I had heard a bit about a new healthy Toronto chain where you can get a custom made salad from a variety of greens they have, and so when one opened up near my work, I went to check it out. I like the philosophy of the owner Apparently he sources his ingredients daily from the St.Lawrence Market. I also like the idea of getting to create your own salad.
Imagine my disappointment when I entered only to see a garishly lit space with a cattle-type coral for the line-up and ingredients laid out in little plastic containers like a sub shop. Bought fresh that day or not, the items in the little containers looked sad and tired. Also, there was so much that wasn't there: no sprouts (besides alfalfa), no varieties of vegetarian protein beyond one type of tofu, and a horrid fast-food - sorry, that's 'quick service' - atmosphere. I had annoying counter guy babbling away while I tried to process the huge list of ingredients.
"Have you been here before?"
"I recommend the Cobb Salad. It's a little bit of everything."
I appreciate that he was just doing his job and he was very professional, but seriously? A Cobb salad? Are we back in the 70s?
I kept looking at the little plastic pots and at the avocado tinged with brown and I did something I rarely do - I walked out. I just didn't want to pay $8 for a salad that looked like it had been made at MacDonalds and came in a giant plastic bowl. Instead I went across the street to Le Gourmand and for $10 got a kick ass sandwich (with green avocado), and a sumptuous soup. Both of these were reasonable portions. Le Gourmand celebrates the joy of eating. Across the street is the other Toronto chain Fresh. They celebrate the joy of healthy eating. I felt that this restaurant was neither.
I think this is my real problem with it. The appeal is only if you are dedicated to the Zone and have to plan out your life going protein + carb + whatever. But there is no delicious celebration of food there. It seems so utilitarian. And I honestly don't see the difference between there salads and one from a more standard 'quick service' restaurant. What this place also falls into is the gross North American concept of huge portions. Yes, it's a salad, but do you need to eat the entire salad bowl? Their soups are mammoth as well. Why can't we all just learn to eat food joyously, healthily, and in smaller portions?
Again, Le Gourmand has delicious composed salads. So many delicious salads have to be made in advance in order for their flavours to meld. I am in rapture just thinking about the beet salad or the beautiful caprese salad with the red tomatos flanking the bocconcini - all flecked with fresh basil. Yum.
I suppose if you are in a strip mall and are surrounded by Tim Hortons, Subway, and Wendys, that an eatery of this type might be a valid alternative. However, for people who are surrounded by delicious food in downtown Toronto, I see this new chain as a blight on the culinary landscape.