Monday, April 23, 2007

Visiting Kensington Market

Although I have lived all my life approximately one hour west of Toronto, it is only in the last several months, have I taken the opportunity to become acquainted with the charming district known as Kensington Market.
If you have a chance, I would recommend spending a leisurely afternoon there, as I did recently with a friend. Arriving just around the noon hour, we visited San Korean restaurant on Queen Street for lunch, enjoying their Spicy Tofu, with small side dishes of kimchee, rice, and soya beans in sauce.
From there, we then made our way to Kensington Market, parked the car and just started walking. The area is several city blocks, enclosed on all four sides by four major streets: Bathurst, College, Spadina and Dundas.
Within this cube are small business' catering to every possible need: fresh fruit vendors, grocers, boutiques, restaurants, bars, cheese shops, coffee shops, and on and on!
If this isn't enough, just around the corner is Chinatown, running along Spadina. Lots of interesting nooks and crannies - shopping, eating and site seeing. If people watching (and listening for there are so many different languages to be heard) interests you, this has got to be one of the best areas there is.
There are so many sights, sounds and smells - it is amazing to me to be in the middle of this huge metropolis and be stopped dead in your tracks by the fragrance of beautiful little potted hyacinths for sale in a corner store's 'garden area'.
For the occasional glimpse of the CN Tower in between small three storey buildings, you tend to forget you are in this huge modern city with monolithic skyscrapers very close by. But out of sight, out of mind. My friend, who worked in Toronto and knew the area well, led the way effortlessly - I wasn't even aware of the time until, heading back to the car just before 7PM, I realized we had walked for the whole afternoon.
This area has many restaurants, but specifically, I would like to mention that the Toronto Vegetarian Association has their office on Baldwin near McCall (within walking distance of Kensington). I have put a link to their site where you will find a very handy 'vegetarian directory' of Toronto and other areas. Not only does this directory contain places to eat, but other related business' such as Left Feet. We stopped in to see their stock of 'vegan' shoes and apparel. Another stop was at the Hibiscus Eatery. Here we enjoyed some refreshments. The owner, Joseph Tam, is the head cook and bottle washer along with his assistant. I bought a sampling of his vegan baked goods and fresh salads. And were they ever delicious!! Of course, because cooking without eggs, milk and butter is still relatively new to me, I am duly impressed when I taste cookies that are wickedly decadent.
My friend, Sister T.Q. also recommended a restaurant called Bo De Duyen on Spadina (Chinatown). This place gets her thumbs up for good food and generous portions (and it is vegetarian as well).
I hope you are inspired to visit Kensington and Chinatown sometime soon.

** Other recommendations **
  • Affinity Vegetarian Restaurant, 87 John St. S. (905-529-2598) (fine dining)
  • Himalaya, 160 Centennial Pkwy. N., (905-578-7400) (casual, offers take out)
  • Stir It Up, 128 Dalhousie St., (519-752-3873) (casual, offers take out)
I have dined at all three places and can vouch for their tasty food and charming ambiance!

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Sister Tinh Quang said...

Another wonderful restaurant in that area is Buddha's Vegetarian Restaurant on Dundas, about one block east of Bathurst. The food is excellent, portions huge, decor very simple. If you can remember (Ching Kwok) Buddhist Temple (Chua Chanh Giac), that we passed on Bathurst Street, the restaurant is about a block away.

Compassionate Consumption said...

Thank you for that additional recommendation Sister!

Anonymous said...

I have also been to Buddha's and love the food there. The decor is not fancy and the setting is a little squished but it's great value for delicious vegetarian food (big portions!). I really liked Bo De Duyen, too. My grandma and I used to go there every time we were in the Chinatown area but I have since heard that it has shut down at that location and moved elsewhere (not sure where, though). Ashame, because it was affordable and delicious.
I have been meaning to try Himalaya - is it a completely vegetarian restaurant?

Compassionate Consumption said...

My apologies for the delay in responding. To answer your question, yes, I believe that the Himalaya is 100% vegetarian. Do you like Indian (spicy) food? I like spicy food but I always ask the server just in case it is 'blow your head off' spicy. Indian food can be really hot, but the antidote is to order one of their lovely lassi drinks (sort of like a shake). They always cool your mouth down if the heat is turned up to high!
I hope you get a chance to visit there soon.

Anonymous said...

Dear Prasad,

Thanks for your reply! I actually live not too far from Himalaya, so I see no reason why I shouldn't visit there soon! That's great it's 100% vegetarian. I do like Indian (spicy) food, although I probably can't take 'blow-your-head-off' spicy! I would say my favourite Indian snack food are samosas (I know, a pretty typical and boring answer), but I do love them. I am looking forward to trying some other dishes, though. I visited Phulkari (when it was still on Queenston Road) once, and although I had the curried fried rice I found their food to be a bit too salty for me (plus, it's not a completely vegetarian restaurant, either).
Are there any other good Indian restaurants with tasty vegetarian fare that you can recommend?


