Rajdhani Sweets and Restaurant

2658 Islington
416 748-7108

Apart from the cockroach that was scurrying down the long hallway, Aaron and I thoroughly enjoyed Rajdhani Sweets and Restaurant. This place was almost identical to its neighbour a few doors down Brar Sweets and Pure Vegetarian restaurant.

Literally 3 doors away from Brar, Rajdhani offers South Indian vegetarian fare and ridiculously low prices. Complete meals are $8 or less and contain a Thali plate full of small portioned snack size morsels of south indian dishes. Aaron and I went for lunch and we ordered the spinach and cheese curry (Saag Paneer), the chick pea curry (channa masala) and 2 types of kofta (looks like dumplings or vegetarian meatballs) in a sweet and creamy yogourt sauce, as well as curried eggplan (bhartha began), and lentil curry (daal). All dishes are wonderful, but i think my favourite from Brar and Rajdhani are the kofta, saag paneer, and bhartha began. Choose 5 items for $7.99 or less and it comes with pilao (rice), naan (fluffy pita-like bread from the tandoor oven) or roti (flat whole wheat tortilla). Comprised about 7-10 tables and decor was plain and not trendy or kitschy. I think Brar recently had a makeover since it looked more cleaned up but i like the minimalist approach to decor. Some places are Gerrard street have dated furniture, kitschy Indian art that is not even genuine or traditional. Sometimes the barren minimalist looks work. Both Rajdhani and Brar seem similar because they are small and they focus on desserts but do offer meals at the back. Food is served fast, fresh, and piping hot. Dishes are already prepared in advance like a buffet but Naan and Roti are made to order. Accepts all cards. Offers many colourful desserts, mostly made of chick pea flour and decadent sweet and thick condensed milk and cream.

Champion Wok Seafood Restaurant

1635 Lawrence Av W
(416) 246-1771

My manager and her friend/co-worker from purchasing decided that I should be exposed to the world of Dim Sum. Even though most Dim Sum was not vegetarian I was curious as to what food would be brought out. My manager told me that waiters constantly bring out hot fresh Chinese Hor D’oeuvres on carts and you just pick and choose and you are charged $1.25-$3.00 (?) per item. Sounds cheap, but it’s not. It does add up and it can be expensive. For me, there was nothing i could eat so i just watched as my two lunchmates got ready for the excitement of Dim Sum.

We opted for a place that was close to work (Jane and Lawrence) so we went to Champsion Wok Seafood Restaurant. Champion serves Dim Sun all day and specialized in seafood dishes relating to Dim Sum. Dim Sum are like small appetizers ($1.25 each) on a cart, from pork dumplings, ox tail, pigs feet, shrimp and tofu dumplings and rice paper wraps filled with beef, seafood, and tofu, as well as Chinese brocoli. Also serves an assortment of desserts like delicious and filling sweet red bean filled balls and an assortment of Chinese tarts.

Unfortunately for me there were few vegetarian dishes so I ordered a tofu stir fry with broccoli and Chinese mushrooms. Most soups and dishes that say vegetarian have chicken or fish stock. It seems they do not understand the true essence of what vegetarian food really is.

The ambiance was cute; with one main dining hall fitting about 20 large circular tables, this place could get crammed for Saturday night dinner but this was Fri lunch so there were only three occupied tables. The bill came out to $50.00 for 3 people but my dish was only $7.95. Decor was nice, casual, busy and conveniently located at Black Creek Drive and Lawrence. All dishes come with unlimited hot tea. Accepts all cards.

Grapefruit Moon

968 Bathurst Street
(416) 534-9056

After a nightmare makeover in 2004 the once comfortable, homey atmosphere (think Tango Palace at Queen/Jones), exposed brick, ecclectic decor, and activist posters on the wall became ultra modern hip and cool, with a complete bleached effect as the designer of Restaurant Makeover painted the whole restaurant white, even though the owner Sandy Moon specifically requested not to paint the exposed brick. As most of us, painting exposed brick is sacrilegious. I had last visited Grapefruit Moon on my 27th birthday (Sept 2001) for a nice quiet dinner. A great place to bring a date. Intimate, non pretentious, not expensive, and most importantly, many veggie options.

