Awai is one of Toronto’s newest vegan restaurants, located in Bloor West Village. It was created by Chef Nathan Isberg, who is known for his no-menu, pay-what-you-want restaurant, The Atlantic. Awai has been open since November of 2016, and my family visited in April, but I haven’t had a chance to write the review until now.
My first impression when walking into Awai was that the decor had not really changed from the restaurant that had occupied the space previously, Villa Pizza, that I reviewed back in 2012.
Upon receiving the menu, I was immediately drawn in to their interesting selection of items and descriptions. For appetizers, we decided to share the “raw crisps with cooked dips”, as written on the menu, which consisted of exactly that – their housemade raw crackers and a hummus-like dip – the crunchy crackers and smooth dip were a perfect way to start off the meal! I loved how the flavours and textures of each worked off of each other. The next item we ordered was the Porcini soup. I love mushrooms and this soup was described as being hearty and included tons of varieties of mushrooms, cauliflower, and mountain pepper jerk. This soup was unbelievable and my parents, brother, and I each tried to as many spoonfuls of the bowl as we each could. Upon finishing the soup, we were still hungry for more, at which point our waiter came over and informed us that there were free refills on the soup! Can you believe that? So, I ordered another bowl. I mixed in the sauteed cauliflower topping on the soup and enjoyed and savoured every spoonful. Over the course of the meal, I would eat and thoroughly enjoy seven bowls (yes, seven!), including one for dessert as I am definitely more of a savoury than a sweet tooth! (I’m guessing they don’t expect people to eat as much of the soup as I did :). In between bowls of soup, we tried many other dishes, like their flatbread pizzas, which either come on a traditional crust or a gluten-free potato latke-like base. The potato added an interesting twist to the otherwise classic pizza, and what a creative gluten-free crust alternative too! We all also enjoyed their shishito pepper flatbread – shishitos are a family favourite! My little brother had the cherry tomato flatbread, which he had two of, and both didn’t last long on his plate! The flatbreads are delicious, and are served hot right out of their wood-fired oven.
To finish, we had a creme brûlée for dessert, which is one of my dad’s favourite dishes and had a smooth and delicious centre under the crunchy sweet top.
Awai is a great restaurant with attentive service, but be cautioned – their dishes aren’t large or the most filling for the price. I would also love if there were more dishes with proteins offered on their menu. Otherwise, their food is creative and good (mostly the soup), and I definitely recommend it (especially for the soup, if you didn’t get that yet!).