I surprised my husband for his birthday with a night away in Toronto; no kids, just me and him in one of the most vegan-friendly cities in the country!
With just 24 hours to spend, we had to be choosy with our restaurant choices. We last went to TO together in July last year for anniversary and tried many delicious dishes (see my posts here and here). This time we wanted to try new places. I used Veg.ca and their handy map of veg restaurants by neighbourhood to choose our restaurants.
Here’s what we enjoyed:
Grasslands for dinner – We had heard intriguing reviews about this all-vegan upscale restaurant from two friends and were eager to it out. We weren’t disappointed! Each savoury dish was cleverly imagined, absolutely delicious and gorgeously presented. Our servers were pleasant, though the restaurant was packed (it was a Saturday night) so we waited an hour for our main dishes (be sure to make reservations if you go).
We shared the Charcuterie Board for an appetizer. It’s a vegan re-imagining of a traditional meat and cheese board, but all vegan. There was “salami” and cheeses, olives, bread, pickles and spicy condiments. We had a lot of fun with this plate and all the different tastes to try.
For the main course, I ordered the Skewer: “charbroiled organic tempeh, tofu, market vegetables, sweet and tangy tomato marinade, maple scented yam mash, olive oil and Yukon gold whip, garlic gui-lan, blistered grape tomato.” Like the charcuterie board, we loved that there were so many tastes to enjoy in one dish, and they all complimented each other. Every single bite was delicious, and with all those vegetables, we felt like we were enjoying a pretty healthy entrée. Gui-lan was a new vegetable for us, in fact, we had to ask what it was (a Chinese vegetable that tastes like garlicky broccoli was the answer; also spelled gai-lan and kai-lan).
Hubby ordered the Crusted Chicken: “seitan cutlet, scented rice batter, braised vegetables, thyme roasted fingerling potato, garlicky asparagus and gui-lan.” Another super delicious dish with a variety of tastes to enjoy and loaded with vegetables. The seitan cutlet was superb. We would recommend both the Skewer and the Crusted Chicken, they were excellent.
After those wonderful entrees, we couldn’t wait to see what Grasslands had for dessert. Having only been open for two months, there was just one dessert item on the menu: Cookies and Cream with fresh berries, which sounded just perfect to us.
What was delivered to our table was a gorgeous work of art. The ice cream and candied nuts were divine but…we didn’t care for the cookies at all, sorry to say. They did not taste fresh and were so hard we had a difficulty biting into them. It was such a surprise since the rest of the dishes we tried were excellent. We chalked it up to the kitchen error of a newly-opened restaurant that was swamped on a Saturday…. these things happen. The rest of the meal was wonderful, one of the best we’ve had in a long time, so we left Grasslands with happy full bellies.
We stayed at the Marriot that night which included a buffet breakfast. It was standard hotel fare, and a banana with peanut butter, fresh melon and a cup of tea was a satisfactory breakfast. (It was nothing special so I didn’t take a photo).
For lunch, we opted to try Superfood Eateries, which focuses on organic, vegan and raw food and has a menu full of adorably named items like Divine Compensation and Pipe Cleaner. We walked over there only to discover that they were spontaneously closed that Saturday. There was no indication of the closure on their website or voice mail so we found this mildly annoying, but oh well, the great thing about Toronto is there are loads of other veg restaurants around to go to instead.
We made our way to Fresh, a vegetarian restaurant with four locations in Toronto, and had a lovely lunch with fast and friendly service.
We started with their soup of the day: a creamy broccoli, cauliflower and mustard soup. It was really tasty.
For entrees, hubby ordered the BBQ Burger: “BBQ sauce, quinoa onion rings, garlic mayo, napa cabbage, hot banana chillies, tomato and lettuce.”
We loved this burger, especially the crunchy quinoa onion rings which were a fun indulgence. If you can’t tell from the photo, thick slices of onion were battered, dipped in quinoa puffs then fried into crispy deliciousness. More please!
I ordered the Energy Rice Bowl: “marinated tofu cubes, rich coconut curry sauce, chick pea & vegetable stew, cucumber, tomato, red onion, sunflower sprouts & tahini sauce”. I thought it was delicious without feeling too heavy or indulgent.
Fresh has many wonderful desserts available but we were too full to try any; we’ll have to go back another time for their sweets.
Grasslands is at 148 Queen Street West, Toronto.
Fresh is at 147 Spadina Avenue, and three other locations in Toronto.