Izakaya

69 Front Street East
416-703 8658

Aaron planned a dinner with a large group of friends and he decided to dine at Izakaya in Saint Lawrence Market at Church and Front across from Hot House Cafe. Walking into Izakaya was like walking into a funky loft. With high ceilings, exposed brick walls spread across three dining areas separated by Japanese blinds, this open concept place is spacious and comfortable. With huge square tables there is a lot of breathing place and it is the perfect place to dine with large groups. The dining area at the front of the restaurant has smaller tables for couples of smaller groups.

The menu does not have many vegetarian options but the waiter said that they were flexible. I insisted on no fish stock and the waiter was very knowledgable in terms of what “veggie” dishes contain secret chicken, beef, or fish stock. I was thankful he was honest and blunt with my options. I started with the organic salad ($6.95) in a zesty ginger dressing. Yummy and light and definitely wonderful. For my main I ordered the noodle soup ($11.95) in a mushroom-based broth with udon noodles with 4 types of mushrooms. My meal was hearty, slightly sweet, and very filling.

To start, Aaron ordered an appetizer of Shrimp Dumplings which were ok.. He enjoyed the hot mustard sauce served with it. He also had a fried egglant dish which was very sweet and tasty. Overall he felt the food was not oustanding but good value for the money. He shared those dishes with his friend Gavin.

For his main, Aaron had the Chicken Katsu Curry which was boneless chicken crused in panko with a mild japanese curry sauce. He felt was like a chicken shnitzel and he felt the curry sauce was too mild. He also had the Tokyo Beef Ramen which was soy sauce flavoured soup and noodles topped with char grilled top sirloin and garnished with shiso leaf, bean sprouts, scallion, mema and toasted black and white sesame seeds. He enjoyed this dish. He felt the broth was very flavourful and the meat was tasty if not completely tender.

Aaron’s friend Jonathan ordered the lightly battered chicken and vegetables, shrimp dumplings, and an organic salad. He arrived a bit late and was really hungry and ordered it quickly.

Aaron’s friends Brad and Steven shared two mains and two sides. The mains were Cha Han (fried rice with chicken, shrimp, etc) and Izakaya Beef. The sides they ordered were Pork Gyoza and Sesame Spinach Salad. They were really impressed by everything. The fried rice was a big portion, with quite a few good juicy pieces of shrimp. The beef was tender, and not overdone. Brad knows that Steven really liked the spinach (especially the sesame dressing). Both thought that the best part of the night was the price! For a dinner out with a bottle of sake, it was a very cheap night!

Brad and Steven could see how some people wouldn’t like sitting at a large table with someone they didn’t know. In this case it was fine since they knew everyone around the table, and it made for a unique evening. However, they felt that if it had there only five people, it may have been awkward carrying on a conversation with another group sharing the table.

Decor comprised large expansive walls in a loft style space with big square tables that can fit 10 people. The restaurant contained two main dining areas, exposed brick walls, minimalist decor, sectioned off dividers, super high ceilings, spacious, open concept.

 

Aaron’s friend Alen had the Yasai Katsu Curry – one of their vegetarian dishes (the curry sauce had a chicken and fish based broth, though.). The food was good, but he was more impressed with the atmosphere and the d�cor, than he was with his meal. The service was really slow and we had to chase the waiter down to pay our bill. The bathrooms were nice and the prices were reasonable, but he thought that he would probably order something different next time. He felt his meal was very starchy.

All in all, I like Izakaya for its open concept dining areas. It felt very airy with high ceilings, exposed brick wall, and extra large tables. The main concern is that this place is great for dining in big groups since the tables are so large. If you choose to dine alone or with a date, I wonder where the smaller tables are. I wondered if you had to share a table with a complete group of strangers. My extra large bowl of soup and noodles was kind of expensive but it was damn good. Wait staff are knowledgable, attentive, friendly, and accomodating. The only problem was that it took forever to get our bill. Accepts all cards. Liquor license.

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Toba [Mark Aaron]

243 King East
416-367-8622

URL: www.toba.ca

To summarize Toba would be simply “lovely”. Set in the St. Lawrence market area on King and Sherbourne,

Toba is a cute and unassuming place that serves an elegant brunch with a small and diverse menu. Quality

is high, presentation is beautiful and artistic and decor is minimalistic with funky art on the walls,

representations of working women in the 1970’s- Andy Warhol style. Brunch prices are between $10-$15 per

person. Drink prices are kind of steep but service, food, and whole brunch experience is just so

lovely.

Some stars and funky fixtures hang on the walls, almost looks like a kid’s bedroom surround the place.

Toba has a clean, slick look, very similar to Verveine.

