Musa

 

 

Until recently, the Dundas West strip between Bathurst and Dufferin has desperately clung to its traditional past. This area known affectionately as “Little Portugal” between Bathurst and Ossington and further east by the more hardcore “Rua Acoras” has been under going a transformation of late. Over the past year, new trendy establishments such as the Chelsea Room, Cocktail Molotov and Eat Cafï have sprung up amidst the old school hair salons, hardware stores, and pharmacies. Heck, even Cafï Brasiliano, known as much for its great coffee as its anti trendy ways has taken on new digs; albeit still maintaining much of its original modest charm. An original in this respect is the oft overlooked Dundas West fixture that is Musa.

Musa embodies both aspects of the Dundas West charm with a mixture of traditional Mediterranean cuisine and decor with a smattering of nouveau martinis and up to date musical selections. The menu contains much of the regular Mediterranean fare one would expect to find. We are pleasantly surprised to receive a basket full of fresh bread and hummus before we place our order. Our waitress is jovial and patient with my carnivorously challenged companion while ringing off the day’s specials. I opt for the grilled swordfish special served in a tomato sauce with stewed vegetables and a fresh side salad. The swordfish is tender and succulent while the vegetables are stewed correctly without being overly mushy. My decision, seconded by the waitress to avoid an appetizer is wise as I end up barely being able to finish the fully loaded plate. Although Mark finds the prices �retarded�, the portion size and taste more than makes up the $18.95 tag line to my meal.

As the burgeoning Dundas West strip becomes more gentrified it is nice to know that Musa will continue to dole out good traditional food while still keeping up with the evolving neighbourhood.

Musa

847 Dundas St. W.
416-368-8484

This funky place with Mediterranean-style exterior walls has always caught my eye so I decided to stop by for dinner one night while at Aaron’s place in Little Portugal.
Inside, it feels that you have stepped into an authentic Greek tavern or pub. The decor is very Mediterranean, with earth-toned plaster walls of of ocean blue, browns, beiges, earthy greens. The place is also cool with its mismatched chairs, wood tables, in a relaxed ambiance.

The actual restaurant is quite small and cosy, consisting of three mini dining areas, maybe comprising 20 tables in total. There is a bar right upon entering and it’s quite nice in terms of display. The kitchen is hidden right at the back and diners cannot see the cooks at work but people walking by on Dundas can get a glimpse of the exposed kitchen windows.

The art on walls (mostly photos) put a great touch to the earthy plaster walls. After browsing the menu, I did not know how to catergorize this place. It was quite ambiguous since they have a mix of everything. The menu includes steak, fish, chicken, pastas, salmon, seafood, and mussels. After we sat down, we were served fresh bread with a spicy hummus. [YUM]. Our server was very informative, friendly, very attentive, and helpful with her knowledge of the portions, food, and vegetarian selections. She was honest and made recommendations for us and I appreciated that.

Aaron ordered the swordfish, which was one of the daily entrees, for $18.95. It looked like a thick piece of eggplant, with stewed vegetables and a nice salad. I ordered the grilled vegetable sandwich (go figure), composed of grilled eggplant, zucchini, goat cheese (yuck), grilled red and green peppers, came with side green salad with yummy viniagrette for $7.95. I ordered a MASSIVE Diet Coke for only $1.76.

I loved the food, as it was fresh, healthy, and presentation is beautiful and artistic. My only comment would be that there were not enough vegetarian selections. Some entrees that interested me were the weed and green salad with beans and vegetables. It sounded interesting but the server told us the portion was small and it was not filling. Some more items to mention are the sauteed dandelions, weed and green salad, grilled vegetable sandwich in a flaxseed spelt toasted pita with grilled eggplant, zucchini, grilled peppers, and goat cheese ($7.95), mussels ($6.95) in a lemon and coriander sauce, many salads including a chicken salad ($8.95) with honey-ginger sautéed vegetables in a creamy garlic dressing, and a traditional moussaka with grilled eggplant, clove-infused beef, and scalloped potatoes, topped with bechamel sauce ($12.95)

There were several pasta options ($9.95–$14.95) and this definitely counts as a vegetarian option, but who wants to go out for dinner just to eat pasta when you can cook it for less than $1.00 at home.

Furthermore, most pasta are made with white flour (which is gross). I would recommend buying whole wheat pasta at your local IGA and choosing more sophisticated dishes.

