Garlic Pepper

578 Yonge Street
416 323 9819

 

Garlic Pepper is a famous downtown eatery centrally located at Yonge and Wellesley in downtown Toronto.

Vegetarian section of the menu is one page and contains many vegetarian options but they are not truly vegetarian since I asked and soups contain chicken stock and most dishes contain oyster sauce (ignorant idiots do not know what vegetarian means). Garlic Pepper has to die for Chinese brocoli with diced garlic, piping hot and fresh. The lo mein and chow mein dishes come fresh and delicious with a colourful assortment of veggies and large portions. I also indulged in the tofu with veggies in black bean sauce and the food was flavourful, alittle greasy, fresh crunchy stir fried veggies, and spicy in flavour. Amongst the four of us, Zam and I ordered the Chinese broccoli with minced garlic and the braised tofu with veggies as well as vegetable fried rice (hold the egg). Vivek ordered the beef cantonese chowmein (a huge portion of noodles, vegetables, chicken, beef, and shrimp) and Antony ordered the General Taos chicken.
Food came out fresh, colourful, piping hot, not too salty or greasy, and very good portions. I cannot complain about the food at all. This place definitely know how to serve good food, good prices, and non-anorexic portions. So many restaurants cover their food with rice or bean sprouts (hence i will never go to the Japanese restaurant).

Menu is divided into various sections (fried rice dishes, noodle dishes, hot pot section, sizzling wok section, dim sum, shrimp dishes, fish dishes, chicken dishes, pork dishes, veggies and tofu dishes (warning: not necessarily vegetarian), beef dishes, and last but not least desserts).

Most items are between $8.99-$12.99. An unusual section is devoted to pork ribs and chicken wings, which i did not know was Chinese. However, when i look back at my childhood, i guess i remember eating something called “spare ribs”…little did i know what it was.

Only accepts cash and credit card (no interac). Open 7 days per week from 10:30am-10pm and open later (until 11pm) on Fri and Saturdays. Offers catering service (call for details at 416 323 9874). Free delivery for orders over $20 (after 5pm). There is a discount for take out (10% if you pay in cash, 5% if you pay with cards). Take out discount does not apply to business lunch menu, dim-sum, lunch, and specials. Delivers from Waterfront to St. Clair (north-south) and Don Valley Parkway to Bathurst (east-west).

Vegetarian menu a joke since no items are truly vegetarian unless you specify. Hot and sour veggie soup is made with chicken broth so be warned.

Bathrooms are upstairs and are the most scary sight I’ve ever seen in my 32 years here on earth. Forget any crackhouse you’ve ever seen (or visited) in Toronto. If you need to go to the bathroom hold it in or visit McDonalds or Tim Hortons. Bathrooms look like an ideal movie scene for the next horror flick where someone gets chopped up or slashed. Don’t enter the bathrooms. They are dirty, gross, and if Toronto Health inspects, I am sure they will be fined or shut down.

Ginger

 695 Yonge Street – (416) 966-2424
403 Yonge Street – (416) 263-9999
546 Church Street- 416 324 8724
252 Carlton Street 416-923-7979
521 Bloor Street West (416)536-3131

When you think of Ginger, think casual, fast food, and excellent prices. You will not be ripped off or disappointed. It’s like a giant food court, noisy, but the food quality is definitely better than your typical food court with tasteless, bland, and expired dishes, claiming to be Italian or Chinese but really it’s the North American rendition. Food court food is a quick and cheap and lousy interpretation of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, or Thai food should be.

I went there with some friends after checking out a rockin’ good underwear sale. We were really hungry and we did not want to spend too much money so we checked out the newly opened Ginger on Church street near Wellesley.

Scott had the green curry with silken tofu and vegetables. He wasn’t too impressed. There wasn’t much tofu really, and the rice wasn’t that soft either. Overall, he wouldn’t eat it again. He didn’t like the atmosphere, it was too loud to hear more than one table away.

I had the eggplant and tofu green curry dish with steamed vegetables and white rice. I omitted the green curried tofu and replaced it with more steamed vegetables but unfortunately, due to poor communication skills, they did not add any more steamed vegetables so I was a bit unhappy.

