At one point, I thought I should just rename this blog entry “Places Vina told me about and so I tried them”. She has been working in the financial district of Toronto for years, right in the heart of it all, and some days (read: most days) you just don’t want to prepare ahead of time and bring food with you. Fortunately, in a two-fold way, the skyscraping office towers of Toronto sit atop The PATH, an underground maze of shops and restaurants, for your lunch-hour dining convenience and shopping pleasure. The other reason the PATH is so great is how it connects you when the outdoor elements are undesirable!
Petit Four (Commerce Court)
First, I tried the tiramisu (right) which I thought was just divine and a perfect portion in a 2-oz. glass; they provide the small spoon for small bites. That day, Vina tried the salted chocolate nougatine and reported back it was very good, her favourite so far, so I got it next despite wariness about nougat. The salty pockets were delightful as a salt-lover and the wafers of nougatine were more like chocolate toffee so I’m in agreement. Most recently, I tried the double chocolate ‘n’ cream which had milk chocolate and dark chocolate mousse. It was all topped with light as air whipped cream.
Sushi Q (Commerce Court)
On my way to Far Niente Four to pick up a chilled dessert before picking up a hot lunch, I walked by Sushi Q. Then I backtracked. It’s a sushi stand in the style of pumping out maki rolls in clear containers and placing them in an open, refrigerated bin for you to fetch your own. I mulled between brown rice salmon and brown rice avocado until I saw the “Salmon Lover” combination of salmon-avocado maki (white rice) with two salmon nigiri that pumps up the price. It doesn’t hurt to try it once….
Alas, it was about as poor quality as my iPhone photo. The maki rice was cold and almost hard. The salmon was a few hours from truly tasting off.
Tamarind Indian Kitchen (BCE)
Vina told me about Tamarind so I made the trek to BCE following the PATH signs carefully. She really likes their chicken tikka (not fattening) and they seemed to give her favour and gave her extra on her combination. For my part, I was just a normal customer. Chicken tikka has no sauce so it does not float my boat and so like a normal customer, I got the butter chicken, incidentally the highest priced curry combination and tied with the chicken curry that also sounded good.
The butter chicken is so red in colour from a great amount of tomato used. I was a little worried about the pieces of cilantro that were chopped and throughout the sauce. However, it only lent a smoky flavour that was not offensive. The butter chicken was good, not too greasy, and chicken toed the line between mushy and of questionable quality and too white and too dry. Still, the place is overpriced even if it is on par with other Indian quick service restaurants.
deKEFIR (Bay Adelaide Centre)
I have to hike a little (relatively) to get to deKEFIR from my office but there’s nothing wrong with that!! Vina asked me if I had tried it because it’s a healthy yogurt but really pricey! Prepared for that, and having read their website, I went over. They gave me a sample of their frozen kefir which tastes quite a bit like the Pinkberry style of yogurt but more tart. It makes a nice snack and they have the usual fruit and granola toppings. The associate told me that the frozen kefir is sweetened so I was as little worried about the parfait which I had my heart set on.
To top my regular kefir yogurt, I selected their signature walnut-sesame and their holiday feature topping of ginger cookie (I got upsold) and she drizzled some honey over the top to sweet the otherwise plain yogurt. The yogurt was thinner than I thought it would be and kind of flowed around the toppings and that was okay because the regular is a very small cup and I enjoyed the toppings with a slight tart yogurt coating. I especially liked the essentially candied walnuts and the ginger cookies had a nice zing but were just a touch too sweet. I really don’t know if the fruit toppings would have worked for me in a parfait given it was so runny.
They have another offering that is a smoothie. The website recommends a most decadent sounding combination: fig and walnut smoothie. I can just imagine it with the candied walnuts but I didn’t see the figs laid out amongst the toppings.
The Cereal Bar (Commerce Court)
The Cereal Bar apparently appeared on Dragon’s Den and received a good response, well-received by the audience. In the Commerce Court food hall, it looks out of place, and seems less busy than the other (chain) quick service restaurants.
There are just three choices: cold cereal, hot cereal (oatmeal), and parfaits. As much as I wanted to have a cereal in honour, the run-of-the-mill cereals like Raisin Bran, Corn Flakes, and Vector did not entice me. I could have gotten cereal in a parfait but still went with the “value-added” granola and it turned out I was going to be running around a bit running errands before I could sit down to it.
As usual, it interests me when I get to design my own and watched the associate as he squeezed blueberry Astro yogurt into the bottom of the cup and layered it with pumpkin granola. I had a choice of three toppings which I selected strawberry and peaches (canned, of course), and clodhoppers for a dessert feel. It was a hearty but light lunch. I ordered the large which is $4.95.
