Lee Restaurant [Melanie]

 603 King St. W.
Phone: (416) 504-7867

I decided to go to Lee this Saturday essentially because I really couldn’t afford to go to Susur but was really intrigued to try out Susur Lee’s eclectic style fusion cuisine. Susur Lee is a celebrated chef based in Toronto and owns Susur, and Lee, located side-by-side at 601 and 603 King St. West. Susur opened its doors in 2000, and has been on various international Top 50 lists, including Restaurant’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards.

Going into Lee I was overwhelmed by the amazing decor – very stylish, very chic. Even though we didn’t have any reservations we were quickly seated at the bar. This ended up being a great spot for an entire evening out. It is a very busy restaurant and by 8pm there as an actual line outside. The staff are exceedingly friendly and warm. The background music fits with the decor- it was mainly house, dance and electronic. The evening is more casual, the menu full of small, fascinating dishes.

The wine list was fairly extensive. They are also part of the BYOW program so for a $30 corkage, you can just about bring whatever you like. I ordered 2 glasses of the Chilean house wine. It was an excellent choice.

Their “signature dish” is a Singapore salad. It serves two and it is just amazing. I was told it had like over 10 ingredients’ in it including wild flowers. The servings are fairly small “appetizer-sized”. So it is normally recommended that everyone order about 2 to 3 dishes each. The waitress usually recommends what to order and which dishes are larger than others.

The dishes also arrive in random order. The intention is clearly to create an atmosphere where a group is really sharing a meal together and discussing the food. It works very well and makes for an interesting and unique dining experience. I ordered way more than I really needed too. Some of the things I ordered included the Coconut with lime, chilli and shrimp soup which was more sour tasting; Four satay (chicken, shrimp, pork and beef) with mint chutney, peanut and tamarind sauce; boneless chicken wings. My favourite was definitely the Singapore salad. Each dish is typically between $10-17. Reservations are a must if you want something around the dinner hour. It was emptying out by 9:30pm (on Saturday) so you might be able to just walk-in if you go after the dinner hours.

The bathroom is small with only two stalls and not the cleanest. They were certainly not the nicest. However I was there for the food and I was truly impressed. Would I go back? Most definitely, in fact I consider it one of my favourite restaurants in Toronto. This is a chic, trendy, elegant restaurant where you can spend a hip Friday/Saturday evening with friends.

-Melanie Browne

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Le Commensal

655 Bay Street (entrance on Elm St.)
416-596-9364

With 7 restaurants in Canada (3 in Montreal, 1 in the South Shore, 1 in Quebec city, and 1 in Laval) and 1 restaurant in Toronto, Le Commensal has been a leader in providing healthy vegetarian cuisine that is diverse in flavours, colours, textures, and palattes.

For over 30 years Le Commensal has been providing a large selection of options for vegetarians. The name, Le Commensal, comes from the word “commensal” meaning an organism that lives off another organism without harming each other. That is the true essence of vegetarian cuisine

Food is priced according to weight, so if you are hungry and the items you choose are hefty, expect to pay between $20-$25. From my last visit, i chose beet salad, sweet and sour seitan, chili, ratatouille, cous cous salad, hummus and tabouleh, strips of tofu braised in ginger. Although it’s a glorified cafeteria, food is piping hot, fresh, and full of flavour and colour. Overall decor and setting is tranquil, and relaxing. Food is labeled v (vegan), l (dairy), and o (eggs).

Le Commensal offers some take home meals including an assortment of sweet and savoury pies and quiches, fresh soups (broccoli, butternut squash, carrot, Indian lentil, minestrone, pea soup, tomato and barley, and hearty vegetable. In the past, I’ve bought tons of vegepate ( a veggie alternative to liver pate), and packaged marinated sweet and sour tofu and sweet and sour seitan.

