Fire on the East Side

6 Gloucester St.
(416) 960-3473

Wendy and I and some friends went for brunch at Fire On The East Side right before the Pride Parade last Sunday. Fire on the East Side is conveniently located right at Gloucester and Yonge, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Brunch is served Sat, Sun and Holidays until 4pm

The decor is really great with very colourful dishes, comfortable seating, bright colours in the food, excellent presentation. Food that we saw before ordering had had life, texture, looked fresh and colourful. While we waited for everyone to arrive (~15 people) we were served banana bread instead of your typical bread and butter. It was fresh and yummy.

I ordered my typical brunch favourite: yogourt with granola and fruit for $8. My order resembled an extra large soup bowl with banana-honey yogourt but only a sprinkle of granola and very little fruit. In other words, it resembled yogourt soup. I was slighlty disappointed. Aaron ordered the Fritatta Tower” which he thought was quite good… light and fluffy with smoked salmon and some other vegetables. He thought it was nice that it was served with a side of fruit. He thought that the brunch potatoes were like little frozen hashbrowns that they warmed up in a microwave so he was not impressed with that.

Aaron’s friend Robin had the spinach fritata which he found delicious. He thought that food was a cut about the usual for the neighbourhood. He thought the service was excellent but WAY TOO SLOW.

Wendy ordered the chicken and bacon pesto sandwich on ciabatta bread
At least 5 people ordered the Huevos Burrito $9 (eggs, refried beans and Monterey Jack cheese and topped
with warmed salsa. ). Someone else ordered the Crab Cake Benedict $10 (eggs benedict with crab cakes). Another brunch attendee ordered a nice salad with walnut-crusted goat cheese. Lastly two people ordered the banana bread French toast with loads of fruit ($7). It looked really good, hold the French toast.

Other interesting brunch items included the cinnamon apple crepe ($9) served with raspberry crème fraiche and fresh fruit. They also serve typical brunch fare like eggs and bacon, sausage, steak and eggs, and pancakes. Try the “east side” omeletes that are served with home fries and ratatouille (Wendy says they home fries are not that spectacular, though)

The decor is warm and inviting, perfect for that late-night cocktail. With white-painted brick, retro bar stools, hardwood floors, postmodern industrial metal-topped tables, and a large outdoor front terrace this place has definite ambiance for brunch or late night drinks, but expect long waits. They charge an additional $3.00 if you want your egg whites only for your omelete. They accept every card. Prices are a bit high for what you get but presentation and food is fresh, artistic, colourful, full of texture and flavourful.

Soda [Wendy]

425 Danforth Avenue
ph: 416-466-5227

I cannot for the life of me figure out why this place isn’t crowded on a constant basis, like the other restaurants on the Danforth.

Perhaps it’s because it’s more of a medeterrainen fusion restaurant instead of straight Greek, but it’s still damn good!

Our service was friendly & attentive, my food was awesome – risotto with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, other veggies etc & heavy on the garlic. I thought it was fantastic, & there was enough to take home for a secomd meal even. Thankfully, the price was right as well, most of the entrees being within the $12-$20 range.

Now, I did go to Soda back in 2000 & had brunch there, & was not fond of the fruit selection that accompanied the crepes, & hadn’t returned since then, but now I’m wiser & see that it is another decent option for dinner on the Danforth.

Soda

425 Danforth Avenue
ph: 416-466-5227

 

Located right on the Danforth, SODA is an acronym for South on Danforth Avenue

It is the fusion of Greek and Italian cuisine, offering traditional Greek and Italian fare

They have all traditional Greek dishes as well as Italian dishes like various pastas (Fettucini Alfredo, Penne Prima vera) as well as thin crusted pizza (Mediterranean pizza has feta, olives, tomatoes, etc) and more traditional pizzas like sausage, pepperoni, and seafood

We went on a warm summer evening on Friday. To our surprise every restaurant on the Danforth was packed except this one. We did not know why. The atmosphere is inviting, the service was excellent, and the food was superb.

Wendy ordered the risotto of the day ($14.95) , a risotto with chicken breast, mushrooms, in a creamy pesto sauce. She loved it. The portions were huge and she only finished about 70% of it. I ordered two appetizers, the spanakopita, which comprised four small spinach pies topped with sesame seeds, and a little platter of salad in the middle of my plate with dollop of tzatiki. I also ordered the Imam (grilled eggplant with roasted red and green peppers). It came with four slices of Italian-style pita. Both appetizers were $5.95 each.

