River

 413 Roncesvalles
416-535-3422

 

River is a classic French restaurant located in the heart of Roncesvalles Village. It offers an amazing menu with large portions and much selection. I had passed this place many times and i had heard they serve a wonderful brunch and they also hire street kids to work and gain responsibility. I thought it was wonderful to read about programs that help disadvantage youth jump-start their lives again and i was impressed River participated in this type of program.

Although River is known for its dinner, Aaron, Brandon, and myself went for a lazy Sunday brunch. River serves an assortment of pastas (smoked chicken linguini, pesto farfale, banana curry penne), and salads (caesar, baby spinach, and field greens). Sandwiches include a grilled burger, grilled portobello burger, and cajun chicken club. Mains include pan fried salmon fillet, grilled rib eye steak, chevre and basil stuffed chicken breast, grilled pork tenderloin, grilled portobello mushroom caps, and lamb.

The brunch menu is very small and mostly comprises egg dishes. It could definitely be expanded. However, the portions are large and food is amazing and very fresh. For my brunch, i ordered the egg white omelete with pesto, spinach, mushroom, and oka cheese. It came with yummy salad, delicately spiced home fries, but no toast (odd). Brandon ordered the eggs florentine (two poached eggs on a toasted English muffin with spinach, hollandaise sauce) and it came with a side of salad and delicious home fries. Aaron ordered the big breakfast (two eggs any style, bacon, peameal, sausage, served a side salad, toast, and home fries. Heart attack on a plate.

River’s brunch is offered Sat + Sun from 11am-3:30pm. This place also participates in the “All Aboard” Youth Venture program that offers employment opportunities for homeless youth so it allows them to re-build their lives and it allows them to re-integrate back into society. Other brunch items include salads, chicken wraps, French Toast, breakfast burrito, an 8 ounce hamburger, and different varieties of Eggs Benedict.

River offers many vegetarian selections. Also serves an extensive wine list, extensive alcoholic coffees, cocktails, mixed drinks, domestic and foreign beers, and organic fair trade coffee with free refills . Accepts all cards. Offers catering, corporate functions, and parties (weddings, birthdays, baby showers, social gatherings, and Christmas parties). Open Thursday through Sunday for dinner 5pm-10pm and Sat/Sun for brunch 11am-3:30pm. Closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Fully licensed and accepts all cards.

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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.

Queen Mother Cafe [Mark Aaron]

208 Queen St. W.
Tel: (416) 598-4719
Mon-Sat 11:30am- 1:00am
Sun 12:00pm-12:00am

 

web site: www.queenmothercafe.ca

Located right at Queen near McCaul in the Queen West neighbourhood, I have always been curious to try this place out. With old wood furniture, high pressed tin ceilings, and beautifully restored, the Queen Mother Cafe serves Pan Asian (mostly Thai and Laosian cuisine) as well as some Mediterranean dishes and decadent desserts since 1978.

With a large, beautiful back terrace, and with three large dining areas, in a very dimlight romantic setting, the Queen Mother Cafe offers decadent desserts (locally made by Dufflet), and an array of Thai-Lao inspired dishes. For our dinner, we started with vegetarian cold rolls appetizers (fresh spring rolls filled with tofu, bean sprouts, cucumber, lettuce, vermicelli noodles, carrots, bell peppers, fresh mint and coriander, served with a hot and sweet peanut sauce) a bit liquidy in terms of the sauce, but a highly delicious start to our meal.

For our mains, Wendy ordered the seafood hot pot with a scallop, shrimp and calamari with green beans, cauliflower, bamboo shoots, bell peppers and fresh basil in a spicy Indian curry coconut sauce, served with steamed jasmine rice. Wendy found it very saucy, spicy, and wonderful.

I ordered the spicy vegetarian roti with fresh market vegetables, chickpeas and tofu in a spicy curry sauce, wrapped in a warm Indian Dahl roti, served with cucumber and cherry tomato salad, topped with raita dressing. I did not find it very saucy (more dry) but it was one of the best rotis i have had in a long time. Wendy ordered a sparkling water that was similar to San Pellegrino and I ordered the typical Diet Coke.

