Hibiscus Organics

 238 Augusta Ave.
416-364-6183

Hibiscus Organics is an organic, dairy, wheat, egg-free vegan cafe located in funky (and up and coming) Kensington Market on Augusta Avenue. Hibiscus Organics used to be more of a gift shop with stationary, some take out specialty gourmet food items but when Wendy and I went there in November, it looked as though they set up some tables.

It is a small cafe, very small (like 3 tables, 12 seats) and people do stay and get comfy, but it’s more of a place for light meals, coffee, and dessert, not proper 6 course meals. Hibiscus serves a variety of sweet and savoury gluten free crepes (made from buckwheat) and a variety of vegan ice cream in many flavours. Salads are healthy, vegan, organic, and most are raw.

This small cafe has an elegant decor. With antique wood bookcases with herbal teas and oils. The place is barely 500 square feet so when another review claimed 12 seats, I thought barely, but you could “fit” 12 seats in this cafe.

They serve vegetarian and vegan crepes with 15 filling ingredients to choose from (including seasonal fruit) plus soup and several cold salads such as quinoa tabouli, pasta, potato and others.

For dessert there is an excellent selection of vegan cookies, brownies, and homemade soy ice cream along with coffee and tea. Food served is mainly for take out but there are 3-4 small tables and when Wendy and I went for lunch, we sat a bench facing the cash register. Fancy oils and gourmet products, bulk rice and grains are tastefully arranged on the walls.

Wendy and I both ordered a mixed salad with beans, quinoa, veggies, with dried cranberries, with the amazing aroma of sesame oil and lemon (or lime). We also enjoyed a cold salad of marinated tofu with green beans saturated in balsamic vinegar. Since I was having a colonoscopy the next week, i could not eat anything RED or have dairy or have any NUTS. Wendy’s dish had the sunflower seeds, beets, and I took out the dried cranberries in my dish since I was told not to eat anything red.

Hibiscus also serves organic smoothies and sodas. Some deserts include soy ice cream like ginger masala (trendy), chocolate-raspberry pseudo cupcakes, cookies, and square. Opened Mon-Sat noon-7pm, Sun 2pm-7pm. Not wheelchair accessible as you need to schlep up a set of 5 stairs. Very cosy, calm, and not pretentious. We definitely left feeling healthy, fresh, light, yet happily satisfied.

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Kensington Kitchen [Mark]

124 Harbord St.
(416) 961-3404 

Closed Dec 2007

Located right at Harbord and Spadina, Kensington Kitchen is a cosy and warm restaurant that resembles a comfortable country kitchen. Small with less than ten tables, KK serves up Lebanese fare in a setting that I would categorize as casual fine dining. At first the name seems misleading since it’s not in Kensington market and not on Kensington Avenue (in the market).

I assumed it would be a bohemian cafe with artsy-fartsy hipsters who think they’re too cool to serve you (think Aunties and Uncles or Tequlla Bookworm) . I was surprised when I entered the restaurant since it looked so “adult” in the midsts of the U of T southern annex ghetto.

Kensington Kitchen has much character, with walls draped in Oriental rugs and cotton swatches, hand-beaded purses, old knick knacks, and traditional Middle Eastern art and photos of Lebanon. Food is full of intense flavour, big portions, $10-$15 price range. Offers many vegetarian meals.

Appetizers include such Lebanese favourites like stuffed vine leaves, fried eggplant and cauliflower, baba ghanouj, hummus, olives, pureed garlic potatoes, as well as warm whole wheat pita.

For our meals, Jerome and I both ordered the spicy sauteed eggplant with chunks of stewed tomatoes and tons of onions and chunks of garlic, very Jewish in style and texture and quite oily, but delicious and generous portions.

Beth had the scallops – she thought they were delicious and she liked that they came with a good serving of eggplant and sauteed spinach. No skimpy veggie servings! She though the prices were mid-range, not cheap, but worth it for what you get. She concluded that she would go back.

Daniel had the Lamb shank dish (with figs, raisins, eggplant); same as Aaron and Wendy. Very tasty, but could have had a little more punch to it?I expected the figs & raisins to flavour the dish a little more than it did. Seems as if it may have been cooked a little too long. It was, despite this, very good and I would order it again. The appetizer plate was spectacular, though and everything was ultra-flavourful.

Aaron has the Turkish-style braised lamb stuffed with raisins, eggplant, apricots, and figs. He thought it tasted a bit bland to be honest. The service was friendly though. Zam had the seafood Paella. He thought it was okay. He thought it was a little low on the flavour. He found the appetizer to be a prize winner amongst everyone. (a huge Mediterranean vegetarian plate) . It came with fried cauliflower, hummus, whole wheat pita, falafel, and other vegetarian dips was excellent! The platter was to die for. On a separate occasion he had their risotto, lamb burger, and braised lamb which he found very nice. He commented that he enjoyed their dishes and claimed at the time the lamb was halal but he was not sure about now.

Zam would definitely go there again. We all found the price range is okay .. not really expensive .. reasonable, but not cheap either. Wendy ordered the lamb with raisin and figs and she liked her dish, but she found the meat to be slightly dry. The flavours & brown rice & mint yogurt were really nice.

Average mains are $12-$14. The menu is very vegetarian-friendly like morroccan veggie stew with couscous (pure comfort) as well as some pasta dishes (angel hair pasta hold the seafood), and many other Lebanese vegetarian delights. Of the many places I’ve dined in Toronto, KK thankfully does not rip you off. Portions are big and worth the price.

Very student friendly yet can be the perfect place for a serious romantic date. This was a definitely a great place to celebrate my 32nd surprise birthday dinner . Rumour is that they have trouble handling large groups since it’s not a large space (we were 9 people and we were treated very well) . Hours are Mon-Thurs 11:30am-11pm and Fri – Sun 11:30am-11:30pm.

Magic Oven

 6 Wellesley St.W.                                                                                                             T:416.929.7888                                                                                                                         

798 Danforth Ave.
T: 416.462.0333

127 Jefferson Ave.
T: 416.539.0555

270 Dupont St.
T: 416.928.1555

788 Broadview Ave.
T: 416.466.0111

The place contains a funky variety of pizza combinations, with health in mind. It offers a variety of specialty pastas, salads and chicken wings. Owned by an East Indians, the place has non-mainstream varieties of pizza that depart from its Italian roots. Magic Oven’s focus is on take-out so don’t expect wonderful ambiance. We usually eat across the street by the grassy area next to Broadview subway station.

They deliver as far as Woodbine (going east) and as far as Yonge (going west). and Eastern (going south) and Summerhill (going north). Pizza varieties differ in colour, flavour, spice, and ethnicity. The menu is online at http://www.magicoven.com/menu/MagicMenu.pdf. The pizzas are come in Organic Spelt and Gluten free varieties and contain Organic Non-Dairy and Rennet Free Cheese. Some are Dairy Free and Vegan. The pizza I ordered was extremely healthy.

It was made thinly with organic spelt flour and sauteed spinach. artichokes, olives, sun dried tomatoes, green and red peppers, and onions, without any cheese. That is the slice of pizza I chose. There are a large selection of soft drinks, juices, desserts, and East Indian and West Indian speciality sodas. Most of the food is made before your eyes, with the exception of some of the popular pizza slices. There are many options for the vegetarian and the vegan.