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Perhaps you've noticed that Drawn and Devoured tends to focus on very new restaurants. Well, I'm not a selfless creature. New things garner interest, tend to have fun twitter accounts, facebook, which is all good for me- the more people who find me and spread the word the better!
I think some amazing classics fall to the wayside due to my selection habits. Some restaurants, like Hibiscus, have been in Toronto much longer than I have (what is it, about six years now?). Though I've literally wanted to try Hibiscus for years, the stars and planets have never aligned just so to allow it. There was one time my friends and I were right at its door on Augusta Avenue, but a sad sign informed us that a family emergency would keep the vegan eatery closed for the day. Bummer! I hope everything on their end in that situation turned out for the best.
If you've been reading the blog for a while, you should remember Adelle, my favourite person to go explore the seedy underbelly of T.O.'s resto scene- and when I say seedy, I mean pumpkin, sunflower, sprouted and cracked. That's right, we're talking the HEALTHY stuff now! Adelle just came back from an adventure to Hawaii and Eugene (at a sustainability conference! Amazing!), so it was extra excellent to see her, catch up, and gush with all the projects we're both constantly wrapped up in.
You're reading this for the food, though, aren't you? Ok!
Hibiscus is, as I mentioned, a classic. It's been a long standing haunt for the healthy, vegetarian, and vegan. They are known for their buckwheat crepes and wholesome salads. We went on an ideal day as it was balmy and hot summer dress weather. The tables are polished, old wood, sun kissed. With all the natural wood details and age, the place feels homey. The large windows keep it bright and open. There's also a sunlit patio to sit at. So interred is Hibiscus in its digs that the planks under our feet waft wholesomeness, the smell of dry grains and earth. I like it, in my mind it is the ultimate 'health food store' smell- maybe not appealing to everyone, but it is to me.
There are fresh drinks to be had on this intense day. Not one for super sweet drinks and often disappointed with lemonade, I order theirs to see how it compares to others. 3$ buys a tall glassful, and to my pleasure the drink is tart, just mellowed out enough to keep me from sucking my cheeks in against the sourness.
Adelle orders iced Kombucha tea. I was worried I would only taste mushrooms and staleness. This kombucha is not comparable to others! It must be very fresh, and has a booziness to it. She explains to me that the tea is fermented at some point in its processing. Not unlike my lemonade it has a good tartness that helps deal with the heat- I wish I'd ordered it instead.
Even coming from a Dutch family where we would eat apple pannenkoek (like a crepe) regularly, I've never been a huge fan of stuffed crepes. I have a limit, yes I, to sweetness! These aren't your Queen West crepes, though; my understanding of buckwheat is that it's very grainy and robust, very unlike a white flour crepe. Then I read the description of a crepe with chutney, pecans, pears and spinach leaves (9$). I had also been recommended the crepes... I ordered it. The crepe was folded around one end, the other open to display a lovely fan of sliced and delicately cooked pears, layers of spinach and mock-chedar. I couldn't see the chutney until I cut in and forked a chunk. Then, lo, a bright orange splash of colour and flavour! What I tasted was a drizzle of honey over the still-crisp pear slices, and the thick diced mango chutney dashed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and other heady spices. To my surprise the mock cheese was pleasantly savoury, even stringy, though its texture gave it away otherwise. I had had my reservations. I do prefer the hearty buckwheat crepe with its crisp dry edges and extra chewy texture. To perfect the dish, the pecans gave a crunchy kick. No wonder Hibiscus is a classic.
For long before her vacation and explorations, Adelle had talked about the salads at Hibiscus, building them up with praise for their diversity. There's a rotating selection, changing with the chefs whims, favourites reoccurring regularly. I got a look at the big bowls on display. It's a lovely sight, beautiful crockery brimming with orange yam salad, maroon beans, punchy green broccoli heads. You can order an assorted salad bowl, which is exactly what she did. It comes in two sizes (6.70$ or 7.85$), but I think the small isn't enough for anyone with a real appetite. There was a dozen different salads and toppings as well, all served with a raw cracker stuck in the side. Raw crackers fascinate me. Created with a blend of grains and nut pulp (usually, but not always), they're dehydrated for hours until the texture becomes not crisp, but chewy and dry. This one is thin and delicate, its flavour of a mix of whole grains offset by what I thought was black strap molasses.
In the bowl were sweet potato cubes (solid, plain), cold quinoa (fluffy and light, slightly oiled with dried cranberries adding sweetness to offset the natural nuttiness, which was complemented by pine nuts), bean salad (a traditional vegetarian nom, this one made of black beans, chick peas, garbanzo, and flavoured with sweet onion and generous cumin, again that hint of molasses), finely cubed tofu (sweet with a non-smokey barbecue sauce, and lightly dressed), kimchi, and a couple steamed veggie dishes lightly seasoned with lemon: broccoli, green beans, grated carrot, slivered beets. Most perplexing was this dollop of white stuff on top, which we were guessing was mashed potato, but didn't QUITE taste like it. Finally we asked. It is some kind of super-protein mash made of soymilk paste and mushroom. It tasted a lot like ricotta, with a similar texture.
To indulge a shared tooth for well-crafted sweets, we debated over the many cookies and squares displayed along the back counter. I try not to be too pushy when sharing, but coconut does something orgasmic to me. We were both eyeing the selection of squares, and there was little debate over selecting a cashew coconut square (2.75$). Shockingly creamy thanks to the natural butteriness of cashew. It was also very chewy in a more pleasant way than stick-to-your-teeth toffee. Dried cranberries helped hold it together. I wish the coconut had been more pronounced, but this was still an immensely enjoyable treat. Just watch out, they melt in the heat!
Yes, I used the word nom. Is it in the dictionary yet? Quick, where's my Websters!