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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Avenue Cafe and Bistro

 480 University Ave
416.979-0500

I am hardly ever in the downtown core for lunch during the week since i work in the west end near Jane and Lawrence (in Weston). Sometimes we have workshops at U of T (since my hospital library is part of the U of T network of hospital libraries). One of our workshops on Oct 31 dealt with finding the leader in yourself. They do serve lunch at these workshops but the food is not very good and there is nothing vegetarian for me, or the non-veggies choose the vegetarian items before i can get to them. I decided to pop out before my lunch break and meet Wendy and Zam to have lunch at Avenue Cafe and Bistro, a high end sandwich bistro at Dundas and University.

This bistro belongs in a Sex and the City episode. I could see myself running into Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, or Charlotte here meeting for lunch. I also find it would fit perfectly in Yorkville too. Located at Dundas and University in the downtown hospital district where all the “suits” dine for lunch.

Avenue Cafe and Bistro looks like a fashion runway where men and women in the finest attire dine on gourmet panini sandwiches and wraps (grilled to perfection), lattes, Illy coffee, and a small assortment of dufflet pastries, tarts, squares, as well as wholesome breads.

Zam, Wendy, and myself went in the very well-behaved line (unlike most TTC lineups or food court lines). Bathrooms were one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in my restaurant adventures in Toronto. Bathrooms looked like a fancy downtown condo, sleek in design with grey ceramic floor ands and a gorgeous ultra modern sink and toilet. I am not a fan of greys and stainless steel but I want my future condo to have a bathroom like Avenue Cafe and Bistro. Simple and elegant, i could have moved in!

Decor is white with fancy huge marble tables and smaller silver tables, slim and sleek in design. Decor is minimalist with white walls, clean lines, and a cool flat screen TV with Black and white movies shown for lunch. The place is busy with mostly business folk all dressed up. Zam, Wendy, and I went there at 12pm and it was packed with a wonderful display of beautiful people, sandwiches, plump, fresh, juicy, and full of texture and colour. rush of wonderful . The chicken mango salad sandwich ($7.50) looked fresh, delightful, and plump. I nearly dropped dead from the look at the huge panini with marinated mushrooms spilling out with seasoned goat cheese (which i ordered).

Wendy ordered the same sandwich as myself. Both our orders were $7.50 and came with an anorexic portion of a side salad which was fine since the actual sandwich was HUGE.

I ordered the spring greens and Wendy ordered the Caesar. Both our dishes came grilled with a side of aioli (garlic mayo). Zam had the had the mushroom sandwich with goat cheese, and both were present in the sandwich in plentifulf amounts. No misery with their fillings. Same experience with their salmon, tuna and roasted vegetarian sandwich.

He felt the ambiance was very urban chic with minimalist white New York Style decor. The crowd was corporate yuppie (very suave looking). He thought the service was quick during th lunch rush. We all agreed that you get a good meal in a short time and prices were good for the quality of the sandwich, salad, and drink combo (under $10).

At this point, i am convinced that this place is a wonderful casual dining spot for lunch, i cannot believe i’ve missed it (Thanks Zam). Other veggie sandwiches includes the avocado sandwich with avocados, tomatoes, havarti cheese, alfalfa sprouts, and side salad ($7.50). Avenue Cafe and Bistro even sells simple sandwiches like Egg Salad, Tuna Salad, Smoked Salmon and Cream cheese ($7.90), Salmon salad sandwich, Tuna Cheddar Melt ($6.90), Chicken Caesar ($6.90). Also serves breakfast omeletes ($6.90), as well as Western sandwiches ($5.90-$6.90). Baked good include fresh muffins, croissants, bagels or baguettes ($1.40-$1.90). Lunch pita pizzas (thin crust) include chicken pesto, vegetarian, and margarita ($6.90).

Avenue Cafe and Bistro also offers a medley of salads including caesar, greek, roasted salmon green bean, avenue salad (seared beef and mixed greens, chick peas and feta) ($5.90-$6.90), and chicken pesto pasta salad with chicken, multi coloured fusili, sundried tomatoes, and pine nuts ($6.50). Quesadilas include beef, crab and shrimp, and chicken ($7.90-$8.90).

All dishes served with a side salad. Daily soups are creative and different every day and served with fresh bread ($3.50). Beverages include smoothies, perrier, bottled water, soft drinks, freshly squeezed juices ($1.40-$1.90 small, $2.90 for large) , Illy coffee, and an assortment of Espresso beverages ($1.90-$4.00 depending on size and type of drink) and even lunchtime coolers and beers, and red and white wine (by the glass). Accepts all cards. Liquor license. Opened Mon-Fri 7am-5:30pm.

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.

Solferino

38 Wellington Street East
416 364 8478

Just opened last spring (2005), Solferino is another gelato place (yay!) with about 20 different flavours, and they keep adding new flavours! Everything is made fresh, on the premises (in the back) and the gelato you are eating was made either yesterday or today. They’ve got the classic flavours (most recently, I had Dulce de Leche, while my friend had Oreo…funny how those are considered “classics”…), and some more unusual flavours (guava, blackberry, lulo, guanabana (two south-American fruits)). Try the avocado flavour!
The owner is from Columbia, and she had 5 successful stores with the same name in Bogota before deciding to test it out here. So far, so good! Go try it!