Grapefruit Moon went glam but actually looked like a hospital with that “bleached” effect. What on earth was the designer thinking. What crack were they smoking. I loved the old look and feel of Grapefruit Moon and I was sad to see that the old decor was gone, but I knew that they were still owned by the same people and the menu and food and service was still excellent so I decided to go there on 2 separate occasions for my favourite meal- Sunday brunch.

When I stepped inside, I noticed that the owners definitely put much effort into changing it back to the way it was and it looks like they’re almost there. Mostly, they added colour back into the decor. The painted brick wall is now adorned with colourful paintings and knickknacks that really tone down the “hospital” look and feel of their catastrophic makeover. According to an article in Eye Magazine, Grapefruit Moon’s new theme is citrus (white walls accented with orange, green and yellow). There is one spot that the designer of Restaurant Makeover did not touch, the bathroom. It still has silver stars painted on the cobalt-blue walls and purple ceiling, a reminder of Grapefruit Moon before its disasterous makeover.

Small, quaint, cosy, cafe, veggie friendly, with typical brunch and dinner fare, Grapefruit Moon thankfully offers veggie alternatives (veggie bacon or TLT tempeh lettuce tomato sandwich instead of BLT -bacon lettuce tomato sandwich).

Expect lineups for Sunday brunch but with quick turnover and a vast outdoor patio opened for spring and summer. Some brunch items include grilled cheese, tomato and avocado sandwich, granola, fruit ,and yogourt, grilled hummus wrap, grilled black bean wrap with home fries (salad can be replaced for an additional $2), omeletes, breakfast burritos with the works, excellent espresso drinks, fresh orange juice, and free refills of coffee. Lunch items are light and healthy. I’ve ordered the vegan wrap (black bean dip with hummus and veggies) with a side salad and the hummus wrap is also excellent too. Portion size is decent. Simple one page menu with non pretentious, earthy, friendly folks. Very neighbourhood friendly atmosphere, like stepping into your living room. Same homey feel like Mitzi’s or Three’s Company or The Only Cafe. Complete meals for $10-$12 including coffee. Accepts all cards.

Kissan (now Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

Kissan (changed Feb 07 to Sidartha Pure Vegetarian Cuisine)

1411 Gerrard Street East
(416) 466-9777

Wendy and I heard about a new vegetarian Indian restaurant called Kissan that opened about one month ago on Gerrard street (aka Little India). We thought it was time to check it out. As i no longer live on the Danforth, i am somewhat out of touch with life in the east end so I try to go back to the Danforth or Little India to see what is going on. You will notice that on Gerrard, there is a definite revitalization going on there so it’s best to buy a house or townhouse there ASAP as prices will go up as the place will “trendify” and become shi shi poo poo like the Beaches, then we’re all screwed over since house prices will go super high ($500,000) for a tiny 2000 sq. foot house. The arrogant city of Toronto has some nerve to make house prices so unaffordable that only the rich or a dual income family can purchase it.

Now back to my review. Kissan is a very pleasant, clean, and non kitschy, non-dated restaurant that serves North Indian vegetarian cuisine in a pleasant non-kitchy ambiance. Set in one small dining area with about 10 tables, we were thoroughly impressed by the constantly refreshed buffet table (at the back), glistening with freshness and not glazed with grease like many Indian buffets (think Dhaba on King and John or any other Indian restaurant on Gerrard street). Maybe it’s because Kissan is new and they are still “young” and “fresh with ideas” and maybe it will all go downhill in the next few months, but we thought we’d give our impressions on this place one month after its opening.

Kissan’s small but high quality buffet included favourite veggie delights like curried cabbage, vegetable curry, chana masala, aloo gobi with fresh chunks of cauliflower, not a mashed up mess mostly comprised of potato. We saw mostly cauliflower and that is a good indication of a good aloo gobi when there is a visible gobi (cauliflower) and there are nice potato wedges. It means there was time and thought involved. Most aloo gobis are mashed up messes and are served in clumps, trust me. I’ve had my share of Toronto’s aloo gobi’s. Another excellent feature is an eggplant curry (Bengan) that was simply delicious. Kissan also served a nice daal (lentil curry) as well as a yummy curried yogourt stew with dumplings. It was a yellow colour and mild in flavour and the dumplings tasted like wet pakoras. The pakoras’ were typical balls of onion and mashed up vegetables wrapped up in a chick pea flour batter. Wendy and I both brought the coriander and tamarind dipping sauce for them and they were excellent. I had to admit that I usually have no faith in Indian buffets but we were pleasantly surprised. The saag paneer was also good but had too much spinach and I had trouble finding the cubes of cheese. Naan was kept away from the buffet table to avoid become soggy and cold so we were impressed when our server told us that he had fresh naan waiting for us.

