A Wine & Cheese Bar and a Courtyard Oasis – A Weekend Brunch Photo Spotlight at Caren’s in Yorkville, Part I!

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There’s a first time for everything!  Well, most things anyway.  I’ve never dined in a wine and cheese bar before and while this meal and first visit was strictly devoted to brunch, sans the wine and cheese (I could have had some, but I didn’t – this time!), it still counts as a dining experience in a beautiful, posh and classy wine and cheese bar in one of my favourite parts of town.  Welcome to Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar on Cumberland St. in Yorkville!  My co-worker, Pat, who adores cheese even more than I do, told me about this wonderful gem run, in part, by cheese consultant and tastings extraordinaire, Tiffany MacIsaac.  I must have passed by the adorable house the bar is housed in a million times but I never realized it was such a popular destination until Pat brought it to my attention.  And I do mean popular – I was not the only one lined up at 11:30am sharp this morning out on their pretty front patio!  Yorkville is truly a gift of food that just keeps on giving.  Enjoy the photo spotlight; full-length Part II post to come tomorrow!

*****

Caren’s Wine & Cheese Bar is located at 158 Cumberland St. in Yorkville, just east of Avenue Rd.  They are open for lunch (11:30am-5pm from Monday to Friday), dinner (5pm-10pm Sunday to Tuesday and 5pm-11pm Wednesday to Saturday), and weekend brunch (11:30am-4pm Saturdays and Sundays).

Meatballs & Provolone, and Scallops & Farro Vegetable Medley – My Italian ‘Surf and Turf’ at Trattoria Nervosa!

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Let it be known that I have been in love with Yorkville’s “little yellow house” twins (known as Trattoria Nervosa and Sassafraz), for years.  With its bright yellow exteriors, sweet flower planters, black-and-white trim, accents, and awnings, and inviting outdoor patios for those sun-drenched days of summer, both establishments transform this Yorkville spot into those iconic French and Italian cafés many of us can only dream of experiencing in our lifetime.  It’s not Paris and it’s not Sicily, but in Toronto, I’d say these are lovely alternatives for the staycationer like myself!

At the corners of Yorkville Ave. and Cumberland St. on Bellair, they have both been on the Yorkville fine dining circuit for years, wowing its patrons with its Italian and French cuisine and beautiful patio terraces.  After visiting  the beautiful patio at Wish Cafe for Eat In, Eat Out’s Summer Patio Dining feature, I wanted to take the plunge and enjoy one other meal in the neighbourhood al fresco and thought, “Café Nervosa, here I come!”  Even though I was dying to finally wine and dine (or rather, just dine since I don’t drink!) at Sassafraz, I went with Italian at Nervosa and sunk into one of the most gorgous rooftop patios in the city for my own Italian version of “surf and turf” with crusty bread and olive oil, all the cracked black pepper I could ever want, and beautiful sunshine and comfortable breeze.

Trattoria Nervosa (or Café Nervosa) is a gorgeous two-storey Italian eatery with both a ground level and rooftop patio.  Their rooftop patio is like a comfortable, breezy summer cabana, with a cocktail bar, a shaded, cushioned “cabana”, and a sun dappled area right up against the patio railing with a very sweet view of Yorkville down below!  The rooftop patio is dressed in shades of cool cream, warm cappuccino, gray, and black, with mirrors, wall ornaments, and printed cushions dotting the chic space.

Their menu boasts a number of Italian insalate (baby arugula wih Italian tuna, romaine with pancetta, fried capers, and aged parmigino, buffalo mozzarella and pesto); antipasti (seafood and potatoes, beef tenderloin and truffled cannellini beans, funghi bruschetta, cured meats and cheeses); paste (agnolotti, funghi pappardelle, orecchiette, bolognese fettucine); pizze (plenty of fresh mozzarella, brie, parmigiano, grilled and roasted vegetables including peppers, mushrooms, asparagus, and grape tomatoes, sausage, prosciutto, olives, basil, and more); secondi mains (seafood, chicken, and beef, and veal); Italian desserts (tiramisu, tartufo, and semifreddo among others); and one veeery large wine and cocktail list.  Desserts are priced at $7.99, meal prices, in total, will mostly likely fall between $15-$30 if you’re putting together an appetizer and main or just a main (excluding drinks), and daily specials come in at around $17-$26, on average.