Portions were huge and food was fresh and flavourful.

The whole place is very classy. The restaurant is composed of a large, open concept dining hall, very minimal in design. Staff are extra friendly, informative, and accomodating. The only strange thing that Friday evening was that Soda was the only place that was empty. Maybe it was because it was not a true Greek restaurant (it was fusion) and that people visiting the Danforth on a Friday night want an authentic Greek meal and Soda offers both Greek and Italian.

They also have a small brunch menu, mostly comprised of egg dishes but also has two fruit dishes (fruit and granola with yogourt) and fruit salad. They accept all cards.

Mong Kut Thai

596 Danforth Ave,
416-463-2667

 

I finally made it to Mong Kut Thai last week. I used to frequent the previous restaurant that was in it’s space – The Daily Grind, which was awesome for good cheap brekkie, but I digress.

So I finally took the plunge & went in. The decor is nearly exactly the same, save for a few new pictures on the wall, but the set up is the same, so I guess they went with the notion of “if it ‘aint broke, don’t fix it”

So I ordered a soup to start, which was chicken & coconut (how very thai). It was really tasty, but the portion was far too small for what they charged.

The main course was altogether a different story. I went for the asparagus & mushrooms in a garlic sauce & rice & the portion was so big I had to get my dining companion [Mark] to help out. It was really tasty though, and fresh too, which is always a good sign.

I have heard that the back patio is something awesome, so I’ll definetely go back & try it. It was a pleasant dining experience. Not especially remarkable, but decent all around (except for the bathrooms – those should have been renovated ages ago!

Vegetarian Haven (formerly Health Haven)

17 Baldwin St
416.621.3636

I heard about this place at last summer’s Vegetarian Food Festival at the Harbourfront centre last August 2003. Formerly known as Health Haven in Etobicoke, this place opened in Baldwin Village in the fall of 2003. I was excited to try it out, but never made it out to this small little enclave, almost hidden from the fast pace of downtown Toronto.

Vegetarian Haven is a vegan restaurant with flare. The interior is dark and resembles a bistro, or some romantic jazz place. Interiors are very nice inside, almost fancy. Menu is extensive and large, almost intimidating. It is divided into appetizers, salads, tofu main dishes, seitian main dishes, tempeh main dishes, vegetable stir frys, noodle dishes, powershakes, and desserts.

Prices are very affordable and I was surprised since the restaurant looked so “high end.” When I went for dinner last night with two Librarian friends (Helen and Melanie), we sat on the front patio, slightly elevated from street level. The front patio was very comfortable as seating is not that congested. Patio sits about 7-10 tables. The restaurant seems to sit about 15-20 tables inside.

There is a daily lunch special ($7.99), daily dinner special ($9.99), a set lunch meal ($12.99), and a set dinner meal ($14.99). Sound confusing? It’s not really. The lunch and dinner specials are just entrees of the day. The set lunch and dinner specials consists of the entree, the soup of the day, and a choice of different desserts (tofu ice cream or toffutti, or vegan chocolate cake).

I ordered the sweet and sour tempeh dish ($9.99) and a hot and sour soup ($4.29). The hot and sour soup was a thick red, highly spicy, with a lot of vegetables, including textured vegetable protein the form of shrimp. Soup portion was not that big but not small either. The sweet and sour tempeh was amazing. The tempeh steaks were chewy, nutty in texture and flavour, and were very fresh. The sweet and sour sauce was tangy and came with chunks of hot pineapple. The dish came full of vegetables (bok choy, broccoli, peppers, mushrooms, and onions) and I was very impressed with its presentation.

Helen ordered the Organic Tofu & Vegetables with Purple Rice in Clay Pot ($8.99). Melanie ordered the curried pad thai (tofu, crushed peanuts, curried noodles, and a plentiful servind of vegetables for $7.99). The friendly waiter refreshed our water constantly. Service was excellent and waiter was knowledgable and flexible.