Service was exquisite and food presentation and taste was divine. There were not many vegetarian options but the waitress assured me that they were flexible and that they could make anything vegetarian. She also assured me that the peanut sauce was truly vegetarian. Mains are in the price range of $12-$15 and appetizers are $6-$9. Some appetizers include sticky rice steamed in a straw basket with a peanut sauce, edamame (steamed Japanese soybean snaps in a chili soy dipping sauce), nam jeun (three crispy spring rolls filled with a special vegetable mixture, served with hot and sweet peanut sauce ), dim sum quartet (wonton wrapped dim sum filled with chicken and shrimp and served in a soy sauce and garlic chili dipping sauce ), golden triangles (chicken, cumin, ginger, coriander, scallions and curry wrapped in a “samosa” like fashion with a curry and lemon yogourt sauce), and artichoke hummus. Salads includes an arugula walnut salad (YUMM), a mediterranean salad, and your typical plain “house” salad. Entrees include a smoked turkey chili, spinach and ricotta canneloni (super yummy), New Zealand lamb tenderloin, teriyaki salmon, and ping gai (grilled marinated boneless chicken with garlic, coriander, black peppercorns, served with a spicy lime coriander sauce and steamed rice ).

Noodle dishes include pad thai, bah me hang (fresh thin egg noodles stir-fried with bean sprouts, onions, celery, chopped peanuts, sauteed shrimp and golden sliced chicken in a spicy lime coriander sauce, topped with green onions and fresh coriander), and khao soy gai (a Laotian dish of chicken simmered with ginger, fresh Thai herbs, turmeric, curry and coconut milk, served on a bed of fresh bean sprouts, watercress and soft thin egg noodles, garnished with shallots, marinated bok choy and fresh coriander
).

Also serves a Sunday brunch. Some brunch items include a Montreal bagel (St. Viateur) with served plain or with cream cheese, hamburgers served with fries, crêpes with a savoury filling, served with home fries and salad, two eggs, served any way you like it, with home fries, double smoked side bacon and toasted authentic St Viateur Bagel from Montreal, served piping hot, omelete of the day served with home fries and side salad, quiche of the day (served with salad), and a St. Viateur bagel served with smoked salmon, cream cheese, red onions, lemon, and fresh dill (a taste of “Jewish and Montreal”)

Accepts all cards. Open Mon-Sat 11:30am- 1:00am and Sun 12:00pm-12:00am. Serves some brunch items (in addition to regular menu) on Sunday. A wonderful place to bring a date. Liquor License.

Trapezzi Wine and Dine [Mark Aaron]

505 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, ON
M4K 1P5
(416) 465-8778

 

Wendy and I decided to check out Trapezzi because it was one of the newer restaurants on the Danforth that had opened up some months ago. We knew that it was slightly shi shi poo poo so we thought that the Summerlicious food festival would give us an opportunity to try out a complete meal at a fixed price.

Trapezzi looks like a bar and bistro with dark hues of navy blue, chocolate brown, and black. The walls are furry and padded, perhaps an aid in sound absorption, or, perhaps it gives it a luscious, soft comfortable feeling. I would love to have soft padded walls throughout my house! Trapezzi is comfortable and clean, with clean lines and a contemporary hip look that is stylish and trendy. The menu comprises mostly Mediterranean fare (meaning Italian and Greek) and mains are around $15-$20 (OUCH!). For our summerlicious $20 dinner adventure, I started with a salad of baby spinach, red onion, orange segments, goat cheese, walnuts, citrus dijon vinaigrette. Oh my gosh, was it damn good. It was sweet and the vinaigrette made the salad light and refreshing, perfect for a hot summer day. Wendy had the mushroom & leek soup, in a big heaping bowl, very filling and hearty. She also ordered a bottle of sparkling water called Aoli. For my main, I ordered the gnocchi with roasted red peppers, baby spinach, shaved parmesan, saffron cream. I did not like the cream sauce as I am not a creamy sort of person. It tasted like a rose sauce but I really enjoyed the delicate flavour the gnocchi with the roasted red peppers and the baby spinach and parmesan. I am not a fan of cheese at all, but this cheesy dish was an exception. Portion size was laughable. The plate was flat and trendy but I think I only got ten gnocchi pieces. What a joke! I still think that nouveau cuisine does not mean I have to starve. I swear that I only ate ten individual pieces of gnocchi so I was very dissatsified since I know that this main would have been $14.