I learned a very valuable lesson during my delicious meal at Nervosa: never underestimate the power of appetizer plates to induce a food coma.  I came into my meal determined to have a dessert off their menu at the end of it all, only to realize that I was about to pop after my two appetizer dishes.  I had myself an Italian version of surf and turf with an order of their beef, veal, and pork meatballs (4, $13.99) braised and smothered in tomato sauce, covered in smoked provolone cheese, and their pan seared scallops (2, $14.99) with a panzanella salad of farro, zucchini, butternut squash, and corn.

HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL.  I simply ordered the two because I couldn’t decide between them but never did I think I would be ready to burst at the end of the meal!  The meatballs were incredibly soft, moist, and tender, the smoked provolone was buttery and nutty (and perfectly melted – provolone is not easy to melt!), and there was plenty of thick, savoury tomato sauce to go around.  The meatballs literally melted in my mouth and they were fabulous on their own without any pasta or bread.

The scallops appetizer, though, was even MORE amazing.  The zucchini and butternut squash were both diced, creating a beautiful mosaic with the farro and corn.  The medley, tossed in olive oil, was the perfect bedding for the fresh, plump scallops and the whole dish was just to die for.  The scallops had that lovely thin layer of browned crispness on top from being seared and the insides were beautifully moist and meaty.  Even though the scallops, being the seafood, was the expected star of the dish, the grain and vegetable salad was truly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had.  The olive oil made it nice and flavourful, the farro gave the dish immense texture and crunch, and the zucchini and butternut squash gave it earthiness.

Given how I waddled out of Nervosa without a dessert (but still immensely satisfied), a follow-up visit is clearly in the cards!  I am so looking forward to going back for dessert, some pizza (rapini pizza on Thursdays!), and some fresh Italian pastas and cheeses.  It’s such a treat since I rarely eat at Italian places, just because they’ve always been a little pricier than other establishments.  I’d love to change that since I love Italian food so much and I’m happy I finally got the chance to make my first visit here.  It was relaxing, beautiful, and delicious – the perfect summertime treat.

*****

Trattoria Nervosa is located at 75 Yorkville Ave., at the corner of Yorkville Ave. and Bellair St.  They are open 7 days a week, from 11:30am-11pm Monday-Wednesday, 11:30am-12am Thursday-Saturday, and 12pm-10pm on Sundays.  In addition to their regular menu, Nervosa offers two daily specials every day of the week.  These specials include a pizza and a main and are not available on any other day other than their designated “daily special” day.  Visit their official HERE to view their full menu and info on special event booking.

Summer Sipping – A Photo Spotlight on Frothy Lattes at Zaza Espresso Bar

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*****

Zaza Espresso Bar is located at 29 Bellair St., just west of Bay St. in the heart of the Yorkville neighbourhood and district.  They are open 7 days a week, from 8am-10pm Monday-Thursday, 8am-11pm Friday-Saturday, and 10am-10pm on Sundays.  In addition to Italian coffee and drinks, Zaza also has a wide assortment of gelato on hand every day and a breezy patio space out front to enjoy those sips and eats!  They serve 3 other locations in Toronto including a brand new location in the west end in Bloor West Village.  Click HERE to view other locations and to find out more about the espresso bar.

Your Wish for Summer Patio Dining is My Command…Fish Tacos and Rapini & Chickpeas at Wish Cafe!

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Daisies and flowers, candles, soft cushions, bright and crisp whites, pinks, and greens, and a feeling of total bliss and relaxation – nope, we’re not at the spa, we’re wining and dining on the patio at Wish Cafe and Restaurant!  Located on Charles St. just east of Yonge, Wish serves lunch and dinner from Tuesday-Saturday and a weekend brunch on Saturdays and Sundays.  I first discovered Wish last year while I was walking around the Yorkville area and exploring Church Street a bit.  When I reached Charles St., I looked down the road and thought, “hmm, I’ve never been around here before, let’s see what’s around!” and that is when I found Wish and breathed a silent, “wow…” when I saw their patio.  And after browsing their menu online, it was then and there that I decided that I had to come back and enjoy a great meal in a beautiful setting. 