Both Wendy and I agree that our Mango Lassis were thick, flavourful, not too sweet, and not watery like most Mango Lassis. We both agreed that our Mango Lassi was the best we’ve ever had in Toronto. It tasted so fresh and not pre-made. It was incredibly thick. We asked the secret, and he said thick homemade yogourt, filtered to get rid of excess water, and mango pulp (rock on!). We loved it. For $8.99 for lunch buffet and $10.99 for the dinner buffet, we had no complaints about our experience at all except the yucky phony tasting mango ice cream (I had the vanilla ice cream instead). Wendy also enjoyed a carrot pudding made with delicately cooked carrot slices in a thick sweet milky pudding. It tasted just like rice pudding but with thinly cut carrot slices instead. Kissan also serves a cool milk beverage with fresh cold milk, vermicelli noodles, rosewater and cumin and other spices that gives it a sweet and fragrant dessert. The rice pudding they serve also sounds delicious with fennel (or anise) and cardamom, a delicious spice often used in Indian tea (chai masala). In sum, we were pleasantly stuffed and felt that we really ate very well in terms of quality, flavour, freshness, and service was extra friendly and the server was very knowledgable and pleasant, which is always nice. Open 11:30am-10:30pm 7 days per week. Accepts all cards.

Coco Banana Fine Carribean and Vegetarian Restaurant

 1690 Danforth (near Coxwell)
416-406-0534

Wendy and I decided to have a nice affordable lunch one cold and rainy Saturday afternoon in February. We really wanted to head down to Little India but since we were shopping on the Danforth, we thought we’d try out Coco Banana since the sign outside claimed that it was a Carribean and Vegetarian restaurant.

Upon entering, we found ourselves in a homey and comfortable restaurant with colourful original art (for sale!) from Jamaica, Barbados, and even some art looked African in its influence. Coco Banana contains about 10 tables and comprises one large room with a bar at the back with a medley of alcoholic creations. Decor looks like very exotic and charming and very cosy like one’s living room. Reminds me of a family owned establishment like Addis Abbaba on Queen West.

Wendy and I started by looking at the assortment of exotic juices. I ordered Mango Juice($3.69) and Wendy ordered Pineapply soda ($1.50). Coco Banana serves a medly of exotic juices, exotic juice cocktails, and Carribean sodas. Some include Ginger/Pina juice ($3.69), Guava juice ($3.69), Ting – a grapefruit soda ($2), Banana soda ($1.50), and Ginger Soda ($1.50). Some exotic juice cocktails include Guava Mango, Ginger Pineapple, and Mango Carrot (all $2.25).

For our appetizers, we both ordered the vegetarian red pea soup soup. The waiter did not tell us it contained bananas (or plantains). I knew Wendy would be grossed out so she did give me pieces of the bananas in her soup. The idea of bananas in soup may sound gross but it really very good. The banana flavour really meshed well with the soup and the consistency tasted more like a potato. It was super yummy and filling but not that spicy. A definite comfort food for a cold wet rainy day. Other soups include Pumpkin Soup and Congo Pea Soup ($3.50 small, $4.50 large). Other appetizers include Pepper Shrimp, Coconut Shrimp ($7.50), Acra (black eye bean fritters)($3.00), Fried Plantain (5 pcs.)($5.00), Beef Patties, Chicken Patties ($1.25), Patty with Coco Bread ($2.25). Salads include Jerk Chicken Salad ($6), Jerk Shrimp Salad ($9), Creole Salad ($7.50), and Garden Creole Coleslaw ($3.50).

