Summerlicious! No surprise, it's the summer version of Winterlicious. I rounded up eight fellow archaeological consultants and headed down the street for dinner at Lalot. Lalot serves up Vietnamese cuisine, but it's not one of Toronto's ubiquitous pho shops. As much as I adore slurping up vermicelli with fish sauce, I was keen to try something a little more unusual...
200 Bathurst Street, just north of Queen Street
Summerlicious Dinner Menu, $20 plus bevvies, taxes and tip
Starters: Fresh rice paper tofu roll with jicama and fresh mint
or Steamed transparent ravioli with shrimp wrapped in banana leaf
or Lalot style grilled chicken with (la chanh) citrus leaves
Mains: Hokkaido scallop cakes with fresh water chestnut and chives
or Ontario deboned quail marinated in fresh coconut juice with black peppercorn served with peanut sticky rice
or Spicy red chilli paste crispy tofu with sweet onion served with jasmine rice
Dessert: Ginger candied ice cream or sweet banana with coconut milk and tapioca
First off, the location is unfortunate for up-scale Asian dining: Queen and Bathurst happens to be HQ for punks and homeless First Nations folks. Not quite the target market. But regardless of the location, the interior of Lalot is crisp and simple. I loved the look of the modern white room with the antique wooden shutters on the wall.
Because I am incapable of ordering a Vietnamese meal without some sort of mango beverage, I chose a mango martini off a price-less menu. I should have asked the cost first because it was a $10 drink and not worth the price (expecially considering that the 3-course meal was only $20). You live, you learn.
Starters were a hit: the tofu rolls and grilled chicken won much praise from my companions. I was the only one of the eight to try the ravioli (the waitress warned us that it was 'a little exotic'). I foolishly forgot that I'm not a fan of banana-leaf wrapped foods, so I ended up looking longingly at my neighbours' dishes.
For mains, I tried the deboned quail which was actually quite full of bones, perhaps even more bones than it was biologically determined to have. The flavour was delicously sweet and fragrant, with fresh and tasty greens and rice. But, using chopsticks or a knife and fork or even bare hands, it's very tricky to eat a quail. I worked hard at the little critter without much reward. Perhaps another type of meat would have made for a less stressful eating experience? Not that I'm bitter or anything: the taste was wonderful.
I also had a sample of the chili tofu. It had a lovely crunchy texture with a powerful sweetly spicy punch. For once, the vegetarians were happy.
Dessert: we all chose the warm coconut milk with slices of lightly fried banana, slippery strips of tapicoa and ground nuts. Very refreshing.
Verdict? I'd go back to Lalot. The food was all lovingly prepared, wholesome and tasty. Portions were generous. Although I didn't love my appetizer, it was because I mistakenly ordered something I don't like. And next time, I'll skip the pricy martinis, for sure. One thing that concerns me is that when we had dinner, we were the only customers in Lalot: usually Summerlicious restaurants are completely booked out. I hope Lalot isn't in danger of closing before I can return with some more friends in tow...