be some nice place that would serve something different. We started at College and Palmerston and browsed the menus outside of each and every restaurant along the Little Italy stretch (I am referring to the Little Italy along College Street between Bathurst and Ossington, not the Little Italy along St. Clair west.

When we approached Crawford, we gave up (we were hungry and desperate) and walked into Il Gatto Nero, a cool, funky cafe/bar/bistro with an awesome 20 table outdoor patio. Inside the decor was gorgeous, cathedral ceilings, deep burgendy walls with hints of beige and nice art on the walls. It looked like a modern Italian bistro or Trattoria as Daniel said, very chiche, cool, and funky. The decor looked like an old style Italian bistro with prints you only see in Bistros.

Dimly lit, the atmosphere was really nice. Some people were very dressy, while others dressed down. Althought it felt trendy, it did not feel pretentious

Laid in hardwood floors, wood tables and chairs, a spectacular, large bar with a beautiful array of beers, wines, and liquors can be seen from the entrance. The place was crowded with hoards of people at the bar, almost resembling a casino. The only cheesy thing were the two big television screens and one large movie screen at the middle of the restaurant adjacent to the bar.

Mostly comprising wooden tables, Il Gatto Nero also had some extra high tables with bar stools. The ambiance was not calm and relaxing, but loud and chaotic, with a small non-smoking section (it was a bar afterall)

We quickly ordered our meals. The menu did not give me many vegetarian options. I saw one pasta dish and one spinelli (will explain later) and one pizza dish. I decided to order the vegetariano spinelli, a thin wrap filled with yucky goat cheese, grilled zucchini, tomatoes, organic greens, and grilled peppers ($9). Daniel ordered a sausage spinelli with an assortment of roasted vegetables($12). I have to admit that I was disappointed with the menu. There were not
enough vegetarian selections (only 1 of 2 pasta dishes and 1 pizza and 1 spinelli) but staff claim that any item on the menu can be made vegetarian

Staff were extra friendly, patient, and attentive. It is always good news to hear that they accept Interac, and VISA

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Musa

847 Dundas St. W.
416-368-8484

This funky place with Mediterranean-style exterior walls has always caught my eye so I decided to stop by for dinner one night while at Aaron’s place in Little Portugal.
Inside, it feels that you have stepped into an authentic Greek tavern or pub. The decor is very Mediterranean, with earth-toned plaster walls of of ocean blue, browns, beiges, earthy greens. The place is also cool with its mismatched chairs, wood tables, in a relaxed ambiance.

The actual restaurant is quite small and cosy, consisting of three mini dining areas, maybe comprising 20 tables in total. There is a bar right upon entering and it’s quite nice in terms of display. The kitchen is hidden right at the back and diners cannot see the cooks at work but people walking by on Dundas can get a glimpse of the exposed kitchen windows.

The art on walls (mostly photos) put a great touch to the earthy plaster walls. After browsing the menu, I did not know how to catergorize this place. It was quite ambiguous since they have a mix of everything. The menu includes steak, fish, chicken, pastas, salmon, seafood, and mussels. After we sat down, we were served fresh bread with a spicy hummus. [YUM]. Our server was very informative, friendly, very attentive, and helpful with her knowledge of the portions, food, and vegetarian selections. She was honest and made recommendations for us and I appreciated that.

Aaron ordered the swordfish, which was one of the daily entrees, for $18.95. It looked like a thick piece of eggplant, with stewed vegetables and a nice salad. I ordered the grilled vegetable sandwich (go figure), composed of grilled eggplant, zucchini, goat cheese (yuck), grilled red and green peppers, came with side green salad with yummy viniagrette for $7.95. I ordered a MASSIVE Diet Coke for only $1.76.

I loved the food, as it was fresh, healthy, and presentation is beautiful and artistic. My only comment would be that there were not enough vegetarian selections. Some entrees that interested me were the weed and green salad with beans and vegetables. It sounded interesting but the server told us the portion was small and it was not filling. Some more items to mention are the sauteed dandelions, weed and green salad, grilled vegetable sandwich in a flaxseed spelt toasted pita with grilled eggplant, zucchini, grilled peppers, and goat cheese ($7.95), mussels ($6.95) in a lemon and coriander sauce, many salads including a chicken salad ($8.95) with honey-ginger sautéed vegetables in a creamy garlic dressing, and a traditional moussaka with grilled eggplant, clove-infused beef, and scalloped potatoes, topped with bechamel sauce ($12.95)

There were several pasta options ($9.95–$14.95) and this definitely counts as a vegetarian option, but who wants to go out for dinner just to eat pasta when you can cook it for less than $1.00 at home.

Furthermore, most pasta are made with white flour (which is gross). I would recommend buying whole wheat pasta at your local IGA and choosing more sophisticated dishes.