Wish is one of the prettiest spots I have ever dined at.  I know if you look at Wish from across the street it doesn’t look particularly gorgeouys, but it’s the patio and the cafe’s interior that really have the beauty and character.  There are flowers on every table, everything looks bright and fresh, there are beautiful wooden shutters for that comforting, rustic vibe, and there’s a tinkling fountain by the front entrance and that makes everything feel and sound extra soothing.  Ladies and gents, if you want to take a special someone out for a nice meal and/or date, this is PERFECT.  It’s fancy without being pretentious.  It’s pretty and sweet without being frou-frou.  And the prices?  Incredibly reasonable considering how nice it is and how it’s located within the Yorkville neighbourhood!

Although the prices might not suit those who are on a tight budget, you can definitely enjoy a fabulous, special meal for $10-$15, and most certainly for under $20.  There are a few items on their menu that are over $20, but let’s face it: if you enjoy dining in the city at establishments that are not fast food, coffee shops, and bakery cafes, you know you’re looking at a bill that will most likely total $20 when it’s all said and done but at Wish, you can feasibly have a wonderful meal for $10-$15.  Obviously, I’m not taking into account alcohol, but I’m the type of person that only orders water most of the time because I’d rather spend my moolah on food! 

Prices aside, Wish is top-notch.  The menu exudes freshness and simplicity while at the same time offering dishes that are unique and different with ingredients that aren’t necessarily conventional at other dining spots: blue crab cakes, warm salmon salad with bok choy and zucchini and orange balsamic, warm lentil salad with radicchio, root vegetables, and hazelnuts, fish and chips with beet root slaw and saffron tartar sauce, and shaved eggplant baguette sandwiches with tomato fondue just to name a bunch!  I wanted to try so many of these dishes at the same time, but I wanted to go with the most summery menu item so I chose their trio of fish tacos!

Let me preface the following by saying that what I imagined in my head was completely different from what I actually got – in the best way possible.  When my fish tacos ($12) were brought to my table, I gasped.  The presentation was beautiful, colourful, scrumptious, and absolutely screaming summer!  The soft flour tortillas were placed on a cute little dish on their own while the fish and toppings were presented on an adorable wooden cutting board so I could have a ball and assemble everything together myself.  SO DARLING! 

There were little metal cups holding my cabbage, pickled cabbage and onions, diced mango and tomato salsa, and creamy guacamole and my 6 pieces of halibut fish (which weren’t in chunks or slices but instead in chubby fingers like jumbo fish fries!), were breaded and crispy and so moist and soft on the inside.  I felt like I was dining at a summery seaside resto with this meal!  It was fun, relaxing, and oh-so-delicious.

Wish also offers a number of sides on their menu that complement their mains and as had my mum along with me for the ride, we shared and split an order of rapini and chickpeas ($5) and OH.MY.GOD was the dish ever amazing!  This dish could honestly pass for a meal all on its own!  The dish was BIG and so full of flavour.  The rapini and chickpeas were such a terrific complement to each other because the chickpeas toned down the inherent bitterness of the rapini and gave the whole dish the most mouthwatering, buttery texture and flavour! 

Oh my goodness, I just wanted to eat those chickpeas for the entire day because they were so good.  I’m almost positive the rapini and chickpeas were tossed with a buttery dressing and vinaigrette and it elevated the flavour over the moon.  The rapini was cooked just right, not too raw and bitter but also not soggy and overcooked.  This is a great dish to order to bump up the veggie intake and to take advantage of a bright and fresh dish.

I had so much fun eating here and I’m so happy I finally got the chance to try their food.  After this experience, Wish Cafe shot straight to my Top 5 favourite spots in the city and I’m really glad I took my mum along with me because she almost never gets to dine at fancier places that are still reasonably priced; heck, she doesn’t dine at fancier places at all!  Wish Cafe will do that to you.  It’ll draw you in, make you fall in love, and have you coming back for more.  It is an absolute gem in the city and if you get the opportunity to eat out on their patio, do it!  It’ll be one very special and delicious meal!   

*****

Wish Cafe and Restaurant is located at 3 Charles Street East at the corner of Charles and Yonge Street in downtown Toronto.  They offer lunch and dinner, as well as weekend brunch, and their patio is currently available for spring and summer wining and dining!  They are open from Tuesday to Sunday (closed on Mondays).  Hours of operation are 11am-11pm from Tuesday to Saturday, and 10am-4pm on Sundays.  View their official website and menus HERE.

