Thursday, January 18, 2007

Quesada at lunch, Simon's Wok at dinner. Yes, the diet is going well.

This week I decided that enough was enough -- I had to take control, start working out and eating light again. The month in India was complete unbridled gluttony from start to finish and after recovering from the flu, I was well enough to indulge in two Christmas dinners plus all my home favourites. So, this week I reacquainted myself with my gym, brought my lunch, and ate sensible portions...until today.

Well, actually it wasn't that bad. My friend Darryl is having a frustrating time at work, so he needed to get out of the office and talk about it. We went to Quesada, which is a Mexican placethat specializes in burritos. It's very similar to Burrito Boyz, but the portions are more reasonably sized (smaller; well, some are) and it's a very bright, open, and pleasant space (it actually used to be a Country Style. They really cleaned it up).

For burritos, you have a choice of whole wheat or white tortilla stuffed with grilled chicken, steak, pork, veggies, or plain bean. Additional fillers include rice, beans (black or pinto), lettuce, tomato, jalapenos, red onions, cheese, guacamole (costs extra), cilantro, and three sauces of varying heat. All burritos come in either small, large, or 'big ass' size. The small was just fine for lunch. I opted for grilled chicken with rice, pinto beans, cheese, cilantro, lettuce, tomato and hot sauce. After they fill it up and fold it into a rectangular package, they grill it in a sort of flat panini press so it gets crispy and golden on the outside.

The hot sauce was just right: spicy, but not overwhelming. The heat came on like a latent realization instead of a punch in the face. The chicken was breast meat, which tends to be a little dry, but I'm sure it was healthy. Darryl got a steak burrito comboed with fresh salsa and chips. It's a very affordable lunch (about $7 each) and the seating area is comfortable.

I made plans ages ago to meet up with Jane who was in my food writing workshop that I had to bale out of because of the India trip. We only went to one class together, but we really had a lot in common so we emailed while I was in India and decided to get together once I was back to try a Buddhist vegetarian restaurant in the Gerrard-Broadview area called Simon's Wok Vegetarian Kitchen.

From the name and the fact that it is Buddhist, I know it sounds like a frou frou establishment, but actually it was a very down-to-earth Chinese restaurant. Because it is Buddhist, they do not cook with garlic, green onions, or onions. I looked up why on the Internet and the 'Faith and Food' Web site said that they are considered to increase one's sexual desire and anger. I'd never heard that before. To be perfectly honest, I didn't miss the garlic and onions at all, which says a lot about how good the food was.

We ordered Vegetarian Duck with Vegetables (see picture), King Mushrooms with Chinese Broccoli, Eggplant with Ginger, and Fried Rice with Olive Leaves. Everything was both delicious and generous. The 'Vegetarian Duck' was actually rolled yuba (Japanese word for it), which is a basically the skin that forms on top of soy milk when it boils. It can be peeled off, dried, and used as a wrapper. With the veggie duck, it was rolled into a log and cut crossways. The King mushrooms were large, meaty, and chopped into generous-sized pieces along with long stalks of Chinese broccoli. The eggplant with ginger was a mixture of long pieces of eggplant, large chunks of fried tofu, carrots, and green peppers. I love eggplant so much and usually when you order it, they give you only a little bit, but this dish had at least 6 in it, I think. The fried rice was probably the best I've ever had. It was clean-tasting, but savoury, and the olive leaves were just the right amount of salty.

The entire meal came to 36$ and they kept refilling our teapot as we lingered there for over 3 hours. It's a modest restaurant, but it's very popular in the neighbourhood, I think. At one point, every single table was full. I can't recommend this place enough. You have to go.

So, so much for eating light. I don't think it was particularly unhealthy though. It's Buddhist, so it has to be good for me. Tomorrow, I already have plans to try the pho at Golden Turtle. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow night.

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