Grasslands Toronto Canada
HANGER: the overwhelming anger one feels when hungry. (definition: my own.)
My sister and I are definite hanger sufferers. Our first stage of hanger is being sullen and withdrawn. The second is pushiness and anger. The third is nausea and anger.
To prevent hanger setting in when we have to go to events like weddings, we conspire together to get what we refer to as “pre-food food” before the event. As both of our husbands are keenly aware, hanger prevention is an important part in a happy marriage!
On this hanger prevention occasion, I’m attempting to have dinner with Adam, but several vegan places don’t do reservations.
Rather than turn into a pint-sized, pasty-skinned Hulkette with hanger, we ring ahead to Grasslands to check if they have space. Grasslands is a reputable, fine-dining vegan restaurant. And they do have space for us.
Inside Grasslands, the extensive bar and cute wooden stools and plump cushions are inviting. The wooden furniture and taupe and burnt orange and reds give the restaurant a warm feeling. Even the low-lighting has a golden glow.
It’s busy, but not uncomfortably so. There are several shrill, slightly tipsy patrons at a nearby table discussing their “vegan” friends. This leads us to the conclusion that the place not only attracts vegans and veggies, but also the trendy downtown office types.
The menu is full of pastas, risotto, and mock-meat, and would appeal to meat-eaters as well as plant-based foodies. This universal appeal does throw me at vegan restaurants. I am more of a tofu, tempeh, chickpeas, lentils, and beans sort of vegan.
With some assistance from our waiter, we order the deep-friend “oysters” (oyster mushrooms) and seitan bean sliders as appetizers. For mains/entrees, I choose the seitan “chicken” cutlet and Adam has the almond crusted tempeh.
When our starters arrive, Adam asks for ketchup. “I don’t think we have any.” I get the hint of a smirk from our waiter, both in his face and in his tone of voice. “Perhaps we do specially for the Sunday brunch.” I’m still under the influence of hanger. I can feel my hackles rising and try to calm down at the off-chance I’m imagining it. He returns promptly with ketchup, so all is forgiven.
The deep-fried “oysters” are crispy outside and tender inside. And their presentation is gorgeous, with their orange and ruby dipping sauces in concentric circles. But it’s the bean sliders that win our hearts. The moist mini burgers are moreish and we don’t leave a crumb on our plate.
The cutlet and tempeh are impressive pieces of architecture, balanced skilfully on the plate amongst the vegetables. I’m a little disappointed that there is no variation to the vegetables between the mains/entrees, but to be fair this is noted on the menu.
And the veggies are delicious – they impress me more than the cutlet itself. What looks like sweet potato is actually a mango puree, and the sweetness of this contrasts nicely with the spicey tomato salsa. The baby potatoes are crispy on the outside, fluffy inside, and seasoned perfectly.
The battered faux chicken cutlet is tasty, but probably a bit wasted on someone like me who isn’t fond of mock-meats. Though the texture is different to real chicken, my brain struggles reconciling the taste of it with non-meat food. Adam, however, loves the chicken. Later he says “I liked my meal, but what I really wanted was yours.” We should have swapped. I tried his almond-crusted tempeh and thought it was delicious.
Grasslands was an enjoyable experience. The ambience was warm, the décor was pleasant, and the food was tasty and aesthetically pleasing. I did, however, find myself wishing the menu had more plant-based and fresh options as well as mock meats, rice and pasta dishes.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, do you enjoy the mock-meats? Or maybe as a meat-eater, you like them as an option in vegetarian restauants?
Location: 478 Queen Street West, Toronto, Canada.
Cost: Approximately $90, plus tip.
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