Smoked Salmon & Mango and Scallop With Crunchy Tempura – Rolls, Menu Changes, and the Red Tea Cups at Ginza!

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Back in February of last year, I wrote a little love letter professing my adoration for cream cheese, cheese cheese in sushi, and the gorgeous red tea cups at Ginza.  I also gushed about how their giant Moscow rolls with the cream cheese, three types of sashimi, and crunchy, savoury exteriors were like little blinking sushi beacons of love.  I also promised to try out more maki rolls and to report back.  It’s January 2012 and to say that I am fashionably late with my follow-up post is an understatement.  But I am here, like I promised, with more food photos and yummy sushi stories to share from Ginza!  I really love Ginza and feel the quality of their food is spot on (at the Yorkville location at least since I haven’t been to any of the other ones in the city) and I couldn’t have picked a better time to go back for another round of delicious sushi because they’ve recently revamped their menu!

If you haven’t been to Ginza for awhile (or at all) and if you’ve been relying on their online menu to tide you over until your next visit (or first visit), you’re in for a very pleasant surprise.  I don’t know when they made tweaks to their menu, but Ginza has made some fabulous changes and additions that I am so incredibly excited about!  Ginza is always one of the top four sushi places I consider every time I want to gorge on some (not including all-you-can-eat spots) but with their new menu items and changes, I’m not going to want to eat at any other sushi bar for a long time!

Most of the maki rolls and mains are still the same, but if you love dessert and love finding unique sweets to enjoy at different sushi bars, you are going to be head over heels for their new dessert menu!  They’ve added sesame ice cream, they now have FIVE flavours of tempura ice cream (I have date with the tempura mango), tempura cheesecake (well, now they’re just dangling a carrot in my face), and – get this – TROPICAL ICE CREAM IN A HOLLOWED PINEAPPLE AND COCONUT!  OH.MY.GOD.  The pineapple one I might not be able to eat because of my allergy, but the coconut?!  I will hug and kiss it because it will be that fabulous. 

I cannot wait to try this the next time I go and the only reason why I didn’t order it during this meal is because I was taken aback by their new menu and incredible dessert selection and had no intentions of budgeting a dessert into the mix.  So with an aching heart, I let it go this time.  But next time?  Oh, I’m going to stuff my face in it and enjoy it!

Aside from the revamped dessert menu, the other very noticable, positive change to the menu are the prices.  Yes, you read right, the prices.  They’ve been lowered!  I KNOW!  I can’t believe it either!  We deal with rising prices, every month it seems, for the most mundane things: transit, food, gas, housing, services, you name it.  I sigh every time I learn that my bus ride is going to cost more, that a loaf of bread just ain’t what it used to be, and that we’ll have to dig deeper into our pockets just to sit in our own house.  Knowing that prices for certain things are staying constant is a relief.  Learning that prices for particular things have lowered is a godsend!  Prices for numerous menu items have been dropped by $1-$2 and that makes a huge difference when you factor in taxes, tip, and/or ordering more than one dish.  I know for a fact that the rice dishes are $2 less, the sushi pizzas are $1 less, and the prices of many of the maki rolls have also been dropped by a $1.

You can see why I’ve fallen even more in love with Ginza and why I had to tell you all the great news!  Even though I couldn’t have possibly ordered and ate everything I wanted on the menu right then and there, I kept my promise and tried out some other maki rolls and they were splendid!  I had an order of the smoked salmon mango rolls (6 pcs) and the Fire Cracker Dream rolls (6 pcs) which were comprised of scallops, crunchy tempura bits, and spicy mayo sauce.

  

The smoked salmon and mango had such contrasting flavours with the savoury, cured saltiness of the smoked salmon and the sweet, fresh juiciness of the julienned mango mingling together.  I love mango and smoked salmon, but I didn’t know how they would work out in the same roll and I found that I really liked it.  The smoked salmon was sliced filet-style (2 slices in each roll) and you feel like you’re eating it with juicy salsa with the mango.  The sesame seeds the rolls are rolled in lends a crunchy nuttiness to it that is so delicious, so you get a little bit of everything in terms of flavour and texture.  It’s a savoury-sweet combination that works and you get the best of both flavours without either of them being lost or compromised.