Below are a selection of some dishes I found very interesting. Soups include the daily special ($3.50), Won Ton Soup ($3.99), Hot and Sour Soup (wheat free)($4.29). Tofu, Mushroom, Sweetcorn Soup wheat free ($3.50), and the Miso Seaweed Nappa Tofu Soup wheat free ($3.99). Some appetizers include the Baked (not fried) Spring Rolls ($3.50), Baked (not fried) Vegetable Rolls ($3.99), Baked (not fried) Fruit Rolls ($4.99), Fresh Thai Garden Rolls ($3.99), Pot Sticker Vegetable Dumplings ($4.99), Crispy Won Ton ($3.99), Californian Temaki – 2 nori seaweed wraps filled with avocado, marinated tofu, veg. ham, marinated oyster mushroom, cucumber, and daikon radish ($5.99), Tofu Drumsticks – 2 fried drumsticks made with soya, and skewered ($4.99), Samosas($3.49), Pan Fried Stuffed Tofu Skin Rolls ($5.99), grilled BBQ Soya Kebabs- ($5.99)
Fried Crispy Tofu – ($2.99), Fried “King Prawn” ($5.99), and Crispy Oyster Mushroom ($4.99). Menu items with “w/f” are wheat free.

My favourite are the tofu drumsticks. They taste really meaty and the “drumstick” is actually sugar cane. I’d recommend this appetizer for sure! Salads include
Mix Garden Salad with your choice of dressing ($6.99), Cleopatra Salad (Lettuce, orange, sunflower seed, almond, crouton, shredded carrot and sweet corn in nayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil & relish for $7.99), Cucumber, chick pea, and mixed bean salad
($7.99), Bowtie Kombu Seaweed Salad ($8.99), “King Prawn” Fruit Salad with
Konnyaku “king prawn” and fruit cocktail in a dairy free creamy sauce ($9.99), and a side order of mix garden salad ( $3.99). Dressings include creamy tahini, wasabi, ginger sesame vinaigrette, cucumber and dill, honey mustard, and olive oil and vinegar.

Side dishes include a variety of tofu products (pastrami, ham, seafood, grilled tofu, marinated tofu) as well as “King Prawn” , pan fried tempeh, sautéed mushrooms,
steamed veggies, and avocado slices. “Souper bowls” are dinner sized soup bowls with vegetables, noodles, and tofu and/or TVP. They are complete meals on their own. The person beside our table ordered one and he could only finish half. “Souper bowls” include
Dumpling Souper Bowl ($7.99), “Pastrami” Souper Bowl ($8.99), “King Prawn” Souper Bowl ($8.99), “Seafood” Souper Bowl ($10.99), Across the Bridge Souper Bowl ($7.99), and the Won Ton Souper Bowl ($8.99).

Noodle dishes include the Canton Chow Mein ($7.99), Shanghai Chow Mein ($7.99), Curry Pad Thai Noodle ($7.99), “King Prawn” Chow Mein ($8.99), the Seafood Shanghai Chow Mein ($10.99), “Pastrami” Curry Pad Thai Noodle ($8.99), the Spicy Singapore Pasta ($8.99), the Chili with Pasta ($8.99), Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce ($8.99), Spaghetti with “Wheat Balls” in Tomato Sauce ($9.99), Spaghetti with Zesty Seitan Cutlet ($9.99), Spaghetti with Black Pepper Steakette ($9.99), and the Spicy Moroccan Chick Pea Spaghetti ($9.99)

Rice dishes are unique here because the rice served here is a 7 grain blend and it actually looks purple. “Purple Rice” is blend of white, red, brown, wild, and black rice cooked with a sprinkle of herbs. Some rice dishes include Organic Tofu & Vegetables with Purple Rice in Clay Pot ($8.99), Grilled Vegetables and Tofu with Purple Rice in Clay Pot ($9.99), “Seafood” with Purple Rice in Clay Pot ($10.99), Curry Fried Rice ($8.99), Hawaiian Fried Rice ($8.99), Garden Fried Rice ($7.99), Mushroom Delight Fried Rice ($8.99), and “Seafood” Fried Rice ($8.99)

The Vegetarian Haven also serves a variety of vegetarian hamburgers. Burgers come with a lot of vegetables (sometimes grilled) and blue corn chips and salsa dip. Some burgers include grilled seitan burger ($8.99), The grilled marinated organic tofu burger ($8.99), and the grilled Tofu “Salmon” Steak Burger ($9.99)

As with most vegetarian restaurants, there always has to be smoothies and wraps, a light alternative to the heavy noodle and rice dishes. Wraps are served with mixed green salad. Wraps include the classic, “almost cliche” grilled vegetable and tofu wrap ($8.99),
the chili wrap ($8.99), the avocado supreme wrap ($8.99), spicy moroccan chick pea wrap ($8.99), and the seafood wrap ($9.99)

