Tinto Coffee House

 89 Roncesvalles
416-530-5885

At first glance, Tinto looks like a lovely place, with 2 levels, many vegetarian items, and an overall great atmosphere. 

Unfortunately, our experience was most disappointing.  Although the actual food was excellent, our service was slow and horrible. With very few egg dishes, with mostly vegetarian options, organic fair trade coffee, in a short and long format menu. 

 The long form looks like a scholarly, peer reviewed journal article with bibliographic references, footnotes (very tongue and cheek).  It was rather entertaining.

Food is Latin American inspired, incredible, great portions. Tinto has a lofty space on 2 levels. It has a comfortable decor of hues of red and earth tones. It is very spacious with hardwood tables and chairs.  The overall “look and feel” won me over.  Tinto works with local suppliers to offer local food.  They offer free magazines to read, all-day breakfast and brunch, soups,  amazing funky salads, grilled wraps, sandwiches, pastries, and hot and cold beverages.

For my meal, I  ordered the black bean with goat cheese, grilled pepper and eggplant, with a side salad of greens.

To conclude, if you live a vegan/vegetarian lifestyle, Tinto is the place for you!  Tinto also hosts the occasional documentary film screening or spoken word night on its upper level. They hold many workshops in activism, poetry, storytelling, songs, and prose.

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Delux

 92 Ossington Ave.
416-537-0134.

Aaron, Brandon,  and I went to Delux for Brunch sometime ago after one of our runs. Delux is a French-Cuban restaurent and replaced The Sparrow. Inside, it’s funky like a loft-style condo, with high ceilings, ultra modern with exposed brick,funky art (think Andy Warhol).

Marble tables with dark wood surround the place. Located in funky hipster Ossington and Queen area, very up and coming neighbourhood for foodies and art farts and hipsters. The only problem was that it lacked signage and the restaurant has that “we’ve just opened” feel to it. The plus-side is the food came promptly so we didn’t have to have to whip out our laptops and play party poker to kill time or even start nibbling.

The brunch and dinner menu but a bit pricey. For my brunch i had the buttermilk French toast (without the challah-scandal) and the apple compote mixture was small (I would have liked more of the apple portion). It was accompanied with maple syrup. I was disappointed that they did not serve lattes, just the old original espresso drinks.
 Aaron and Brandon started with the breakfast doughnuts (fresh and homemade, dusted with cinnamon sugar. The menu claimed the doughnuts were filled with cocoa cream but it was actually on the side as a dipping sauce.
They both opted for the cidar-brined pork and potato and caramelized onion frittata with smoked bacon and green salad 2 eggs “en cocotte” with fine herbs and buttered breadcrumbs and grilled toast.

Other items at Delux include granola and yogourt with fresh seasonal fruit, typical and expected at every brunch establishment.  They also served caramelized banann and nutella crepes with maple syrup and chantilly cream (yummy but too rich for me).  Other offerings include soft boiled eggs with grilled bread and smoked bacon.

I ordered the buttermilk French toast with apple compote (too little, not enough for me) with maple brown butter (not really butter), a really thick maple syrup. Other items for those not into eggs was the croque monsieur with grilled ham, gruyere cheese with potatoes and greens (perfect for Wendy as she does not eat eggs).

Lastly, the Cubano sandwich, a slow roasted pork with gruyere cheese, pickles, red onion, grainy mustard, and chipotle mayonnaise and a side of greens.

Delux serves a variety of beverages, including mimosa, organic fair trade coffee, espresso drinks (unfortunately no flavoured lattes), organic tea, and fresh juices)
Service was friendly but kind of slow.  They took a long time to bring us the menu when we requested a dinner menu. However, they were friendly, pleasant and the ambiance was worth a second visit for sure.

River

 413 Roncesvalles
416-535-3422

 

River is a classic French restaurant located in the heart of Roncesvalles Village. It offers an amazing menu with large portions and much selection. I had passed this place many times and i had heard they serve a wonderful brunch and they also hire street kids to work and gain responsibility. I thought it was wonderful to read about programs that help disadvantage youth jump-start their lives again and i was impressed River participated in this type of program.

Although River is known for its dinner, Aaron, Brandon, and myself went for a lazy Sunday brunch. River serves an assortment of pastas (smoked chicken linguini, pesto farfale, banana curry penne), and salads (caesar, baby spinach, and field greens). Sandwiches include a grilled burger, grilled portobello burger, and cajun chicken club. Mains include pan fried salmon fillet, grilled rib eye steak, chevre and basil stuffed chicken breast, grilled pork tenderloin, grilled portobello mushroom caps, and lamb.

