Once upon a time there was Fressen, and it was okay, but then it closed at the end of last year and we were all lamenting the end of all vegan fine dining in Toronto. But before we could get too sad, Fressen’s owner, Stephan Gardener, promised that a new revived restaurant would replace it in a few months, and this week, Fressen was reborn, in a new incarnation. RIP Fressen, and welcome Grasslands!
We went on Day Two (03/28/2013) with a troupe of hungry vegans, and ready to try new and exciting things. On first glance it looked a lot like the old menu, but then there were several delightful differences. As promised there was a much more substantial cocktail menu, and a different dessert (though our server assured us more options were coming – as this was just the beginning.)
“Bar Snax,” has lots of fun and interesting treats like sliders, mezze plate (with kibbeh, tapenade, hummus, olives, etc), and even popcorn chicken (just to name a few.) It’s nice to know that they’re aiming to keep serving these items until 12 or 1 am.
I love what they’ve done with the interior, so many positive changes. The bar at the front, with a small lounge area, in addition to a large collection of dining tables. I think they keyword here is more – more open and spacious, more interior lighting, and more effective use of the space they have available. It’s especially nice to be able to see the magic going on in the kitchen from the upper seating area.
As before, options are labelled as wheat free (w), nut free(n), gluten free (g), but there is a new addition – buddhist (b). Lots of gluten free, nut free, wheat free options, but from what we could tell there was one Buddhist option.
We started with drinks, JC ordered an old fashioned, and I got a black forest martini, which sounded good, and looked pretty, but was a little too vodkariffic for my tastes.
There were a few appetizers to choose from, some new spins on old favourites, and some completely new options. JC and I shared a “Corn Soup for Two” (gluten free, wheat free, nut free)
We were really curious about the crispy oysters (gluten free, wheat free, nut free) so we ordered them. We got battered oyster mushrooms, with a sweet and sour sauce, and a spicy sriracha-like sauce for dipping.
Next JC got the Seitan Roast – full of gluten, garlic gai-lan, and maple mashed potatoes.
And I got something I really really liked – The Skewer, with roasted tofu, tempeh, potatoes, pineapple, onions, peppers, with a side of mashed sweet potato. I will order this again, but I’ll try not to on my next visit. grilled veggies
Most of our dining companions ordered the Crusted Chicken, and for what it’s worth, in the last 24-48 hours we’ve heard a lot of good things about it.
Finally, it was time for dessert, it was not the Chocolate Avocado Terrine that we got so accustomed to from previous Fressen visits, it was a whole new item – Cookies and Cream, and again, the server did say there would be more coming, but this was a nice treat. Three cookies, chocolate, chocolate chip, and oatmeal raisin, in a dark chocolate cashew mousse, There were candied walnuts and a few slices of fruit, and a massive fresh mint sprig.
I thought everything was tasty with beautiful presentation, but at the second day point, pretty much anything could happen in the future, so I wont make any further comments if we visit them again
Things to know/Issues:
We had a party of 7 people, so it appears they automatically add a gratuity to your bill. However, they don’t mention this on the menu… but they probably should (and we should obviously check our receipts more closely.) So JC ended up double tipping. Hopefully our server got a nice surprise.
I genuinely believe (or would like to) that since it was their second day, the server didn’t realize – and that it was something handled automatically by their iPad based ordering app/point of sale TouchBistro. Edit: Unfortunately, it ended up being an omission, but not one they weren’t aware of. After 6 people an automatic gratuity of 18% will be added. Keep that in mind so you don’t end up tipping 40% like we did.
In case you’re wondering… the tempeh is organic (it specifies that right on the menu), veggies are sourced from the Ontario Food Terminal, and are organic when possible.
As the View the Vibe announcement mentions the plan at Grasslands is to start slowly, first with dinner Wednesday to Sunday, 5:30 to 10 pm, and drinks with a bar menu to midnight or 1 am, and then expanding to a 7 days a week.
Menu is subject to change of course, and I imagine once they get a web presence up, it’ll be there, but here it is for your perusal.