Main dishes come with purple rice and vegetables. Seitan is “wheat gluten”- the protein part of wheat. Some seitan dishes include Singapore Seitan with peanut sauce ($9.99), Spicy Szechuan Seitan Nuggets ($9.99), Steakettes in Black Pepper Sauce ($9.99), Zesty Cutlets
($9.99), Buddha’s Delight ($10.99), and Curried Seitan ($9.99)

Tofu is coagulated ground soy bean puree. Some tofu dishes include the steamed silken tofu ($7.99), marinated organic ginger tofu ($8.99), braised tofu ($.99), Hawaiian Tofu ($9.99), Black Bean Tofu ($9.99), Tofu Turkey ($11.99), Tofu Seaweed Roulade ($11.99), Organic Tofu in Cream of Corn ($8.99), Grilled Organic Tofu and Vegetables ($8.99), Spicy Eggplant Tofu ($8.99), Golden Tofu ($9.99), Bird’s Nest ($10.99), and the Western Tofu Omelet ($10.99)

TVP (textured vegetable protein) dishes include Zacha Textured Tofu ($8.99), Black Bean Textured Tofu ($8.99), Spicy Mapau Tofu ($8.99), Tim Curry ($8.99), Grilled BBQ Kebab ($9.99)

Tempeh dishes are wonderful. Tempeh is fermented soy. It’s nutty, chewy, and filling. Some tempeh dishes include the sweet and sour tempeh ($9.99), spicy cayenne tempeh ($9.99),
Panfried tempeh in a spicy cayenne pepper sauce wf /s $9.99

Vegetable stir fry’s include the Mushroom Delight ($9.99), the Garden Delight ($8.99), the Steamed Seasonal Vegetables ($8.99), the Grilled Seasonal Vegetables ($9.99), and baked stuffed seasonal vegetables ($9.99)

Desserts include a variety of all vegan cakes, ice creams, pastries, and pies. Some include the Fruit Cup ($2.99), Tofu Ice Cream (aka Tofutti) ($3.49), Fried Banana with Coconut Milk and Crushed Peanuts ($5.99), Fried Apple Fritters with Maple Syrup ($5.99) , and the Pan Fried Red Bean Cake ($2.49)

Beverages include a variety of organic juices, sodas, power shakes (a variety of exotic fruit with organic soy milk – $4.49 for most). Some popular powershakes include the mango, pina colada, papaya, and the canteloupe. Sodas are $1.50 which is not bad. They also serve specialty sodas ($2.49/$4.99), a variety of teas ($1.25-$1.50) coffee ($1.99), coffee substitute ($2.50), and flavoured coffee ($2.50)

They accept every card under the sun.

Sidhartha,The

1450 Gerrard Street East,
Phone 416 – 406 – 2538

When I introduced my parents to Indian food in the mid 1990’s I took them to Buffet Maharaja in Montreal and they were mortified. The food was oily, clammy, cold, and flavourless. I should have known better to take my parents to an “non-buffet” restaurant for their first exposure to Indian food. I have visited many Indian restaurants in Toronto and I must say Indian rice factory and Sher-E-Pun-Jab are by far my favourite so far. I still hope that there is an Indian restaurant in Little India that would win me over Indian Rice Factory and Sher-E-Pun-Jab.

Last week I went for takeout with Paulo and we roamed through Little India and we found Sidhartha, a north Indian restaurant, right at the corner of Craven and Gerrard. We peaked inside and it actually had ambiance (unlike Udupi Palace which has excellent food but looks like a hospital waiting room)

When we entered the restaurant, we immediately saw that this place is different. It’s clean, tasteful, with a kitsch-free, classy ambiance. It’s small and cosy , with colourful fabric ribbons, canapes with tables underneath, dim lighting, with a lot of deep reds and other rich colours on the walls.

The lunch and dinner buffets are $7.99 and $9.95 respectively and they offer many vegetarian items (aloo gobi, channa, bhartha, saag paneer) as well as non vegetarian dishes like tandoori chicken, butter chicken, and other traditional curries. Buffet desserts include barfi, deep fried honey cheese balls, and ice cream (mango + vanilla)

There is also an à la carte menu with a large variety of dishes. It seems I have finally found a nice, affordable, non-trendy, Indian restaurant to take my parents to the next time they visit me in Toronto. I am confident that they will enjoy themselves. The decor and ambiance is romantic, cosy (15-20 tables in one dining room), laid back, non pretentious, and comforting. They accept all cards.