Daily special prices are on the retarded scale of $14.95-$18.95 but portions are big, quality is high, and taste is exceptional, (according to Aaron, who polished his entire plate). Desserts are $3.95–$6.95. They accept everything except American express.

Cafe 668

As of mid 2007
885 Dundas Street West
*NEW* Phone: 416 703 0668

As of mid 2007, Cafe 668 moved to 885 Dundas Street West
New Phone Number: 416 703 0668

A Southeast Asian all-veggie, vegan-friendly cafe. Located right near Kensington Market along Dundas between Spadina and Bathurst, this place is quite small and cosy and only sits about 6 small tables. Nice ambiance, simple with minimal decor. I started with a small vegetarian hot and sour soup which came piping hot, thick and spicy, sour, and excellent. The soup portion was quite large. My friend ordered an order of veggie cold rolls which looked fresh and healthy. She ordered the main dish called “House Special Mixed Vegetable Noodle Soup which consisted of a huge soup with noodles and an assortment of vegetables. I ordered the veggie chicken sir fried with cashew nuts (Kung-Pau Style). It came with small diced vegetables and I asked for them to leave out the rice. I was kind of disappointed because the night before I ordered the Veggie Chicken Kung Pau at King’s Cafe in Kensington Market and that dish was the best I’ve ever had. This dish at Cafe 668 was excellent but the pieces were so small, it almost looked like baby food. I generally do not like my food diced up like that. The actual dish was filing and yummy and not expensive at all ($7.99). My friend’s main course was $5.50 and her veggie cold rolls were $2.99 for three rolls. My soup was $2.99 and my main dish was $7.99. Lunch and dinner meals are under $10.00 in most cases and are served fresh, colourful, and extremely tasty. Buddhas Vegetarian Restaurant, which is the neighbouring restaurant next door, is somewhat more grungy with bright lights, uncomfortable chairs and awkward tables, and a patchwork of 6 small dining rooms. Cafe 668 is a simple cafe of one room, classy, dimly lit, and quiet. In terms of awards, this place was selected as the number one restaurant in 2002 by NOW Magazine. It has also received praise from NOW Magazine, Eye Weekly, Toronto Life, and the Toronto Star. Open Tues-Fri12:30 -4PM, 6- 9:30PM. Sat-Sun 1:30 – 9:30PM. Closed Monday. They only accept cash.

Cafe 668

 

Having the distinction of NOW Magazine’s Best Vegetarian Restaurant is quite a feat. It is also quite an accomplishment considering Cafe 668’s low key atmosphere and dingy location near where Dundas West curves at Bathurst Street. Obviously, there is something special here.

My first visit did not result in the "wow" I had expected from the glorious ravings bestowed by NOW’s Steven Davey; however after my second try, I now see what the hype is about (now). Even the tea that was served before our first dish was delicious. I sub-conciously polished off several cups before realizing how much I was enjoying it. The menu itself is quite extensive, something I always find a tad overwhelming in Vietnamese restaurants. So without much perusal of the menu I quickly decided on a Hot and Sour Soup and from the "Chef’s Suggestions" list on the wall I chose the Hot and Sour Spicy Pad Thai. The heat was definitely present as about halfway through the soup the sniffles started. This continued while I started into the pad thai, slightly disguising the taste of that dish. After the spicy sensations dissapated I was really able to enjoy the subtle and aromatic spicing of the pad thai. Interspersed in the noodles were wonderfully cooked pieces of tofu, eggplant, mushrooms and other vegetables. This was hands down the best pad thai I’ve had in the city.

To my knowledge, there is only one server in the tiny establishment. My bet is he is also the owner and he definitely carries an air of dignity and respect about him. The prices are also very reasonable at Cafe 668 solidifyng it as a regular stop within my immediate locale.

Ban Vanipha

 

From the outside, there seems something a little off putting about this Thai/Laotian restaurant. Perhaps it is the immediate area on Dundas West that it encompasses, not quite apart of Chinatown or Kensington Market but comprising its own little mini area with two other restaurants to the west. After dining here twice; however, all of my doubts have been neatly put to rest due to the delicious fare and thoughtful service that is provided.

