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.

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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

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.

Prince of Egypt (closed end of 2007)

135 Danforth
416-463-2228

Prince of Egypt recently opened on the Danforth and Wendy and I avoided it for a long time. We were always curious to peek in to see but we were not gutsy enough to walk in. Probably because of our fond memories of the Schillings Cafe, the lovely place we used to go for brunch and decadent chocolate.

We decided to satisfy our curiosity by finally going. We immediately felt comfortable when we entered Prince of Egypt, a spacious, casual restaurant owned by Adam Soliman (he likes to be called president) and his father. Adam is a bubbly 25 year old, friendly, cute, and enthusiastic about his new restaurant on the Danforth he runs with his dad. His demeanour is genuine and very animated.

Menus are quite interesting as this place has re-used old menus and taped pieces of paper over top with their selection of delectable Middle Eastern dishes. Kudos for being creative with not throwing out old menus!

Despite the fabulous, fresh food and desserts, the decor is dreadful. Bright fabric adorns the restaurant, attachd to lamp-post type woodwork that looks cheaply designed and built. The tables in the large dining hall are covered in plastic tablecloth with kitschy designs.

I see too much styrofoam and I can’t help to think that this restaurant was designed on a very low budget. I must admit the whole experience was quite positive, despite the tacky and kitschy renovation. The decor looks authentic than any restaurant on Gerrard street (in Little India) but I want to emphasize that the food is to die for.

For our appetizers, Wendy and I order the eggplant dip with pita (babaganouj) and it is chunky and not too creamy like traditional Middle Eastern fare. Wendy orders an Akane tea, which resembles rosehip and tastes divine. For our mains, I order the hummus, tabouleh, and babagonouj pita sandwich, and although it’s not jammed packed with those three delicious ingrediants, it’s fresh and delicious. It comes with any salad of my choice so i choose the grilled veggie salad with grilled eggplant and pepper and other fresh veggies. Wendy orders the African meat pita sandwich with the ** salad which she loves. Both dishes are $11.95 and portion size is not overly huge, but not skimpy.

For dessert, we share the Egyptian rice pudding which is spicy and aromatic. It is made with rice, milk, sugar, coconut, and rose water. This is the second runner-up for rice pudding (1st goes to Indian rice pudding for its pistachios, cardamon, and nutmeg medley).

Other items include beef kebabs, Roasted chicken legs, Lamb shank, vegetarian lentil soup, grape leaves with rice and lamb, and funky designer salads that come with each meal.

For dessert, we ordered creamy rice pudding with coconut, milk, rice, and rosewater, house-baked baklava (both $2.50) with deep red akane tea ($1.25), that according to Wendy, tasted like rosehips. I ordered a Cinnamon tea with milk and cream. It resembled a spicy Indian tea (known as Chai to most).

Decor is kitschy and cheap, but the food is fabulous, fresh, healthy, large portions and there are many vegetarian (and even vegan) dishes.

Complete meals for $15 per person ($7 at lunch), including all taxes, tip, and an anise tea. Average mains are $6-$10. Open Monday to Wednesday 10:30 am to 9 pm, Thursday to Saturday 10:30 am to midnight, Sunday noon to 8 pm. Unlicensed. Accepts all cards.

Babur [reviewed in 2001, reviewed again in Dec 06]

273 Queen W
(416) 599-7720

Babur is conveniently located in the Queen West neighbourhood at Queen and McCall right next to Much Music and City TV. I first went to Babur in Oct of 2001 and I really enjoyed the place but I found the portions to be too small and the prices alittle too high. I did love the food, though. I also found it to be crowded, noisy, and alittle too high-end for me, very a la “Indian rice factory” but larger. Indian Rice Factory is TINY and crowded and very noisy. Babur is alittle more spacious.

I recently went to Babur with some friends for New Years celebration. We were a group of 11 people and two people from our group are regular customers and have been going for the past 13 years. Obviously this place is good since it’s been around a long time and the food and service is reliable and prices have been stable. They did mention that there often has been a change over in staff so they found it interesting to see the change in staff over the years.

Gladly Babur did not hike up their dinner prices for the New Year. We all started with drinks. I ordered a Mango Lassi, WAY too sweet for $4 and not as thick and creamy as that new veggie Indian restaurant in Little India (Kissan). Others ordered wine and soft drinks (also known as pop to Ontarians).

For our appetizers we ordered a round of samosas (YUMM) with Tamarind and coriander dipping sauces. For our mains we ordered Malai Kofta (veggie type dumplings in a thick tomato cream curry), Anakali Bahar (boneless pieces of tandoori marinated chicken grilled to perfection in a melange of onions, peppers, and garnished with pomegranate seeds), Bengan Bhartha (thick whole eggplant in a tomato curry sauce, kind of resembles Jewish eggplant). We also ordered Aloo Tikki (a potato curry), Saag Paneer (delicious spinach and homemade Indian cheese curry), Paneer Korma (a creamy mild curry with homemade cheese) , Tarka Daal (hearty, earthy lentil curry), Nurmahal Biryani (lamb biryani- a lamb and rice mix), Aloo paratha (deep fried Indian bread stuffed with potato, and Saffron rice, aromatic rice with saffron.

Food was hot, fresh, colourful, not too greasy, and delicious. Portions have gotten better over the years but prices are alittle high for what you get. Service is very friendly and efficient. The restaurant is clean and tablecloths are real linen (as opposed to paper). Staff are pleasant and knowledgable. Tables are alittle closely placed together so dining is not that intimate. Can be noisy at times. Too many tables packed into this restaurant. The food is good and I would go back but portions are small and prices are kind of high for what you get.

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.