Fresh by Juice for Life (2007)-Brunch

 326 Bloor Street West /corner Spadina 
Phone: 416-531-2635 

894 Queen Street West/ corner Crawford 
Phone: 416-913-2720 

147 Spadina Avenue, corner Richmond 
Phone: 416-599-4442

Fresh by Juice for Life, in operation since 1996, recently offered a new brunch menu with a small variety of vegan offerings. If you like tofu scramble all wrapped up in a warm tortilla, or fluffy spelt flour vegan pancakes, then this brunch is for you.

Offered on the weekend from 9am-3pm, Fresh offers creative and healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes without compromising on taste, texture, flavour, and colour. For our Sunday brunch, Zam and myself both ordered the veggie tofu scramble with many sauteed veggies, wrapped up in a warm tortilla. In addition, we also shared the almond and walnut vegan banana flax seed pancakes with organic raw maple syrup. We both thought that the portion sizes were reasonable and were healthy and satisfying. Flavours are delicately blended so that they can be recognised on the pallette.

Bathrooms at the new Fresh (at Spadina and Bloor) are larger, cleaner, and esthetically pleasing. Careful not to clog (easy to do with too much toilet roll down the pot). Ambiance is pretty casual, good people watch, always seems busy can be loud at times. He loved the choice of drinks and meal suppliments. The new fresh is more spacious, can accomodate more people, looks slick and trendy, and definitely attracts more than the U. of T clientele. Times have changed and it looks like Fresh is following in Fressen footsteps. Brunch prices are under $15 if you have a beverage. Accepts all cards.

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Addis Ababa Restaurant

1184 Queen Street West 
(416) 538-0059

Located right on Queen Street near the Gladstone hotel in Parkdale, Addis Ababa is a popular and crowded place where yuppies, intellectuals, students, and artsy folk gather to dine on delicious and savoury Ethiopian cuisine. Spread across an open concept dining hall this dimly lit place plays traditional music and has a touch of traditional art on the walls. Not kitschy and overdone but very tasteful in decor.

The menu is simple and only 2 pages. One page are the vegetarian dishes and the other page meat dishes. All dishes are served with injera, traditonal Ethiopian flatbread. I ordered a personal combo dish for one with an assortment of items like Shiro Wat (roasted spiced ground peas in a Berber red pepper sauce), Yekik Wat (boiled split peas in Ethiopian style mild sauce), Yatakilt Wat (steamed cabbage and veggies with garlic and ginder), Gomman Wat (spinach with garlic and ginger), Fasolia (green beans satueed with garlic, onion, baby carrots, tomatoes, and ginger), Beets (beets and potatoes with onion, garlic, and ginger, Misr (black lentil sauce with onions, garlic, and ginger). All veggie dishes are $7.00 and $8.00 each

I ended up ordering the combo dish since it was a good price ($11.50) and you can a taste of every veggie dish on the menu. The combo dish only gave me “sampler” size of all of these dishes but I always pick this one because I love all of the dishes. I cannot decide which is my favourite, maybe the Shiro Wat but it’s difficult for me to decide since they’re all so good. I find most Ethiopian dishes highly spicy and I know there is a lot of garlic and ginger in the dishes. I find the dishes possess the flavour and texture of an Indian curry but i could be wrong.Ethiopian food is a dream come true for both vegetarian and meat eaters alike.

The “other” side of the menu offers cooked beef, chicken, and lamb dishes as well as kifto (steak tartar). Meta dishes are between $7.50-$11.00 each. Faline and Daniel ordered kifto (steak tartar) topped with hot pepper sauce, chopped collared greens (spinach) , and home made cheese for 2 people ($14.00 each). They loved it.

Other meat dishes include Alitcha Wat (lean beef in a mild curry sauce), Doro Alitcha (chicken marinated in a light sauce with garlic, ginger, tumeric, and butter), Sauteed Chicken Breast (with rosemary, onions, tomatoes, and butter), Doro Wat (tender chicken marinated in Berber red pepper sauce topped with a hard boled egg), Key Wat (strips of Canadian beef braised Ethiopian style in a red pepper sauce), Tibs (cubes of Canadian Beef fried with onions, garlic, rosemary, and other herbs with hot peppers), and Lamb (cubes of Canadian Lamb fried with onions, garlic, rosemary, and other exotic herbs and topped with hot peppers).

For every dish, we are served this sourdough flatbread called Injera where the savoury dishes lay atop. The best part of devouring Ethiopian food is the lack of cutlery. We literally scoop the various dishes with pieces of injera. Think of the injera as both the dipping bread and the utensil at the same time. It’s great when the food stains and drenches the injera, then we eat the moist dough off the circular aluminum dish. I prefered not mixing the meat and veggie dishes so I asked for my own plate for my veggie dishes.

