Salad King (post-renovation)

335 Yonge Street
(416) 971-7041

Bright lights, shiny decor, metallic, kind of postmodern, hip, trendy, industrial (sort of), right in the middle of downtown at Ryerson University. Seats are very close together, almost packed in like sardines. Don’t bring someone on a first date here, it’s not a romantic place to dine. The menu is a plain piece of paper, like a placemat. This place serves Thai fast food, that is fresh, flavourful, hot, and spectacular looking.

The dishes are served on funky, trendy plates, and dishes are colourful and cool. I ordered the Bangkok Stir Fry with vermacelli noodles, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, peanut, (hold the egg) and the sauce was this spicy, aromactic sesame oil based glaze…tres yummy! I found out four visits later that the Bangkok stir fry was not completely vegetarian but made with fish sauce. Salad King’s staff are notorious for being unaware of vegetarians’ needs.

I tried again to find the perfect meal in my second visit. I was determined to find a dish that would be filling, tasty, and completely vegetarian. I ordered a spicy tofu dish with Chili level “3”, hold the white rice. For a side dish I had the cold veggie rolls with peanut sauce. The peanut sauce was most likely made with fish sauce but I only found out after the fact. The cold rolls were excellent. The spicy tofu dish was outstanding. I later found out that the Spicy Tofu was also made with fish sauce. As it turns out the word “vegetarian” means nothing to Salad King. I did not know fish was considered a vegetable. All waiters and waitress may be nice but they are unaware of the ingrediants in their dishes.

On my third and fourth visit, I found out that all items on the Veg. Lover’s menu (Emerald Tofu, Country Tofu, Golden Tofu, Spicy Tofu, Vegetarian Hot Thai Noodle, Vegetarian Bangkok Sir Fry, and Vegetarian Kari noodle) are all made with fish sauce except Golden Tofu and Country Tofu. The concept of vegetarian is not clear to this restaurant. The staff claim that these items are vegetarian when in fact they are not. You have to grill the waitress to actually admit that these dishes are made with fish sauce. Even the delicious cold rolls are vegetarian but the dipping sauce is made with fish sauce. At Salad King, it’s a don’t ask, don’t tell policy where innocent vegetarians must take the risk since staff won’t tell you if items are completely vegetarian. It has been a frustrating experience even more for me since all dishes come with rice and I do not eat it. Without rice, these dishes are not filling since portions are so small

My first dish was a bit dry, not saucy enough for my liking and not enough vegetables. Level is spice is on a “Chili” scale from 1-5. I have ordered dishes ranging from “Chili 1” to “Chili 5” and these dishes were all very good, yet not spicy enough. Hmmphh. Meals are from $5.95-$7.95. Strict vegetarians beware!

Reviewed by Mark

San

676 Queen West
416-214-9429

 

San is one of my favourite restaurants on the Queen West strip. My introduction to San was also the first time I tried Korean cuisine and I have returned several times since. San actually serves a mix of Korean and Japanese food with sushi dishes coming alongside more traditional Korean cuisine.

The restaurant itself is difficult to spot as the name is only written in small white letters on the front glass window . The interior is dark and slick and they always seem to be playing some cool music . On this particular visit, Michael Jackson’s Anthology seemed to find its way on to the CD player, which had more than a few people nodding their head to the pop classics.

After two delicous lychee martinis, I quickly browsed the menu and decided on the dynamite rolls. Each Japanese dish is served in a box with several sides including firm tofu, dumplings with glass noodles, salad with a delicious dressing, and a small helping of something that I assume is a Japanese vegetable but am not completely sure. The dynamite rolls were delicous and also came with shrimp tempura.

San ends every meal with a shot of ginger, sugar and water. A delicious aperitif to end off a delicious meal.

Chai

 1575 Bayview Avenue
(416)483-9512

Recently, I’ve become enamoured with the idea of visiting restaurants in less hyped areas of the city. One such area is the Bayview/Mt. Pleasant area between St. Clair and Yonge. Every time I drive through here, which isn’t often, I notice several upscale yet untrendy lunch and dinner joints. Working only a 10 minute drive away in Scarborough, I decided to try Chai on Bayview just south of Eglinton.

With a nice little patio that was crowded upon our arrival, I was nicely surprised by someone, who I believe was the owner, come out and set up a table just for us. With a lunch special of a variety of gourmet sandwiches and the soup of the day, I decided on a roasted veggie sandwich and a hot and sour soup. My sandwich, served on foccacia, consisted of the typical roasted eggplant, and red peppers and goat cheese. It was quite average and so was the soup. I believe my lunching partner felt the same.

Lately, looks have been deceiving. I hope things improve or I am going to revert back to the regular tasty restaurants.

