In search of plant-based food: Oliver and Bonacini review

Vegetarian/Vegan Resto Reviews

I decided to re-name my blog title to…”In search of plant-based food” instead of restaurants – because vegan restaurants are hard to find where I am. So, now I look for vegan menu items at ‘regular’ restaurants.

Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill (Bayview & Sheppard, Toronto location) (aka O & B) is not a vegan restaurant but does have a selection of vegetarian dishes, but you should double-check the ingredients with the waiter/waitress before ordering.

My in-laws treated our family for a Chinese New Year dinner back in Feb 2019 at Oliver & Bonacini Cafe Grill. It would have been too hectic at any Chinese restaurants, so we went for Italian-style food.

The main dinner menu online looked promising for me and my daughter, so by request, we went there. But unfortunately, I found out it was part of the Winterlicious festival with a set three-course meal (appetizer, main dish, and dessert). That meant that their entree menu was reduced significantly.

Overall rating:

Food: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)

Ambience/decor: 3.5 out of 5 stars

My fav dish: If I have to pick an item – it would be the mushroom soup (made with no cream and no butter).

I ordered the Spaghetti Pomorado entree (pictured above). O & B made no effort to add a unique ingredient like truffle mushroom to the spaghetti or decorate the plate. So no fancy ingredients or garnish at all. Basically, the pasta had tomato sauce and a bit of basil. I could easily have made the dish myself at home for a few dollars – but it cost $16.

My husband had the Schnitzel dish, but it did not look so great and he didn’t really like it, and my son had a curry lamb, which he did not really enjoy.

Loyalty rewards

Nada.

Feedback: I was disappointed when I tried to ask for a customized pizza to share with my meat-eating 5-year-old. They have Margarita pizza and pepperoni pizza- so I asked for half with just tomato sauce, basil and no cheese; and half with pepperoni and cheese. They could not do it for me.

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In search of plant-based restaurants: Freshii review

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Freshii is a franchise restaurant. It is not a vegan restaurant but does have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes without any meat or meat by-products. You should double-check the ingredients with the cashier before ordering.

Overall rating:

Food: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)

Ambience/decor: 3 out of 5 stars

My fav dish: I tried the new Sriracha Chili Bowl most recently. It didn’t look that appetizing but it was nice and spicy and very tasty. Chili and avocado is a nice mix!

Freshii locations

As Freshii is a franchise, you will see many locations pop up. Hopefully, you have one near you. www.freshii.com

Other products

Freshii has a lot of soup bowls, rice bowls, wraps, cold-pressed juices (can buy bottles from the fridge or do a 3-day or 5-day juice cleanse). You can customize most of the menu items the way you like. But word of warning, carefully review what you select for customizing. For example, adding tofu may cost $3, and adding other stuff has certain cost as well. So your wrap which may have started at $8 may end up being $13+!

I wrote about their 3-day cleanse in one of my first blogs:

Freshii’s 3-day cleanse blog

Loyalty rewards

You can download the Freshii APP and collect rewards. To date I earned $20 rewards – which I used excitedly. I learned that you cannot collect rewards if you order in the restaurant. So you only get rewards through the APP.

Use of APP for ordering

Some locations are not that organized. The online orders may be printed below the cash register, so the staff may not see it until you arrive. This happened to me two times when I was in a rush. I got frustrated and called them right away I ordered online to make sure they got my order.

Freshii is a great go-to for food on the go. I love hot veg comfort food, so still looking for local eats. Any good hot veg food places that you know of? Please let me know.


In search of plant-based restaurants: Wutai Vegetarian Restaurant review

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Wutai Vegetarian Restaurant located at 8425 Woodbine Avenue, Markham, Ontario. It is not a vegan restaurant but does have a wide selection of vegetarian dishes without any meat or meat by-products. You just need to double-check the ingredients with the waiter/waitress before ordering.

Overall rating:

Food: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Price: $$$-$$$$ out of $$$$$ (depends what you order)

Ambience/decor: 3 out of 5 stars

My fav dish: Lotus root and glutinous rice wrapped with tofu skin (appetizer pictured top centre)

I was finally able to line up the stars and meet my gal friends for a girls’ night out. Everyone is so busy all the time, so I thought I’d be spontaneous and see if they were all free this past Friday. I never tried this restaurant before, but one of my friends ate there a number of times and suggested we meet there.

