Fake Butter Chicken at TVX: The Vegan Extremist

The Vegan ExtremistLocation: 291 Augusta Avenue, Toronto
Website: https://www.facebook.com/TheVeganExtremist/

Is it still butter chicken if it doesn’t have butter or chicken?  That’s the question at TVX, a vegan joint in Kensington Market that serves what it calls “plant-based South Asian cuisine.”

Mostly, they serve a variety of vegan curries that come with rice and paratha roti.  One of those curries is the aforementioned butter-and-chickenless butter chicken, which subs in fried cauliflower for chicken.

The Vegan Extremist

So is it still butter chicken?  Not really.  But is it tasty?  Definitely.

It doesn’t taste quite like any butter chicken I’ve had before — the sauce is tangier and less creamy — but for what it is, it’s quite good.  It’s garlicky, very spicy (you can choose your heat level — I went with the spiciest, and it wasn’t kidding around) and surprisingly satisfying.

The Vegan Extremist

The fried cauliflower works really well — it’s battered and fried, with a nice crunchy exterior and a meaty interior.  It doesn’t even vaguely resemble the chicken in a traditional butter chicken, but the hearty crunch stands up nicely to the sauce, and it’s delicious regardless.

The paratha roti was also untraditional but tasty.  It’s thicker and more substantial than any paratha roti I’ve had before, but it still had that satisfying combo of crispy, greasy exterior and chewy interior that you’re looking for.

Nine Layer Burrito at Fresh

FreshLocation: 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Toronto
Website: https://freshplantpowered.com/

Fresh, a chain that specializes in vegan eats, is fine.  I recently had their “burger” and thought it was fine (though it obviously bore no resemblance to an actual hamburger).  I just tried the Nine Layer Burrito, and yeah — it’s fine.

It’s definitely crammed with a lot of stuff: “mushroom & artichoke chorizo, marinated black beans, pico de gallo, cashew queso, jalapeno crema, avocado, shredded lettuce, brown rice, pickled jalapenos.”

Fresh

It’s…  fine.  It’s not as good as a burrito from any decent burrito place, but if you find yourself at Fresh, I’m sure you could do worse.

There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there, and it tastes like there’s a whole bunch of stuff in there.  It doesn’t have a ton of cohesion, but it’s tasty enough for what it is.

I was kinda curious about the  faux “chorizo”, but of course, it’s hard to pick out any one element with all of the flavours that are going on here.  So I tried some on its own; it basically just tastes like funky pureed mushrooms, with absolutely no resemblance to chorizo.

Fresh

The only element of the burrito I found overtly unappealing was the whole wheat tortilla.  I like whole wheat bread as much as the next guy, but it’s just wrong on a burrito.  It calls attention to itself and tastes off.

I also tried the salad with house vinaigrette.  The vinaigrette seemed like it might have been okay, but it was applied so sparingly you could barely taste it.  The “salad” basically tasted like undressed greens.

Surprisingly Tasty Vegan Cinnamon Rolls at Cinnaholic

CinnaholicLocation: 319 Danforth Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.cinnaholic.ca/

The cinnamon roll from Cinnaholic is shockingly good.  Not that it’s the best cinnamon roll I’ve ever had, but it’s vegan.  You’re bracing for the worst when you hear that a traditionally dairy-heavy dessert has been made vegan.  How could that possibly end well?

Cinnaholic, somehow, pulls it off.

Cinnaholic

It’s an interesting set-up; they have a few dozen different frosting and topping choices (if there’s a dessert topping you can think of, they probably offer it here).  I wanted to see what the deal was with the roll itself, so I went as simple as possible with the “Classic Old Skool Roll,” which is topped only with vanilla frosting.

Cinnaholic

I won’t lie: I was expecting it to be dense and dry and weird, but it was pleasantly light and fluffy, with a nice cinnamon flavour and a great level of sweetness.  It’s very, very sweet, but it’s not quite the throat-burning assault of sugar that you’ll get with something like Cinnabon.

