Do you fancy vegan cuisine and around the Kensington Market area at Toronto? If so, this is an awesome little place for you! Emphasis on the little because it is a pretty small space. From what I can recall there’s only about 9-10 tables. Worry not, you can order ahead and come over for pick up.
My friend and I ate right beside the giant window of the café. It was quite a beautiful sunny day so of course the sun lit up the whole café with ease. The whole place felt light, airy and simply quaint. They also had an awesome display at the front of the café behind the cashier. These shelves had an eclectic mix of vintage cameras, jars, rocks and candles. Aside from the charming and cozy ambience that the café had, they served great vegan dishes even meat lovers like myself would appreciate.
I had the pleasure of trying one of their savoury crepes with some vegan cheddar cheese, spinach, mango chutney, chopped pecans and poached pear. As you can imagine, I was quite hesitant tasting the ‘vegan cheddar’ considering I wouldn’t know exactly what the ‘cheese’ is made of, or whether you can qualify it as a cheese without the dairy aspect. Also, cheddar anything with some kind of chutney was definitely an odd mix. Initially thinking of the sharpness in cheddar cheese and how it may compliment sweet-spicy-tangy chutney? Well friends, all of the components got along together quite well. The vegan cheddar was not as sharp as I though it would be and it definitely had that oowy-goowy melted cheddar texture that blanketed the inner surface of the crepe. Although for me, the star of this dish was the mango chutney. It harmonized the components together as it has sweeter notes to compliment the pear, spicy notes to compliment the vegan cheddar and tangy notes to compliment the spinach. To give the crepe more body, I would suggest incorporating some avocado slices inside as well, instead of just using it as a garnish. I think avocadoes’ creamy texture would go well with the crunchy pecans and sooth the spiciness of the chutney.
In addition, I forgot to mention that this restaurant is gluten-free! They used a vegan buckwheat batter for the crepe itself. Of course it doesn’t taste like your regular crepe batter. In fact, the crepe had a distinct, yet subtle buckwheat flavour. So, what does buckwheat even taste like? It tastes like a deep nutty flavour; some may also say it has earthy accents. This taste accentuated the pecans well.
For dessert, they offer a variety of sweet crepes as well as some vegan ice cream. Now, I make this kind of a habit. I usually ask the wait staff taking my order to pick a dessert for me consciously knowing that he/she may order me the most expensive dessert. Fortunately, no one has done that to me yet. That being said, I did ask for our waiter to choose between the ice cream flavours for me. So, he decided to scoop me some of his favourites, almond butter chocolate chip and pistachio ice cream. Boy was I glad I let him do that! I was going to pick something completely out there like earl grey ice cream. Both were filled with pistachio pieces and almond pieces. I immediately understood why he said his favourite was the almond butter chocolate chip. It wasn’t too sweet like some regular chocolate ice cream. It tasted more like mild dark chocolate almond ice cream. The sweetness was coming from both the nuts and the chocolate. Meanwhile, this pistachio ice cream was not green! Ordinarily, every time I would get some pistachio ice cream it has a light creamy green colour. There’s did not. I would imagine that they used coconut milk/cream instead of regular milk/cream. And so, this kind of competed with the pistachio flavour, almost to the point that it balanced it out. Yet it was distinctly a pistachio ice cream because of the myriad of crushed pistachios found in every bite. So it literally tasted like I was eating some pistachio nuts instead of an ice cream.
Because this is a review, there are a couple of minor negative aspects. For instance, this place needs to expand. There’s just not enough room for diners, which was probably why they take orders for pick-up. Being in the heart of Kensington Market, I anticipate that their rent is a little high and so there needs to be some compromises made. I would suggest using the open space at the front of the restaurant for extra seating. Also, sturdier furniture would be appreciated. The ambience was great and all but it resembled more of a picnic indoors instead of a café. See, I’m not suggesting on buying uber expensive furniture, just something that doesn’t feel like it would easily fold or turnover with a heavy plate. I should also mention that their crepes are on the pricey side, about $10 or so per plate. But I think it is understandable with the ingredients that they chose to put in. Needless to say, the price may be a deterrent to some people.
Overall, it was a pleasurable experience. The service was pretty good and I would say that they have some daring flavour combinations. I would recommend this for people out and about looking for an awesome alternative lunch option.
P.S. Here is a sample of their menu online: http://hibiscuscafe.ca
The name of the restaurant tickled my interest. References suggested that the hibiscus flower had multiple meanings but is commonly symbolized for ‘delicate beauty’. I think that speaks volumes about the restaurant once you’ve experienced dining there! Check them out and tell me what you think! J