Daily special prices are on the retarded scale of $14.95-$18.95 but portions are big, quality is high, and taste is exceptional, (according to Aaron, who polished his entire plate). Desserts are $3.95–$6.95. They accept everything except American express.

New York Cafe

757 Broadview Ave
416.778.4444
See also Danforth, Fast Food, Greek

This small, cosy restaurant with a quaint neighbourhood feel is located right at Broadview and Danforth. It offers fresh Greek cuisine (and also serves as a bar) at really cheap prices. I went with Vivian and Wendy one night for a late dinner after Wendy’s Improv workshops at the Bad Dog Theatre. Meals range from $5-$10 and portions are really big. Service is excellent, staff are friendly, and there are many vegetarian options. Some vegetarian options include several pasta dishes, vegetarian pizza, vegetarian souvlaki, and the vegetable kebabs

I ordered a small Greek salad for $4.45. It came with lettuce, tomatoes, feta, olives , and a wonderful dressing on the side. I could not identify the dressing but it had that creamy Italian taste, yet it could have been an Italian dressing with some Tzatiki mixed in…who knows?

Wendy ordered the hamburger and it was HUGE. It came with French fries, and the works, for only $4.95. There is a huge assortment of Greek dishes, as well as some Italian dishes like pasta and pizza, chicken parmiagnana, as well as steak, fish, and seafood.

New York Cafe prides itself as being chosen as one of the best places to eat in Toronto by Cheap Eats Toronto. The decor inside, I must admit, is alittle cheesy. Greek painting and photographs surround the two dining area, with a kitschy ambiance, similar to many greasy spoons or fast food diners. In addition to the restaurant, there is also a bar with an assortment of wines, beers, and other beverages.

At the end of the meal, I finally realized why this Greek restaurant was called the “New York Cafe”. The menu cover has the typical New York skyline and there is a wall mural of the New York skyline on one wall of the dining area. They accept every card under the sun

Pulp Kitchen [brunch]

898 Queen Street E
416 . 461 . 4612

 

Located right in the heart of South Riverdale, this perfect juice bar and eatery serves vegan meals, fresh fruit and vegetable juices, energy bars, as well as other hot and cold health food. They also sell health and wellness books, nutrition books, cookbooks, high protein and energy bars, vegan pastries, cookies, squares, and cakes.

It looks like an affordable “Fressen” with a rainforest motif on the walls. The place sits about 15 tables and is very bright and cosy. That lazy Sunday morning, I went to brunch (a blind date) and ordered the tofu omelete, alittle too dry and overcooked, with sauteed portobello mushrooms, sauteed red and green peppers, spinach, soy cheese for $8.45. I also ordered a blueberry soy smoothie with frozen bananas, vanilla soy milk, and blueberries for $4.95. As usual, I was pleased by the freshness, presentation, and quality of the food and service. My brunch date ordered the exact same dish as I.

The brunch menu is extensive. It is important to mention that all references to eggs, cheese, meat, chicken, bacon, fish, are all fictional. Some brunch items to highlight are the grilled cheese sandwich with whole grain toast, whole grain peanut butter sandwich with house made jam and peanut butter, hot oatmeal with raisins, carmelized bananas, and pure maple syrup, stewed beans and bangers (like sausages and beans) with corn chutney, a side of green salad, and whole grain toast, a special pulp kitchen sandwich with seared tofu, oven roasted tomatoes, avocado, and cilantro. Many of their items are home-made, like their homefries, peanut butter, and jam. They accept Interac and VISA.

Five Doors North (see Five Multi-Coloured Doors at 2088 Yonge st.)

2088 Yonge st.
phone: (416) 480-6234

 

Conveniently located on Yonge, 3 blocks south of Eglinton on the west side. This place is really hidden, maybe on purpose, as it attracts an exclusive group of people. Signage sucks in this respect. As there is no sign for “Five Doors North” (Oct 2004- Look for Five Multi-coloured doors)we were told to look for a sign called “Future Furniture”.

There are three huge dining rooms, dim lighting, and paper menus with main courses that change daily. The first impression I got was that this place was definitely trendy, but relaxing and not pretentious.

Menu is broken down several sections: antipasti (appetizer), primi (pasta) , secondi (meat dish) , secondi vegetarian dishes, pesce (fish), and contorni (salads). We were told the convention was to choose one dish from each section. Each dish was considered a course and a whole meal consisted of selecting a combination of dishes from each section.

Before anything was served we got a large plate of fresh foccacia (with rosemary). I was told by Daniel to dip my bread into the olive oil and balsamic vinegar [there were bottles of Olive Oil and Balsamic at each table].

For the antipasti, I ordered the polenta with goat cheese, sundried tomato, and pesto ($5.95).
For the main vegetarian dish, I ordered two thick slices of Sicilian eggplant with roasted red pepper and basil for $7.95 (they charged me $11.95 by accident). In addition, I ordered a small green salad for $2.95 (consisted of organic greens). To wash it all down I ordered a diet coke for my beverage.