Looking Glass, The [closed January 2005]

582 Church Street
416-929-4779

Located right on Church right near Wellesley, this gorgeous Victorian home, once owned by the famous Simpson family, is now home to one of the nicest bars/pubs/ in the city. This place has definitely won me over for being one of the best lounges/bars to hang out on a Saturday night in the summer.

With its elegant ambiance , gorgeous Victorian interiors, and its romantic back patio, I did not want to leave.

The Looking Glass, as the name suggests has the theme of Alice in Wonderland with many of their menu items having names like the Mad Hatter Burger, or the White Rabbit breakfast. It is now owned by partners Heather Mackenzie and Debra Hyslop.

Inside the three storey restaurant, it is divided like a house with many little dining areas or lounges. Everything is restored so it’s like stepping into an authentic Victorian home

With antique furniture, old Victorian couches, beautiful, authentic wood moldings, and a working fireplace, it is a great place to bring a date. This place serves high end pub food, or as Daniel puts it “nouveau pub food” or “International cuisine

The large outdoor front patio is nice. It sits about 10-15 tables. The entire restaurants sits about 386 people in total. The back terrace is spectacular (like Allen’s on the Danforth). It is definitely one of the most romantic and best patios in Toronto, beautifully heated with a bonfire, mature trees, and sits about 50-60 people

I ordered the organic greens salad for $5.95. large and tasty with olive oil dressing.
Other people ordered a huge plate of nachos with salsa, sour cream, and guamole. It came fresh, piping hot, and was very large. Daniel ordered the chicken quesadilas and it came with salsa and sour cream. He said they were good

The menu consists of some vegetarian selections (vegetarian stir fry for $11.95, some salads, bruschetta, garlic bread with mozzarella). Staff are flexible so any item prepared can be made vegetarian since everything is “made to order”. Some salads include mixed greens, spinach, caesar, and mediterranean,

Appetizers include the French onion soup, the daily soup, crab cakes, smoked salmon, calamari, mussels, spicy cajun shrimp, bruschetta, garlic bread with mozzarella, chicken satays, and deep fried vegetarian “deep fried” spring rolls in a honey soya sauce, (GROSS)

Light entrees include burgers, nachos, spicy chicken quesadilas with roasted red peppers, cheese, three cheese with salsa and sour cream, and chicken wings

Desserts include the white chocolate cheesecake, creme brulle, cassis poached pear, and a trio of all natural fruit ices

In addition to food, they also serve a large variety of wines, beer, and a large assortment of juices.

Main entrees include the smoked salmon fettucini, capellini bolognese (meat or veggie option), pad thai (meat or veggie option), west indian chicken curry, vegetarian stir fry, osso buco, 10 oz. black angus strip sirloin, grilled chicken with wild mushroom cream sauce, grilled porkchops with sundried cranberry and apple compote, cajun fried catfish with jalpeno tartar sauce, blackened atlantic salmon, and teriyaki marinated seabass

Lastly, they also have weekend brunch. Some items on the brunch menu include the “glass breakfast” (two eggs any style with home fries, toast, bacon or peameal bacon, or sausage , different types of quiche, white rabbits breaklfast (three eggs any style with brie or carmelized onions, or smoked chicken, spinach and swiss cheese, with homefries and greens, french toast, poached eggs, tomato boccocini sandwich, mad hatter burger, the toasted western sandwich, various pastas and soups

Hours of operation are Mon&Tue 5pm -1am; Wed,Thu&Fri 5pm-2am; Sat&Sun 11am-2am . The Looking Glass has live entertainment (live jazz, shows, themed nights with entertainment) and every couple of days there are dinner and drink specials (cheap chow with really cheap drinks and food, $4.99 mussels, ). Check their web site at http://www.thelookingglass.ca for details.

The top level of this three storey Victorian house is their banquet hall. The Looking Glass holds wedding receptions, parties, and other social functions. Their bottom level lounge, known as “The Glass” is one of the only places in the village where you can listen to great music in a relaxed atmosphere. There are couches, working fireplaces, and a laid back, relaxing ambiance.

The Looking Glass also does extensive catering for parties, wedding receptions, and other important events. They offer a variety of “a la carte” items and platters to choose from.
They accept every card under the sun