A First Taste of Grasslands Restaurant Toronto – Vegan Fine Dining is back
Read my updated review here.
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.
478 Queen Street West, Toronto, ON
Website | Facebook
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.
I saw that they reopened last night on instagram. Everything looks good, although not as different as I was expecting. Except that mini bathtub of yellow liquid. That doesn’t look good at all.
Hah. I didn’t see it as a bathtub of soup before, but now that’s all I can see.
It was actually pretty good – but can’t compete with the tastiness of One Love corn soup.
I think the biggest change is their bar menu – in terms of both food and the cocktails they’re offering.
Thanks for the review!
I’m a server at Grasslands (the only, old returnee from the golden days of Fressen). I just want to add a little comment regarding the auto-grat of 18%, it is true that our Touch Bistro System does include it automatically on parties of 6 or more. We are absolutely going to mention this to our visiting parties in the future. The server who mistakenly forgot has been advised to keep it in mind. Also, we did offer a refund on the extra tip left by one of the party members who noticed after the fact and contacted us.
We won’t let this be a problem in the future! We’re all working hard to make Grasslands the wonderful space we all hope it to be!
WORST DINNER EXPERIENCE EVER. Will save all the nasty things I want to say and only give you the facts of my dinner experience and let you draw your own conclusions.
#1 – Had dinner reservations for two for 8:30, arrived a few minutes early and was promptly seated. Good start. Only problem is our food did not arrive until 10:00PM – no apologies from the server. No check-ins in-between.
#2 – The menu makes you believe that their entrees are different but it is all the same dish with no attempt to even disguise it. I ordered the Crusted Chicken and my GF ordered the Mustard Crusted Tempeh. The menu said my dish is “…seitan cutlet, tumeric scented rice batter, braised vegetables, thyme roasted fingerling potato, garlicky asparagus and gui-lan.” Hers was “…seared organic tempeh, grainy organic dijon dredge, maple scented yam mash, seared seasonal vegetables, warm basil mango chutney.”
Our plates showed up and the first thing my gf said was that they looked identical and indeed they were. Our plates both had the following “…olive oil mash, warm basil chutney, scented yam mash, barely seared greasy vegetables, chive garnish and for some strange reason hers had asparagus and mine did not”. The only difference was that she got the crusted tempeh and I the crusted chicken. So essentially what they do here is serve you the same dish with items that are not even part of your item, switch the protein and call it a different thing. For a $19 entrée this is unacceptable.
Don’t believe me, look again at the two pictures of the skewer and seitan roast you just posted and tell me if they are not identical. Then go and read the menu descriptions and tell me if they read like they should look the same.
So I called the server to tell her that our dishes were not as described on the menu and why for example I had the mango chutney and was missing asparagus. Also my GF had chosen her dish because she did not want the olive oil and Yukon mash but here it was on both plates. We pointed out that the server had actually helped us choose our dishes because we were having a tough time deciding because every seemed so deliciously different and so why did they then serve us the same dish. he said something to the effect of “We have served all dishes this way but I can see what you mean and unfortunately that how we serve our food” My response to how they would deal with someone who for example was allergic to yams and now suddenly found yams on their plate was a blank stare.
I asked to speak to the owner and the server returned a few minutes later to tell me that he had said HE WAS TOO BUSY TO COME TALK TO US. So I asked if he would reconsider if I told them I was not going to pay and she responded that he had said to comp our meal. And then she left us.
So at about 10:30PM we decided to walk out and went off hungry.
If you are willing to be fooled by the two chive garnish on every main and believe you are having a fancy meal then go ahead and go on to Grasslands.
Hey Terry, sorry your experience wasn’t great that doesn’t sound like fun at all.
If you haven’t already, you might want to post this comment/review on Yelp or Google Local.
The meals all look delicious! I always appreciate a good tip on healthy dining. Grasslands seems like one of them. The Seitan Roast and the Cookies and Cream dessert sound tempting. And guilt-free!