For our entrees, I ordered the veggie roti which contained curries chick peas, potatoes, carrots, and peas. The only problem I had was that the curry sauce was very liquidy and i could not find any chick peas. I would say the roti was delicious but potato-centric. Wendy ordered the Jerk club sandwich and she found it was tasty. It was $5.50 and she would definitely order it again. Coco Banana offers entrees in small and large sizes. Some entrees include traditional Carribean dishes like Jerk Chicken ($6.99, $7.99), Curried Chicken ($6.99, $7.99), Stew Chicken ($5.99, $6.99), Curried Goat ($7.99, $8.99), Oxtail ($8.00, $10.50), Fish Dinner ($7.50, $10.50), Shrimp Cr�ole (with Creole Sauce)($10), Curried Shrimp ($11), Cod Fish Cr�ole Cabaret with salad and plantain ($12), and Red Snapper (with saut�ed cabbage pepper, and carrot) ($10.50)

Vegetarian meals include Veggie Roti with chick peas ($4.99, $5.99), Eggplant Roti ($10.99 large only), La Creole Roti (Avocado, Onion Lettuce, Tomato, Pepper- $4.99 (sm), $5.99 (l)), Sauteed Cabbage, Carrot, Onion ($4.99, $5.99), Vegetarian Platter (Rice and Peas, Acra, Eggplant) ($11.99), Cr�ole Cabaret (Veggie, Fried Eddoes, Plantain & Marinade) ($9.99), Giromont Soup (Squash) ($3.50, $5.50), and Beans or Congo Pea ($3.50, $5.50)

Non veggie Rotis include Curried Chicken, Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat, Stew Chicken, and Curried Shrimp all from $5.99-$8.99. Sandwiches include the Jerk Club and the Stew Chicken Club, both $5.50 . Combos include Jerk / Oxtail Combo ($11.50), the Jerk Chicken or the Stewed Chicken Combo ($11.50), and the Curried Goat or the Curried Chicken Combo ($10.99)

Desserts include Reversed Pineapple Cake ($3.50) and Sweet Potato Pudding ($2.99). Coco Banana also serves a variety of Carribean ice creams (Pistachio, Mango, Coconut, and Soursop, all $2.50). Lastly, they also serves frozen yogourt, smoothies, and milkshakes ($2.00, $3.69)

Although I did like the soup, Wendy was not too impressed. I found the soup hearty, thick, and delicious. Wendy found the soup to be bland and she did not like the banana taste although personally I could not taste any banana. Wendy claimed that you can taste the banana and according to her she thought it was wrong for a soup to have bananas.

 

The guy was nice but he oversold all of the food. He was not honest about the variety of vegetarian food. He said the soup was fantastic and the portion size was decent but we found the soup lacking. The roti was good but not fantastic. I did find many vegetarian options and I would go back to try out new items since I think the veggie roti just did not do it for me. In sum, Wendy and I would go back but we won’t go out of our way. Service was friendly and cheerful. Food was served quickly.

Full Moon Vegetarian Restaurant

638 Dundas Street West
(416) 203-1210

Tammy and I went to a new vegan restaurant (just opened in July 2005)
called Full Moon at Dundas near Bathurst, right next to Cafe 668 and
Buddhas Vegetarian Restaurant. Serving all vegan fare Asian style, this
place is large, bright, open, and very casual. Decor is not trendy,
yuppified, and not cheesy either. Very casual and almost “diner-like” with
big bright windows, large tables and paper menu to take home. Tammy
and I started with green tea and some soft drinks. For an appetizer, i
had the small size sweet corn and mushroom soup (trying to stay away
from soy for a while) and it was delicious and only $3.99. Size was
perfect and the soup was thick, sweet, and had a nice mix of 2 types of
mushroom, white and shitaki. For my main, i ordered the braised mushrooms
and bok choi which was simply delicious. The dish was not too greasy
and had a nice light sauce and the braised mushrooms were absolutely
excellent. Tammy ordered vegetable spring rolls and her main consisted of
mock beef with sauteed vegetables and Udon noodles.

For dessert, we shared a taro balls
covered in a rice glaze and topped with a sugary syrup. Looked like
Greek deep-fried “dough” balls filled with syrup. Indian food also has
these deep-fried “dough” balls that are syrupy sweet.