The brunch menu is very small and mostly comprises egg dishes. It could definitely be expanded. However, the portions are large and food is amazing and very fresh. For my brunch, i ordered the egg white omelete with pesto, spinach, mushroom, and oka cheese. It came with yummy salad, delicately spiced home fries, but no toast (odd). Brandon ordered the eggs florentine (two poached eggs on a toasted English muffin with spinach, hollandaise sauce) and it came with a side of salad and delicious home fries. Aaron ordered the big breakfast (two eggs any style, bacon, peameal, sausage, served a side salad, toast, and home fries. Heart attack on a plate.

River’s brunch is offered Sat + Sun from 11am-3:30pm. This place also participates in the “All Aboard” Youth Venture program that offers employment opportunities for homeless youth so it allows them to re-build their lives and it allows them to re-integrate back into society. Other brunch items include salads, chicken wraps, French Toast, breakfast burrito, an 8 ounce hamburger, and different varieties of Eggs Benedict.

River offers many vegetarian selections. Also serves an extensive wine list, extensive alcoholic coffees, cocktails, mixed drinks, domestic and foreign beers, and organic fair trade coffee with free refills . Accepts all cards. Offers catering, corporate functions, and parties (weddings, birthdays, baby showers, social gatherings, and Christmas parties). Open Thursday through Sunday for dinner 5pm-10pm and Sat/Sun for brunch 11am-3:30pm. Closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Fully licensed and accepts all cards.

Nazareth Restaurant

 969 Bloor Street West
416-535-0797

Nazareth is a small narrow restaurant run and owned by one person, Nazareth. Conveniently located at Bloor near Ossington (near Queen of Sheba) this place is a hidden gem in the Bloor corridor between Christie and Lansdowne. The owner is friendly, enthusiastic, and warm. The capacity of the place is not all that large. There are five to six tables arranged in a columnar fashion against the west wall of the restaurant. Seating a group bigger than 5 ? 6 people can be a challenge. The dimly lit atmosphere, paintings and local art covered walls in addition to the visible clientele make it all a true Ethiopian dining experience.

The menu is small, with essentially three choices, beef, chicken or veggie. The platters are huge and can be pleasantly satisfying for two people. The prices are very reasonable. For the two of us (veggie platter + two teas) we paid $13 including tax and tip. Our veggie platter was only $7.50 and it was just enough for two people. It comprised saut饤 chollard greens, peas, two types of mashed lentil dishes, boiled spiced cabbage, and salad.

The Ethiopian spiced tea (black tea) was amazing. It was similar to Indian Chai this tea was essentially Darjeeling or Ceylon or Earl Grey with cardamom, cloves, and ginger. Unlike most Ethiopian restaurants, the food was served hot , as opposed to most places that serve their dishes warm. Another observation was that our injera (like thin sourdough spongy pita) was served warm. Most Ethiopian places serve their injera cold and clammy.

Pria and Martin ordered the tibs dish, which was essentially different types beef cubes with salad and other vegetable dishes. For their meal they had to order another dish but for us, it was just enough food.

The flavours at Nazareth are much better than any I have tasted so far. She cooks the meal right when you order it, as opposed to having it pre-cooked and heating it before serving. This adds an intangible aura of freshness and a distinct irresistible flavour that I have not found anywhere else. I have eaten there for the past year, while frequenting other Ethiopian places on the occasion and have always returned to Nazareth. It could also be the ambiance coupled with her food makes it all the more authentic. Only being served by one person makes it feel more authentic.

The last time i went to Nazareth it was $26 for 4 people (the big veggie platter for 4 people) with a side of salad and the ceremonial Ethiopian coffee. We did not feel ripped off (like other Ethiopian restaurants in the city) and portions were large and plentiful. On this particular visit, Nazareth went crazy on the salt and we found chunks in our food, but overall, the food was piping hot, not too spicy, and perfectly portioned.

Late night dining .. all the way to 1.00 am . As long as she has food in the kitchen she will serve you. On Thursdays and weekends, the place acquires a more bar type atmosphere after 11.00 pm. The music is turned up a notch, with the demographics composed of a casual, super friendly, gregarious and a non-pretentious crowd. Dinner is still served in this atmosphere. Accepts all cards. Liquor license.

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.

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