For those of you who don’t know, (and for those of you who do) Doug McNish is one of my favourite chefs. Besides being an incredibly kind human being, he is a wizard in the kitchen. I have been visiting Doug at the farmers’ market, at his Public Kitchen, as well as all the food festivals (like Vegfest) that he does in the GTA for many years now (if you clicked those links, you can see how long ago it was!!). I first met Doug in 2009 at Raw Aura in Port Credit, and first reviewed his food when he did a vegan and gluten-free menu at the Windsor Arms Hotel. I look forward to eating and sharing about Doug’s incredible and creative vegan cuisine to come, I have complete confidence you are going to be hearing a lot about him in the years to come!
When Doug announced earlier this fall that he would be opening a vegan diner at Queen and Dufferin (just west of the Drake and Gladstone hotels in Parkdale), I was VERY excited, since I knew the menu would feature some of his awesmazing signature dishes, as well as new innovations from his creative mind. Doug has partnered with The 5700, a business who has opened Doomie’s in Toronto, runs a vegan food festival in Toronto, Chicago and New York, and other successful, ethical businesses.
Upon walking in to 1265 Queen Street West tonight for the media preview, I was greeted by a classic diner-y look, with the walls toward the back painted in the classic black and white checkered pattern and red-upholstered bar stools. A neon sign on the wall proclaiming “Everything We Touch Turns To Vegan” added to the overall vibe of the space, making me feel welcome, and as the smells poured into my nose from the kitchen, very, very hungry.
My mother and I were seated at a hightop two-seater table, and were given our menu. Although the restaurant has a very casual feel to it, the menus were very cool and more formal-looking, with a solid black cover and red metallic logos imprinted on the front, while the white paper on the inside was decorated with black and red script. As my eyes scanned the page, my one recurring criticism of Doug’s restaurants returned to my head; everything looks SO good, and I can’t possibly order everything at the same time. So, I did my best to sample as much as possible, and started to narrow the dishes down. Trust me, when you look at the menu, you won’t be able to choose either. Everything is made from organic plants! No animals were harmed and the food is made with a lot of thought and care – it really does feel good to eat it!
To start we ordered six (yes, you heard that right, six) appetizers:
1. The Caesar: massaged kale tossed in Doug’s creamy Caesar dressing and topped with rich sun-dried tomatoes, cheesy pumpkin seed Parmesan, smoky coconut bacon and crunchy herbed croutons. It’s well dressed and super flavourful.
2. The Greek: chopped romaine lettuce hearts with sweet red peppers, red onion, English cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives and fresh oregano with Doug’s tangy Greek dressing. My favourite part of this great salad was the house-made feta cheese on top.
3. The Cobber: Smoky coconut bacon, roasted cheesy chickpeas, avocado chunks, diced tomatoes, scallions, crumbled house-made blue cheese, hard-boiled vegan eggs (Doug’s recipe – tastes just like the real thing!) and chopped parsley on a bed of fresh iceberg lettuce, served with creamy red wine vinegar and Dijon dressing.
My mom and I opted to just order the small size of the salads to save room for more food, but I saw the large size – it is HUGE!
4. The Honey Garlic Seitan Wings: these sweet and savoury bites (no honey and no chicken!) went perfectly with the housemade vegan ranch dressing! When you go, try the buffalo style too!
5. The Fully Loaded baked potato did not disappoint – a similar flavour combination to Doug’s loaded potato skins from the Public Kitchen brunch, which are also fantastic!
6. BY FAR my favourite appetizer, The Bloomer. Imagine unreal onion rings. But they are made from an entire onion. Imagine the best onion rings and making it into little french-fry-sized pieces (or “petals” since they are all attached to the core of a whole Vidalia onion). Now, imagine an awesmazing chipotle aioli to dip each piece in. You now have The Bloomer. An entire onion fried in cornmeal, brown rice flour and their house seasoning – it is SO GOOD! Well done, Doug!!!!
Now, I knew I was full, and I knew I needed to try desserts, and I was faced with another dilemma – what mains should we order? I, of course, had to try the Reubenator, which is delicious, grilled rye bread piled high with a CRAZY amount of house-cured and deli-sliced corned beef (it was spilling out the sides!), covered in Russian dressing and creamy cashew Swiss “cheese”, and served with a crunchy dill pickle. This sandwich, which I devoured, came with a side of their house-seasoned fries, which were delicious – I am now a big fan of the house seasoned salt!
The second entree I ordered was the Vienna-Style Salisbury Steak, which is chickpea-based, and comes smothered with mushroom gravy (incredible!!), with green peas, carrots, and a choice of side, and I opted for the creamy garlic mash, which went great with the gravy! This steak didn’t last long either, and soon my plate was completely clean!
Even though I was already VERY full by this time, I had to order dessert. Doug had told me that I couldn’t leave without trying the cheesecake bites. I’m glad he told me to do this. The salted caramel cheesecake bites are wrapped in filo and served warm with his signature coconut caramel dipping sauce – I have to say, you shouldn’t be allowed to leave without trying these either no matter how full you are! We also enjoyed the sundae, because we had to – chocolate tiger-nut ice cream covered with cacao fondue! I would go back just for dessert, and I don’t even have a real sweet tooth!
I have only shared what I sampled tonight, but Doug’s Mac and Cheese, French Onion Soup, Signature Burger, King Oyster Mushroom Calamari are all also on the menu, and are all totally nourishing and completely delicious.
I feel very fortunate to have been invited to the media preview and had the opportunity to meet all of the owners and many of the hardworking team at this new restaurant. When there are that many people smiling and proud involved in one project, you know it’s going to be successful! But, Mythology is not only a place owned and run by great people, the food will satisfy non-vegans and vegans alike, all in a fun atmosphere!
I look forward to returning to Mythology VERY soon – after all, I still need to try the rest of the menu!