Full Moon
serves Asian vegan fare. Many large tables, not jam packed like Cafe 668
(next door) or “cracktown decor like Buddhas Vegetarian Restaurant.
Simply a nice humble, non-trendy, non pretentious, no bullshit, non cheesy
establishment. Bill came to $25.00 for two people including main,
drink, dessert, and appetizer. Menu features over 80 items written in both
English and Chinese. Most dishes include mock meat, mock fish, or bean
curd (tofu). Open Sun-Thurs 11 to 9:30pm, Fri and Sat 11-10:30pm. Accepts all cards. Liquor license (large bar with an assortment of beer but no wine).

LIVE [Mark Aaron]

264 Dupont, at Spadina
416-515-2002

 

LIVE is a raw, organic vegan restaurant and is located at Spadina and Dupont in the “upper” Annex. About two months ago, Aaron and I heard about LIVE from a review in Now

magazine (see )and we thought it would be great to have brunch there.

href=”http://www.nowtoronto.com/issues/2005-08-11/goods_foodfeature.php”>review

Unfortunately, this review was a teaser (and inaccurate) since LIVE does not serve brunch at all (or as

of yet). In addition, they are closed Sundays so when we went there to enjoy our first experience at

LIVE, we were disappointed to find that LIVE was closed.

With much anticipation, I decided to plan a get together with Aaron, Wendy, her boyfriend Brandon, and two other friends to have dinner at LIVE. I like LIVE’s philosophy. I think the ideology of LIVE is that

food should be eaten in the most natural form- raw and unprocessed.

LIVE’s review claims

Reservations are recommended so I called to make reservations but to my disappointment, LIVE does not

accept reservations. Either the journalist who wrote the article was on crack or LIVE really

misrepresented themselves. LIVE is closed on Sundays but the NOW review claims it is opended for Sunday

brunch. There is no Sunday brunch at LIVE.

We planned for a Friday evening dinner at 7:00pm. The staff at LIVE could not make a reservation but

they did “take note” that they would be expecting 6 people for dinner. I prepared to leave at 4pm to be

in Kitchener for 5pm to meet my lift who would take me close to downtown. To my dismay, she had a flat

tire and we had to stop by several places in Kitchener to fix the tire. We finally found Wal-Mart

(since all small auto-shops were closed) so Wal-Mart saved the day!

I finally got into Toronto at

8:30pm instead of my 7:00pm time frame. Having known that LIVE closes at 10pm, I knew that calling each

of my friends on their cells phones and notifying them of my delay would allow them some more time to

relax at home before venturing off into the cold December air on that Friday night.

When I finally arrived, I was greeted by my possee. LIVE’s colour scheme is lime green and bright

orange with green grass “peel and stick” floor tiles and the whole decor looks lively and bright like a

children’s playroom in neon colours. There are only about 10 tables and they are not packed in tightly

like most Toronto restaurants. Decor does not have any wood or metal but a lot of bright plastic and

thin tables and chairs, patio style. Decor is very funky and hip, different than Fressen which emulates

a tropical rain forest in an ultra modern hip and cool yuppie setting. LIVE looks less slick and

polished and more like Juice for Life.

I started with a tall smoothie (raw cacao, dates, figs, walnuts or pecans, almond milk) for $5.25 and a warm borscht (beet and carrot soup) ($6.25) with an order of raw multigrain manna bread with a sunflower seed pate ($1.00)

which tasted like a cream cheese dip. LIVE mostly serves raw food and some items are “gently

cooked”. It is important to remove all of your visual interpretations of items like pizza, pasta, cream cheese, and eggs because LIVE re-defines the possibilities of what pasta can be if made “raw” and “vegan”. Quite creative on the part of the cook. I had to remove my traditional image of what a pizza should look like, what

cheese or eggs or lasagna or any pasta dish resembles since I know that LIVE serves very little “cooked” items.

We all decided to order the combo plate ($13.50) since we would be able to get a taste of

everything. The combo plate include canneloni (thinly sliced zucchini) with ricotta cheese (cashew puree), raw pizza crust (multigrain manna) with a medley of toppings, including fresh cilantro, tostitas (Mexican pizza type dish) with many veggie toppings, a nice cheesy dip (sunflower
seed pate), and a large salads of organic greens in a ginger viniagrette.