Chinese food

If you love hot Chinese food, but don’t love the meat, you have to try it out. Typically, Chinese vegetarian food is “mock” meat made of tofu or beancurd. This does not jive with me. So, I was delighted when I saw an extensive menu of appetizing dishes at Wutai.

Other products

If you enjoy Chinese dim sum, they have a large menu selection of vegetarian dim sum during the lunch period. Dinner is a la carte only.

Loyalty rewards

None here.

I really enjoyed the food and will definitely go to satisfy my craving for Chinese dim sum – which I have probably missed the most since becoming vegan.

Worth checking out! Maybe I’ll see you there?


Sneak-preview: plant-based cookbook recipe

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Hey there!

I am a new Vegan (Day 12), so I need to get used to answering people’s questions/comments like “How can you not eat meat? I cannot.”, “Make sure you get enough protein”, “What can you eat?”, “Oh, you can just eat a little meat…once in a while.” I actually do not miss eating meat at all and love the challenge of making every meal as exciting, healthy and appetizing as possible. My mornings now start with a soy milk smoothie with kale, spinach, blueberries (and other fruit when available), coconut oil, hemp and chia seeds. Sometimes just for fun, I will add a teaspoon of cocoa powder to the mix. Yum!

This recipe is just a teaser from the plant-based cookbook that I am collaborating on with my daughter, Kelly (who I would say has basically been vegan for the past two years). Aiming to publish our plant-based cookbook mid to late 2019…hope you will all pick up a copy when it’s out!

All the recipes in our plant-based cookbook are super easy and fast to prepare and you can easily swap ingredients for anything that you have handy in your kitchen on any given day.  To save time and make life easier, there are some staples (such as lentils and frozen corn) that I would suggest that you stock regularly in your kitchen.

photo of portabello mushroom burger
Spicy lentil rice portobello mushroom burger

Makes 2 burgers

Prep time: about 15-20 minutes 

Cook time for mushroom caps and rice: about 20 minutes each

Ingredients

  • 4 portobello mushroom caps with stems removed
  • 1 cup of Arborio rice (or any type of stickier rice that you like) 
  • 1/4 cup of uncooked green lentils 
  • 1 tablespoon of chili spice and 1 tablespoon of black pepper (to sprinkle evenly on mushroom caps)
  • 4 tablespoons of cooked corn (frozen is handy, but you can use fresh corn kernels)
  • 6 lettuce leaves (or you can use a couple handfuls of mixed salad leaves for each burger)
  • Red onions, finely sliced, to garnish (can use a sharp knife or mandolin to slice onions)
  • Sweet chili sauce (use your favourite store bought sauce for convenience, or you can make your own -recipe will be included in our cookbook)

Step 1

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees Celsius. If you have a small countertop oven, I would suggest that you use it.
  • Cut off the stem on your mushrooms and gently wash.  Pat dry with a paper towel.
  • Put 4 mushrooms (top of mushroom facing upwards) on a metal tray or oven-safe plate.
  • Sprinkle chili and black pepper evenly on the mushrooms.
  • Put in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. 
  • When cooked, remove from oven and let sit.  

Step 2

After you put the mushrooms in the oven, wash the rice. Then add lentils.  Lentils like to float so add them last (directly into the uncooked rice).  Cook rice in accordance with the instructions on the packaging.  After rice (with lentils) is cooked, open the lid and let cool.

Step 3

Remove one mushroom cap from the oven and arrange on a plate.  Add lettuce on top.  Using a flat bottom small bowl, press the cooked rice with lentils into it.  This will make the ‘rice patty’. Then directly on top of the lettuce, flip the bowl upside down (and shake gently if needed to remove the rice). 

Step 4

Add 2 tablespoons of corn kernels on top of the rice.

Step 5

Add amount of desired onions on top.

Step 6

Add sweet thai chili sauce on top.

Step 7

Put second mushroom cap on top. And Tah Dah – your burger is ready!

Step 8

Repeat for second burger

Step 9 

Enjoy!

Sides

Burger goes great with a side of soup or homemade baked fries.