Podium (closed in 2006/07)

5th floor- Olympic Spirit Toronto
35 Dundas St. East @ Victoria
416 775 3200

 

Podium is a 200 seat, full service restaurant and bar which is open for lunch and dinner. Sleek and elegant, it’s set in the heart of the Yonge/Dundas

concrete jungle on the 5th floor of newly constructed Olympic Spirit building. The building, located at the corner of Victoria and Dundas is yet another

supplement to the Yonge/Dundas Concrete park that tries to emulate New York’s Time Square with flashy lights, T-O Tickets (like New York’s TKTS), and situated in what is known as
the country’s busiest intersection- whoop dee do! I still do not see the need to build an Olympic Spirit building- Canada does not invest huge sums of money

into the Olympics and its athletes. Further, since when did we get so patriotic when it comes to the Olympics. I thought it was odd to have an Olympic

Spirit building since we just lost the 2008 bid for the World Olympics. This new place is a 5 storey complex with a museum, gift shop, and Podium sits

atop on the 5th floor with a huge outdoor summer terrace that gives a panoramic view of the yucky Yonge/Dundas Concrete landscape.

The entrance to this place is confusing since you must enter the building on the ground level at Victoria and go up to the 5th floor. Signage is crappy,

(there is one small paper sign that says “Podium 5th floor outside the elevator) . Although coined as a tourist spot, it’s difficult to find this
restaurant with such poor signage.

Upon entering, we were mesmorized with how beautiful it was. The entrance had shiny new pieces of mosaic tiles in warm earth tones. The colour scheme comprised bright red walls with cheesy images of athletes. There were 4 circular booths in red leather which

could fit about 4-6 people. Most of the restaurant had clean lines with small pale wood tables in minimalist, modern, simple lines. There is an exposed wood

burning oven where pizza is made before our eyes and a large circular bar where many drinks are prepared. The staff were extremely friendly, warm, and

enthusiastic.

The menu itself is quite limiting for vegetarians as the only items that are veggie friendly are pizza and pasta. However, the wonderful thing was that

staff were so flexible, that they could basically create things from scratch that did not exist. For our appetizer, we ordered a salad of mixed greens, arugula, a mozarella-like cheese (?), apples, caramelized walnuts, in a maple dressing ($12). For our mains, I ordered a veggie pizza with pesto, shrimp, and some goat cheese. I asked

the server to have the shrimp removed and instead, he added more pesto (YUM), some goat cheese, bonconncini cheese, grilled peppers, snow peas, and grilled

mushrooms. The pizza was thin crust and whole wheat and only $14. It was fresh, hand made, and very tasty. I was very happy.

Wendy ordered the seafood pasta dish with mussels, shrimp, and scallops, in a wide spinach pasta for $18. She loved her dish very much but she thought that

they mixed up the pasta dish. I think she ordered pappadelle pasta and her pasta was something different. Our portions were of decent size and service was

stellar. In addition to pasta and pizza, Podium offers a wide variety of dishes featuring soups, salads, stir fries, gourmet sandwiches, chicken, fish,

and steak. They offer gourmet sandwiches for lunch like the grilled Portobello mushroom and vegetable sandwich, topped with goat cheese. This sandwich was

accompanied by a house salad or French fries.

As well, other popular dishes include the Asian beef stir-fry served with julienne vegetables, snow peas, in a ginger sesame hoisin sauce. Another dish includes a rack of lamb glazed with Russian mustard accompanied by a potato latke and a Shiraz reduction. The menu also includes a vegetarian favourite from my pasta days: a penne arrabiata (with or without the sausage) in a spicy tomato sauce topped with grana padano. Podium also has an extensive wine list to accompany any dish you order.

I have mixed feelings about the decor. On one end, it’s hip and cool and chic. With dim lighting, clean lines, the vibrant red walls, and bright red leather circular “futuristic” booths, Podium really has an ultra hip style, but then there is an element of “kitsch” and “cheese” when you see the print and art on the walls are all athletes in various poses (winning, losing, running, swimming) and when you look at the floor and there are references to famous Olympics events on the floor, I must admit that it ruins the elegance and chic-ness of it all, but that’s just my opinion. I know the theme but there are more subtle ways you can play with decor so it’s not “in your face”

The view from Podium’s patio overlooks Yonge/Dundas Square, which, i guess for tourists is spectacular. Trust me, there are nicer spots in Toronto than Yonge/Dundas square. I think Podium is a great place for tourists and theatre goers because you are so close to the Canon Theatre (former Pantages Theatre), Massey Hall, EATON Centre, and not far from the Bluma Appel theatre (part of CanStage), and the Hummingbird centre.

