Rice Bar

 319 Augusta Avenue
(416) 922-7423

From the makers of Azul and Canteena comes a cool and hip new rice bar in Kensington market called Rice Bar. Brock Sheppard’s Rice Bar brings together urban chic minimalism, a touch of pretentiousness, and a funky atmosphere into a small and simple eatery with earth tones and an overall cosy ambiance. With an open concept kitchen, dark hues, and high celings, Rice Bar feels like a neighbourhood bistro and your home kitchen wrapped into one.

The menu definitely brings together a combination of flavours, spices, and twists on traditional rice dishes. At first glance, it does look like they stole the last page of the menu from Fresh by Juice for Life’s rice and noodle dish list. The difference is, Fresh’s rice and noodle dish menu has items from the late 1990’s and very little has been updated. Rice Bar’s rice dishes are creative as they fuse different ethnic flavours together in funky combinations.

Prices are slightly on the higher side considering it’s a rice dish, but our dinner was for Wendy’s birthday so I overlooked the prices and hoped the portions would make up for it.

Wendy and I ordered from the “design your rice bowl” since nothing stood out from the menu for us. Wendy got to choose a protein, type of rice, vegetable, sauce, and garnish. She ordered the chicken with the olive, vanilla & basil sauce on brown rice with pumpkin seeds. The service & price were great but the bathrooms were forgettable.

I ordered the rice noodle dish with grilled tofu, baby bok choi, and spinach in a tamarind and chipotle sauce. Unlike Wendy’s dish which was more “dry”, my dish was very saucy, almost soupy, which was perfect for me. In disappointment, I did find the portion lacking (i expected more) but i was overall very happy with my meal. When servers measure things with plate size, it’s all bullshit. Plate size DOES not infer that your meal is large.

For dessert we ordered two rice puddings; the green tea wasabi white chocolate rice pudding and the ribbous vanilla rice pudding. The pudding were very very strange. First of all, forget the concept of pudding in the traditional sense. This pudding was not comfort food. Forget about the creamy rich, mousse-like texture and think of pudding as a casserole. Our two pudding came in two log-like rectangles of cooked and flavoured rice. The green tea wasabi rice was green in colour and had strong accents of wasabi. It was laced in a white chocolate drizzle. I thought this was some kind of joke ( a creative one, though). Wendy and I looked at each other and thought how thoroughly pretentious it was to present rice pudding as a clump of cooked and flavoured with a little drizzle of white chocolate sauce. The ribbous vanilla rice pudding was even more pathetic since it was also served as a rectangular lump with a nice vanilla bean aroma and laced with brown string-like nodules (ribbous?). We shared both desserts but thought how ridiculous they were. I guess we are so ethno-centric that we are not aware of rice pudding from other countries or Rice Bar was trying too hard to be cool. We think the latter.

For our beverages, I ordered the extra hot “macha” green tea latte with soy milk. I was thoroughly disappointed with my “infant” size cup of tea. I know that classy restaurants do not serve items the size of The Keg Mansion, but customers do not deserve to be ripped off by “baby” sized portions of drinks. I thought it was illegal for her to serve me a drink that pathetic in size. If you’re thirsty, or you want a soothing drink, don’t bother. You’ll be ripped off because it’s organic or natural and it gives them a reason to be deceitful.

Other menu items to note is the Korean pizza – a scallion crepe with pesto, avocado and shrimp. Other rice dishes include dragon bowl of rice noodles in coriander pesto broth with baby bok choy and spicy Korean kimchi and chicken (or shrimp or tofu). The best part of Rice Bar is the design-your-own bowls; you choose the rice (jasmine, brown basmati, infused, infused or rice noodle). You choose your protein: chicken, beef, shrimp or tofu. Then select a sauce, ranging from green coconut milk curry, lemongrass or a soy, sesame and ginger mix. Lastly, throw in your veg choice ? baby spinach, black beans, bok choy ? you even choose your garnish and any extras.

To conclude, I do plan to go back and try other dishes besides the rice bowls. I always believe it’s important to try a place at least three times before making conclusions. Hours of operation are Tue. to Sun.: 11:00am – 10:00pm. Accepts all cards.

Advertisements

Euro Crepe Cafe

582 Danforth Ave
(416) 462-2500

Euro Crepe Cafe is a relatively new place on the Danforth that serves both sweet and savoury crepes and other brunch fare. Given the fact that many places on the Danforth do not survive a year, Wendy and I thought we should stop and critique the crepe selection. Wendy loves savoury, while I love sweet so I think we could give our perspectives on this place from both the sweet and savoury point of view.

Upon entering Euro Crepe, we noticed that it was packed with people, amongst an airy “open concept” narrow dining area. With an open kitchen with a huge array of teas and coffees and a fresh fruit and veggie bar where crepes are made before your eyes, Euro Crepe already stood out. We were getting hungry as the host brought us to our table. The aroma of fresh coffee, tea, fresh fruit, grilled veggies and the sizzling of crepes being made before our eyes got us excited.

We sat at the back of the restaurant. Overall decor looks European, like a French cafe.

I ordered a strawberry and banana crepe with caramel sauce. Although the portion was small, it was delicious, fresh, and strawberries were sweet and juicy.

Wendy had the grilled veggie crepe with hummus & swiss cheese. It was extremely well portioned (big) & very tasty. The servers are not professional, ours forgot our requests for buckwheat crepes, so if you are ok with casual, sometimes forgetful service, then give it a go.

Euro Crepe serves both sweet and savoury crepes and European sandwhiches, salads and waffles. Some popular crepes include a breakfast crepe with bacon and eggs, and includes toppings like veggies, a variety of sauces. Another popular crepe is the grilled chicken breast crepe and Wendy’s choice (grilled vegetable crepe).