-Erin Toole

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

Ruchi Indian Cuisine

649 Yonge St.
(416) 926-0953

 

Wendy and I decided to try another Indian restaurant in the downtown core right before our 9:10pm show of Everything Is Illuminated, the movie adaptation of Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel of the same name. I had only partially read Foer’s novel so i thought i would cheat and see the movie. We had decided to go to a nice Indian meal somewhere on Yonge street and we knew that there were many options. We chose Ruchi, partially because of the glowing reviews posted on the wall (from EYE or NOW magazine) and it was closeby.

When we walked in we noticed it was brightly coloured in rich royal blue and copper reds. There is an elevation at the doorway so be careful not to trip while walking in. This narrow restaurant has less than 10 tables but the restaurant goes far back with 3 tables alongside one wall at the front and a few tables on the other side separated by brown coloured transparent curtains. There is a nice bar at back where they serve a variety of beers but I did not see a wine selection. Wendy and I started with veggie pekoras (deep fried onions in a chickpea batter- YUMM). It was served with a mint coriander sauce and a liquidy tamarind sauce ($3.95). For our mains, Wendy ordered the butter chicken ($7.95) and it came to us in a rich red colour. Wendy found the dish to be too sweet and did not have very much chicken and she said it reminded her of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup mix. She was not that happy with her choice. I did notice the sweet aroma and i found it odd that it was so red. I chose the saag paneer (spinach and cottage cheese curry) which i found to be super yummy and it has a certain zing to it. We ordered both our dishes medium but we chould choose mild, medium, hot, or the cliche Indian hot. We both ordered Naan bread. I ordered aloo naan and Wendy ordered the regular Naan. For our beverages Wendy ordered sweet Lassi which was a plain yogourt but heavily sweetened (YUM) and i ordered the typical Mango Lassi which was even sweeter ($3.75). They came in tall glasses and unfortunately were not thick enough for my liking but i was somewhat satisfied.

I noticed the menu to have your typical North Indian dishes (chicken, beef, fish curries, aloo gobi, chana masala, butter chicken, tandoori chicken, samosa, pekoras, lassis, the typical dishes you’d expect in an Indian restaurant.).

Service was fairly fast and our waitress was nice, attentive, calm, and friendly. Wendy and I would definitely try this place again, despite her obvious disappointment. She did not expect her butter chicken to taste like Campbell’s Tomato soup mix and she did not expect there to be as much as sauce. She only found 4 pieces of chicken (breast, thank goodness!).

Open 7 days per week. Mon-Fri 11:30 am – 10:30 pm, Sat 3:00 pm – 10:30 pm, and Sun 4:00 pm -10:30 pm . Accepts all cards. Liquor license. Very narrow inside with not many seats but very cosy and comfortable. Lighting is quite bright. Beautiful colour scheme or rich royal blue ceilings and walls and reddish/copper walls. Non-kitschy Indian decor.

Indochine Pan-Asian Restaurant

175 Dundas Street West
(416) 581-8668

 

Located right on Dundas between Bay and University at the cusp of the downtown core between Eaton Centre and the bus station, this small and intimate restaurant serves up a variety of Thai, Chinese, or Malaysian dishes.

On this Thursday night at 7pm, I met up with two Librarian friends and having not seen them for one year, we opted for Asian fare but decided to dine in the area. We had always dined in Baldwin Village, but we were getting tired of that neighbourhood. Upon entering, we noticed that the 2 dining areas in this restaurant were completely empty. We opted to sit right by the window for optimal people watching. We started with an order of Tom Yam soup- a vegetable based broth with zing and kick, with lemongrass, bean sprouts, baby corn, carrot, brocoli, and baby bok choi, ($2.75). Other appetizers include Thai spring rolls and various Thai soups.

Helen and Melanie both ordered the Malaysian curried chicken with a roti ($6.95). Their curry was yellow and aromatic and was served in small bowl and contained chicken and shrimp. Both enjoyed it very much but commented that it was very filling and very thick with coconut milk. Both enjoyed the roti which looked like a thick and small pancake. I ordered a typical Malaysian dish, the tofu satay ($7.95) with 4 skewers of tofu smothered in a rich peanut curry sauce with stir fried vegetables. The stir fried vegetables were overcooked and it came with a heaping mound of white rice. The dish was way too salty and there was not enough substantial vegetables (only alittle brocoli and bean sprouts), and the tofu was greasy. I was very hungry so i finished it anyway. I ordered a Mango juice for my drink ($2.95). Decor and food was not memorable. The waiter assured me that the soup broth and the peanut sauce was truly vegetarian but the soup did have that fishy aftertaste. I will most likely try Indochine again as there were many vegetarian options (spicy Thai eggplant, spicy Thai tofu, as well as a coconut curry vegetable stir fry, green curry, and various tofu dishes). Decor is nothing to cry home about, very dark in earth and almost burgundy tones, making it look somber and almost forgettable. I will have to try this place another time. Accepts all cards. Open late. Very affordable prices. 3 people can eat for under $30.00 including drinks. Serves a variety of liquors, spirits, and beer.