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“Sort out the service issues and you've got a winner on your hands”
Review of Grasslands - CLOSED

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Restaurant details
Good for: Local cuisine
Dining options: Dinner, Breakfast, Reservations
Neighborhood: Queen Street and West Queen West
Reviewed April 12, 2012

A Toronto-based friend introduced me to Fressen. As a fellow vegetarian he kew that I would appreciate the joy of being able to linger over a menu rather than just spot the token veggie ‘choice’. Our non-veggie colleague was more concerned but was eventually impressed.

The initial impression was of a very warm restaurant! However, the staff turned the heat down as soon as we asked. A choice of beers helped us to enjoy the process of choosing from an extensive list of cold tapas, appetisers, starters and mains. The ambience helped – the place has a relaxed and modern vibe with elegant lighting and a distinctly upmarket feel.

In the end we chose polenta ($9); sweet potato soup ($6) and beet & mandarin orange salad with balsamic vinegar and herbs ($6). The soup, which was the special of the day was, according to my friend, outstanding. The polenta was suitably comforting and served as three shapes, a circle, a square and a triangle with a herbed tomato sauce, sauteed shiitake mushrooms, spinach and a reduced balsamic glaze.

For mains we went for the creamed corn rigatoni in a white wine and celery root cream sauce with mixed seasonal vegetables ($16); the grilled seitan (charred black bean wheat steak served with sauteed vegetables and grilled greens) ($16) and the Moroccan stew (stewed sweet potato, onion, carrots and chickpeas in a cumin infused tomato broth served with brown rice) ($16). We were happy with all three choices. The presence of Japanese radish (Daikon) intrigued my colleague who hadn’t seen it before.

So, an excellent choice for dinner – lots of choice from a very tempting menu. Well-cooked and inventive meals and with one flaw, very good service. The one flaw occurred when the mains were brought to us as we were three-quarters of the way through the starters. The server needed some convincing to return them to the kitchen – all very amateurish, really, which spoiled the otherwise professional service.

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
Thank Justin_Dillon
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (97)
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63 - 67 of 97 reviews

Reviewed February 24, 2012

Really good food but the service has to be the worst in the city. Really too bad because the restaurant has the potential to be great if only the FOH was together.

1  Thank jjjcccppcc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 19, 2011

It isn't often that you can find a vegan menu in an upscale restaurant. Finally a restaurant that recognizes vegan restaurants don't have to cater to the granola crowd. What a treat.

I went with two friends. One vegan, one vegetarian and one part time vegetarian.

The food was FANTASTIC. The service was excellent.

The sweet potato ginger soup was the best soup ever.

You must try this place!!!!!

Thank Lawgigal
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 4, 2011

The starter's were wonderful - full of flavor but the entrees were disappointing, chalky seitan and too many different veggies as an accompaniment which took away from the cohesion of the dishes. Every dish, regardless of its provenance, had the same mix of veggies - v. old school. An OK restuarant but could be better as it is one of the few vegetarian restaurants in Toronto.

Thank alcarternj
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 28, 2011

It was a get-together/welcoming home with friends on a cold Sunday night that the seven of us joined at Fressen for dinner. The restaurant was quiet when we started trickling in around 7:00pm but by the time we all arrived at 7:30pm the restaurant was almost full and buzzing with excitement.

Rounds of cocktails started for the whole table, and the first ones flew out of the bar and onto the table. Fresh juices and ample booze all around, but don't be surprised if your cocktail is more spartan than you're used to; no refined sugar and a focus on healthy and pure ingredients made the "grapefruit fizz" a little sparse on flavour but equally as refreshing. One diner outright hated her drink, but she's the picky one, so we drank it for her and had her order another; problem solved! From there we all moved to wines and beers to warm us up a little on the chilly night and were pleasantly surprised by the wines by the glass and the assortment of great local microbrews on tap.

Bread came to the table warm from the oven with our second round of drinks, and though some of us were surprised not to receive butter (vegan restaurant, duh!) or olive oil we were all pleasantly delighted by the moist, delicious herbed focaccias and olive breads. The bread was gone in an instant.

The table split an assortment of tapas as we contemplated our main orders; we avoided all the salads and such that would be hard to pass around and stuck to splitting orders of the basil hummus, the fava bean smash, the spicy red lentil balls, the marinated olive plate, the chickpea and avocado, and the babaganoush. Three tapas were $15 so the 6 came out to $30; not bad to start a table of 7 instead of ordering conventional apps. The table favourites were the fava bean smash and the spicy red lentil balls, but the spreads (hummus, babaganoush, etc.) were also delightful. It took some time to get another bread basket to have carbs to smear things on, but when another heaping basket of that delicious bread arrived we all pounced like hungry herbivores. No complains there, save for the timing on the second round of bread.

For mains the table was mostly split. The pasta special was a tomato farfalle arrabiata that two friends enjoyed and loved; perfectly spicy and delicious mouth-feel. The other five of us had the spelt linguine with pesto (myself included), the moroccan stew, or the grilled seitan. I tried both the seitan and the stew and was amazed by the wonderfully flavourful sauces of both, though the moroccan stew was the hands-down winner for a hearty, warming meal on a cold night. My spelt linguine with pesto was heavenly and VERY filling (I'm a carnivore and a big guy, and I eat like it most of the time) and the whole pitted olives were the only detriment being a little too salty for my taste after a round with the marinated olive plate at the beginning. Nonetheless, the asparagus and tomatoes were bursting with flavour and the pesto was light yet extremely rich in flavour; I was wowed that I could be so satisfied without an ounce of meat, cheese, butter, or eggs to bulk things up.

I enjoyed a bottle (yes, a bottle, don't judge me) of the Malivoire 2008 Chardonnay that, although perfect, was pricey at almost $50 for the bottle; it's $20 at the store, and a 150% premium is stiff to pay almost anywhere outside Manhattan or LA.

The downside to the delicious food was the wait; there were only two servers on that Sunday and they seemed at times both in cooperating and competition. The mains took 45 minutes to arrive after our appetizers were done. After the first round the drinks were slow coming out from the bar and orders to either of our servers were muddled or delayed. Table checks were infrequent at best, and empty plates and glasses stayed too long at the table after outliving their usefulness. However, both the servers - though harried - were congenial and lively and brought their enthusiasm (if not their A-game) to our table and indeed the whole restaurant. Mid-meal the place was packed and the conversation was flowing so we weren't too bothered; I'll chalk that up to a staffing problem rather than a continuing issue.

Finally desert came: there is one desert and it isn't on the menu, but it's there every night. The kitchen somehow manages to whip pure chocolate, avocado, whiskey, nuts, and magic together into a vegan ganache they call "flourless chocolate cake"; really it's a big truffle in the shape of a triangle surrounded by flawless fruit and drizzled with Raspberry sauce. If you're a chocolate fiend, order a large cup of coffee and dig in, but be sure to bring a friend - it's a lot to get through, and that's coming from a beast of a man like me!

All-in, the night was great. Maybe a better place for a table of two or four, and maybe a little easier on the timing during weekdays. The wine list is good and, though small, quite comprehensive. The food is outstanding and easily some of the best I've ever had (and I'm a regular at Manna in London and Hiltl in Zürich whenever possible) and the food prices are great. I wish the wine and cocktails were cheaper, but I understand they've got to make the big money somewhere. Will definitely return again for another romp through their superb vegan menu.

**Groups 6+ be advised there is a mandatory service charge of 17% on your bill that will be taxed as part of the subtotal with HST**

    • Value
    • Atmosphere
    • Service
    • Food
1  Thank Jmkyyz
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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