We were racking our brains about what to do last Saturday evening. While we support the principles embodied in this event, we also recognized its ultimate futility. The amount of carbon expended in promoting this event likely exceeded any savings (e.g., most of the Saturday Toronto Star). Now it's over. What next?
Anyway, we needed a place to have dinner, but driving to a restaurant seemed an almost hostile act. Walking along Queen St, we spied a solution. Cafe Vert, a "green" - oriented restaurant, was having an Earth Hour event, a $35 prix fixe. Even better, they were contributing 20% of sales to the Toronto Environmental Alliance. Sold.
We arrived for our 8:00 reservation to find our table ready. The (tiny) place filled up while we were there. The dining room was completely candlelit, which was a lovely effect. Unfortunately, the bright floodlights from the used car lot across the street intruded. They also had candles along the stairs to the second floor, which were pretty, but which could have become tragic had someone tripped and overturned a candle. This is not a modern building. Are candles an ecological advantage over electricity? Petroleum candles with lead impregnated wicks? I wonder....
Service was slow, though not unbearably so. The food was all interesting, though not everything was fabulous. The menu consisted of a salad, a soup, and an appetizer, followed by a choice among six entrees and two desserts.
The salad course was described as minted zucchini coconut salad. The zucchini was shredded like cole slaw. The mint didn't come through, though the coconut was noticeable. It was served slightly warm (which may not have been intended), and was very nice, indeed.
Next came roasted sweet pepper pumpkin soup, a smooth and fresh tasting puree
The appetizer was hummus with toasted pita. It was a long time arriving and I'd rate it a 7 out of 10. While okay as far as it went, it could have used more oomph (garlic, lemon, tahini, etc). Before we could finish, our server swept in with our mains. Without asking, and before we could stop her, our hummus was gone, less than half eaten.
Cafe Vert is a very veggie friendly place. There were three vegetarian mains plus seafood, chicken, and beef dishes. It turned out that at least five of the six plates had essentially the same vegetable melange as their base, differing only in their protein ingredient and their spicing/saucing. The protein ingredients were, essentially, garnishes.
We had the fig-chicken skewer in lemony hazelnut sauce and the pomegranate peppercorn beef tenderloin. Both were good, though very different from what we expected. The chicken dish had some chicken morsels, in a nutty, lemony sauce, mixed with the veggies. The figs weren't discernible. The beef had a similar quantity of beef morsels. The beef was tasty and of good quality. There was no real hint of the peppercorns and the pomegranate, while very visible, added only a slight background accent. The beef was better than the chicken, but the chicken was much more interestingly sauced.
Dessert was a choice of "vanilla rose pudding" or "orange flower creme brule". Both of these desserts were weird. The pudding was lumpy and did not taste of either vanilla or rose. The brule had a very thick sugar crust. It was both extremely sweet and not really good enough to eat.
The house organic wines by the glass were okay. The white was much better than the red, but both went well with the food. Nonetheless, we would not order the red (name forgotten) again.
Service was slow and extremely casual (the nature of the place). Except for the hummus incident, it was fine. Unexpected was a performance by a belly dancer. It was certainly incongruous, but it was fun. She targeted her dance to a toddler at one table, who was positively bewitched.
Tap water was served with pomegranate seeds in the glass. We were not offered coffee, but likely would have declined. We were both full, and the leftovers from our mains made a great vegetable garnish with Sunday's dinner.
While this review seems, on reading, lukewarm, we did enjoy ourselves. One unexpected aspect of the meal was that everything (except for the actual beef and chicken pieces) seemed to be vegan. This may have accounted for the odd tasting desserts. If these contained any kind of milk ingredient, I'd be very surprised. However, it seems equally odd that they didn't mention what would have been a major selling point for an under served dining market.