For our brunch, we were served by a very friendly waiter and we started with plain lattes, extra hot,

and served in tall glasses ($5). Toba serves up some daily baked good (scones, muffins, pastries)-

$2.75 as well as mimosas and other “brunch” alcoholic beverages. Aaron started with the vegetarian

poached eggs with 2 eggs over chipotle brioche with grilled tomato, spinach, old cheddar with a

Hollandaise sauce ($11). The dish came out looking gorgeous, colourful, with texture, freshness, and

everything looked attractive to the eye. I ordered the French toast (4 triangular wedges) in a pecan

maple sauce with caramelized pears topped with maple syrup ($10.50). The dish was spectacular. Other

dishes include typical brunch fare: granola + fruit + yogourt ($5), Blueberry pancakes with fresh fruit

and whipped cream ($9.75), Hang over helper (scrambled eggs chorizo, green pepper, old cheddar, served

with organic greens, home fries, and toast ($11), the “traditional” breakfast (2 eggs any style with

choice of bacon, sausage or peameal bacon with home fries, organic greens, and toast) $10, poached eggs

with peameal bacon, Hollandaise sauce, and organic greens ($11), Duck Crepes (Wendy friendly)- with

Peking duck, carrot, apple, cabbage, hoisin sauce, and gruyere ($12), a crab melt (crab salad with gruyere and bacon on a baked angel biscuit($11), Corned beef hash (corned beef with shredded potato, caramelized onion, red peppers, with 2 baked eggs, Holandaise sauce, chipotle puree, organic greens, and toast ($13), and finally Steak and eggs with Hollandaise sauce, home fries and organic greens ($15). Toba serves a different “tart of the day” with organic greens and home fries for $10 and the omelete of the day is served with organic greens, home fries and toast is $11.

Toba is not hip and cool like Auntie’s and Uncles but it’s chiche and classy. I would definitely recommend this place for brunch-goers. Extra friendly service with high quality food, beautiful decor, and great ambiance. Great to bring a date. Seats about 15 tables. Serves Italian fare at night for dinner. Accepts all cards. Liquor license

Morning Glory

457 King East
416 703 4728

www.morningglory.ca

 

Morning Glory is a hidden little gem located in Corktown, a downtown neighbourhood on King Street E. near Cherry St. With a bright orange sign it stands apart as one of the only restaurants along the King east strip between Parliament and Cherry St. is a cute little neighbourhood has huge potential but is in dire need of a makeover. Morning Glory is a 3 person

href=”http://www.corktown.ca”>Corktown

operation in one small room about the size of your living room on King Street East near Cherry street. With a small menu focusing on breakfast items and

baked good, this place is not really veggie friendly but prices are really good and portions are large. With only 3 veggie items for breakfast, (granola and

fruit with yogourt), Pancakes (changes daily: Apple, Banana, etc.), French toast with syrup, and Rosti, a shredded potato and onion mixture. With a hip and

cool crowd and an “organic” “grass roots” decor, I was disappointed with the lack of veggie items.

Morning Glory is opened 6 days per week 8a-3pm Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri and brunch is served Sat/Sun 9am-3pm. Baked muffins are available during the week and baked cakes/squares are

available on the weekend. For my meal, i ordered the granola, fruit, and yogourt, which claimed to be “hearty” but was not. It had diced apples, mango, and

granola, with yogourt, and a tiny cup of maple syrup on the side. My brunch companion ordered the omelete in a roasted red pepper and goat cheese sauce with

a side order of rosti, which was replaced by a side order of greens. You can substitute salad for rosti but they will not make egg white omeletes because

they do not have the resources/equipment and they are simply too busy.

Breakfast includes BLT with homemade aoili & ketchup – $5.00, the dubstyle (cream cheese, crispy bacon and tomato on a baguette) – $5.00
omelette of the day – $8.00, eggs, toast and rosti – $5.50, eggs, cottage cheese and greens – $6.50, french toast and fruit – $7.50, and granola with yogurt

and fruit – $6.00

Sandwiches include the morning glory tuna salad, mennonite ham & cheese, and 3 cheese grilled cheese. All sandwiches are $7.50 and come with a cup of soup

or side salad. Soups change daily and come in cup ($2.50) or bowl varieties ($4.00) and are served with fresh baked bread. All soups are vegan and they

change daily. Some soups include spring veggie, tomato and corn, and potato and leek, and Lentil. They have a full service espresso bar ($1.50-$2.75).

There are daily specials like curries or stews and the omeletes change every few days. Some omeletes include arugula and brie omelette, sauteed leek and

havarti, roasted red pepper and goat cheese, pear and brie omelete.

The decor is simple with plain white walls, one long church bench spanning the entire length of the restaurant and holds about 7 small tables. Along the

other side, there are about 3 more tables. The minimalist design, funky artwork on the walls, and several old antique mirrors give the overall appearance of

the place “homey”, “quaint”, and “cosy”. They have a daily blog on their web site that is up to date with daily menu specials and commentary. Service is

friendly and fast. Bathrooms are downstairs and are satisfactory and clean. Accepts cash only. Open Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri 8am-3pm, Sat/Sun brunch 9am-3pm. Closed Wed.