Zyng Asian Market and Noodlery (chain)

730 Yonge
(416) 964-8410

Located right at Yonge and Charles, formally known as “Forkchops,” this Asian noodle restaurant chain fuses all type of Asian cuisine into one place. It does not feel like a chain so I really enjoy going here from time to time. Mostly serving Asian noodle dishes, visitors can enjoy Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Vietnamese flavours amongst the dishes the staff prepare. All dishes are less than $10. The food is made right before your eyes and is considered pseudo-fast food.

Restaurant is not high-end, in fact, it has the casual feel. Tables inside are placed very close together so there is not much room for deep, intimate conversation. A summer terrace is placed at Yonge and Charles but the stink and car vapour and traffic and noise of Yonge street makes this a polluted experience. It is best to dine inside. I always order the same thing, “create your own noodle dish.”

I select a protein (Meat, Chicken, Seafood, Tofu or Zoya/TVP), a noodle, (Udon, Rice, Egg, etc..), a sauce (Szechuan, Thai, Teriyaki, Spicy Peanut ) and I give this order to the waiter. The waiter brings out a small bowl and I go to the raw vegetable bar and stack up on Portobello mushroom pieces, carrots, onions, green pepper, water chestnuts, broccoli, cauliflower, celery, and bean sprouts.

Rain

Rain
19 Mercer Street
416-599-7246

Rain’s food is more of an art form than a means to sustain oneself. Each bite should be savoured as it is the last. Not just because it tastes good, but also because it costs so damn much!

You can call me cheap, but it takes a very special occasion for me to spend more than $50 on a meal. I could eat almost as well at home for a quarter of the price. Nevertheless, it is nice to be treated once in a while!

Rain serves a la carte and was not nearly as pretentious as I expected. My dinner consisted of several excellentally prepared dishes consisting of ahi tuna, black cod, lamb tenderloin, bok choy, jasmine rice in a banana lead, noodles and tempura.

That quick description cannot do Rain justice and if I had taken notes I’m sure I could dedicate a paragraph to every part of each dish. However, I am not that type of critic and if you are looking for that I suggest you visit the Toronto Life website for that sort of review.

My only criticism of Rain (besides the price if I had been paying) was that each dish came a little too quickly. We hadn’t stopped fawning over the previous dish before the next one came!

Living Well (closed in 2007)

692 Yonge
(416) 922-6770

Urban, funky, laid back ambiance, with Asian, Indian, and Arabic cuisine. The place is on two levels: a bar upstairs and a restaurant/lounge for food, drinks, hanging out, or enjoying a simple dessert. There is a back terrace on the main floor and a lounge/bar on the upper floor. Both floors are large and sits about ten tables. The food is flavourful and spicy with large portions and a diverse menu. The restaurant staff are very flexible in making the selections vegetarian friendly. The place is very gay friendly.

There is an interesting mix of people and the tables are close together. There are a lot of people watching and overall ambiance is comfortable. Part of the kitchen is open concept so you can see the chefs prepare some of the food. The entrees are $10.00 and up. Large portions and dim lighting and interesting art work make this place very unique.

I usually order the Vegetarian Moroccan stew with chick peas, red kidney beans, potatoes, mushrooms, green and red peppers, and onions, with cous cous. The meal was bursting with intense flavour. I have also ordered the Malaysian Chicken Stir Fry with peanut sauce and without the chicken. It is more expensive but has a lot of vegetables and is fabulous. Although prices are more expensive, ($10-$15 for an entree) the food is excellent and it is a great place to bring a date.

Lotus Garden [closed October 2005]

393 Dundas Street West
416-598-1883

Nov 2005 Update: Lotus Garden closed in Oct 2005. They plan to open up again somewhere else soon.

Located at the edge of Chinatown, near the corner of Dundas and University. This restaurant serves strictly vegetarian Vietnamese cuisine, with seitan and tofu as the main ingredient for some marvelous dishes. Recommended; the ginger “chicken” and the BBQ “pork”. Ordering is very simple. Patrons fill out the order form themselves and all dishes are assigned a code. I have been many times and ordered the tasty veggie cold rolls, the deliciously spicy hot and sour soup (it’s red!), and the vegetarian chicken curry dinner with strips of vegetarian chicken, beef, and tofu chunks. They also have vegetarian shrimp and duck.

Very affordable, laid back, casual dining. Limited seating and ambiance is nothing special. Dishes look and taste remarkably like meat dishes. They accept Interac and VISA but not Mastercard.

Spring Rolls

85 Front St. E.
(416) 365-7655
693 Yonge St.
(416) 972-ROLL (7655)
691 Yonge St.
(416) 972-7655

 

A very trendy hotspot on Yonge street, one block south of Bloor. Very metallic and industrial looking with cool, linear decor. Tables very close together, people almost hugging each other, cramped in. [Maybe this is a trend]. There is no vegetarian menu so I only had three options, vegetables and tofu and rice noodles called “Ho Fun”. I can choose from a Satay sauce, Szechuan sauce, or a Black Bean sauce.

