A week ago my friend suggested trying out Fresh, a chain of vegetarian restaurants in the Toronto area. Ever since I visited Teresa Carles in Barcelona, I’ve been eager to find a joint in Toronto that produces on the level of Chef Teresa and Chef Ramon. The goals of yesterday’s dinner were twofold: prove to Tim that satisfying meals do not have to be planned around meat and second, find my go-to vegetarian restaurant in Toronto.
When we walked in, we notice a young but diverse crowd: yogi’s enjoying a dinner after class, tatted up gen y’s and young couples who had just walked down in their sweats to grab takeout. To start, we ordered the quinoa onion rings ($6). We were drawn when a group of girls next to us dived in and declared their love for the plate. After our first bite, we did the same too. This is no ordinary onion ring. The combination of puffed quinoa and breadcrumbs make for a hard crunch instead of the usual oily crispiness. For a dollar more, you can choose from a large variety of house made dips to go with your rings. We chose the barbecue sauce made with molasses, allspice and sesame oil. If I return, the avocado chipotle is next on my hit list.
For drinks, we tried one of their smoothies. The menu is overloaded with options from fruit only to immune elixirs. We ordered a green smoothie called Alkaline Balance ($5.50 for a 12 oz size) that comprised of pineapple, kale, coconut water, ginger, dates, cinnamon and banana. It sounded amazing in theory but we were deceived. I usually make green smoothies at home and they taste great but this one was particularly sour and warm.
I ordered the All Star Salad ($13) for myself which was an intimidating toss of quinoa, adzuki bean tabouleh, raw kale, goji berries, toasted mixed nuts, parsley, cilantro, sunflower sprouts, grilled sweet potato and tofu steaks. You can choose from six dressings and I chose the Wild Ginger (ginger, lemon, rice vinegar). I was delightfully overwhelmed by the different flavours and textures the salad delivered. The goji berries and nuts went well with the greens while the sweetness of the sweet potato completed the dishes palette of flavours. My only complaint was that I could not taste the dressing at all. I do not overload on seasonings, oils or spices by any means so when I do not taste a dressing it means there’s virtually none.
Tim decided to opt for the Bbq Burger ($11). All their burgers have the same almond and grain patty leaving little room for variety. The toppings and sauces are what set the burgers apart at Fresh. It was difficult to eat and the patty wouldn’t stay put in between the buns. Moreover, the burger was bland and too mushy for his tastes. I was able to take a few bites of the burger and unfortunately, it was on the soft side. The only distinguishing flavor that helped the burger was the sweet and spicy barbecue sauce.
So needless to say, my plan failed big time. But, the search goes on!