Compassionate Consumption said...

I've eaten at a few of the Indian restaurants in the Hamilton area. There is a really small little place in Jackson Square (opposite to Denninger's) - not all vegetarian but they do offer the option. Can't remember the name...Curry something. Not much room to sit, but the food is great, well-priced and I love chatting with the husband and wife who appear to be the chefs.
Another place I like is The India Village in Ancaster. It's a little more upscale, prices a little higher as well. But as with the other place I just mentioned, the vegetarian options are delicious and the people are just so friendly - they take the time to chat with you. I love this kind of service.
Also, near you (Queenston / Centennial) is a Thai (??) place; it is in the plaza where the Value Village is. That is also a pleasant spot - good food, lovely, peaceful atmosphere, reasonably priced. What more can you ask?
Happy to you again sometime.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your recommendations! I will definitely keep them in mind. I will have to try Himalaya sometime soon!

I know the Thai place you're talking about, but I'm not a fan of the food there. Before it used to be called Bali Thai, and in my opinion the quality of the food then was so much better. I have had a couple of dining experiences with the new owners operating it and have, unfortunately, found the food to be soggy and unappetizing. My favourite Thai restaurant is located in Burlington; it's called Thai Coconut restaurant, and it's located on Fairview Street. Not a huge number of vegetarian options, but I would go there anytime just to have a vegetarian pad thai - they are the best!

I used to go to the place where they sell samosas at the Farmer's Market.. they are pretty good there. My mom goes to a place in Mississauga to get the samosas we eat (although not sure what the name of the store is).

As well, if you're a fan of spring rolls I would recommend Pho Dau Bo's vegetarian spring rolls.. they are absolutely scrumptious. I like to dip them in Sriracha hot sauce. They are deep-fried, though, so it would probably be wise only to have them once in awhile.

Do you visit Subway at all? I used to go there all the time, but have encountered many unpleasant experiences there - mostly the staff not changing their gloves when I order a veggie sub and they have just finished making a sub with meat. I've also had a problem with the staff not changing their gloves after they've come into contact with money. Shame, because they do have really good sandwiches!

Compassionate Consumption said...

And thank you for your recommendations too! Next time I get into Burlington, I'll have to look for the Thai Coconut on Fairview.
Pho Dau Bo - is that the Vietnamese place on Cannon Street (next to the general store)? I haven't been in there for a couple of years now. About time I made a visit!
You have every right to be concerned about the hygiene of the workers at your local Subway. I have heard similar stories from other people about this issue in other fast food eateries. What those people did was call and speak to the manager to discuss what they had witnessed. Even better though would to strike while the iron is hot so to speak....mention to the server that you have noticed this happening. They have the option then to respond directly to you. Otherwise, you can also ask to speak to the manager. There could be a lot of conditions surrounding this - lack of education, lack of attention, and possibly just over-worked and pressured for time.
I don't eat at any fast food places anymore...well not exactly true. I do go to the mid-Eastern stores, where they make falafels or another place is a little grocery store on Concession. I'm not sure what their nationality is, but they serve ready to eat, little pastries with spinach and feta (not vegan, I know) and they are just delicious (and cheap!). Thanks for your comment.
I love the interaction - I learn so much from the visitors that leave comments.

Anonymous said...

Hi Prasad,

Yes, the Pho Dau Bo is on Cannon Street (with a cow head for the logo). They also have a second location now; it's where Phulkari on Queenston Road used to be.

And yes, I have made several complaints to Subway by emailing them. They told me they would have the Subway location "secret-shopped." The next time I went there they seemed to be doing things right, but then I started noticing that they weren't taking off their gloves after they had used them to dole out change for the customers. I complained again, and the overseer for our area told the owner to write me an email of apology, which he did (although it seemed very insincere and just seemed like a standard, "corporate" apology). I try not to go there too often now.

I enjoy Middle Eastern food, too. There's a little place near where I live, and it's called Wrap and Roll (right across the street from the Bay at Eastgate). They sell really great falafel wraps, although I haven't visited there in awhile.

I love the interaction, too. I love how you keep this blog - it is so informative and it's great to see that there are other people out there who are passionate about vegetarianism!

Compassionate Consumption said...

Words of encouragement....they have such a big impact and yet take so little effort. Thank you for yours. I am inspired anew. Let's just keep it going, being inspired, passing on encouragement - it all helps in the grand scheme.
Take care.