My first visit, I was taken here by a friend for my birthday. I had never tried Laotian food before and I couldn’t even pronounce any of the items on the menu. Thankfully, my friend had recently been to Laos and knew exactly what to order. We took our time by sharing several appetizers , a chicken, vegetable and seafood main, and dessert to finish. I don’t recall exactly what each dish was but we were both duly impressed. The atmosphere of the restaurant is completely laid back and serene which is a nice respite coming off the busy Dundas strip.

My second visit here was different from the first. Instead of sitting and “dining”, we ordered and ate quickly. The staff were quite attentitve to our needs and sensed that we did not desire to have a long drawn out meal. The quality to sense what pace the customer wants to eat is difficult for wait staff to master but can be crucial to enjoying a meal.

This time around I remember we ordered the Khao Glum for an appetizer which was black sticky rice and beans wrapped in a banana leaf with a side of spicy sauce. A tad difficult to share, but tasty nonetheless. For our main course we shared two dishes. A chicken dish called Ping Gai, was, according to the menu, spiced “Laotian style”. I’m not sure what that means exactly but it was very well seasoned and came with a delicious coriander sauce. We also had a shrimp dish called “ping gou yai”. The tiger shrimp were huge and juicy and came with grilled zucchini and a grilled tomato. I would have preferred to take my time, but my friend was in more of a rush. Despite this, it was still an enjoyable meal and I will be happy to return here again.

Eat Cafe and Catering

1321-dundas west
416 . 537 . 3000

 

The burgeoning Dundas West strip excites me for a number of reasons. Most notably because I live there, and the emergence of new restaurants, bars, and art galleries is a great sign for the area and for places to frequent. Eat Cafe, a block or two west of Dovercourt is one such place that opened in mid-summer (2003).

Having already garnered positive reviews from a few publications, I was hoping to find a new restaurant to rival Saving Grace for the preeminent brunch establishment in the immediate locale. Unfortunately, this will not be the one to do it.

From what I discerned about Eat Cafe, I was looking forward to elaborate and creatively conceived dishes that have become synonymous with the trendy, brunch industry. Though the varied menu suggests this would be the case, the end result does not. The first surprise was the simple and minimalist decor that greets you when entering the tiny room with few tables. Not that this was dissapointing, I don’t need to be wowed by elaborate restaurant designs to enjoy the food. The bigger dissapointment came when we received our meals. Having thoroughly enjoyed the appetizers consisting of a spicy, spinach hummous which wasn’t very spicy but quite tasty and thinly, sliced and seasoned bread with some delicous pate; we were anxious to eat our main dishes which sounded much better than they tasted. For some reason, I hadn’t eaten in 24 hours and was eager to dig into a lucious meal to satisfy my aching belly. I was able to sample four of the five dishes we ordered including my own. I think my order was the best of the bunch, a banana and apple stuffed french toast with candied walnuts. However, like the merguez sausage that one of the members of our party complained wasn’t hot; I found it had been cooling a little too long to thoroughly enjoy. I am not one to send food back to the kitchen, but I think in retrospect I would have enjoyed it more if I did. Eat Cafe also has a diverse lunch menu which two people at our table sampled. I tried one of the paninis they ordered and found it bland tasting despite the genoa salami and roasted red peppers among other toppings that graced this sandwich. This bland taste seemed to be a common theme from the comments heard around the table.

It does not look like Eat Cafe will become the regular brunch venture I was hoping; however, they are starting to serve dinner in the fall and while the food was not totally up to snuff there is room for improvement on a diverse menu that begs to be enjoyed.

Palmerston, The

800 Dundas West, at Palmerston
416-703-9164

Having moved down to “Little Portugal”, I find myself in the middle of a terrific amount of new brunch spots to sample from. One of those places that I probably would never make it to if not for living downtown is the Palmerston. A small (extremely small) kitchen just north of Dundas on Palmerston (duh). Going in with six, loud, hetereosexual males we find that we take up all the small two person tables at this establishment. A smiling, relaxed lady is behind the counter taking orders off the chalkboard menu, the only one that exists in the restaurant. There is no wait staff and you pour your own coffee into styrofoam cups. Simple, yet efficient and different. I start off with a mango scone which is piping hot and tenderly soft inside. The bits of mango serve as a nice complement to typically delicous scone. The rest of the menu is sparse but my choice of scrambled eggs with coriander and melted brie on a baguette is delicious.

http://www.nowtoronto.com/minisites/restaurant/food2.html