Any restaurant that serves savoury popcorn instead of your usual bread basket while you ponder the menu options is a-okay in my books – which is exactly how the Public Kitchen experience begins.
Doug McNish is a local Toronto vegan celeb, with his ‘Kale is the New Beef’ shirts spotted at most vegan pop-ups and festivals. Doug’s Public Kitchen is his new restaurant on Marlee Avenue, but it’s also a takeaway store and teaching kitchen. The shelves are lined with snacks, single hard-to-find organic ingredients, and copies of his three well-known cookbooks (in which you can find recipes for many of his menu items!).
Being Sunday morning, coffee was also a must. It arrived quickly with almond milk and coconut sugar.
To confirm our waitress’s statement that “Doug is something of a chemist”, we were encouraged to order the Negg McNish. Using water, nutritional yeast, tofu, and culinary chemistry, a poached ‘egg’ is presented on a cashew cheddar cheese slice and a sprouted grain English muffin. This is the closest alternative to an egg that I have ever tried, complete with that ooey-gooey runny goodness when cut open. The Negg McNish is served with a lightly dressed green salad and hashbrown patty.
The tostada appetizer followed; a colourful platter of cashew sour cream, guacamole, pico de gallo, lettuce, and sunflower seed ‘refried beans’. The tostadas are a curiously fantastic corn and carrot concoction that is dehydrated until crisp. We loaded them with the fixings, and found the refried beans so hearty and irresistible that we enjoyed it on its own.
To compliment our two savoury dishes, we ordered smoothies and crepes. I immediately went for the Cinnamon Toast Crunch Smoothie (made from almond milk, frozen banana, crunchy peanut butter, ground cinnamon, maca, and candied buckwheat) while my friend ordered the Chocolate Coconut Banana Cream Pie Smoothie (made from almond milk, frozen banana, fresh vanilla beans, virgin coconut oil, maple syrup, and a shredded coconut and cacao nib topping). From the first to the last sip, I could taste every dimension of the ingredient list, from the sweetness of the almond milk to the sharp bite of the cinnamon.
Having never tried raw crepes before, I was excited to tuck into these apple banana crepes loaded with berries, coconut cream, walnut date crumble, and a cacao fondue. The crepes and fondue weren’t as sweet as I was expecting, but I believe this was a great way to enjoy the sweet fruit and coconut cream without being too overpowering.
Despite the cold fall air, an ice cream sundae seemed like the only logical way to conclude the meal. A vanilla ice cream with cacao fondue and strawberries was devoured in minutes. Between mouthfuls, we marveled over how we’d completely forgotten that this was a vegan ice cream. It had a beautiful homemade flavour and firm texture, and we could subtly taste the coconut base.
Overall, this was a true artisan dining experience. Everything was plated beautifully and tasted incredible. It is truly a place where vegans and the most carnivorous of carnivores can appreciate the gastronomical genius of the recipes. As well, the menu contains a legend to clearly indicate items with gluten or non-gluten adjustments, as well as for soy. Dishes are about $10-17 which is completely reasonable when considering the ingredients and creativity being served. Doug McNish prides himself on using the finest organic ingredients and it’s apparent in every innovative bite.
Review written by TVJ write Joanna G.