The meal was very colourful,

full of amazing aromas, texture, and flavour. I felt light and healthy and i knew i was eating high

quality food. Bread was bursting with many grains and I could not believe it was not baked. I felt so much energy after finishing my meal. I felt full in a healthy way, not “gut

rot” like at an Indian buffet or a Chinese buffet. I had a pleasant feeling of satisfaction since the food I ate was extremely tasty, healthy, low in fat and grease, and because it was organic, it did not contain hormones, pesticides, anti-biotics, or any other toxins. Of course

organic food is not as attractive as “mainstream” food. Portions are always smaller and prices are higher but taste is always 100 times better. The food’s flavour was heightened due to how “raw” it was. Cooked food loses some taste and nutrients, thus its nutritional value becomes depleted. When I used to make stir fries for myself, my friend Wendy used to tell me how I cooked “the shit” out of my vegetables. Dishes were flavourful, aromatic, and had texture.

For dessert i ordered the raw chocolate fudge banana coconut

cream pie. It was composed of a dollop of raw cacao chocolate fudge (dairy free) and the pie was

comprised of a flourless banana coconut puree that was shaped like a cake. I love banana and coconut

and chocolate and the dish was sweet but not sickening sweet. The cake was heavy on the banana flavour

and i did taste the coconut “meat” part very much. ($6.00)

On my second visit to LIVE, i ordered a nice vegan minestrone soup with raw manna bread. In addition i ordered the linguini (made of shredded zucchini) topped with a cold marinara and pesto sauce. It was accompanied with a delicious salad of spring greens. Don’t get me wrong, the food at LIVE was delicious but after my second visit i was getting frustrated with having my mains served with 90% salad and 10% actual meal. I felt ripped off. I was told to always choose the combo meal but even if I opted for that option, most of my meal would still be salad.

In general, my experience at LIVE was very good. With good friends enjoying a high quality healthy meal. The only

drawback was I felt it was too expensive for my budget and the portions were too small. I know that organic food is not as large or attractive but i left LIVE hungry on both visits. I would definitely not go back, unless it was for special occasions. Menu changes every 2 weeks. LIVE also features a full range of vegan and

raw cookies, pies, and cakes, and other squares change daily. Smoothies are a bit watery but are very flavourful and fresh. You can select any kind of “milk” for the smoothies (soy, rice, almond). An interesting observation from my dinner companions was that there was very little soy products.

Our complete meal including tax and tip for soup, smoothie, our main dish, and dessert was $37 per

person (a bit ridiculous for vegan fare). Does not serve brunch to date (Dec

2005). Average main is $10-$12. Open Tuesday to Saturday 11:00 am to 10:00 pm. Closed Sunday and

Monday. Does not take reservations. Cool washrooms in the basement with slogans like Supercucumbers,

Monster Tomatoes, Mega Grapes. How can I eat this food? Maybe this food will eat us ( some type of

slogan written on the walls!). Very pro-environment, with natural products and all organic ingredients. Very cosy

and calm atmosphere. Very enthusiastic and energetic staff. Accepts
all cards except American Express.

Grapefruit Moon

968 Bathurst Street
(416) 534-9056

Following the renovation completed at Grapefruit Moon by Food TV’s Restaurant Makeover in 2003/2004 a media battle erupted between the owner and the show. The owner, Sandy , was upset how the once cozy, familiar space was transformed into a trendy, cold room that lacked the charm of the previous incarnation. Her requests to keep the aura of the original place were ignored as the show painted over the exposed brick wall with a metallic silver and the new equipment was not ready by the completion date. Changes to the menu were disregarded, even though the airing of the show pointed to a lack of competency and vision from the young “chef”. While the controversy may have been played up in the local rags and on the Internet; Grapefruit Moon made the most of the situation and continued to pull in the hordes for their famous brunch as well as dinner.

Since the renovation, I have been back for both dinner and brunch. My dinner experience there definitely exposed the changes in a negative light as I found the environment chilly and the food bland. This may have been due to the wintry, sludgy weather but my recent brunch return was a vast improvement. The metallic sheen of the walls was covered by an array of lovely framed art while the sun streamed through the front to keep the place bright and warm. An eclectic mix of old and new music germinated from a computer behind the counter to keep the place cozy and lively. We took a seat on some stools and were immediately greeted with a warm reception from our waiter behind the counter while being presented with our coffees.

