Sunday, September 30, 2007

King's Cafe

To see how the Buddha's advice can be put into practice in everyday life, treat yourself to a meal at King's Cafe in Kensington Market. You can eat like a king or queen for under $20.

This has to be the most peaceful restaurant in Toronto. It begins with the service staff: they have beautiful smiles. The tables are spaced out well, the decor is subtle but artful, and no matter how busy it gets, the place is never noisy.

Now, you don't have to be a vegetarian to follow the Buddhist path, but monks are advised to abstain from meat. What the Buddha did say was to "think about where the food came from and the amount of work necessary to grow the food, transport it, prepare and cook it and bring it to the table."

He also warned against pungent foods such as garlic, onions and spices. This is put into practice in the King's Cafe menu, where simple food is cooked with subtle flavouring. They don't even put soya sauce on the table, let alone a spice jar, mustards or other condiments you might find in a common Chinese restaurant.

Like many vegetarian restaurants, the menu at King's does a heavy spread of soy and gluten nuggets that replicate the textures and impressions of meat dishes. Soy drumsticks, kung po 'chicken,' and wheaty 'beef' strips. Don't fall into this trap when you order. Maybe one pretend meat dish, max. The kitchen staff does their tastiest treats with real vegetables, so make sure to order:

  • Fried green beans. Sesame seed sprinkles are the stars of this dish.
  • The Lo Chan vegetable platters. The widest assortment of veggies, with the most amazingly flavourful mushrooms.
  • Spring rolls. I don't know how they deep fry with so little oil residue, but these are magical. The carrots inside the roll still crunch after cooking.

Another mystery? How the place stays so peaceful. There's a lot going on here. A dessert counter, a juice bar, and a little grocery store at the back. Plus the racket of Kensington Market through the doors, which are wide open to the patio in the summer months.

1 comment:

Lisa Collings said...

My boyfriend and i go there quite often for the wonton soup. The best in the city by far.