Kama

214 King Street west
416-599-KAMA

Kama (as in Kama Sutra), meaning the god of erotic love is the name of the last place I went to dine with Wendy the night of Evita. Located in the trendy and pricy Entertainment District (King west between University and Spadina) this place is kind of hidden as it is downstairs. Located right across from Roy Thomson Hall, we liked the fact that they served a dinner buffet because we were not prepared to pay over $20 each for our meal. Kama’s decor is very Mediterranean with a terra cotta colour and does not look very Indian but very designer-ish. With a minimalist shi-shi-poo-poo motif, this place is the epitome in high brow Indian cuisine.

Although located in the basement of a building, the dug out full length windows make the place very bright. The restaurant itself is very large as it looks as though it can sit over 100 people. Divided into three main dining areas separated by columns, we could not find the buffet table at first as it was hidden way in back of the restaurant. The dinner buffet was kind of pricy ($16.95) and there were many vegetarian options. As always, i enjoyed the deliciously spicy vegetable pekoras (although vegetarian, the takeout menu called them chicken pekora, quite a fatal error). In addition, i enjoyed the vegetable curry, Channa masala (chick pea curry), Aloo Chat (potato curry in a sweet and sour curry with vegetables and crunchy chippy things, Saag Paneer (spinach and cheese), garlic naan and mint naan. The garlic naan was incredible with a hint of garlic and not too strong. Wendy had the mint naan and she seemed to enjoy it.

For dessert Wendy had the doughnut balls with a lot of syrup or honey and she made the funniest face when she tasted the balls and they were not what she expected. I think she expected soft and full of honey, but instead they were dry with very little syrup. We both thoroughly enjoyed the luxurious rice pudding with pistachios. We really appreciated the taste and the bold flavours of nutmeg, ginger, and anise. YUMMA! The actual meal was so-so but the dessert rocked. I must admit that $16.95 is a nervy price to charge for dinner buffet but we were in the theatre district where naive tourists would pay anything. We were pleased that, unlike Little India, they kept on refreshing all of the food so everything was hot and fresh. Still, the food was very so-so…nothing to run home about. I would probably not go again, or at least, i would order from the separate dinner menu because most of the time those items are more fresh and are of higher quality. Accepts all cards. Open late. No reservations required. Takeout lunch and dinner buffet significantly cheaper. Separate lunch and dinner menu available.

Verveine [review by Mark Aaron] closed 2006/07

1097 Queen St. E.,

416-405-9906.

Hours: Monday to Saturday at 6:00 p.m. to 10 p.m. for Dinner. Brunch Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

Verveine is now closed , as of summer 2008, it is now known as FARE.

Located in Leslieville on Queen east 2 blocks east of Pape, almost hidden in between many retro cheesy furniture stores and squeezed in between some mom and pop convenience stores and near a Smoked Salmon specialty store, Verveine does not stand out as being a restaurant that is “in your face”. We decided to go there for brunch because we have heard so many good things about this place. Inside the place looks very chi chi poo poo and we knew it was a French bistro/restaurant, but we wanted to try out their brunch.

Wendy and I arrived at 12:45pm. When we entered the restaurant, we were frustrated because 1) we were late and Joel and Walter were waiting for us, and 2) the place was jam packed with people. Verveine only accepts reservations for dinner, not brunch, unless you are more than 8 people. Even so, they may not accept brunch reservations. I was hungry and I had to run 30 kilometres that day so I had to make sure that I ate early enough. Joel and Walter were already sitting on the lovely fluffy mint green Victorian couch right by the entrance of the restaurant. There were many tables in the front and about 4 nice booths and 4 tables at the back of the restaurant. I hoped we would get a booth since they’re more comfortable.

Restaurant tables are spaced apart appropriately, except in the middle where the three small “2 person” tables are slightly squashed. Verveine seems to be a place divided into 3 zones: 5 tables in the front zone of the restaurant, 1 large booth right at the entrance zone (6 people), 3 “2 person” tables in the middle zone, 4 booths at the back of the restaurant with 4 tables at the back adjacent to the bar. When we were seated, we lucked out by being able to sit at a booth at the back of the restaurant.