Apparently, the hip thing to do at Grapefruit Moon is to substitute sugar for honey when sweetening coffee. I tried this and was deliciously surprised by the results. Scanning the menu, I decided on what was probably the least healthy item I could find. The rarebit breakfast consisted of poached eggs heaped on two pieces of multigrain toast with peameal bacon and topped with a gooey layer of cheddar cheese sauce. I couldn’t tell if the cheddar cheese sauce consisted of melted Kraft singles but whatever it was oozed well with the rest. Unfortunately, the side of home fries was missing that crunchy element of superior variations but mixing it with the cheese and some hot sauce souped it up enough.

Grapefruit Moon has always struck me as a place that tends to distinguish itself apart from the rest of Toronto’s brunch spots. Not quite downtown, yet still vibing with the laid back attitudes of a “Saving Grace”, Grapefruit Moon’s presence is a fixture in the Annex. TV screwups or not, the changes at Grapefruit Moon may have temporarily strained the casual feel of the restaurant but has certainly not had a negative impact on business.

Get Real !

135 Ossington, at Argyle
416-532-4564

 

One Sunday afternoon after my crazy 32 km run, i met up with Aaron for brunch. We met up at LIVE, a recently upgraded “4 seater cafe to 30 seat restaurant” but found out that it was closed for brunch during the month of August. SHITE. We met up at Dupont and Spadina and we were hungry. Luckily, Aaron had his car so we drove down Ossington since Aaron knew that there would be great brunch opportunities along that street.

He suggested Sweaty Betty’s, a cool sounding name for a brunch place, but we could not find it. We actually stumbled upon “Get Real!”- a cool, hip, and small cafe tucked away in the Dundas and Ossington neighbourhood. Upon walking inside, we found out that it was in fact a vegetarian cafe that served brunch. PERFECT.

Get Real! just opened last January 2005 and it is still in the “baby stages” of development. The fact that it was 2pm made us one of the only patrons in this cafe so we had top choice of seats in the small and quiet back terrace. Get Real! is a calm and peaceful cafe with a simple one-page summer brunch menu and I suspect they also serve a simple dinner and lunch as well. I guess the paper menu allows them to experiment with food and change items often, not being held down to commit to the same food every week.

We started with a coffee for Aaron ($1.50) and a latte for me, double shot of Espresso, extra hot, and soy milk ($3.00). Get Real!’s actual cafe is pretty small, with about 3 tables at front, 2 tables in the middle area, and about 6-8 tables in the back terrace/patio area. The decor is very simple and earthy, in a light green motif that resembles the colour scheme of garden plants. Very bright, cheerful, and airy. Staff are very pleasant, friendly, accomodating, and helpful. No pretentiousness here. They serve their water with a slice of cucumber, maybe a little eccentric but not pretentious.

For our meals, I ordered the Spanish tofu scramble- crushed tofu with tumeric with red pepper, chives, and spices with multi-grain toast, roasted bombay potatoes, and a side salad. I replaced the potatoes and multi-grain toast with more salad ($8.50). Aaron ordered the Mayan omelete ($10) – with eggs, a side salad of organic greens, bombay potatoes. His omelete came with Mayan chipotle salsa with pine nuts and peptitas, avocado and cheddar with scallions and fresh cilantro. He really enjoyed his meal and he said he could really taste the fresh herbs. We both agreed that our meals were light and refreshing and very fresh. My scramble in particular had quite the zesty flavour. For a side Aaron ordered multi-grain toast with fresh basil and diced tomato cheddar melt with a balsamic drizzle ($4.00).

Other toast combinations include a choice of multi-grain toast or bagel with organic peanut butter ($1.50), Molly B’ organic jam ($1.50), Mendel’s cream cheese with fresh dill, cranberry, and cucumber ($4.00), and apricot and mango salsa with melted brie and fresh mint with vanilla extract ($4.50).