The Soup Nutsy (TD Tower)
While Vina’s office sits above one of the food courts, it’s hard to say which restaurants are “mine”. There are three shops at the base of the escalators I take including good ole Bagel Stop, la prep Fresh Food, and The Soup Nutsy. At least there’s Soup Nutsy. Perhaps you can even ascribe the Duke of Devon to my building, where I had lunch my first day. They have good fish & chips and you can get a modest half-order.
Soup Nutsy is nuts! In that their queue for food between 12 and 1 is extremely long although it moves fast enough. That’s why it is prudent to check their website and figure out which one you want, read up on the ingredients. Otherwise you will get confused by the acronyms following each soup describing soups as Cream (C), No Cream (NC), Dairy-Free (DF), Spicy (S), Low Fat (LF), No Fat (NF) and a few other descriptors. I keep changing my mind at the last minute upon peering into the open cauldrons of soup and I surely won’t hold up the line to ask for a sampler!
On my first visit, I tried their Caribbean chicken stew and did not enjoy the presence of sweet potatoes. One small soup is an $8 meal but does come with a big slice of bread and your choice of a piece of fruit or pre-cut vegetables. Soups are grouped into Seafood, Vegetable, Meat, and Chilled categories, each priced differently. On my second visit, to be “defiant”, I went for the combo which is one price regardless of the soup you pick. My combo consisted of my soup and a blue cheese and fruit salad that came with balsamic vinaigrette–it was indulgent. And I was going to order West Africa Sengalese Peanut Chicken soup before seeing how thick it looked and I switched to what I imagine to be a perennial favourite: Sherried Beef Stroganoff with Green Peas. Lovely creamy with tender pasta ribbons and melting pieces of beef.
Then I was back the next day to get a rice bowl. I checked the daily soup selection online and thought I might try the Jamaican crab bisque. Since there was no one in line, I asked for a sample and tried it. It was rich and a little spicy and it was thin which is better than something creamy. But did I want a whole bowl of that? The associate-in-training scooped what I determined upon taste to be brown rice into the medium bowl and as he was about to ladle in soup, I told him I changed my mind to the sherried lobster bisque. Yes, another sherry infused soup. I guess… and no regrets. It was full of ingredients like lobster and green and red peppers and just the right thickness that it looked lumpy but was not choking. I agreed to the loyalty card which will sit firmly in my desk drawer. No need to blow all my money at Soup Nutsy although it’s so tempting….
Brick Street Bakery (First Canadian Place)
I could smell the pies from a distance in the otherwise neutral-smelling PATH and stepped into the big bakery space. I love being able to look around in a bakery and select items a la carte. When I looked at the dessert case and saw the lemon tarts, why did they look so familiar? Because just the the day before, I was in the Distillery District where there was another Brick Street Bakery location. They seemed to be out of pie in the Distillery District so I didn’t order anything. All three pies, shepard’s pie, steak and potatoes, and tarragon chicken, were available. I could try all three, they sound so tasty, but I went with the chicken tarragon which was really good. The crust was hearty and it was a good size pie for just $6.
Four (Commerce Court)
To wrap this PATH dining post (which probably won’t be the only one!), Vina and I went for after-work drinks after I was in the job almost three weeks and she just four weeks. Yay–celebrate! We went to Four which is halfway between our buildings and advertises $4.44 1-oz. cocktails after 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and you can order three appetizers for $25 (or five for $40). Sounds like a screaming deal and fun way to try out the place!
Four is on OpenTable.com so I could get another 100 points making a reservation the same day and at 5:30, the place was swinging with all their tables full and people standing near the bar and mingling with colleagues or new friends. We kicked off with a Red Lotus each, a lychee cocktail with vodka, SoHo lichee liqueur and mix. Lip-smackingly yummy. And since we anticipated the feast, we saved our appetites and not-so-coincidentally ordered the three highest-priced appetizers to make up our trio.
We ordered the crab and corn cake. It almost looked disappointing that there was just one cake but it was thick and split well. There was a hint of cilantro but it wasn’t so strong and it was a nice bit of crab. The mango and jicama slaw was really nice and refreshing.
We also ordered mini bison burgers which came topped with avocado and monterey jack cheese. The cheese I could taste and the bison was tender. It was perfect to have two mini burgers. Our third appetizer was the mezze plate with lamb skewers, tzatiki, and pita to build your own pita. The lamb was a bit underdone and too chewy for our liking.
For round two, Vina went for a 2-oz. White Pear Cosmo while I tried another 1-oz. cocktail, the Bloody Maria. A really fun evening and we’ll try really hard to do this once a month and try other places!