Staff were extremely friendly, accomodating, warm, and flexible. Service was prompt, fast, and food was fresh and full of flavour. Accepts all cards. Full liquor license. Spectacular bar with a large outdoor summer terrace with great views of the city (north western view–you can see the U. of T. campus very well!). I would definitely go back because staff were so accomodating to my neurotic vegetarian needs, but I was disappointed that the only vegetarian items were pizza or pasta.

Cultures [chain]

 416-626-6868
<br />The West Mall,
<br />M9C 1B8
<br />416-860-9313
120 Adelaide Street West,
M5H 1T1
416-204-1592
505 University Avenue
M5G 1X3

416-364-1215
Toronto Dominion Centre
416-486-5312
43 Eglinton Avenue East,
M4P 1A2

416-863-0647
Standard Life Centre,
M5H 3T9

416-865-0535
Royal Bank Plaza,
M5G 2J6
416-921-5732
175 Bloor E,
M4W 3R8
416-927-1544
2 Bloor Street West
M4W 3E2
416-495-1511
416-593-9647
317 Dundas Street West,
M5T 1G4
200 King Street West,

Cultures is similar to Quebec’s Fontaine Sante, a casual, affordable healthy alternative to fast food. Conveniently located in most food courts in downtown Toronto Cultures offers quick and healthy salads, sandwiches, wraps, quiches, smoothies, and fruit salads for business people who are on the go but want something healthier for lunch than just burgers and fries.

I went with a friend to the location at King and University, conveniently located on the ground level of the building. Sometimes located on its own on the first floor of most office towers, away from food courts, Cultures caters to business folk who are counting their calories and who want food that is not fried but fresh and contains green leafy vegetables. Cultures also offers freshly squeezed juices, healthy soups, wraps, pitas, quiche, frozen yogourt fruit smoothies, and healthy sandwiches.

The place is set up like a type food court restaurant: cafeteria style. Usually containing about 10-15 tables, most Cultures are clean, spacious, and have comfortable seating. For lunch that day, I ordered three choices of salad for $4.99 [good price!]-consisting of chick peas and corn in an Italian viniagrette, brocoli and celery in a sweet paprika dressing, and marinated vegetables. Other salad options included a fresh medley of vegetables as well as pasta salad

Other meals include chicken and fish sandwiches on a variety of breads, wraps, frozen yogourt in a cup, frozen yogourt smoothie. Complete meals with drink under $7.00

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.

Fire on the East Side

6 Gloucester St.
(416) 960-3473

Wendy and I and some friends went for brunch at Fire On The East Side right before the Pride Parade last Sunday. Fire on the East Side is conveniently located right at Gloucester and Yonge, right in the heart of downtown Toronto. Brunch is served Sat, Sun and Holidays until 4pm

The decor is really great with very colourful dishes, comfortable seating, bright colours in the food, excellent presentation. Food that we saw before ordering had had life, texture, looked fresh and colourful. While we waited for everyone to arrive (~15 people) we were served banana bread instead of your typical bread and butter. It was fresh and yummy.

I ordered my typical brunch favourite: yogourt with granola and fruit for $8. My order resembled an extra large soup bowl with banana-honey yogourt but only a sprinkle of granola and very little fruit. In other words, it resembled yogourt soup. I was slighlty disappointed. Aaron ordered the Fritatta Tower” which he thought was quite good… light and fluffy with smoked salmon and some other vegetables. He thought it was nice that it was served with a side of fruit. He thought that the brunch potatoes were like little frozen hashbrowns that they warmed up in a microwave so he was not impressed with that.

Aaron’s friend Robin had the spinach fritata which he found delicious. He thought that food was a cut about the usual for the neighbourhood. He thought the service was excellent but WAY TOO SLOW.