Some summer brunch dishes include: Vegan Organic granola with wild blueberries, milk/soy milk, or yogourt ($5.00), Jamaican Fruit Salad ($6.00) with fresh pineapple, mango, kiwi, and jicama, in an avocado, lime, cilanto, and mint and cumin dressing, the English breakfast (baked beans in an herbed tomato sauce on multi-grain toast, with roasted bombay potatoes, worchestershire marinated in tofu strips and a side of organic greens), an omelete with Asian sesame, baby bok choy, and mixed mushrooms with sliced ginger, marinated daikon radish, and black sesame seeds and lime ($10.00) . Savoury crepes include a Mediterranean crepe with spinach and feta with roasted red peppers and nutmeg ($9.00) and a Provincial crepe with asparagus, and lemon tarragon tofu with pea seedlings in a black pepper and soy drizzle ($9.00). For the sweet tooth, try the fruity explosion of spelt flour Belgian waffles ($7.00)- blueberry and cinnamon waffles with maple glazed plaintain compote, fresh blackberries, strawberries, peaches, and shaved chocolate.

Open Monday to Friday 10 am to 7 pm. Brunch Saturday and Sunday 10 am to 4 pm. Serves fair-trade coffee. Beautiful back terrace. Quiet, calm, and serene ambiance. No political, pretentious bullshit like “we’re a vegetarian restaurant so we’re better than anything else”. Not overpriced like typical Toronto brunch places. Wait staff are humble and nice. Many ingrediants on the menu are organic. Average mains are $7-$10. In addition to brunch, they also sell healthy, vegetarian “grocery-type” products, beverages, prepared meals, and snack-type items. Accepts all cards.

Fressen [brunch by Mark Aaron]

478 Queen St. W.
(416) 504-5127
64 Oxford Street
(416) 927-1231

Set in funky Queen West between Spadina and Bathurst, Fressen has always been a place that I have avoided for 2 reasons: the price and the price. I was pleasantly surprised when I took a look at the brunch menu. Dishes were under $10 and the portion size were not pathetic. Unlike my visit in 2002 for my 28th b-day, the dinner menu was wonderful but prices were too high and I left hungry and dissatisfied. Aaron and I decided to try Fressen again last Sunday with an open mind, hoping for the best.

I was happy to see that the menu was not too complicated. Serving traditional items, I opted for something different. I was disappointed to learn that Fressen does not serve diet coke/regular coke since they make their own drinks. Maybe they think they’re too good for serving soda pop or maybe it’s a philosophical or ideological issue. Maybe they’re too hip and cool for soda pop.

With a laid back ambiance, Fressen’s decor can be described as earthy. Spread across a
two-level dining space, Fressen’s colour scheme contains warm tones of copper, tan, light browns, and the restaurant is surrounded by branches of trees. It looks like a calm retreat, a rain forest of sorts, or a tropical jungle- very earthy and organic. Wait time for brunch was much quicker than dinner. The staff at Fressen are friendly, attentive, and patient. Fressen offers a full menu of espresso drinks (w/ organic soy milk). They offered latte, capuccino, macchiato, espresso, all for semi-normal prices ($3.50-$4.50).

I ordered the latte (w/ soy milk). It was slightly sweet and was served in a glass tied with a napkin, how decorative and cute. Aaron ordered Sugar Mountain ($4.00) – a homemade fresh juice of Beets, Carrot, Ginger and Lemon (Fressen makes fresh squeezed juices!). For our mains, I ordered the BBQ tofu scramble ($9.00) -beautifully served with a tomato cilantro salsa, a mango dollop, guacamole, grilled tempeh, a stuffed tomato with sweet potato puree, and a medley of fresh fruit. The serving of the tofu scramble was generous and it had a sweet and sour flavour and was very flavourful and fresh. Aaron ordered the Sweet Corn and Vegetable Fritters ($9.00) – griddle-seared patties filled with corn, zucchini, and sweet potato mixed with spinach and fresh herbs. The dish came with toast, orated potatoes, tomato cilantro salsa, guacamole, grilled tempeh, and a roasted squash stuffed tomato. He enjoyed his meal a lot.

Apart from the screaming baby, who was actually smiling with joy (I wonder what he/she was actually trying to say-he/she kept on looking back to smile). We wanted to yell at the parents for ignoring their satanic child and not even acknowledging/apologizing for his/her behaviour. Despite our disturbance, we thought it was a delicious brunch despite the fact that we sat next to nervy parents who were just enjoying their brunch while their loud, wailing baby was disturbing the whole restaurant on a nice Sunday morning on Mother’s Day.