The many times I have been here I have asked them to hold the noodles since I will only eat the vegetables and tofu. I also order the cold vegetables rolls appetizer which consist of 3 rolls wrapped up in vermicelli, tofu & coriander rolled in wheat wraps. My friend ordered the Cold Mango Rolls that contained julienne mango, vermicelli, vegetables and coriander rolled in wheat wraps. They were super yummy. Since staff are so friendly and accomodating, they brought over some yummy peanut sauce which made my day. Dinner is usually $12-$15 with tax and tip. Plates are enormous but portions are small to normal…Tables are very small and cramped together like sardines. Oh well. Very hip, cool, trendy, the place to be.

Green Mango (chain)

3006 Bloor W (416) 233-5004

730 Yonge St. (416) 928-0021

707 Yonge (416) 920-5448

 

Trendy and affordable, fresh and fast, tasty and simple, Green Mango offers simple quasi Thai food without that chain, “food court” feel. Noisy like a food court, and trendy, every Green Mango is crowded with people. Plates are enormous and presentation is beautiful. Waiting staff are very flexible to change your order and the Thai Green Curry with tofu and vegetables (without rice) is excellent.

Service is fast and reliable and lineups may be long but they often disappear quickly. There are many waiting staff so service is efficient and fast. There are also Green Mango “cafeteria-style” restaurants that are smaller and cheaper. The menu is smaller and more limited but food is fresh and fast and most of your favourite items from the larger restaurant can be found at the “cafeteria-style” venues. Tables are close together so there is not much room for private, intimate discussion. Selections are coded in the menu according to vegetarian friendly, spicy, recommended item, and healthy choice.

Fresh by Juice for Life

Old location:
521 Bloor W, (416) 531-2635

894 Queen Street West
416-913-2720

New location on Bloor Street West :
326 Bloor Street West
416-531-2635
147 Spadina Avenue
416-599-4442

 Web site: www.juiceforlife.com, now (2009)- http://www.freshrestaurants.ca

Funky, colourful, cool, totally vegetarian and vegan friendly restaurant in the Annex, and another satellite location on Queen West. The food is expensive and completely vegetarian or vegan. The decor is trendy, busy, tables close together with little room to move around. The ambiance is funky and trendy. The tables are plain and the seats are hard and slightly uncomfortable.

There is a wide selection of fruit and vegetable juices and power smoothies and if you choose to dine alone, you can eat at the bar. I usually order a Power shake like the Chai Chiller, or the Date Almond Super Powershake, or the Blueberry Dreams. All shakes contain vanilla soy milk, bananas, other fruits, some protein and vitamin supplments, and other ingredients. I have been a frequent visitor to Juice for Life and I have always loved their shakes. 16oz shakes are $4.95, Super powershakes 16 oz are $5.95 and the larger sizes are $8.95 and $9.95 respectively. For my meal, there are items like a variety of funky salads, similar to Montreal’s Cafe Santropol and a variety of soups, salads, chili, veggie burgers, and fabulous, unique, and funky rice and noodle dishes. They also serve alcoholic drinks like beer and wine.

There are spicy Thai veggie burgers with Thai peanut sauce smothered on a veggie burger, and a variety of red bean, black bean, and Indian style chick pea wraps. If you want to add tofu steaks or a side of grilled tempeh, it costs an extra $1.00.

The average price for lunch and dinner entrees are the same $7.95-$10.95 and that’s expensive for a rice or noodle dish. Most of the dishes comprise of rice and a medley of vegetables. Some dishes I love are “The Beach”, “The Buddha”, “Ninja”, “Dragon” “Green Goddess”, “The Warrior”. There are a variety of delicious wraps: “The Kathmandu Wrap”, “The Black Bean Burrito”, “Red Bean Adzuki Wrap”, and the “Grilled Vegetable Wrap”. It’s important to add grilled tofu steaks or grilled tempeh if these dishes do not offer them. The grilled tofu and grilled tempeh is “to die for.” Some of the dishes are distinctly Asian and some are Indian in flavour.

The restaurant used to have a more “political” feel, that is, animal rights propaganda used to be placed on the walls and there are some anti-meat posters alongside the juice bar. Since opening its first restaurant on Bloor near Bathurst in the Annex (in 1995) the animal rights propaganda has literally disappeared over the years. As of 2004, there are other “Fresh by Juice For Life” locations at Queen near Spadina, and Queen near Shaw (where the old brunch place “Triple X” used to be. Since 1995, the Juice for Life has since changed brands to “Fresh by Juice for Life” and has basically become mainstream, with proper tables, booths, and fancy mirrors and cool and funky artwork on the walls.

There are a couple of booths in the back but most of the restaurant are composed of tables. The restaurant staff are eccentric and funky and most of the clientele are students or artists in their late 20’s. The food is fresh, portions are decent, but the prices are high for the type of food in this trendy, hip eatery.