Wendy ordered the chicken and bacon pesto sandwich on ciabatta bread
At least 5 people ordered the Huevos Burrito $9 (eggs, refried beans and Monterey Jack cheese and topped
with warmed salsa. ). Someone else ordered the Crab Cake Benedict $10 (eggs benedict with crab cakes). Another brunch attendee ordered a nice salad with walnut-crusted goat cheese. Lastly two people ordered the banana bread French toast with loads of fruit ($7). It looked really good, hold the French toast.

Other interesting brunch items included the cinnamon apple crepe ($9) served with raspberry crème fraiche and fresh fruit. They also serve typical brunch fare like eggs and bacon, sausage, steak and eggs, and pancakes. Try the “east side” omeletes that are served with home fries and ratatouille (Wendy says they home fries are not that spectacular, though)

The decor is warm and inviting, perfect for that late-night cocktail. With white-painted brick, retro bar stools, hardwood floors, postmodern industrial metal-topped tables, and a large outdoor front terrace this place has definite ambiance for brunch or late night drinks, but expect long waits. They charge an additional $3.00 if you want your egg whites only for your omelete. They accept every card. Prices are a bit high for what you get but presentation and food is fresh, artistic, colourful, full of texture and flavourful.

Indian Flavour-closed Dec 2006

595 Bay Street
(416) 408-2799

Conveniently located right at Dundas and Yonge right near the Eaton Centre in the Atrium (the mall across from Eaton Centre) I went with two co-workers to enjoy the lunch buffet for $8.95. The dinner buffet is $12.95. It was jam-packed with people, so I that is an indication that it’s good. I’ve been told by many colleagues that it’s a great place to dine for lunch or dinner

Indian flavour comprises 3 large dining halls, seats close to 100 tables, spread on two levels. Seating is large and spacious. Tables are spread far apart from each other and we did not feel congested.

There are two distinct buffets for vegetarian and non-vegetarian sections, physically divided, and far apart from each other. Indian Flavour is not trendy but very casual and non-pretentious. There is a separate salad and dessert section with amazing noddle pudding with rice and spices and excellent thick rice pudding with spices, raisins, and nuts

Food is hot, fresh, often refilled, and not just sitting there like most Indian buffets. Food is not oily or greasy. I had the eggplant curry (bhartha), the vegetable curry with string beans, carrots, peas, zucchini curry, and daal (curried lentils and black beans). There is a large selection of dishes for both the vegetarian and non vegetarian buffets. My colleagues had masala chicken, curried lamb, and curried potatoes. Ambiance was nice, spacious, clean, with an earthy green decor with green carpets, earthy green decor, with tiny bits of Indian influences.
They accept VISA and Interac and I would definitely go back the next payday 🙂

7 West

7 Charles
416.928.9041

7 West is located on 7 Charles street, on three floors of an old converted Victorian home, with hardwood floors, exposed brick, and a fireplace. It’s just one block south of the Yonge/Bloor intersection. They serve many vegetarian meals and the prices are really affordable for what you get. The drinks are expensive, though. Never go on a Saturday night because this calm, cool, funky, hip cafe becomes a busy, crowded cheesy bar with macho guys with way too much cologne and women who look like whores socialize and drink and the whole ambiance becomes all loud and resembles a bar- YUCK!

Go during a weeknight or during the day on the weekend. I usually order the vegetarian chili or the grilled vegetable sandwich with a lot of chick pea green salad. It’s colourful, fresh, and portions are decent. 🙂 My veggie chili was a bit liquidy, but it’s quite tasty and not expensive.

They also serve excellent salads, and light meals, desserts, and full course dinners. You get good quality food and good service. Just avoid going Friday and Saturday night.

7-West also serves brunch on the weekend. There is small one-pager, in addition to the menu, with traditional brunch fare with affordable prices. Drinks are bit high (Diet Coke for $3.00) but I had the granola with fruit and yogourt for $6.00 and my brunch date had eggs, peameal bacon, with a chick pea green salad and service, presentation, and quality of food was good.

Irish Embassy

49 Yonge St.
(416) 866-8282

Part bar part restaurant would be a good way to describe this place.