Bob ordered the rice, veggies, 3 shrimp, chicken, beef price ($8.50). He felt that it was not too spicy, it was flavourful, with a fast food ambiance, yet it felt like being in a restaurant. He liked that he did not have to leave a tip. He liked the comfy chairs, and the “in between” nature of fast food and fine dining. Lastly, he liked that they brought the food to you

Paulo had the same dish as Bob but without the clump of white rice (shrimp, chicken, and beef) with veggies

Lailah ordered a thick udon noodle soup with tofu and vegetables (known as Pho). The soup bowl was big and hearty and came with a generous serving of noodles and vegetables (also known as Pho).

On other visits I have had veggie salad rolls (cold rice paper rolls in a sweet peanut sauce, not peanut butter sauce but a sweet teriyaki sauce with crushed peanuts on top. As well, I have enjoyed a traditional Vietnamese dish called Pho, a soup with tons of veggies, rice noodles, and tofu, in a clear veggie broth and covered in basil leaves. The soup is very hot (in terms of temperature and it’s also spicy). Most Phos have beef or chicken but mine was 100% veggie. I had to inform the server when taking orders since most Thai, Vietnamese, or Korean food always has fish, oyster, or chicken broth added to most dishes so it’s best to be the paranoid vegetarian and emphasize having an “animal-free dish”. The new Church Street location has a fresh fruit martini bar which makes it look less look “fast food” but overall it’s still fast food and excellent prices. Accepts all cards

Cafe California

 538 Church
Toronto, ON M4Y2E1
Phone: (416) 960-6161

Located right at Church and Wellesley, this small cafe sits about 15-20 tables tightly and has an ambiance of cosy, homey, and casual. With a Mediterranean decor (blues, greens, and deep reds as the backdrop), Cafe California stands out as a being a casual dining spot in the village. With a gorgeous mural of buildings and a skyline in colours of blues, light green, and greys, with gorgeous wood tables, wrought iron accents, nice flower arrangements, and large pieces of fabric draped along the ceilings, Cafe California is pleasing to the eye. With subdued Mediterranean colours, the cafe is not campy (like its next door neighbour Zelda’s) but very homey and cosy.

I went last Sunday morning for brunch with Paulo and I was happy to see that there was a separate brunch, dinner, and lunch menu. For our brunch we saw many items worth mentioning. Cafe California offers some vegetarian selections, a variety of healthy salads, and other light dishes. As well, their brunch menu offers a variety of sandwiches, beef or chicken fajitas, grilled chicken sandwiches, stir fries, and pastas. For brunch, I ordered a French crepe ($8.95) with poached pears, with a side of cream cheese, sprinkled with powder sugar with a side of apple butter and manjar sauce (i.e. caramel sauce). The crepe was light and not greasy and I was very happy with the portion size. Paulo ordered the Italian Frittata, an open-faced omelette with prosciutto ham, white asparagus, diced tomatoes, spring onions and potatoes topped with Monterrey Jack cheese that came with a side order of garden salad. Portion size was very generous. Service was fast and friendly. Waiter made an extra effort to go the extra distance, to be helpful, friendly, and informative.

Other brunch items worth mentioning include the Eggs Benedict/Eggs Pacifica – 2 poached eggs and spinach on a toasted English muffin w/ peameal bacon or smoked salmon, topped with Hollandaise sauce and served with a potato latke, Huevos Completos – 2 eggs any style w/ sausage, peameal or strip bacon, pancakes, toast and potato pancakes, the Italian Frittata, Omelette – Choice of Western or Spanish, soups, bruschetta, Spinach Salad w/ roasted pecans, mushrooms, orange segments and goat cheese in a honey mustard vinaigrette. Cafe California also serves an assortment of salads, including Caesar Salad, Greek Salad, and their signature dish “Chicken Santa Barbara”- a large garden salad with roasted pine nuts, rasins, with grilled marinated chicken breast and a sundried tomato and pesto vinaigrette, spinach fettuccini with cajun chicken, mushrooms, sweet peppers and onions in a creole sauce, grilled Atlantic Salmon in a raspberry white sauce w/ rice and vegetables. They also serve one “healthy” pizza- a thin crust pizza w/ chorizo sausage, mushrooms, sweet peppers and Bermuda onions. In addition, some sandwiches include the Mediterranean Club Sandwich w/ grilled chicken breast, bacon, avocado, lettuce and tomato on Italian panini w/ salad or fries, the Vegetarian Plate w/ grilled vegetables, goat cheese, and focaccia bread, a Hamburger Served with mixed greens or home-cut fries, and finally a Veggie burger w/ mixed greens or home fries.