After having amazing spicy scallop rolls from Tokyo Sushi at Bay and St. Joseph St., I became obsessed with finding other scrumptious scallop roll varieties and Ginza has a great one: the Fire Cracker Dream roll.  These rolls have huge chunks of scallop, crunchy tempura bits, green onions, and some spicy mayo sauce mixed into the crunchy tempura and green onions.  The spiciness is nothing to be afraid it; it’s not super hot.  You’ll get a yummy kick of heat, but nothing that will make you want to douse your mouth in milk or water.  Even though the spicy scallop rolls from Tokyo Sushi are still my ultimate favourite, the Fire Cracker Dreams are SO yummy.  The scallops chunks are fresh and meaty, I love the green onions in it, and the spicy mayo sauce mixed into the tempura tastes exactly like sweet chili sauce which I love to death.

Edamame beans are still complementary with your meal (I ate almost the entire bowl all on my own!) and with all the great additions and changes to the menu, I feel even more compelled to squeeze in more sushi meals here.  I absolutely can’t wait to show you all some of the new stuff and I promise you, it won’t take me a year to report back!

*****

Ginza is located at the following 4 locations:

  1. 7330 Yonge St. (at the intersection of Clark Ave. and Yonge St. in Thornhill)
  2. 652 Finch Ave. East (located between Leslie St. and Bayview Ave. in North York)
  3. 1255 Bay St. (north of Bloor St. W just off of Yorkville Ave.)
  4. 9960 Dufferin St. (right at the intersection of Major Mackenzie Dr. W. in Maple)  

Ginza also offers a 10% student discount at certain locations, so call ahead and ask if you want to take advantage.

The Fall Harvest Series – Stuffed Bell Peppers in Cauliflower Soup and Curry Cauliflower Risotto at Mela Cafe

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The chilly fall season wouldn’t be complete without a warm, comforting, fall harvest meal from my favourite Italian vegetarian place!  I know that even though it’s technically still fall, we’re sort of in a weird place right now where the leaves have fallen, the trees are naked, and we’re donning sunglasses in the mild weather one day and bundling up to our ears in winter clothes the next.  Winter hasn’t taken over just yet though so I think it’s safe to continue doing Fall Harvest posts, especially when they’re as bright, vibrant, and colourful as this!  Roberto’s amazing, delicious vegetarian and vegan food has never failed to brighten up a meal, but this fall comfort lunch was like rainbow artwork on plates. 

I’ve been eating at Mela for over a year now and I’ve loved watching the seasonal fluctuations and changes in ingredients and dishes.  The everyday stand-bys such as the breaded eggplant panini and homemade ravioli with ricotta are present at all times, but menu items such as the vegan coconut lime cream tarts and summer vegetable salads have summer sunshine written all over them, while warm comfort foods such as rice and potatoes with root vegetable like beet and rapini provide that sense of warmth and coziness during the cold winter months.  I got the chance to see and eat some wonderful fall food this time and it was beautiful, artistic, and of course, delicious.

This time around I stuffed my face into a new menu item as well as a consistent classic: curry cauliflower risotto and veggie stuffed bell peppers!  The orange bell peppers were grilled and stuffed with rice, tomatoes, onions, and broccoli and were super soft with that perfect blistered skin.  One thing that really delighted me was the artwork on my plate.  Roberto had created a soup painting beneath the stuffed bell pepper!  Check it out.  I couldn’t believe it.  Forget latte art, bring on the adorable shapes made out of soup!  Roberto had poured the cauliflower soup into the tomato sauce in such a way that the shape of an apple formed right under my lovely bell pepper.  I literally did a double take when I saw it and I almost didn’t want to disrupt the masterpiece by cutting into the pepper.  But alas, nature called and I was hungry so I captured eleventy billion photos of it before it went away.  Food artistry at its finest.

Here’s the thing though: I DON’T EVEN LIKE CAULIFLOWER.  I’ve grown to love many foods I used to wrinkle my nose at when I was younger, but cauliflower has always remained on my “I do not fancy you” list.  Which begs the question, “why did I decide on these dishes if I don’t even care for cauliflower?”  Simply put, I wanted to give broccoli’s much paler cousin a shot.  This fall, my mum started integrating more cauliflower into our vegetable dishes at home and I found myself enjoying it so much more when she made them.  Call it bias toward my mum’s home cooking, call it a foodie epiphany; I didn’t hate it as much as I used to.  However, I only preferred it the way my mum cooked it because to me, and forgive me for saying this, every other cauliflower experience has tasted awful.  I might as well have been eating cardboard.  Which means my choosing a dish with cauliflower in it at Mela was a big deal.  I was putting my faith in Roberto on this one.  The verdict?  You know food is good when you start scarfing down things you’ve disliked for years.