I went there with a foursome, & had reservations for 9, but thankfully as we were running mighty late, they kept our reservation for us. Good thing I called ahead.

The atmosphere kind of reminds me of Biermarket, with regards to how they separate the bar from the restaurant. With the high ceiling & white walls, this definitely did not feel like a standard Irish Pub, more like an up scaley type place, & come to think of it, I don’t recall it being too smokey either.

So they were flexible & accommodating which was good, it was a bit of a wait for the food – not so good – we had to ask for extra bread more than once but when it arrived the food was good. My beef tenderloin was awesome, two others had New York steaks they really liked & one person had a bison burger which he enjoyed. My herby mashed potatoes were super good too.

Dessert proved to be a pleasant experience, My friend & I shared a creme brulee & I wish I had ordered it all for myself actually.

Other than the loud noise from the bar patrons, which made conversation a challenge, this was a reasonably pleasant dining experience. I would go back, but I don’t know that I’d go out of my way to get there.

Not Just Noodles

570 Yonge Street
416-960-8898

 

Conveniently located at Yonge and Wellesley, this casual sit down and take out place serves Chinese, Vietnamese, and Thai dishes. They also serve Bubble Tea, a delicious cold beverage with tea, ice, tapioca bubbles, and flavour. Bubble Tea originates from Taiwan and I love Bing Sa, a smooth, slushy like beverage made with frozen fruit puree, tapioca bubbles, and blended to a creamy smoothy icy drink.

The restaurant
sits about three tables on the main floor and about ten tables on the second floor. My friend ordered the sweet and sour chicken balls. She said they were tasty but doughy. I ordered the tofu stir fry with bok choy and shitaki mushrooms in a veggie sauce. Warning: all veggie dishes are not just noodles are made in an oyster sauce so if you are a true vegetarian, please specify.

Menu is divided into the following: Thai and Vietnamese sections, Stir Fried Noodle and Veggie and Beef or Chicken dishes, Fried Rice dishes, Dim Sum, Noodle Soups in Chicken or Beef broth, regular soups (beef or chicken broth), appetizers, pork, chicken, seafood, and beef main dishes, as well as a list of vegetarian dishes. Please specify that you are a “true” vegetarian if you do not mind oyster sauce or chicken/beef broth in your beloved vegetarian dishes. All dishes come with steamed white rice.

Mostly serving Chinese fare, there are 2 small sections devoted to Thai and Vietnamese cuisine like Pho (Vietnamese) and Pad Thai (Thai). Offers dinner specials (choice of one specially selected item for $9.50, up to 6 items from a special set of dishes for $48.95). Bubble tea is $2.95 (small) and $3.45 (large) and add 50 cents for Bing Sa (slush). Fresh fruit bubble tea is $3.75 (small) and $4.75 (large).

Prices are between $4.95-$9.95 and portions are decent. Dishes come with rice and Interac and cash are accepted.

Open Mon-Sat 11am-1am. Sunday 12 pm noon- 1am. Offers take out, delivery, and catering services. Free delivery for orders over $18 before taxes. Delivery service is from 5pm-11pm. Fast and friendly service but speak slowly as English is NOT their first language so if you are a hard core vegetarian, they will probably fuck up. MSG-free dishes available upon request.

Salad King (post-renovation)

335 Yonge Street
(416) 971-7041

Bright lights, shiny decor, metallic, kind of postmodern, hip, trendy, industrial (sort of), right in the middle of downtown at Ryerson University. Seats are very close together, almost packed in like sardines. Don’t bring someone on a first date here, it’s not a romantic place to dine. The menu is a plain piece of paper, like a placemat. This place serves Thai fast food, that is fresh, flavourful, hot, and spectacular looking.

The dishes are served on funky, trendy plates, and dishes are colourful and cool. I ordered the Bangkok Stir Fry with vermacelli noodles, broccoli, snow peas, carrots, peanut, (hold the egg) and the sauce was this spicy, aromactic sesame oil based glaze…tres yummy! I found out four visits later that the Bangkok stir fry was not completely vegetarian but made with fish sauce. Salad King’s staff are notorious for being unaware of vegetarians’ needs.