Euro Crepe also serves dessert crepes with ice cream, fresh fruits, caramel , marshmallows, cookie crumbs. They also serve a variety of espresso drinks (espresso, capuccino, latte, mocha, fresh juice, and a large variety of loose tea (I ordered vanilla black tea).

Service is kind of slow. Slightly kitschy (but nice) French art of cafes and other European cultural symbols on the wall. I must admit it is endearing to have cute and innocent servers who have been hired just because they are eye candy. They have a certain naievity that is cute and innocent, but at the same time, sometimes not very competent. It is odd when servers are not knowledgable about the fare they serve. There is no web site or take home menu at present but hopefully something will turn up on the World Wide Web soon. Accepts all cards.

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

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.

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

Fresh by Juice for Life (2007)-Brunch

 326 Bloor Street West /corner Spadina 
Phone: 416-531-2635 

894 Queen Street West/ corner Crawford 
Phone: 416-913-2720 

147 Spadina Avenue, corner Richmond 
Phone: 416-599-4442

Fresh by Juice for Life, in operation since 1996, recently offered a new brunch menu with a small variety of vegan offerings. If you like tofu scramble all wrapped up in a warm tortilla, or fluffy spelt flour vegan pancakes, then this brunch is for you.

Offered on the weekend from 9am-3pm, Fresh offers creative and healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes without compromising on taste, texture, flavour, and colour. For our Sunday brunch, Zam and myself both ordered the veggie tofu scramble with many sauteed veggies, wrapped up in a warm tortilla. In addition, we also shared the almond and walnut vegan banana flax seed pancakes with organic raw maple syrup. We both thought that the portion sizes were reasonable and were healthy and satisfying. Flavours are delicately blended so that they can be recognised on the pallette.

Bathrooms at the new Fresh (at Spadina and Bloor) are larger, cleaner, and esthetically pleasing. Careful not to clog (easy to do with too much toilet roll down the pot). Ambiance is pretty casual, good people watch, always seems busy can be loud at times. He loved the choice of drinks and meal suppliments. The new fresh is more spacious, can accomodate more people, looks slick and trendy, and definitely attracts more than the U. of T clientele. Times have changed and it looks like Fresh is following in Fressen footsteps. Brunch prices are under $15 if you have a beverage. Accepts all cards.

Crepes a Go Go (new location) (Mark)

 18 Yorkville Ave
416.922.6765

Aaron and I met up last Sunday to see “The History Boys” and we did not have a ton of time to have brunch. At first we opted to go to Flow’s Diner since i had heard wonderful things about it. Unfortunately there was a huge lineup. We headed to the new Eggstacy at Bay and Bloor but from a distance we saw another lineup. At 12:30pm our stomachs were grumbling and we needed to find a place fast. Aaron had suggested CrepesaGoGo since it has recently moved to its new location at Yonge and Yorkville and it was small, quaint, and luckily, there was no lineup.

Opened at its new location since Sept 2006, Crepes a GoGo is an authentic French crepe “takeout” and dine in establishment with a small menu of sweet and savoury crepes. First you select your syrup which they bake right into the crepe, and then you choose the filling. The serve it to you in a “pocket” that you can hold like a sandwich: convenient and perfect for those “on the go”.

Situated at Yonge/Yorkville, easily accessible from the Yonge/Bloor intersection, conveniently located right next to the Toronto Reference Library on the edge of Yorkville on the ground floor of a new high rise glass condo (built about 1-2 years ago).

Some of the drawbacks of Crepes a Go Go. First: small number of seating (4-5 tables). Second: they had 2 price options; takeout and dine-in. We obviously chose to “dine in” but our portions looked like we chose “take out” but we were priced as if we “dined in”. In sum, our portions were tiny. I know it’s traditionally French but neither Aaron and I are not (m)anorexic.

We liked how the staff and owner gave the place an authentic French “look and feel”, because, afterall, the owner is from France. I could not help but sense the slight essence of pretentiousness (we don’t do flavoured lattes here!). Come on, cut the crap.

The owner claimed she made the best espresso in the city, and that they did not carry “filter coffee G-d forbid. Definitely exhibiting an anti-Starbucks attitude (I sympathize having worked at Starbucks for 7 months and being treated like shit). Altogether staff and the owner were warm and friendly

Crepes are paper thin and served/ placed in a paper bag pouch.

I ordered the anorexic fruit crepe with blueberry, banana, strawberry. i understood that Europeans eat smaller portions than North Americans but i was more hungry leaving the joint than entering.

Aaron liked the “Parisian ambience” at Crepes a GoGo from the serene quaintness of the space to the French speaking owner and servers. He ordered a “Quebecoise” crepe which was under the sweet/savoury section. It contained scrambled eggs, mozarella cheese and maple syrup. Although the portion wasn’t very large it was definitely tasty. He agreed with me that if they are having a dine in v.s. take out price that they should gussy it up a bit more for the dine in folks: fork, knife and no paper bag… perhaps with some side dishes.

The cafe au lait was very nice, smooth and delicious, but contrary to the owner, it DID need sugar. In sum, I was not full, meal was NOT satisfying but it was my mistake, i need to order and eat more. Decor was lovely, ultra high ceilings, open concept, small with 4 tables, 2 “bar type” areas to eat on stools. Service is ultra fast, friendly and effiicent and wait staff serve with ease, grace, and with a smile

Accepts all cards, liquor license, winter hours are Monday/Tuesday 12:30pm-7:00pm and Wed-Sun 10:30am-7:00pm. Bottom line; If you are really hungry go to Flow’s diner just down the road. Ambiance is cosy and calm, so go there for a light bite or a nice espresso or cafe au lait.