The frosting is quite tasty, too — it’s rich and creamy, but also incredibly soft and light.  I have no idea how they achieve that texture without dairy (I’m assuming margarine is involved), but whatever it is, it tastes pretty darn good.

Cinnaholic

That’s the surprising thing about it.  Yes, it’s vegan, but it’s not good for a vegan dessert; it’s good, period.

Beyond Meat Burger at A&W

A&W - Beyond Meat BurgerLocation: 1130 Dundas Street East, Mississauga
Websitehttp://www.aw.ca/

A&W recently added a Beyond Meat burger to its menu; the company that makes these things calls them “the future of protein,” and word on the street is that it tastes surprisingly close to the real deal.

Veggie burgers that try to emulate actual beef are pretty much always disgusting (case in point: Doomie’s, a restaurant that actually specializes in vegan food but still manages to serve a vegan patty that tastes like pure, distilled sadness), so I was curious, but my expectations were about as low as it gets.

Well, maybe that helped, because the Beyond Meat burger?  Not terrible!

A&W - Beyond Meat Burger

I know, “not terrible” isn’t exactly high praise, but since I was expecting this to be an all-out disaster, I’m going to chalk that up as a win.

The biggest giveaway that this isn’t an actual hamburger is the texture — though it’s vaguely meaty, it’s also off-puttingly mushy.  But it wasn’t dry or rubbery, so it certainly could have been worse.

A&W - Beyond Meat Burger

(Yeah, I completely mangled the hamburger — it turns out wooden coffee stir-sticks are an absolutely horrible implement to cut a burger in half.  Lesson learned!)

The taste was a bit better than the texture.  It wasn’t beefy at all — but then the actual beef at most fast food joints doesn’t have a particularly beefy flavour.  The flavour is sort of generically meaty in a way that’s not great, but also not altogether unpleasant.  The burger is absolutely doused in ketchup, mustard, and mayo, which helps make it more palatable.

It probably isn’t going to fool anyone other than longtime vegetarians who have forgotten what a burger tastes like, and I don’t think I’d ever order it again, but I was still impressed at how non-gross it was.  I’d easily take it over the actual beef burgers at really bottom-of-the-barrel places like Hero Certified Burgers or Burger King.

Tasty Pies at General Assembly Pizza

General Assembly PizzaLocation: 331 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.gapizza.com/

After my horrifying Pizzeria Libretto experience, I wondered: am I being too picky?  Was Libretto actually not that bad?  Are my expectations just way too high?

Thank you, General Assembly Pizza, for letting me know that I’m not crazy.  Pizzeria Libretto was indeed terrible.  I am still capable of enjoying pizza.

General Assembly Pizza

They’re certainly not the best I’ve ever had, but the pizzas they’re serving here are all-around solid.

The first thing you notice is the even char on the crust; clearly, the temperature/time in the oven is just right.  Remember the disturbing photo of the colourless bottom of the slice from my Libretto post?  Here’s what the bottom of a slice of pizza should look like:

General Assembly Pizza

That’s not to say that the crust here was perfect.  I liked the subtle crispiness on its exterior, but it didn’t quite have the chewiness that you’re looking for, and it was a bit bland.  It wasn’t quite at the Wonder Bread level of Libretto’s crust, but it was definitely lacking.

The toppings do a pretty great job of hiding the crust’s shortcomings, however.  I tried three pizzas: Sweet Heat (tomato, mozzarella, hot salami, chili, honey, basil), Falco Sausage (tomato, parmesan, sausage, red onion, bread crumb, garlic, black pepper, chili flake, basil), and Garden Smash (tomato, squash eggplant mash, red onion, spring onion, garlic, sesame, basil).

General Assembly Pizza

All three were quite tasty, with a great sweet/salty contrast on the Sweet Heat, and a nice savoury punch on the Falco Sausage.  Even the Garden Smash — a cheeseless pizza, which I was deeply skeptical about — was fairly satisfying (though I still missed the cheese).

You can also kick things up with a nicely potent chili oil they have on the side.  I strongly recommend that you do this; it’s great.