I ate slowly and really enjoyed my meal, but I doubt I would go back for dinner here. I would probably go to Trapezzi for brunch, but not dinner. Wendy got lucky with her main dish. She ordered the Fruit de mare with Pan seared garlic and herb crusted Atlantic Salmon, sautéed spinach, roasted mini red potatoes, and grilled lemon. Her portion was much bigger and she seemed very satisfied. For our dessert, we ordered two desserts and we shared. Wendy ordered the Tiramisu, with lady fingers, marscapone cheese, and espresso, in a rich cream cheesy icing. WOW- YUMMY! Excellent. I ordered the thick and dense Dark Chocolate and Caramel Torte, a dense chocolate moussy cake with a caramel crusted bottom layer, similar to Skor Bar. My dessert was superb.

Other items on the menu include a variety of salads ($8-$10), mussels ($10), a variety of pasta dishes like smoked chicken penne, rigatoni, fettucini, linguini, ($14-$16) and risotto dishes like pancetta risotto and mushroom risotto. ($16 and $17) , as well as a variety of pizzas ($14-$15)(some include caprese, carne, bourbon chicken, and trapezzi), as well as beef, chicken, lamb, duck, and sea food mains ($23-$30). The beef, lamb, duck, seafood, and poultry dishes all come with a variety of sauteed or roasted vegetables so it’s probably worth the inflate prices. Desserts include a variety of Gelatos ($5), Strudels, ($8), cakes ($8), as well as lattes ($3.50), and capuccino ($3.50), and alcoholic coffees (all $7). Trapezzi is also a full service bar and serves over 50 types of wine (red, white, rose, sparkly), as well as liquors. Trapezzi also serves a variety of funky flavoured Martinis ($10) , creative, sweet, and delicious cocktails ($8-$14), and apperitifs ($8-$9).

In sum, our experience at Trapezzi was great. Staff were friendly and accomodating and they did not treat us differently just because we ordered from the Summerlicious menu. The place is small but the decor and colour scheme is very hip and cool, comfortable, and relaxing. Fully Licensed Restaurant and Bar. Catering available. Seats 45 people as a restaurant. Seats 100 people as a bar. Accepts all cards. Open 7 Days – Monday thru Sunday 11am – 11pm
Bar opened until 2am. DJ plays music after 11pm on weekends. Serves a weekend egg-themed brunch. If you want a shi shi poo poo experience to the max with a good vibe, good food, and friendly staff, then come to Trapezzi. Just make sure you eat before because portions seem to be small.

Pan on the Danforth

516 Danforth Ave.
Phone: (416) 466-8158

 

I’d always wanted to try Pan on the Danforth, and Winterlicious provided an excellent opportunity to check it out. This restaurant specializes in Greek & Mediterranean cuisine, which is reflected in the menu. The atmosphere is very nice, cozy & relaxed, I think this would be an excellent date spot, and judging by the crowd there that night, is also good for small gatherings (6-10 ppl). The look of the place is really inviting, the dining area is long and narrow, the back of it is raised a few steps, and there’s a fireplace at the end, there are candles everywhere, nice decorative accents, beaded chandelier type fixtures, real paintings and music that is at a very reasonable volume and I was sitting right under the speaker, so that’s saying something!

I went by myself for dinner – I really wanted to go & it was a last minute decision. My server checked in on me frequently, asked if I liked the table he chose for me, if I needed the music lowered, helped me choose my wine. I was very happy with the attention I received, which is something I think can get forgotten when a lone diner is out.

For my appetizer, I selected the Mezedakia, (mixed dip platter) which included hummus, taramosalata, (cod roe dip) and tirokafteri, (feta & spicy banana pepper dip) which also included a bit of cous cous in the middle. The dips were accompanied by 2 perfectly warmed pitas seasoned just right. These dips were all yummy, but my fave was the taramosalata. Yummy!

