Chefs at Palace of Dosas work under the ahimsa theme of non-violence to the environment, other beings, and themselves when they fill their menu with vegetarian and vegan Southern Indian cuisine. They spread crepe batter over griddles to craft bases for their 20 different varieties of dosas. The long, thin paper dosas and the butter sada dosas are as rich as a millionaire or someone who got in on the ground floor of the industry that writes about millionaires. They also prepare utthappam, Indian-style pizza with rice and lentil-flour bases and onion and pea toppings. Yogurt-based mango lassis and madras coffee add to the comfort imparted by cushioned booths and a plant-rich dining room.
You step into the windowless waiting area, a preserved 1970s lounge. You order your dishes, and find your server?who you soon discover is blind. He'll ask you to place your hand on his shoulder, and you follow him into the dimming light until everything goes black.
O.Noir is perhaps one of the only restaurants where you wouldn't notice a power failure. The dining space is kept in total darkness so that diners ignore the appearance of their food and instead grow attuned to its subtle tastes and textures. And yet this dining experience also serves another purpose?to help you get a taste of what it's like to live without sight.
Who They Are
When blind pastor Jorge Spielmann invited guests to dinner at his Zurich home, he would blindfold them?letting them share his dining experience and introducing them to his sightless world. In 1999, he turned this unique custom into a full-scale experiment with Blind Cow, a combination restaurant and social-justice project that provides jobs to the blind and teaches others about the world of the visually impaired. Over the next decade, his idea sparked a new culinary trend on an international scale.
Moe Alameddine brought the sightless dining concept to Canada when he opened the first O.Noir in 2006 in Montreal and then a second one in Toronto in 2009. In 2011, the restaurant was transferred to a new owner, chemical-engineer-turned-entrepreneur Dr. J. R. Feng, who further transformed the rooms of a dark basement and former retro bar into a sensory dining venue. O.Noir Toronto has since partnered with Canadian National Institute for the Blind and other community organizations to provide the visually impaired with mainstream job skills.
Though they come from a variety of culinary traditions, the shepherd's pie, BLT, and barbecue plates at Sadie's Diner have one thing in common: there's no meat. The cooks have adapted a menu of comfort food staples—typically meaty ones, at that—to fit vegetarian and vegan diets. Free-range eggs, organic milk and cream, and rennet-free cheese share the kitchen with their dairy-free counterparts, including soy ice cream and vegan cheese, allowing the staff to whip up many of their dishes without any animal products. Although this strict attention to meat-free cooking may seem unexpected at a down-home diner, Sadie's all-day breakfast is a nod toward tradition. Long after the moon has flapped its wings and risen into the sky, servers continue to ferry plates of huevos rancheros, tofu scrambles, and buckwheat pancakes.
Diners savour these creations alongside fair-trade, organic coffee, freshly squeezed juice, and healthy smoothies. Flaxseed supplements and protein powder augment juices made with apples and grapefruit or more exotic ingredients, such as beets and pears. Cane-sugar-sweetened Boylan vintage pop and gluten-free chocolate cake complements meals with a sweet note.
Right down to the flatware that lifts each carefully executed bite to the mouths of 10 or 1,000 guests, Treeline Catering provides its clients with everything needed to throw the perfect event––whether it's a wedding, gala, or small informal get-together. Evidenced by an impressive roster of corporate clients, the team of chefs, servers, and event coordinators at Treeline have the chops for entertaining––and feeding––big crowds. From passed hor d'oeuvres to beautifully plated entrees or a simple breakfast, menus can be customized to meet a wide range of budgets and appetites.
Guests descend a short staircase to enter Matagali Restaurant, an eatery whose hanging lights and dark, gleaming ceiling create the subdued ambience of an underground lounge. In the kitchen, cooks prepare both Indian and Thai cuisine. They stir-fry slices of lamb with thai basil leaves in oyster sauce, fry housemade paneer cheese to serve with mint chutney, and bake stuffed kulcha breads in a clay tandoor. They also prepare what the Globe and Mail describes as "a splendid butter chicken” that “is tender and moist, surrounded by a sinful bath of creamy sauce jazzed with sweet spices." Meat-free offerings such as tofu stir-fry keep vegetarians from feeding solely on sunlight.
At Govinda's Toronto location, patrons savor sumptuous vegetarian and vegan cuisine in a historic downtown building. Platters are served in a dining hall with marble floors, crimson draperies, small two-person tables, and large round tables that accommodate groups of people who would otherwise have to sit stacked on top of each other. Yet despite its elegant setting, Now Magazine called the restaurant "The least pretentious and perhaps most inexpensive eatery in Yorkville." Throughout the lunch and dinner hours, cooks replenish the offerings with dishes such as dahl, crisp salads, and rich curries, as well as pillowy roti and puri breads to sop up tasty sauces.