Frozen meals include a meaty Bourguignon Stew (cubes of seitan, button mushrooms and pearl onions, simmered in a red wine sauce, with heavenly mashed potatoes) , Cacciatore Veggie Simmer (soy-protein simmered in a tomato and herb sauce, served over pasta), Chinese Stir-Fry (slices of seitan baked in a tomato and tamari sweet and sour sauce, served with garlic-saut饤 pasta.), Creole Jambalaya (rice seasoned with jalape񯠰eppers, garnished with beans, vegetables and chunks of soy protein), Greek-style Casserole (saut饤 tofu with garden vegetables seasoned with garlic, lemon, oregano, topped with basmati rice), the classic lasagne (drop dead delicious) with layers of fresh pasta with tomato sauce, creamy b飨amel sauce, and an assortment of cheeses, the three bean chili (a hearty dish of beans, chunky vegetables and Le Commensal Mexican style ground soy) , Le Commensal Thai Delight (strips of seitan in a tangy sweet-and-sour sauce, with a hint of chili pepper) , Vegetable Couscous (simmered vegetables and chick peas smothered in tomato sauce with couscous), the famous Veggie Shepherd?s Pie (seasoned ground soy with sweet corn and mashed potatoes).

You may notice that many items are sweet. This is because the chili, seitan, and the ratatouille has an added touch of maple syrup that accentuates the flavour of the dish. For Ontarians who dine at Le Commensal, it may give them a touch of Quebec maple syrup.

Be careful, you can choose low fat dining by opting for salads and light fare, there are some oily and rich, decadent dishes like the drop dead yummy lasagna, tofu burgendaise, and the seitan in the various sauces (sweet and sour, etc). Even though some chocolate cakes are vegan, don’t assume it’s fat free or sugar free. Be careful. Choose smaller plates (meals can cost $12-$16) while larger plates can cost more ($14-$23). Food is refreshed constantly and overall decor is clean, not cluttered, tasteful, and pretty relaxing. Considering it is a glorified cafeteria, they try to avoid making it resemble a food court by having it divided in sections and putting calm music, free water, and choosing colours and designs that make the place overal tranquil and not busy (like McDonalds, Subway, or other fast food chains).

Accepts all cards and has liquor license.

Ginger (2007)

Ginger/Ginger 2
695 Yonge St.
(416) 966-2424

521 Bloor Street West
(416) 536-3131

252 Carlton Street
(416) 923-7979

546 Church Street
(416) 413 1053

403 Yonge
416-263-9999

The two original Ginger’s I know of are the one at Yonge and Bloor and the one at Yonge and Gerrard (called Ginger 2). quick and cheap with large portions, damn good prices, and a variety of good food, from stir frys, pho (Vietnamese soup with rice noodles, thinly slices beef, and veggies–the broth actually cooks the beef), as well as Vietnamese subs for less than $3, fruit salad, thick and delicious smoothies, vegetarian pho (vegetarian broth with deep fried or steamed tofu, veggies (snow peas, broccoli, cauliflower, onion, carrot, green and red pepper, bean sprouts) in a heaping bowl of healthy goodness. Other fare includes cold salad rolls (veggie, shrimp, or meat varieties), or the spring rolls (deep fried), come with a sweet dipping sauce or a fishy tasting brown sauce with sprinkled peanuts.

Service is very fast and efficient. Customers line up and order and they take a clear plastic block with a number and staff serve the food. Food is served hot and fresh and staff are pleasant (not extremely pleasant-it’s very fast paced at the Yonge/Bloor location).

The Church and Wellesley location (re-branded as Ginger – Taste of Health) has an actual bar where they serve up fancy fruity martinis. Ginger on Church and Wellesley is more upscale in terms of the decor, but the prices are still as low as Ginger on Yonge/Bloor and Ginger 2 on Yonge/Gerrard. The Church location is fairly new, so there is more seating, bathrooms are nicer, and the placer is cleaner. At the time of my Church street visit (March 2006), they did not offer vegetarian pho as they claim that they cannot make their Pho vegetarian.

The other Ginger locations on Bloor (the Annex) and on Calrton (in Cabbagetown) offer a more trendy and chic look (similar to the Church street location). All of the “newer” locations (Church, Carlton, and Bloor) market themselves as healthy and offer vegetarian options.

