Monday, February 18, 2008

Lee Restaurant in Toronto

This Saturday I had the pleasure of visiting Lee Restaurant in Toronto. If you don't know much about Lee, it's owned by chef Susur Lee, a renowned and famous chef. (He's been on numerous TV shows, including Iron Chef America, and Opening Soon. In fact, the episode of Opening Soon was about Lee Restaurant!)

Lee is right beside his other restaurant (aptly named Susur) on King Street in downtown Toronto. The menu at Lee is all about tapas, and the atmosphere is hip and funky. We had reservations right when they opened at 5:30, and by 6:30 the restaurant was jam packed. Don't expect much privacy as the tables are fairly close together.

My wife and I had a wonderful dinner. The server knew all about Celiac disease and let me know which items on the menu I could and couldn't order. She even knew which items contained soya sauce, which of course most of the time has wheat.

I'd say about 1/3 to 1/2 of the items were naturally gluten-free. (You can check out an example of the menu yourself here:, though it does change.)

The food was outstanding. Some of the best tapas I've ever had, in fact.

I ordered the Coconut with lime, chili and shrimp soup, and my wife and I shared a beet salad with blue cheese dish, a baked polenta with ricotta cheese dish (almost like lasagna), the 4 meat satay, and jerk chicken. All of the items were naturally gluten free except on the of the 3 sauces that came with the meat satays, which I avoided. It was a ton of food, and we were very stuffed.

Unfortunately we were so stuffed that we had to pass on dessert, which looked amazing too. My guess was that they had 3 items on the menu that were gluten-free, including creme brulee. (though I didn't ask any more details at that point)

We both ordered drinks ($13 for a martini - a little steep, but a very good martini!) and the bill came to just over $100. This floored me. For the amount of food and drink we got, the quality, and service, the price was a steal really. As a Celiac, I had full confidence in the server's suggestions and knowledge about gluten-free, as they apparently have Celiacs in their restaurant frequently.

So if you haven't tried Lee and you're in Toronto - go for it!

(Ever been to Susur? How is it? I imagine it's just incredible.)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Masala Bay Restaurant in Waterloo

Masala Bay in Uptown Waterloo (3B Regina St. North) is one of my favourite restaurants in Waterloo. I visit there frequently - their lunch buffet is wonderful and very good quality. Best of all, most of the dishes are gluten-free.

I've often asked the chef (a really nice man, by the way) about the use of gluten in their dishes and he definitely knows what it means to not have gluten. To illustrate my point: yesterday for lunch there was a new dish I've never tried called "yogurt curry", which had balls of something in with a sauce.

I asked him about the dish and he indeed said it was gluten-free. He said the balls were made from gram flour, which immediately I didn't recognize so I was concerned. (Gram flour is not a flour I use regularly or see regularly in foods, so I couldn't remember if it indeed was gluten-free).

He mentioned to me that gram flour is simply chickpea flour, which is indeed correct and is gluten-free. In fact, gram flour is a staple in Indian cuisine - a good thing for us Celiacs since wheat is therefore rarely used.

See and for more information about gram flour.

Anyway, my point of this story is that not only is Masala Bay a wonderful restaurant serving great food, but the chef knows about what is and isn't gluten-free, so definitely ask him if you have any questions.

As for the restaurant itself - don't expect "Curry in a Hurry" prices - the lunch buffet is $12.99 but is well worth every penny compared to 'fast food' curry places like Curry in a Hurry. Dinner is much more expensive, and quite frankly I prefer lunch because you get many of the same dishes but at a fraction of the cost.

Either way, if you've never been to Masala Bay, it's well worth the visit.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lily Ruth Restaurant in Cambridge

Last Saturday night I visited Lily Ruth restaurant in downtown Galt. We called ahead for reservations, and I talked to the owner about gluten-free options. She knew about Celiac disease and said they have plenty of dishes on the menu that were gluten-free or could be made gluten-free.

Definitely a good start! My mother was coming into town as well, and she's a Celiac as well. So we were pleased.

The restaurant has a nice atmosphere inside, and if you want privacy try to reserve the table for four in the back of the restaurant. (though don't expect speedy service back there - I think a few times they may have forgotten about us!)

The current menu is located here: As you can see, dinner entrees range from $15-$28, which is probably about right for this kind of upscale casual dining.

My starter was the soup of the day - a black bean soup which was above average. It didn't blow me away, but it was good. I always ask about the soup since it's hard to find gluten-free soups at restaurants...though I am finding that more restaurants of this calibre make their stock from scratch without gluten.

For my entree, I ordered the simply named "Chicken Breast" dish, which is described as:

Boneless, skinless, breast of chicken
Stuffed with Quebec double cream Brie
Wrapped in Parma ham
Pan fried and served with a mesquite veloute

On paper, this sounds great. Unfortunately I can't say I really enjoyed it. The chef made it without the veloute (which is a stock, and presumably had gluten in it) so it was a tad dry. To be honest, it didn't taste like anything really.

However, my mother's meal (which I got to try) was excellent. She ordered the White Ruffy that came on rice. The chef modified it slightly from the menu - I can't remember what in the wasabi pea crust had gluten in it. But overall it was amazing, which was good. The rice was also gluten-free, we checked with our server.

Both my wife and dad's meal were very good as well (though contained gluten).

We also asked about a few of the other dishes. They have a 'famous' burger and frites, which might sound odd at a restaurant of this nature, but think classic French. The burger is homemade and contains no gluten, however the fries are fried in the same fryer as other foods containing gluten. Bummer. I might order it next time, but something about eating a burger with mashed potatoes just isn't the same.

The warm salmon salad is also gluten-free.

For dessert - my favourite - creme brulee. It had a little bit of citrus taste to it and was delicious.

Overall, I was really impressed with the staff, the service (even though slow, we weren't in a rush), and some of the food - just not what I ordered. I think I'd give Lily Ruth another try since they did seem to be careful about our food...but I'd pick something else off the menu.

Here's their website if you'd like to learn more about them:

Been there? What did you think? Do you have any other restaurant suggestions in KW or Cambridge? Feel free to leave a comment!