For dessert, we all ordered deep-fried bananas with honey and sesame seeds ($3.50 each) The dish was delicious and it certainly did not taste oily or greasy. We also shared a pot of traditional Ethiopian coffee ($5.00 each). The tradition when serving Ethiopian coffee is to serve it in a clay kettle with incense. The coffee is thick and has a muddy look to it. It’s quite strong in flavour but as soon as I added sugar, I was a happy camper.

Our bill came out to over $80.00 for 3 people, including our mains, 3 desserts ($10-$12), soft drinks ($2 each), and traditional Ethiopian coffee for 3 ($15). Although it was expensive i would definitely go back, despite the very casual restaurant environment, I could not help but notice the clientele had the edge of “I’m too cool for you”. A very slight artsy-fartsy yuppie Parkdale pretentiousness. It did not bother me that much but you could feel the vibe of the Parkdale artists who have that very slight attitude and edge to them. Partially cool and partially pretentious.

Large tables can accomodate big groups at Addis Ababa. A great place to bring a date or bring a large groups of friends. One page of many veggie options, including many bean and vegetable dishes. Expect live entertainment (there’s a piano at the back of the restaurant) on Friday and Saturday. Open Tuesday to Sunday 5:00pm-1:00am. Accepts all cards.

Swan [dinner]

892 Queen West
416-532-0452

 

With a small and vegetarian-free menu, I was still intrigued to go to Swan for dinner. With some friends we all opted for Swan because it was unique and unlike the typical Fresh by Juice for Life, (which I’ve been a million times) I did not want to torture my friends and force them to eat vegetarian. Having gone for brunch several months ago to Swan, I had enjoyed the qiet ambiance, the cool dim lighting, the minimalist decor, and the laid-back environment of this chi chi poo poo diner in the Queen West West neighbourhood.

We sat in the booth at the back of the restaurant, a familiar place where we sat for brunch months before in the winter. We sat down and got comfortable. For a starter most of them had House Wine and some kind of fancy-pants Beer. Aaron, Gavin, and Joey ordered appetizers of Oysters and Grilled Bread with diced tomatoes. They enjoyed both appetizers very much.

For our main meals, Daniel and Jonathan both ordered the beef short ribs. Daniel found his dish to be beefy and quite tender. He thought that the sauce offered a hearty balance of flavours with a judicious hint of sweetness that complimented the fine quality meat. He also enjoyed the pan- fried vegetables but they were unfortunately not well-seasoned, but, fortunately, not over-cooked.

Gavin had the Capon (rooster) which was coated in a delicious vanilla-oatmeal breading and pan-fried. The coating was great, but the actual meat was a bit tasteless. He found the buttermilk mashed potatoes to be exquisite, and he loved his roasted vegetables.

Aaron had the halibut on a bed of mashed yams, new potatos and cheese with some steamed veggies. He thinks his meal was covered in a pesto sauce but he could be wrong. Overall, it was quite tasty though he probably would have prefered some meat.

Joey had the vegetarian risotto with stewed tomatoes and other veggies cooked in a creamy vegetarian risotto broth.
I had the curried lentil soup, with pureed lentils, not too pungent in flavour, but with the right amount of zing. The puree made the soup taste creamy and hearty. Mark also had the spinach salad with toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries in a light viniagrette.

The prices were pretty pricy. My soup was $5.00 and my salad was $7.00 and my salad portion was laughable. It was so small, I laughed while eating it and trying to enjoy every morsel. My soup was very hearty, healthy, and flavourful. I do think it was worth $5.00 even though $5.00 is slightly pricy for a soup. The bill came out to $186.00 for 6 people and most entrees were $15.00-$18.00 which, in my opinion is too pricy for me. Accepts all cards. Open late. Can be crowded most evenings and weekends. Reservations are recommended, especially for the popular weekend brunch. Service was OK but our waitress was cold and unfriendly to most of us. Maybe she had a bad day

Swan

892 Queen West
416.532.0452

Walking inside the restaurant (if you call it that) I was greeted with
a quasi retro fifties diner vibe. The front half of the space is well
lit and narrowed by a bar with vinyl covered bar seats. Across from the
bar are tables with narrow booths seating 2-4 people. More tables are
available towards the back (and less lit) -end of the restaurant.