Although I enjoyed the stuffed bell pepper (goodness do I ever love the char and blistered pepper skin done right), it was the curry cauliflower risotto that completely won me over and had me “mmm”ing for a good half hour straight!  It was so incredibly delicious and flavourful and so colourful.  It was a joy to look at and an even bigger joy to eat.  I love risotto to pieces because the creaminess of it just makes me want to go into spoon-to-mouth shovel mode and I get so excited whenever I get the chance to eat it.  It’s like rice stew and the versatility of it means endless ingredient possibilities.

I have never had a curry risotto before.  Mushroom risotto, yes.  One of my friends even made a fabulous, homemade walnut, apple, blue cheese risotto for a dinner party a few years ago.  But curry risotto?  That combination hadn’t even entered my foodie universe.  The curry cauliflower risotto was served as a triangular “pie” slice with rich, creamy curry rice and chunks of cauliflower sitting in a plate of cauliflower soup with olive oil drizzle, topped with Mela’s famous piping hot tomato sauce.  The curry was like a bursting firework of savoury flavour and the risotto was perfectly creamy and smooth without being mushy.  You could taste every rice grain with the tomato sauce and curry intertwining into one mouthful of pure heaven. 

Every time I come to Mela I’m eating something wonderfully delicious and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to choose between items and to pick a favourite!  Hands down, the curry cauliflower risotto is in my top 3 favourite things here at Mela.  The ravioli is in this top 3 too, but that’s about the best I can do because I can’t settle on another item to round the list out.  Winter is quickly approaching and I’m looking forward to another visit and I can’t wait to see (and taste) the scrumptious goodies waiting for me.

*****

Mela Café is located at 7 Yorkville Ave., north of Cumberland St. and just west of Yonge St.  All dishes are either vegetarian or vegan and prices range from $4-$8.50.  They are primarily a lunch cafe during the week, open until around 4:30pm-5pm from Monday to Friday, and with later closing hours on Saturday.  They are closed on Sunday.

Scrapbook materials used: Poppy red, orange, pale yellow, neon green, and cappuccino cardstock; apron and oven mitt adhesive embellishments (In the Kitchen by Karen Foster Design); alphabet stickers (K&Company); floral die-cuts (K&Company); 5-petal paper punch (ek success).

A Delicious Butter Tofu, Red Lentil, and Spinach Rice Indian Lunch – Cooking, History, and Philosophy at Veda, Part II

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Let it be known that I have a mini foodie journal with pages inside to write down favourite meals, restaurants, and gastronomical experiences, as well as little pages that have thought-provoking food-related questions to jog those creative writing juices.  Let it also be known that I haven’t had the heart to write in it yet because the paper looks so crisp and clean and pretty and I’m scared my writing will ruin the aesthetic of it.  Instead, I’ve been jotting down messy, scrawly notes in my blue fashionista Muffymade notebook and at the moment it looks as though it went through the wringer.  Pages are coming out, there are rips and wrinkles; it’s a little beat up. 

Which means I may have to turn to my little foodie journal after all.  And for good reason because I can now easily fill out a spot on the “favourite meals” page, without a doubt.  I had one of the best meals of my life (Indian and otherwise) this past week at Veda in Yorkville and I am so amoured I want to eat here every week for the rest of my life.  It was – and is – that amazing. 

I’ve wanted to eat at Veda for the longest time.  With its bright orange restaurant front and it’s small, but welcoming and cozy-looking  interior, it was a place I knew I had to visit.  My lunch here turned out to be one of the most delicious, nicest learning experiences because as I mentioned yesterday, I got a glimpse of Indian cooking, culture, history, and philosophy at work right before my eyes and I can thank my boyfriend and Veda’s decor for that!  I learned that the Veda refers to the anthology of texts that are devoted to Indian history, philosophy, and knowledge.  Thus, the name Veda is incredibly significant to the way the restaurant integrates important historical moments in India’s food culture into their product and cooking philosophy, and, in their words, “knowledge of healthful living” (emphasis added).

