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
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.