Beverages include a variety of coffees, espresso beverages (lattes, capuccino, etc), liquor based coffees, brunch cocktails, Sangria, Mimosa, and a variety of wines and spirits.

Cafe California also offers an extensive and creative variety of martinis. Offers a great selection of desserts, including unique cheesecakes. Great front and side summer terrace. Many vegetarian and healthy options. Accepts all cards.

Indian Hut

636 Church Street,
Phone – (416) 934-0235
http://www.indianhut.ca

 

Indian Hut is a a large, spacious restaurant located in an old restored Victorian House on Church right near Bloor, just north of the gay village. -Dimly lit, with huge windows and large spacious tables, Indian Hut has a lunch buffet (weekdays: 11:30am -l 2:30pm for $9.95) and dinner buffet, (7 days a week from 5:30pm – 10:00pm for $15.95) and a take out and eat in menu. To order from the take out menu, visit http://www.restaurantsonthego.com or call 416-932-3999.

Indian Hut also offers Indian cooking classes so you can make restaurant quality food at home. Cost is for 6 weeks, 2 hour lessons, one lesson per week @ $250. [Feb 2005 prices] . Dishes will be adapted without having to use restaurant equipment. Contact Neerja Dhawan at 416 934 0235 to register.

Indian Hut has an upstairs banquet room for larger groups to use for special occasions. Surrounded by traditional Indian music, in an ambiance that is completely non-kitsch, possessing a calm ambiance, with candlelight, real linen napkins and tablecloths, this place serves traditional North Indian cuisine that is fresh, piping hot, and flavourful.

I started my buffet adventure (I don’t do buffets very often!) with a vegetarian lentil soup, purreed to perfection. I found that there were many vegetarian options like the Bhartha (Curried Eggplant), Daal (Lentil Curry), Chana Masala (curried chick peas), Vegetable pekora, Saag Paneer (Spinach and cheese) as well as unlimited Naan bread served fresh and hot, and Pappadum

Food is hot, fresh, and served in traditional Indian Hot plates. Food was always refreshed and waitress was knowledgable, friendly, and always filled our water. Some popular dishes worth noting include Butter Chicken, Garlic naan bread: light and fluffy bread made in a tandoor oven and smothered in garlic butter, Beef roganjosh, a tender beef curry in a spicy sauce, Navratna korma: a medley of 9 vegetables in a light tomato cream sauce with mild spices and nuts, Goan mutton curry, a lamb curry cooked in a goan style curry sauce, and Tandoori chicken marinated and baked in yogurt, ginger, garlic and spices.

Some desserts include a variety of traditional ice creams (Kulfi), Bharfi, Rice Pudding, and Cheese Balls covered in syrup, or Dough balls deep fried in syrup. Accepts all cards, serves liquor, open late.

Babylon

 553 Church
Phone: (416) 923-2626

Situated on Church street north of Wellesley in an old 3 storey century old brick Victorian house, this place is an unpretentious place to relax and unwind. They have over 250 flavours of vodka Martinis, all home made from marinated and flavoured vodkas. All Martinis are $8.50. The menu is very small and limited. They serve a typical green salad, french fries (thinly cut and home made) perogies, caesar salad, hamburgers and some sandwiches that are perfect for late night munching.

Don’t expect a full course dinner at Babylon as the emphasis is on the drinks. They also serve beer as well. Cosy and comfortable with an operating fireplace on the main level, exposed brick, leather couches, small tables, intimate enclaves where friends or couple can chat privately, and an all around intimate setting. Some Martinis that caught my eye were the Chocolate martini with creme de menthe and coconut, The Fag Hag, Mango, Peach, Lime, Green Apple, and other fruity and lollypop flavours. Open late, accepts all credit cards.

Daio

45 Carleton
416-260-2116

Daio is a small and cosy restaurant, located right at Yonge and Carleton, across from Carleton cinema. It is composed of one main dining hall with tables and some enclosed booths for more privacy. Traditional Japanese doors separate enclosed booths from one another. Booths have sliding doors at all sides. Some booth have doors that can slide open to expose neighbouring diners beside them. I rally found that this idea of enclosed booths makes it all quite romantic and tranquil.