Bombay Palace

 71 Jarvis St
Phone: 416-368-8048

Iqbal Chatwal opened his first Bombay Palace in downtown Montreal over 20 years ago. It has been a trusted favourite ever since, expanding its proven recipe for success to locations in New York, Los Angeles, Budapest and Hong Kong, as well as Toronto. Dishes are prepared in Punjabi style and this place caters to a health-conscious crowd by providing a menu of low-fat and low-cholesterol dishes that still retain the flavours of traditional Indian dishes.

Having visited several Indian restaurants in Toronto since moving to Toronto in the summer of 2001, I have always passed Bombay Palace but never had an opportunity to go in, until Paulo’s 33rd birthday. Conveniently located downtown at Jarvis and Adelaide, just a pinch north of King. Known in Toronto as “high Indian cuisine” I was thoroughly impressed with the plain and simple and kitsch-free decor spread across two luxurious and comfortable, spacious dining rooms.

Tables were large and not jam-packed like many other restaurants that try to pack in as many people as possible into one small dining space. Bombay Palace was definitely not claustrophobic.

I was VERY thirsty, so I started with a Mango Lassi, which was a bit of a disappointment because it was not thick enough and it was filled with ice and portion size was small and kind of expensive ($2.95).

For my main I ordered 2 entrees- saag paneer (spinach curry with Indian cheese) ($8.95) and mushroom kaju muttar (curried mushrooms with cashews and peas). I did not see many mushrooms but i thoroughly enjoyed the peas and cashews and the wonderful coconut curry sauce ($8.95). As a side, i ordered kashmiri naan (thin white pita type bread) stuffed with a paste of dried fruit and cashews ($3.95). Most Naan bread and Roti/Chapati were in the $3.95 range.

Paulo ordered the Palace Feast ($22.95.) This included Chicken Tikka, Seekh Kebab, Prawns, Lamb Roganjosh, Bombay Aloo and the vegetable curry of the day (pea curry)

Paulo complained that the service was slow and he was hungry but the food was very high quality and he could definitely taste the quality of the meat and the chicken. He was happy that the Tandoori chicken was white meat and not dark meat. To this day, I do not know the difference, having not eaten any meat since 1991 and chicken since 1992.

Although service was slow (especially since it was empty on that freezing -27 degree Friday night, staff were friendly, constantly refreshing water, and were helpful with answering questions.

Bombay Palace accepts all cards. Extensive wine list (you can order by the glass) and also includes a small menu of cocktails

Golden Thai

Golden Thai
105 Church
(416) 868-6668

 

Located right near Saint Lawrence Market, Corktown, the Village of York, and just south of the gay village, this place just sticks out because of its large ornate sign, located right at the corner of Church and Richmond. Inside, it’s even more ornate, bordering on kitsch. With decorative paintings, knick knacks, and other ephemera, it’s like stepping into Thailand. You really get a feel for the sights when you are immersed in photographs, art, and other paraphernalia of Thailand.

I was really impressed to find out that Golden Thai was very accomodating and respectful of vegetarians. It says it clearly on the first page of the menu. They claim that they are very aware of vegetarian’s needs and they know what is and what is not vegetarian.

In terms of seating arrangment, the restaurant is one big room, open concept, in one large dining hall. Some tables are round and some are rectangular and they are spaced out well and the place is not congested or crowded with people, unlike other places like Juice for Life, or Salad King.

Most dishes are between $8.95-$12.95 for entrees only. I ordered a tofu stir fry with cashews and it was fresh and simply wonderful. I asked for extra hot, as it was not an spicy dish to begin with. Food is fresh but portions are kind of small if you do not order rice. Next time I’ll order the Thai Eggplant. The menu is large and extensive and there are many vegetarian options. The waiter was very friendly and accomodating and my dinner companion (Wendy) would have liked to have him on the menu as she did fancy him. To conclude, I love the open concept, cathedral ceilings,wonderful service, appreciation to vegerarians, and the fact that they accept VISA, cash, and Interac.

Mystic Muffin

Mystic Muffin
113 Jarvis St.
(416) 941-1474

 

The main attraction of Mystic Muffin is actually its owner: Elias Makhoul. With a penchant for hilarious stories, and witty anecdotes, Elias puts a smile on each customer’s face as he expertly prepares a variety of sandwiches with a middle east flair.

Like “Salad King” (see Salad King review), the restaurant’s name has everything to with poor marketing and absolutely nothing to do with the food. Also like Salad King, you line up to place your order and can partake in some friendly banter. But that is where the similarities end.

Completely unlike Salad King, Mystic Muffin serves up a tasty falafel. Be sure to add some hummous, fried eggplant and even some potatoes to the mix for a well packed pita. There is also a good veggie combination platter to try. I recall one visit to Mystic Muffin when Elias was leaving to his native Lebanon for a vacation. He scooped out the remaining hummous and gave it to me to take home in a styrofoam container.

The ambience of Mystic Muffin is somewhat bleak so I would suggest taking your meal out; however you can also enjoy Elias’ good nature during your meal if you decide to stay.

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.