The Yonge/Bloor street location and the Church/Wellesley location accept all cards, while the newer Annex location only accepted cash at the time. The Annex location also had a slightly different menu. At that location i ordered the vegetarian hot and sour pho which was equally delicious but had less vegetables than the Yonge/Bloor location. The broth was tastier and the whole decor/ambiance more trendy (even the veggie salad rolls w/ peanut sauce came in trendy shapes and in a more trendy plate). I prefer the veggie salad rolls (more variety) which came with slices of mango and carrot and there was more vegetarian options whereas the Ginger at Yonge/Bloor offered veggie, shrimp, beef salad rolls in an oyster sauce topped with peanuts. Ginger in the Annex offered a delicious REAL peanut sauce (veggie with no fish stock). If only they could improve their portion size on the Pho.

Overall the new branding of Ginger Taste of Health focuses on serving the vegetarian community, when it claims vegetarian options available, whereas the Church/Wellesley could not give a rat’s ass about us veggies and The Ginger at Yonge/Bloor could very well be lying since their English communication skills suck–staff hardly talk…who knows if they even understand the word “vegetarian”. Bathrooms are Ginger at Yonge/Bloor look like a murder scene, don’t bother going to the washroom there, hold it in. Both Ginger at Yonge/Bloor and Yonge/Gerrard need makeovers but food and service is excellent, fast, efficient, friendly, and quick. It’s definitely worth moving to a neighbourhood where there is a Ginger. You get a fast, hearty, healthy, and cheap “no bullshit” meal.

Also offers cheap Vietnamese submarines for under $5 and cheap stir fries (veggie, seafood and meat varieties). My friend Wendy (fellow reviewer) often stops by Ginger at Yonge/Bloor for a large Vietnamese Sub for $2.95 (sure beats Subway or Mr. Sub). She is very happy with her selection as the sandwich is large, fresh, and best of all cheap. Can’t complain.

New Generation Sushi [review -Lynnette]

 493 Bloor Street West
Tel: 416-963-8861

After being gutted by fire in the December 2005,  much to the shock and dismay of its many loyal customers  the much-loved, cheap-eats sushi restaurant, New Generation, re-opened its doors in May 2006, to reveal a new and greatly improved version of its former self.

Passer bys who happen upon this little Bloor West mainstay, located between Spadina and Bathurst, will initially be lured by its contemporary, yet unpretentious, pale gold, interior, and the sight of generous portions of Japanese fare being served up by friendly and attentive staff, who will have your order delivered to your table before you can say??Onaka ga sukimashita!?

Though be forewarned: NG is not the type of establishment where you can engage in protracted conversations with your dinner companions over a nice cup green tea, long after you?ve finished your meal. (Well, you could, but you?d have to endure the gnashing of teeth emanating from the famished people waiting to occupy your table.)

No, you?ll need to visit Future Bakery, or the Green Room for that, because NG is where you get your sushi fix met, and then move out for the next lot of hungry customers all jonesing for delicious menu items such as the spicy salmon rolls (salmon, green onion, spicy mayonnaise, tempura bits, $5.50); dynamite rolls (giant tiger shrimp, tempura bits, avocado, cucumber, green onion and spicy kewpie, $6.50); or the very filling temaki or handroll set (tuna, salmon, california, spicy ebi handroll and salmon skin handroll, $10.95). If you?ve never had a handroll before, picture it as such: sheets of dried seaweed rolled into ice-cream cone like formations and stuffed with a combination of sushi rice, fish and sometimes vegetables. And speaking of ice-cream, don?t hurry off before you?ve been offered the green tea ice-cream, gratis with your dinner.

With a note on the quality of the food, I find NG to be fairly consistent. I appreciate the texture of the rice, and the way it?s seasoned, though I prefer my sushi rice a little warmer than how it?s served at NG; the nori/seaweed could be a little crisper too. But for the speed of service, the price and the quantity of food, I can?t really complain.

Also of note, since the renovation, business has increased significantly, so it?s best to call ahead and make dinner reservations to avoid line-ups. Another tip: If you do happen to find yourself in one of those line-ups that spills out the door and snakes down the sidewalk, be sure to have your name added to a waiting list. I?ve observed a number of New Gen neophytes waiting in such line-ups, who are mystified (not to mention tremendously irked ? and who can blame them) when people farther down the queue end up being seated ahead of them.

Oh, and the bathrooms. I can only comment on the women’s bathroom, which is modest, yet clean, and is almost always fully stocked with the things bathrooms should be stocked with. And I?ve never had to wait in a line-up to use it. Go figure.

– Lynnette Torok