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.

Sorento Café and Bakery

900 Don Mills Rd.
416-447-3590

 

You can really determine your worth to a company depending on where they take you for lunch. Friends of mine regale me with stories of being taken to Jump and drinking all afternoon with management while others are lucky if their boss buys them a coffee once in blue moon. After eating at Sorento, I now know where I stand on the corporate ladder. And it’s not that high up.
Of course, I am somewhat kidding about this as location plays a certain factor in this decision. At Don Mills and Eglinton, the breadth of choice is rather limited so I won’t complain too loudly. Especially if said management stumbles upon this review!

Sorento sounds like an Italian restaurant but actually covers the entire Mediterranean coast with a focus on the Italian side. The décor matches this concept with chiseled stone walls adorned with paintings of various Doric, ionic, and Corinthian columns leading to majestic gardens and palatial establishments. The food is typical, serving a variety of pizzas and pastas and a “Light Lunch” menu that includes dishes of Greek salad, kebabs, chicken parmesan, and I even saw a curried chicken dish.

My choice was one of the pizzas that came topped with grilled eggplant, feta, and artichoke hearts. I don’t know why I chose this since I am not a huge artichoke fan and I ended up taking most of them off. Regardless, I was unfulfilled by the slight size of the meal and from what I saw on other dishes, the toppings did not seem to be appropriately cooked in with the pizza. Prices are reasonable at $8.95 for my small pizza.

It’s nice to be treated to a meal by your company once in awhile but I miss the variety of the downtown lunch circuit.

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.

St. Lawrence Market

Having benefited from working downtown for several years, I had the luxury of trying many different foodstuffs in the downtown core. One of the regular places I visited was the Toronto landmark St. Lawrence Market. The Market is renowned for the “Peameal Bacon Sandwich”. I’ve tried this once and did not particulary enjoy it’s plain, salty taste; so do not expect to see any reviews of the varying degrees of this sandwich below.

Usually bustling with tourists and downtown jobbers over lunch, St. Lawrence Market offers a wide variety of independently owned, fresh and almost homecooked food. Here is a sampling of some of my favourites:

Mustacio’s

My favourite, if not most fattening delight, is surely the famous veal sandwich restaurant located right beside the stairs on the lower level of the Market. Standing in the long but fast moving line, one should decide quickly on their order lest they be berated by one of the quick talking and acting servers. I usually fully load my sandwich with fried onions, mushrooms, hot peppers, tomato sauce, and, if that doesn’t sound like the end of a 30 waist, I top it off with my favourite part: a fried piece of eggplant. This is one of the better veal sandwiches in the city, and is comparable to the best: California Sandwiches. (See review of California Sandwiches).

Dina’s Deli

If you have a craving for some homecooked baklava or stuffed pepper this is the place to go. This friendly, family-owned counter located towards the northern side of the first floor of the market has fresh, eastern-european cuisine that smells and tastes like it was just cooked in your bubby’s (grandmother) kitchen. Breaded chicken breasts, roast chicken stuffed with rice, latkes with fried onions and sour cream, and moussaka are some of the favourites here. Prices are extremely reasonable.

Churrasco of St. Lawrence

While this version of the Portuguese style of churassco chicken does not compare to the St. Clair and Christie original, it still offers up several different good chickeny meals that are sure to fill your stomach and leave you satisified. For a quick and tasty lunch, the chicken on a bun sandwich is a tasty delight. Be aware, if you are eating with someone else, you only need to order one fries due to the borderline obscene portions that are provided. Churassco is located on the upper level just as you enter the northern, west doors.

Carousel Bakery

For a healthy, but tasty alternative check out Carousel Bakery, located on the upper level’s west side. If I am feeling particulary fat, I will check out the house salad which comes either with chicken, tomatoes, and cucumbers or in greek style. I usually substitute the cream dressing in the chicken salad for the oil and vinegar which comes with the greek salad. Carousel also offers delicious pre-made sandwiches including a roasted vegetable sandwich on foccacia. And yes, if you must know, Carousel also is renown for the Peameal bacon sandwich.

Yiannis Kitchen

The greek style restaurant on the lower level directly south of Mustacio’s has friendly staff and good gyro and souvlaki sandwiches. The sandwiches come with either a simple salad or fries. The sides aren’t so great but the actual sandwiches come stuffed and will drip all over you if you are not careful! Be sure to ask to add some chipotle or other hot sauce to your sandwich if you like it spicy.

Pita Break

565 Yonge Street
416- 968-1032

Cheap, fresh, and healthy- this is the theme of this small, bright little fast food joint. Located in the heart of downtown, right near the corner of Yonge and Wellesley, Pita Break is a great spot for a light, healthy, fast, and cheap lunch or dinner. Pita sandwiches come in close to ten varieties and there are many sandwiches one could make. All pitas are grilled and the norm is to graciously accept the corners of the pita to “taste” as a unique appetizer, before accepting this scrumptious pita from the friendly staff.

Portion are generous and the philosophy is simple: healthy, cheap, fast, colourful, and flavourful food. I always have the vegetable sandwich. I select three fillings, (hummus, black bean dip, and grilled eggplant) all the vegetables that can fit into my grilled pita, and one dressing (usually honey mustard or Italian dressing)

Pitas come in a variety of flavours- multigrain, white, whole wheat, pesto, sun dried tomato. I prefer multigrain or whole wheat. Meals are less than $5.00 and I have never had a complaint with whichever friend I’ve gone with in the past. The ambiance is somewhat interesting; kitschy movie posters surround one wall and an eclectic mirror is located on the other wall, giving the illusion of a large space when in fact the restaurant is quite small. The tables are small and kind of close together. There are about 12 tables.

Insomnia

563 Bloor St. W., 416-588-3907

Located right in the Annex at Bloor and Bathurst, this bistro/bar/cafe is named for its late, late hours. The kitchen cooks till 3:00 a.m. on Friday and Saturday. “Tapas” here means caesar, mesclun and Greek salads, along with crab cakes, soup and calamari. My friend ordered a thick tortilla soup and he said it was very tasty. I did not eat anything but I did take a look at the extensive menu.

They serve many French dishes, like an eight-ounce strip loin with peppercorn ($17.00), Mediterranean dishes (capon stuffed with spinach, peppers and chèvre which is $16.00) and Asian (curried mussels are $8). As you can see there are no vegetarian healthy dishes for me, so the hell with them. They do serve pasta dishes ($13.00–$15.99) and thick-crust pizzas ($11.00–$12.00).

Generous desserts are led by a flourless chocolate cake known as the Climax ($6.00). Prices are way too high for me and there are not enough vegetarian dishes but I may try this place again in the near future.