Most of the menu is not vegetarian, most items are sushi dishes, either rolls of 6 or hand rolled. Some vegetarian sushi dishes include the cucumber and carrot, avocado and cucumber roll. Other sushi rolls include tuna, crab, salmon, and BBQ eel. For my mian dish I ordered the tofu hot plate with an assortment of vegetables ($14). I got a pathetic assortment of vegetables- 4 pieces in total. a mushroom slice, a green pepper sliver, a red pepper sliver, and an onion sliver. I was expecting a medley of stir fried vegetables. I did get a generous portion of stir fried silken tofu in a delicious teriyaki sauce. As it was not firm tofu, it was not filling at all. Rip off central, I say. I had to order 6 pieces of avocado roll ($6.50) and it came with a generous serving of pickeled ginger and wasabi sauce (green horseradish). Rockin’ good.

My friend had the same dish as myself but it was Beef Teriyaki and it came with steamed rice ($12.95). He found it more filling. As well he ordered the sushi rolls (6) with cucumber, sticky rice, and fish eggs (red caviar). Both of our dishes came with free salad (about the dish of a baby portion) and a tiny portion of miso soup. Accepts all cards.

Il Fornello (Beaches Jazz Festival)

Il Fornello- The Danforth
576 Danforth Ave.
Tel. (416) 466-2931
Major intersection: Danforth & Carlaw

Il Fornello- Yonge and St. Clair
1560 Yonge Street
Tel. (416) 920-7347
Major intersection: Yonge & St. Clair

Il Fornello- Bayviw Village
2901 Bayview Ave
Tel. (416) 227-1271
Major intersection: Bayview & Sheppard

Il Fornello- Theatre District
214 King St. West
Tel. (416) 977-2855
Major intersection: King & Simcoe

Il Fornello – Beaches
1968 Queen St. E
Tel. (416) 691-8377
Major Intersection: Queen & Woodbine

Il Fornello- Queen’s Quay Terminal
207 Queen’s Quay West
Tel. (416) 861-1028
Major intersection: Queen’s Quay & York

Il Fornello Bloor West Village
2277 Bloor St. W.
Tel. (416) 761-9222
Major intersection: Bloor & Runnymede

IL FORNELLO *newest location-opening July 2005*
491 Church St

Located right in the heart of the Beaches, this cool, hip and trendy eatery is surrounded by art, exposed brick, dim lightings, and a funky menu that incorporates traditional Italian fare with health conscious and trendified food. On my last visit to the chain in the Beaches, I had the large Insalata Roma … (mixed greens, chèvre, roasted peppers, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette). My friend Justine had the artichoke and pesto pizza, Daniel had the hearty Beef Manicotti which he thought Insalata Roma … (mixed greens, chèvre, roasted peppers, walnuts, and balsamic vinaigrette)was fine. He found that there was a heavy use of sage I think, which made the meat taste a little heavy/hars; maybe better use of oregano or other Italian spice would have been in order. My sister had the squid was a little on the rubbery side. Both Daniel and my sister thoroughly enjoyed the 1 litre of Sangria. There are some vegetarian pizza items, some made with spelt crust, and many offering soy cheese. The salads are funky (Tossed Salad , Caesar Salad … Grilled Chicken and Baby Spinach with mango and endive, Strawberry, Pear, Spinach Salad, Wild Mushroom and Arugula Salad, Crispy Prosciutto, Arugula and Spinach salad

Pastas include Linguini di Mare (tiger shrimp, scallops, mussels and calamari, light olive oil, tomato sauce), Penne Capri , with roasted chicken, wild mushrooms, spinach, in a lemon, garlic olive oil sauce, Spaghettini Primavera … (spaghetti with sauteed vegetables), Truffled Wild Mushroom Cannelloni (Cannelloni with Wild mushroom and ricotta), Tortelloni Fornello … (cheese tortelloni in a spicy tomato cream sauce), Manicotti (ricotta and spinach filled pasta baked in tomato sauce), and Daniel’s dish Cannelloni (meat filled pasta baked in tomato sauce), Spaghettini Misto … (Spaghettini with grilled chicken, tiger shrimp sautéed with caramelized onions, rapini, cherry tomatoes, in a lemon garlic olive oil),
Fettuccine Salmone … (Fettuccine with smoked salmon, and veggies in a dill vodka cream sauce ), the classic Penne Arrabbiate … (Penne in a spicy tomato sauce), and lastly Linguini Sorrentina … (Linguini with fresh basil, bocconcini cheese, and tomato sauce)