My main dish was the Kakavia – a traditional seafood dish of shrimp, mussels, seabass, calamari, scallops, salmon and onions, served in a homemade tomato white wine sauce. I can honestly say this was the best calamari I’ve ever eaten! It was fresh & meaty, cooked to perfection, not remotely rubbery or stringy. This was a divine dish. The sea bass was definitely up my alley. The portion was so generous as well, I struggled to finish, but I ate the bowl clean.

I asked my server about vegetarian options which were not evident on the menu, other than in the appetizers & salads, and he assured me that there are options like veggie moussaka, pasta dishes or they can customize a dish for you, so vegetarians are not to worry, you are welcome here. Now this is a nice place, so I would not categorize it in a cheap eats guide – entrees range from $14.95 – $24.95, but it was definitely well worth it.

I finished my meal with an extraordinary fig and port ice cream, caramelized in red wine and cinnamon reduction. YUUUUUUMMMMMM!!!!! Hats off to the chef, this was fantastic & homemade even!

Pan on the Danforth was truly a wonderful dining experience! The service was attentive, knowledgeable & friendly. The food will bring me back for many more visits as well – Pan is an awesome find!

Arax Restaurant

1966 Queen E Toronto
(416) 693-5707

Last night Justine and I went out for dinner at the 16th annual Beaches Jazz Festival in the Beaches. We found this cute, charming Mediterranean bar/restaurant in the heart of the Beaches with about 15-20 tables.

The decor of Arax is “homey”, looks like its family run, (we peaked inside the kitchen and it looked like the owner’s mother was the cook that night.) with dim lighting, in an intimate bar-like setting. The place was surrounded by very happy customer, photos of people kissing, depicting a “home-style” neighbourhood restaurant, richly surrounded by an arrays of large mirrors (giving the illusion that it’s larger) and strung with a cheesy floral design resembling trashy curtains from the 1980’s.

Staff are very friendly and the customers looked so comfortable, like family. They were very lively and looked as though they were enjoying themselves immensely. The only drawback is the very small and limited menu. From this simple one page menu of about 15 items, we only found 2 vegetarian options.

Some dishes on the menu include Fried zucchini slices ($5.95) (Lightly battered) , and sweet tomato chutney with mushrooms and peppers ($5.95) , and Lahmajoun ($13.95) grilled flatbread with a layer of seasoned ground beef. ($13.95).

Justine ordered the large Falafel plate, with 4 Falafels, salad, topped with Tahini sauce and a plate of thinly sliced pita (unfortunately white pita) for $13.95. I ordered the vegetarian shawarma plate with spicy red beans and medley of vegetables and salad for $13.95 topped with tahini sauce. I loved the mix of the flavourful beans in a lemony viniagrette, topped with the strong aroma of the tahini. Prices are as follows. Appetizers and salads are $5.95-$9.95 and entrees are $9.95-$13.95

Our food was fresh, tasty, and although there was a lot of tahini on our plate, we still thought the food was excellent. Falafel was not too greasy but fresh, nutty, and flavourful.At first glance, it resembles a bar with a large display of drinks.

They accept all cards. Service was excellent and staff are enthusiastic and seem to love working there. Food was excellent and water was always refreshed with a lime 🙂

Soda [Wendy]

425 Danforth Avenue
ph: 416-466-5227

I cannot for the life of me figure out why this place isn’t crowded on a constant basis, like the other restaurants on the Danforth.

Perhaps it’s because it’s more of a medeterrainen fusion restaurant instead of straight Greek, but it’s still damn good!

Our service was friendly & attentive, my food was awesome – risotto with chicken, spinach, mushrooms, other veggies etc & heavy on the garlic. I thought it was fantastic, & there was enough to take home for a secomd meal even. Thankfully, the price was right as well, most of the entrees being within the $12-$20 range.

Now, I did go to Soda back in 2000 & had brunch there, & was not fond of the fruit selection that accompanied the crepes, & hadn’t returned since then, but now I’m wiser & see that it is another decent option for dinner on the Danforth.