I tried again to find the perfect meal in my second visit. I was determined to find a dish that would be filling, tasty, and completely vegetarian. I ordered a spicy tofu dish with Chili level “3”, hold the white rice. For a side dish I had the cold veggie rolls with peanut sauce. The peanut sauce was most likely made with fish sauce but I only found out after the fact. The cold rolls were excellent. The spicy tofu dish was outstanding. I later found out that the Spicy Tofu was also made with fish sauce. As it turns out the word “vegetarian” means nothing to Salad King. I did not know fish was considered a vegetable. All waiters and waitress may be nice but they are unaware of the ingrediants in their dishes.

On my third and fourth visit, I found out that all items on the Veg. Lover’s menu (Emerald Tofu, Country Tofu, Golden Tofu, Spicy Tofu, Vegetarian Hot Thai Noodle, Vegetarian Bangkok Sir Fry, and Vegetarian Kari noodle) are all made with fish sauce except Golden Tofu and Country Tofu. The concept of vegetarian is not clear to this restaurant. The staff claim that these items are vegetarian when in fact they are not. You have to grill the waitress to actually admit that these dishes are made with fish sauce. Even the delicious cold rolls are vegetarian but the dipping sauce is made with fish sauce. At Salad King, it’s a don’t ask, don’t tell policy where innocent vegetarians must take the risk since staff won’t tell you if items are completely vegetarian. It has been a frustrating experience even more for me since all dishes come with rice and I do not eat it. Without rice, these dishes are not filling since portions are so small

My first dish was a bit dry, not saucy enough for my liking and not enough vegetables. Level is spice is on a “Chili” scale from 1-5. I have ordered dishes ranging from “Chili 1” to “Chili 5” and these dishes were all very good, yet not spicy enough. Hmmphh. Meals are from $5.95-$7.95. Strict vegetarians beware!

Reviewed by Mark

Pickle Barrel

Pickle Barrel Locations:
Yonge/Eglinton
Yonge/Dundas
Leslie/Cummer
Yonge/Steeles
Yorkdale Mall
Promenade Mall [Thornhill]
Markville[Markham]
Web site: http://www.picklebarrel.ca

This place offers a vast menu (over 300 items) of different kind of food: low fat, healthy, vegetarian, many Jewish-style entrees, Italian, Asian, pasta, fish, chicken, a menu for all tastes. There is an extensive list of desserts with a beautiful display of gorgeous cakes, pies, HUGE ice cream sundaes, and they have the best Frozen yogourt smoothies. Smoothies are served freezing cold, smooth, thick, and creamy, and served in a tall glass.

For dinner, I usually order a vegetable stir fry that is kind of bland (please note that food at the Pickle Barrel is more on the bland side) and I also order a Frozen Yogourt Smoothie with juice, fruit, and soft serve Colombo Frozen Yogourt, always low fat and tastes just like ice cream. My friend ordered the grilled salmon with an orange glaze that came with salad and potatoes. Although I do not eat fish, it looks nice and it was $11.95.

Prices are decent, portions are huge. Entrees are between $7.95 – $12.95, desserts are between $6.95 and $8.95 and appetizers are between $5.95-$9.95. Last time I ordered the roasted vegetable quesadilas with roasted zucchini, eggplant, red pepper, onion, with cheese. I got four large quesadilas with an order of salsa on a bed of lettuce for $5.95. Most other vegetarian items, unfortunately, involve big thick buns like the veggie burger, or vegetarian lasagna or pasta dishes or pizza. The California wraps are not vegetarian but there are healthy wraps like grilled chicken, fish, and turkey. Lisa Weinberg, a registered dietician was the one who initially developed the low fat, healthy menu which consists of about 20 items. Catering is offered for more than ten people and take out is also available. I would recommend this place for good old “North American trying to be ethnic” comfort food.

They accept every card in the world so this is convenient. Portions are big so be prepared to eat a lot. Check out the menu at Yonge and Dundas at http://www.picklebarrel.ca/picklebarrel/dundas.pdf. There is also a low carb menu, a kid’s menu, a take out menu, and a low fat menu. It seems that every location has a slightly different menu, depending on the demographics. Check out their web site at http://www.picklebarrel.ca