One of the ways in which Veda incorporates authentic Indian food culture into their restaurant is their serving style and meal sets.  As a popular lunch and dinner option, Veda serves a Tiffin Thali meal set complete with a choice of rice, protein, and vegetable.  Now, I know that doesn’t sound out of the ordinary; getting in your healthy food groups is a good thing!  However, what makes this particular meal set significant in terms of Indian history and food culture is the way in which it is served. 

Tiffin Thali literally refers to the type of servingware it is served in and the style of meal placement.  I’ll start with the thali since there’s a story behind the tiffin which I’ll get into shortly.  Those of you who are familiar with Indian food culture will already know this, but a thali generally refers to either a round tray with different compartments that food is served on with a number of different dishes on it, or a specific type of meal set such as a vegetarian thali, a meat thali, and others.

The term “tiffin” didn’t resonate with me until after I came home though.  Then the lightbulb went off.  There was a reason why it sounded so familiar and I realized it was because I had seen it at the Leslieville farmers’ market when I bought my lentil samosas from Tiffinday Inc., the Indian vegan catering company in Toronto!  The tiffin thali meals are served on a roundish, oblong stainless steel tray with adorable little stainless steel bowls to hold the vegetables, and the protein and meat. 

The cute stainless steel bowls are Veda’s nod to India’s historical, cultural past with food because tiffins are “food containers in transit”, so to speak.  Tiffins were used as a mode of delivery, bridging the gap of food accessibility between urban and suburban areas in India.  Tiffins were, and are, containers that are often stainless steel to be clean, convenient, and environmentally-friendly used to deliver take-out in and food in a quick and efficient way.  Hence why Tiffinday, as an Indian catering company, has the appropriate name that it does.

I’ll talk about Veda’s other menu items in greater detail next time, but I really want to focus on my tiffin thali because it was so delicious and memorable.  During my first meal here, I had the tiffin thali meal ($6.86) with spinach basmati rice, red lentils, and – wait for this – BUTTER TOFU!  OH.MY.GOD.  You all know I love butter chicken.  But butter tofu?!  I have NEVER come across butter tofu before and I was in absolute conniptions because I love tofu and I was so happy that there was a vegetarian protein option as delicious as THIS!  I added a giant piece of naan for an extra $0.99 and practically rolled down the street after my meal.  The portions are fantastic and so filling and the prices are incredibly reasonable, especially compared to other Indian places in the city.

The spinach basmati rice was light and fluffy with pieces of cooked, wilted spinach and cumin seed in it, and the red lentils were so delicious because it was a mildly spicy cross between a daal and paste.  The red lentils were so nice and thick and it was the perfect consistency to dip naan in it (and speaking of which, the naan was soft and chewy and scrumptious) and to mix the rice in.  And the butter tofu?  Creamy and soft and savoury and all sorts of amazing.  The tofu, cut into cubed chunks, was perfect because it wasn’t rubbery or mushy, and the butter sauce was rich, smooth, and full of rich tomato flavour.  I could eat a whole plate of this without even batting an eye.  I loved the textures and consistencies of the food, from the airiness of the rice, to the crunch of the cumin seeds, to the thick chili-like red lentils, and silkiness of the butter sauce over the tofu.  The food is mildly spicy so you’ll definitely feel some heat, but not so much you’ll need to chug liquids down or mop your forehead.  It’s the type of spicy that’s yummy and clears up your sinuses at the same time, let’s put it that way. 

Along with the spinach basmati rice, Veda has a vegetable biryani yellow rice, and vegetables include vegetable curry (broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots, etc.), chickpea curry, and spiced lentils.  Butter chicken, chicken curry, and beef madras round out the meat options, and vegetarian proteins include the saag paneer (spinach cheese) and butter tofu.  I love the menu choices at Veda and I’m so looking forward to rotating my way around the different items and trying the different meals!  This was a fabulous meal and one that’s going into the books. 

*****

Veda is located at 874 Yonge St. at Davenport Rd., just north of Yorkville Ave. in the Yorkville neighbourhood.  The restaurant is located on the west side of Yonge St. and is only several blocks north of the Yonge & Bloor intersection and subway.  Their hours from Monday-Friday are 11:30am-9pm, 12pm-9pm on Saturday, and 5pm-9pm on Sundays.  They are both dine-in and take-out.