Good
luck finding a space for more than four people. The place doesn’t take
reservations and it becomes packed on brunch weekends. The atmosphere
was generally cool with white walls. The lukewarm heating system didn’t
make us feel any cozier eating in the middle of January.

I would
recommend visiting this place in the summer, when there is less winter
gear clutter, with the sun’s rays warming up the atmosphere. It’s a great
place to gab with a couple friends on a summery Sunday morning. After
eating you may better enjoy touring Queen West.

The brunch meals were adequate and generally well portioned. I had eggs,
but eggs are eggs. Nothing in the Omelette stood out. One of their
specialties are their clams and mussels which no one tried. Mark was the only one who ordered a non-egg meal- the warm half- grapefruit with a sprinkle of brown sugar with the vegetarian split pea soup. He seemed quite happy with his meal, but he was disappointed that there were not enough vegetarian and vegan items.

The menu has that funky bacon called Pancetta. It’s an oily meat to
consume for a first meal of the day, nontheless, bacon eaters dig in!
Service was friendly and very accomodating. Make sure you ask for no ice
in the juices, or you’ll be sitting with watered down orange juice.

-Jonathan Isenberg

Kei

936 Queen Street West
ph: 416-534-7449

Up until about two years ago, I could not stand ALL Asian food. Chinese, Japanese, Thai and the like just made my stomach turn. On my return back to Toronto after Unversity, something changed. My tastes, as well as my stomach, metastisized in new directions. These days, I cannot have enough Asian food. If someone wants to go for Sushi, I am usually more than game.

One of the more rare types of South Eastern Asian food is Malaysian. The only restaurant I know that identifies as Malaysian is Kei on Queen West, kitty corner from the Mental Health Hospital.

Kei is laid back, casual and delicate. Both times I’ve been there I ordered the exact same thing. Taro chips, tuna and curry rolls to share as an appetizer and “Mom’s Special” for my main course. This dish is essentially chicken and goose liver sausage interspersed in a finely, shaped heap of rice. A side for the dish is another oddity: a carrot crepe. Kei also serves a fine variation on the Lychee martini with what I believe is called Dragon Fruit.

My only complaint about Kei is the limited menu. Nonetheless, the tasty food and mellow atmosphere warrant repeat visits

Sugar Cafe [closed Fall 2007]

942 Queen St. W.
416.532.5088

 

Queen West is my favourite part of Toronto, and it seems whenever I am down there I recognize at least a few people on the street. Sure enough, sitting by the window in Sugar Cafe I happened to see several people I knew or at least had noticed before. There was the cute, gay rapper I had once seen on the U8TV cameras and a frequenter of the Vazaleen party, my former math teacher from grade 10, and two other queers I knew back in the day. Quite the melange of people to be sure.

As for brunch, there’s not really much to say. A small, standard menu with the typical Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine, and musli yogourt did not impress me much. Neither did the prices, especially considering the size or lack thereof the meal. I settled on the grilled veggie sandwich on foccacia which I have never seen on any brunch menu. Not that it wasn’t tasty, it definitely was, but it was the long wait as well as the petiteness of the sandwhich which really left a sour taste in my mouth. To top it off, we were charged $4 each for the two coffees we each had. If you’re going to skimp out on the meal, at least provide free re-fills.

Harbord Fish and Chips v.s. Chippies

Harbord Fish and Chips v.s. Chippies:

 Harbord Fish and Chips
147 Harbord Street
(416) 925-2225

Chippies
893 Queen St W
(416) 866-7474

Having been thoroughly unimpressed with Chippies, the new and trendy fish and chips restaurant on Queen West, I thought I would try this more unassuming joint on Harbord between Spadina and Bathurst.

I had heard many good things about Harbord Fish and Chips but then again the NOW Magazine gave Chippies a 5 star review and doesn’t shut up about it. The problem I find with Chippies, besides the cute guys behind the counter singing “Shook me all night long” by AC/DC, is that they just don’t serve enough fish. I’ve been there twice, and both times have come away with a mountain of fries but little in the way of main course. The side sauces are a nice touch, but the ones I tasted were nothing special.

Harbord is a small, un-trendy, mostly take out joint. Like Chippies, Harbord also serves up a mountain of french fries. I guess I shouldn’t complain, fries are delicious and the meal IS called fish AND chips. The difference with Chippies though, is that Harbord actually provides a decent portion of fish. I ordered haddock and I was happy to see a nice big rectangular piece of fish plumped down on top of my heap o’ fries before being wrapped up in the traditional newspaper (unfortunately it was the National Post).

If you have a craving for fish and chips go for the solid Harbord version over the fluffy, trendy, more expensive Chippies.