I ordered the fruity flapjacks with Chantilly cream (vanilla whipped cream) and maple syrup. Pancakes (3) were thick and not too heavy or greasy. I was definitely full and the price was a little high ($9) but well worth it. Service was prompt and exceptional. Staff are more than friendly and knowledgeable and attentive. Wendy had the same item but she added a big thick sausage ($3). She commented that it is great to add extra to your meal. Joel and Walter both ordered the croissant with 2 poached eggs, creamed spinach, and hollandaise sauce. The dish came with salad or herbed home fries. Joel chose a side order of green salad and Walter chose a side order of homemade spicy potatoes (they ended up sharing the salad and herbed home fries). In addition, Joel ordered a side order of smoke salmon for an additional $3.

Popular brunch items include truffled scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on baby spinach with a buttermilk biscuit – $11, a basket of baked goods with fruit preserves – $4.95, “The Big A”- a choice of 2 meats (steak, sausage, peameal bacon), 3 eggs, saut�ed onions and peppers, and green salad – $15, “Toad in the Hole”- two eggs in hollowed out corn break with mild salsa and guacamole- $9, omelette of the moment with green salad and bagel – $9 (egg white omelettes- $10), a decadent French Toast dish (French Toast with caramelized bananas and chocolate with peanut butter whipped cream- $9, fresh fruit compote with oat cakes and honey yogourt- $7.50, Green Plate Special � Canadian AAA steak with scrambled or poached eggs, herbed home fries, a buttermilk biscuit, tomato pepper relish and natural juice -$12, poached eggs on croissant with hollandaise sauce, salad or herbed home fries -Blackstone with pancetta and tomato -$10.50, or Florentine with saut�ed spinach – $9.50, the brunch burrito with sausage, peppers, cheese, scrambled eggs, with mixed bean salad, sour cream, and spicy sauce- $10, a “samwich”- grilled chicken breast, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, Chipotle mayonnaise, on a Panini roll with herbed home fries and salad – $9.50, crab cakes with wilted spinach, herbed home fries and caper mayonnaise – $11. You can add any items to any of the meals like Farmer’s sausage – $3, herbed home fries – $1.50, tomatoes, $1.50, and cornbread – $2, grilled peameal bacon – $2.50, buttermilk biscuits – $1.50, or bagel/croissant – $1.25

Dinner appetizers are creative and fuse North American dishes inspired with flavours from India. Some dishes include a Romaine salad (Romaine lettuce with creamy roasted garlic dressing, pine nuts, and asiago tuile – $8), a home-made Samosa with pear, pea, and smoked duck, in a honey-mustard dipping sauce- $12, a Thai wrap- a folded chive crepe with glass noodle salad with a sweet and sour dipping sauce- $8, Italian Chef Salad- $9, Hummus and Feta Dumplings in a Gazpacho Dipping Sauce – $10, Crab and Corn “Panna Cotta” with Foccacia and a small green salad – $12, an asparagus and cherry tomato salad with parmesan and sherry dressing- $9, and Pappadum-crusted Tiger Shrimp with lemon raita and mango chutney- $13 Some dinner items include Duck Breast with basmati rice, rapini, in a mahogany glaze – $22, Baked Tilapia Filet with beet risotto, wilted spinach, in an herbed dressing- $18, a three-cheese baked macaroni with broccoli, cauliflower, and peppers – $15, roasted chicken breast with crab claws, with asparagus, in a pommery b�arnaise sauce – $21, rabbit in a red wine sauce with mushrooms, herbs, and pearl onions, and roasted vegetables- $19, vegetarian polenta lasagne in a mushroom and b�chamel sauce – $16, pan-seared halibut with green beans, cherry tomatoes, and caper butter sauce- $20, and a 10 ounce serving of grilled ribeye with roasted vegetable, spinach, and radish salad with corn relish- $25. Although the prices for entrees are not cheap, they are not a rip-off from hell like at Cafe Sassafraz.

Verveine’s decor is sleek, simplistic, and minimalism is the key to its design. Wall and fabric covering are pale green with a minimalist design of no art of knickknacks. Imagine Pottery Barn without the fluff or curves. There are some nice fabric wall hangings that add some warmth to the place and there are 2 large mirrors that give the impression of depth and space since the restaurant is not that big. I do think that the simple design adds a clean, sleek, polished look to the place, but, unlike Hello Toast, Verveine is not charming and does not have “character”. I do like the calm, non-clutter of the pale green walls and pale green fabric on the chairs and white linen tablecloths. All I thought was “clean and crisp in design.” There is a lovely Victorian couch right at the entrance of the restaurant for patrons to sit while they wait for their table or booth. While waiting, I never sat on the couch but Joel, Walter, and Wendy commented that the lumpy couch should be replaced, seeing that they know they have a lumpy couch and often people will have to wait for a table for brunch.