My dinner mates (Daniel and Rob) ordered a Merlot (red wine) while Aaron ordered two Cosmo Martinis (cranberry?). Rob ordered the roasted beet salad with a red wine vinegar, crispy leeks, and scallions aioli. For the “primi” dish, Rob and Aaron shared a Risotto with sausage and gorgonzolla. For their main dish, Aaron and Rob each ordered grilled lamb chops with carmelized onions and mint horseradish mayonnaise. Aaron liked it as he ordered medium-rare but Rob’s was too tough (he ordered well done, I suspect). Daniel ordered the spicy seafood stew with calamari, mussels, shrimp, and stripe bass. Daniel also ordered a salad of brussel sprouts and double smoked bacon.

All portions were small and the waitress said they were similar to “tapas.” Food was amazing, flavourful, fresh, tasty, and they are very accomodating and aware of vegetarians’ needs. Although very few vegetarian main courses, the waitress informed me that most dishes can be made vegetarian.

Some dishes worth noting were: a spicy chick pea stew with smoked paprika and garlic crostini, pan fried salmon with mango salsa, beef carpaccio with pecorino cheese and roasted onions, seared scallops with asian coleslaw and shitake mushrooms, and prosciutto rolls with arugula, goat cheese, and figs. Some pasta dishes worth noting are linguini with mussels, calamari, and cilantro pesto, tortellini with tomato sauce with fresh orengano.

Decor is funky with hanging lamps (with funky lampshades), multicoloured rooms of red and orange and blue, retro 1970’s chandaliers, and funky Magazine covers for tablecoverings.
Staff were very friendly. Owner offered us a free shot of this digestif which tasted like Yaegermeister. The bill for drinks, appetizers, and main dishes for four people came to $140.00.
They accept VISA, cash, and Interac

Indian Flavour-closed Dec 2006

595 Bay Street
(416) 408-2799

Conveniently located right at Dundas and Yonge right near the Eaton Centre in the Atrium (the mall across from Eaton Centre) I went with two co-workers to enjoy the lunch buffet for $8.95. The dinner buffet is $12.95. It was jam-packed with people, so I that is an indication that it’s good. I’ve been told by many colleagues that it’s a great place to dine for lunch or dinner

Indian flavour comprises 3 large dining halls, seats close to 100 tables, spread on two levels. Seating is large and spacious. Tables are spread far apart from each other and we did not feel congested.

There are two distinct buffets for vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections, physically divided, and far apart from each other. Indian Flavour is not trendy but very casual and non-pretentious. There is a separate salad and dessert section with amazing noddle pudding with rice and spices and excellent thick rice pudding with spices, raisins, and nuts

Food is hot, fresh, often refilled, and not just sitting there like most Indian buffets. Food is not oily or greasy. I had the eggplant curry (bhartha), the vegetable curry with string beans, carrots, peas, zucchini curry, and daal (curried lentils and black beans). There is a large selection of dishes for both the vegetarian and non vegetarian buffets. My colleagues had masala chicken, curried lamb, and curried potatoes. Ambiance was nice, spacious, clean, with an earthy green decor with green carpets, earthy green decor, with tiny bits of Indian influences.
They accept VISA and Interac and I would definitely go back the next payday 🙂

Just Thai

534 Church
(416) 928-9100

 

Located right in the heart of the gay ghetto right at Church and Maitland. It definitely does not look like a typical Thai restaurant. As my roomate Paulo says, it was very Asian in decor with contemporary designed tables and chairs, clean lines, small tables, minimalist decor, white walls, minimalist design, mixture of wood panelling on the ceiling with bamboo curtains used as decorative wall coverings. It looked like a dimly lit Martini bar. It had some industrial influences in decor and overall design of restaurant.

Just Thai has a large bar with a large variety of wines, beers, apperitif and digestitifs, beautifully displayed. The kitchen is hidden in back. It oddly plays club music, very much looks like Byzantium, a trendified fusion restaurant that, after 11pm, turns into a Martini Bar and/or danceclub.

I ordered the vegetarian hot and sour soup [YUMMA] with chunks of tofu, vegetables, bamboo shoots, mushrooms, and the broth was thick and very spicy. For my drink I ordered a typical overpriced Diet Coke for $2.00, served in a small glass. For my main dish, I ordered the Avocado and Tofu Vegetarian stir fry in a peanut sauce. I could barely taste the peanut sauce but there was substantial avocado but not enough tofu and I had trouble tasting the peanut sauce ($9.99). Overall the entire dish was fabulous but portions were small. Dish did not come with rice.

Paulo ordered the calamari (fried squid) and “Traditional” Pad Thai with shrimp, chicken, and tofu, egg, Thai noodles, crushed peanuts, and some vegetables. He said both dishes were very good. I think the Calamari was $8.95 and the Pad Thai was $14.95. I’d definitely go back to Just Thai in the future.