“Toronto’s Best” – Fressen
Right. So before I was confined to my bed with fever relapse number two, my sister and I were on a restaurant warpath. More like, she insisted on taking me out, and I’m too weak (and way too willing) to argue otherwise.
After our morning of french toasted pastries and pie, we decided it was time for more vegetables in our life.
Fressen is easily Toronto’s most popular vegetarian/vegan restaurant. So much so that VegNews Magazine named it one of the 14 hippest vegetarian eateries in North America. This is probably why I’ve ignored it for so long in lieu of smaller, less-hip eateries. But when my big sis said it was a Toronto experience I must have, I knew she was right.
The inside decor was not the usual patched-up hippy look you get in most vegetarian restaurants. But rather big, warm, and earthy. We both loved the set up.
Most importantly, the menu was chock full of things to tempt us. Tempeh fish and taro chips, eggplant pizza tart, avocado and spinach blinis, cornmeal crusted oyster mushrooms, root vegetable and beet borsht.
Sister Sara needed a drink to clear her head.
We finally decided on splitting two appetizers and a main in order to get a variety of tastes.
Eggplant Manacotti: Creamed tofu, sundried tomato, and pesto rolled in a wafer thin slice of seared eggplant with a tomato herb puree.
At the time I didn’t think this was much to write home about. I mean, delicious, but nothing mind blowing. Looking back, I realize it’s pretty darn amazing that they were able to make tofu taste just like ricotta. And the tomato sauce was incredibly fresh and flavourful.
Polenta: Seared cornmeal polenta on herbed tomato sauce with sautéed shittakes, spinach and a reduced balsamic glaze.
Sara and I both loved this one. Polenta isn’t a very popular dish around these parts, so it’s always a special treat when we get to have it. The balsamic added a neat flavour element to an otherwise traditional taste.
And of course, there’s the bread. But not just any ole’ bread. A spicy bread. Red pepper? Jalepeno? Who knows, but it was perfect for sopping up that fresh tomato sauce with.
Finally, the star of the show. Sara and I didn’t have much difficulty deciding over a main dish to split. Our eyes immediately shot to this one and our bellies rumbled in approval.
Moroccan Stew: Stewed sweet potato, onion, carrots and chickpeas in a cumin infused tomato broth.
Such a simple description for such a lovely dish! First, it was thick and chunky, the best way to have a stew. The grains plumped it up to make it even more hearty and filling. But the best part were the spices. Ohmy. Just spicy enough to make my nose run a little, but still allowed me to take in the flavours of all the other ingredients.
Apart from the hearty grains, big hunks of sweet potato and chickpeas were also sugar snap peas and olives. Two ingredients I’ve never thought of adding to a stew and surprisingly enhanced the whole experience.
I never talk about service much when I do restaurant reviews. This is because I tend to get good service wherever I go thanks to my big camera. The waitress here was super sweet and a Jill Barber fan, which gets her extra points. However we had to turn down her dessert offer. We did have dessert two times already on Sunday.
But that still didn’t stop Sara and I from cracking open these fair trade bonbons.
It’s at times like these you can really tell we’re related ;)