Verveine’s cosy and friendly ambiance does have a touch of pretentiousness but it’s no over the top like other brunch places. Our experience was made even more enjoyable by the calm background soundtrack from the movies “Amelie” and “The Piano”. During the latter part of our meal, we heard Norah Jones so Verveine knows how to set a mood. The look and feel of this place is definitely “cool, chic, and laid back.” Portion sizes are decent and prices are a little high, but quality and service and flexibility in terms of veggie options are impressive. Wendy, Joel, and Walter especially liked how at the bottom of the menu, you have the option to add things to your meal for a slight price increase. Egg white omelettes are only $1 extra.

Accepts every card. Warm, friendly, and attentive service. Accepts dinner reservations but not brunch reservations. Brunch can be very busy. Expect a 15-20 minute wait.

Family Thai [Mark Aaron]

785 Danforth Ave
416-461-9288
open 7 days per week, 12 noon-midnight

 

As part of Wendy’s 30th birthday weekend, we decided to go dine at the newest Thai restaurant on the

Danforth, EOP (East of Pape)-the Family Thai. Conveniently located between my house and Wendy’s on the

Danforth, we looked at the menu and we saw (from the billboard) that they offer a large menu with many

vegetarian options.

Inside this new restaurant is still a work in progress. We did not see any Asian chatchkahs or

knicknacks, instead it looked like a university student’s apartment. The walls are adorned with kitschy

prints found at university poster sales that were laminated. Tables were nice but had milk and sugar

containers in cow prints. Alittle cheesy, not too Asian in decor, but oh well, a work in progress.

I must say all Thai restaurants in the city have the same menu. There is a beef, chicken, seafood

section, a small section with about 5 Malaysian dishes, a menu with alcoholic beverages, an appetizer

section, and a dessert section. Nearly all items are identical. I must confess it gets boring when all

of the Thai restaurants seem to collaborate and make their menus identical. How can i compare and

contrast when there is no diversity. For my meal, i ordered the vegetarian Thai hot and sour soup for

$5.95. The bowl was large and came fresh and hot and very spicy. To my surprise the broth was red and

hot, unlike most Thai Hot and Sour Soups which are black. When i visited a vegetarian Thai restaurant

in Montreal, they told me that authentic Thai Hot and Spicy (Hot and Sour was Chinese, she claimed) was

acutally made with lemongrass and lime and ginger and not black at all, but a yellow-orange clear broth.

She mentioned that the black broth of the Hot and Sour was actually a Chinese soup. How enlightening.

I had a lot of communication problems with the waitress when i ordered the cold veggie rolls. I asked

for a side order of peanut sauce (75 cents) and she told me that the cold veggie rolls came with the

sweet and sour sauce but it did not go well with the peanut sauce. I still insisted on having the

peanut sauce and in her broken, almost non-existent English, she told me i could only have the sweet and

sour dipping sauce.
I told her slowly that i did not want the sweet and sour dipping sauce,

but only the peanut sauce. She finally understand. Next came the hard part, asking her if the peanut

sauce was truly vegetarian, not made with oyster or fish or chicken stock. I asked her the ingrediants

in the peanut sauce and after several tries, she told me what the peanut sauce was made with. The peanut

sauce arrived with the cold veggie rolls and i was happy. The sauce was sweet and runny, not very

thick, but still quite delicious. I prefer thick and chunky, though.

It was funny to see how she reacted when the empty restaurant started getting busier. She nearly freaked out on us. When 2 customers entered the restaurant, she was in the middle of taking our order when she suddenly left and greeted the newer customers. As she sat them down, she came back to us, all frazzled, and apologized. Although she looked like she could have been in her mid 20’s, she acted like an awkward schoolgirl of 16 years old. As Wendy put it, “she was peculiar”.