Pizzas ($9.00-$13.50) are served on multigrain crust, spelt crust (add $2), Quejos crust (add $3) and even carb-reduced crust (only available at Il Fornello at 1560 Yonge St. and Bayview Village)

Some pizzas include Prosciutto Pizza,Pizza Santo (w/soy cheese) ,Italian Sausage Pizza,
Pizza Affumicato (tomato sauce, carmelized onion, smoked chicken, spinach, and pine nuts),
Pizza Pollo (tomato sauce, roasted garlic, grilled chicken, roasted red peppers, and provolone),
Pesto Pizza (gaisli, grilled chicken, fire roasted eggplant, pesto), Pizza Gorgonzola (red wine caramel pears, gorgonzola, caramelized onions, walnuts, lemon dressed arugula), Fig Pizza ( prosciutto, honey figs, mascarpone, and shaved grano padano), Pizza Salmone (pizza with smoked salmon) , Pizza Tre Colori (very colourful pizza with Buffalo mozzarella, basil oil, prosciutto, oven cured roma tomatoes), Wild Mushroom Pizza ( 3 kinds of mushrooms with brie and basil oil), Pizza di bufala (Buffalo mozzarella, basil oil, oven cured roma tomatoes), Pancetta pizza … (regular cheese pizza with pancetta), Mediterranean Pizza … (Mediterranean vegetables, asiago cheese), Traditional Pizza (tomato sauce, cheese, pepperoni, mushrooms), Pizza Nove (basic vegetarian pizza), Escargot Pizza (Escargot, garlic, tomato sauce, mozzarella), Pizza di Bufala (Buffalo mozzarella, basil oil, oven cured roma tomatoes
Anchovy Pizza (Tomato sauce, mozzarella, anchovies, and black olives), Pizza Semplice (Tomato sauce, fresh herbs, and mozzarella), Tri Coloured Pepper Pizza … (green, red, yellow grilled peppers, tomato sauce, roasted garlic, and chèvre), and Hawaiian Pizza (prosciutto, pineapple, tomato sauce, and mozzarella)

You can build your own pizzas too. Choose your crust (multigrain crust $1.25, spelt crust $3.25, gluten-free quejos $5.00, carb reduced crust), then add your ingrediants to make your own unique and personal pizza. Select from various cheeses: buffalo mozarella ($5.00), brie, chevre, gorgonzola, gaisli, asiago, mascarpone, camboloza, ($4.00)

Choose your meat and gourmet vegetables: grilled chicken, pancetta, shrimp, grilled chicken, pancetta, shrimp, mozzarella, artichoke hearts, escargot, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, feta, provolone, pine nuts, bocconcini, smoked chicken, prosciutto, smoked salmon, spicy Italian sausage, pesto, fire roasted wild mushrooms, soy cheese ($3.00)

Other herbs and vegetables to choose include: fresh basil, caramelized onions, fresh rosemary, fresh dill, mixed fresh herbs, roasted garlic, ham, anchovies, snow peas, pepperoni, roasted eggplant, parmesan cheese, oven-cured roma tomatoes, red peppers, fire roasted field mushrooms ($2.00)

Other smaller vegetables and condiments include: hot peppers, pineapple, tomato sauce, broccoli, onions, green peppers, black olives, green olives, red onions, capers, spinach, freshly chopped garlic ($1.00)

Il Fornello also has a small “alternative menu”. Alternative items include spelt pizzas, pastas, and Gluten free pastas . You can design your own pizza or pasta dish. For gluten free items, add an additional $1.25 for Rice pasta instead for menu items marked with a +.

Some “alternative” menu items include the Pizza Santo (Tomato sauce, herbs, spinach, red onion, roasted red pepper, ‘non-dairy’ cheese ), Gluten-Free Pasta, $13.25 (wheat and gluten-free pasta with olive oil, garlic, fresh herbs, and veggies)
Quejos Pizza Crust $5.00 (gluten free Quejos pizza crust and design your own pizza)

Accepts every card. Expect lineups on the weekend and for brunch.