Baladi Mediterranean Cafe
A cozy, charming fine dining restaurant with lots of vegan and gluten-free options. It was such a wonderful experience that I know we are going to talk about this place for many years. The food is fresh, organic, seasonal, healthy (cold-pressed unfiltered canola and olive oil; turbinado sugar and clover honey), delicious, and beautifully presented. 40% of their ingredients (e.g. tahini, spices) are imported from the Middle East. The vegan wine comes from Mendoza, Argentina. Every Wednesday is vegan night. We started with a sample platter of hummus, spicy-jalapeno-cilantro hummus, baba ganoush, crispy falafels, tahini sauce, hand-rolled grape leaves (stuffed with chickpeas, brown rice, and tomatoes), parsley tabbouleh topped with almonds, and muhammara served with home-made pita bread. Everything was so delicious and unique in taste. Muhammara is a roasted red pepper dip with walnuts, pistachios, and pomegranate molasses. It was my first time eating it and I absolutely loved it. So happy we got to try it.
Next we enjoyed Moussaka (11 USD). Roasted eggplants over Moroccan couscous. Topped with chickpeas, tomatoes with a hint of cinnamon and cloves in an onion and garlic sauce, garnished with toasted pine nuts. And we were served a grilled, red lentil and quinoa patty over grilled bell pepper, onions, zucchini, and roasted eggplant puree (12 USD). The portions were generous.
We were already full after the sample platter. But our waiter was adamant that we should also try all their vegan deserts. He brought us one of each. First, a homemade baklava with almonds, cardamom, rose-water syrup, and vegan butter. It has 75% less butter than the traditional baklava. Second, halawa. A ground sesame seed, whole pistachio confection with a crumbly, rich texture that melts in the mouth. Served with a drizzle of chocolate and crushed pistachios. Last, Mammal. A pastry made from semolina flour filled with dates and topped with powered sugar. The mammal was my favourite. It was served with a Turkish coffee that had a hint of cardamom.
Our waiter was excellent at describing the menu. He refilled our cups with a delicious herbal tea (sage, fennel, rose paddles, camomile, anise, and lavender) every time before the cup was empty. At the end we could wash our hands with rose water. We had outstanding, fast, and professional service.
Our first impression was we felt like we were in a Middle Eastern Chipotle. You can choose a pita, wrap, or a bowl and then choose your filling. We learned that the quality is higher than Chipotle but with the same quick service. The falafel is crispy on the outside and fluffy-soft on the inside. Not greasy at all. Inside our wrap we had hummus, fried eggplants, tomatoes, cabbage, and a delicious tahini sauce. It was good, flavorful, and filling. The restaurant prepares everything fresh each day. When we arrived the owner, Avi Eli, who is originally from Israel, took us to the kitchen and let us prepare the falafel. I liked his spontaneity and honesty. A very sympathetic guy.
Fruitive (100% vegan)
Most of the ingredients at Fruitive are organic, seasonal, and the food is nicely created and loaded with lots of superfoods (e.g. avocados, broccoli, almonds, kale, chia seeds). A lot is made from scratch. They do not use added sugar. The staff is very helpful with recommendations and the service is quick. We went to Fruitive for breakfast. We had the ‘Pro’ Superberry bowl. A smoothie with cashew milk, pitaya, blueberries, strawberries, kale, avocado, spinach, dates, and vanilla extract topped with granola, banana, seasonal berries, almond butter, and hemp seeds (14.95 USD).
Further we decided for the ‘Avo portobello panini’. A flax and spelt bread with balsamic portobello mushrooms, avocado, caramelized onions, spinach, basil pesto mayo, and a very delicious cashew cheese (10.95 USD).
I am so happy that we could taste the ‘Early riser breakfast wrap’ as well. The whole wheat tortilla was filled with quinoa, black beans, corn, pulled portobello mushrooms, spinach, caramelized onions, red pepper, tomato, bragg seasoning, mayo, and again this delicious cashew cheese (12.95 USD). My absolute favourite. The wrap was so juicy and the most filling. A great way to start the day!