For my main, i ordered the mango tofu, an assortment of stir fried veggies in a sweet mango sauce with

chunks of mango. My dish came was fresh and portions were large and i was very happy with the price

($8.95). Wendy ordered the Tom Yum Chicken soup with lemongrass, ginger, vegetables, and tofu. She

said it had a slight zing. My soup, on the other hand was the hottest, strongest soup i had ever had in

a long time. It had a bite and was much too strong. I could hardly taste the baby corn, tofu, bamboo

shoots, or the mushrooms. Wendy ordered another vegetarian dish: the stir fried veggies with cashews in

a coconut curry sauce. Since we shared dishes, we were able to taste each other’s dishes. I found her

dish to be easier on the stomach, more mild and creamy, with a medley of stir fried veggies and the

cashews really made the dish tasty. Both dishes were appropriately portioned and we were both quite

pleased with the value of our meal.

Like all other Thai restaurants, expect the typical Pad Thai,

Mango Chicken, Mango Tofu, Basil Beef, Basil Chicken, Basil Tofu, Thai Green and Red Curry, and a

variety of seafood dishes, seafood curries, and other beef and chicken dishes. Most dishes are under

$10.00 and some are in the $10.95-$12.95 price range. Family Thai also serves a variety of beers and

wine and mixed cocktails. Apart from the cheesy, kitschy decor, and the nervous, anxious energy of the waitress with broken English, we were quite satsified. Accepts all cards.

Fressen [brunch by Mark Aaron]

478 Queen St. W.
(416) 504-5127
64 Oxford Street
(416) 927-1231

Set in funky Queen West between Spadina and Bathurst, Fressen has always been a place that I have avoided for 2 reasons: the price and the price. I was pleasantly surprised when I took a look at the brunch menu. Dishes were under $10 and the portion size were not pathetic. Unlike my visit in 2002 for my 28th b-day, the dinner menu was wonderful but prices were too high and I left hungry and dissatisfied. Aaron and I decided to try Fressen again last Sunday with an open mind, hoping for the best.

I was happy to see that the menu was not too complicated. Serving traditional items, I opted for something different. I was disappointed to learn that Fressen does not serve diet coke/regular coke since they make their own drinks. Maybe they think they’re too good for serving soda pop or maybe it’s a philosophical or ideological issue. Maybe they’re too hip and cool for soda pop.

With a laid back ambiance, Fressen’s decor can be described as earthy. Spread across a
two-level dining space, Fressen’s colour scheme contains warm tones of copper, tan, light browns, and the restaurant is surrounded by branches of trees. It looks like a calm retreat, a rain forest of sorts, or a tropical jungle- very earthy and organic. Wait time for brunch was much quicker than dinner. The staff at Fressen are friendly, attentive, and patient. Fressen offers a full menu of espresso drinks (w/ organic soy milk). They offered latte, capuccino, macchiato, espresso, all for semi-normal prices ($3.50-$4.50).

I ordered the latte (w/ soy milk). It was slightly sweet and was served in a glass tied with a napkin, how decorative and cute. Aaron ordered Sugar Mountain ($4.00) – a homemade fresh juice of Beets, Carrot, Ginger and Lemon (Fressen makes fresh squeezed juices!). For our mains, I ordered the BBQ tofu scramble ($9.00) -beautifully served with a tomato cilantro salsa, a mango dollop, guacamole, grilled tempeh, a stuffed tomato with sweet potato puree, and a medley of fresh fruit. The serving of the tofu scramble was generous and it had a sweet and sour flavour and was very flavourful and fresh. Aaron ordered the Sweet Corn and Vegetable Fritters ($9.00) – griddle-seared patties filled with corn, zucchini, and sweet potato mixed with spinach and fresh herbs. The dish came with toast, orated potatoes, tomato cilantro salsa, guacamole, grilled tempeh, and a roasted squash stuffed tomato. He enjoyed his meal a lot.

Apart from the screaming baby, who was actually smiling with joy (I wonder what he/she was actually trying to say-he/she kept on looking back to smile). We wanted to yell at the parents for ignoring their satanic child and not even acknowledging/apologizing for his/her behaviour. Despite our disturbance, we thought it was a delicious brunch despite the fact that we sat next to nervy parents who were just enjoying their brunch while their loud, wailing baby was disturbing the whole restaurant on a nice Sunday morning on Mother’s Day.