A row of greasy spoons and the legendarily loud Sneaky Dee's have, until recently, made the corner of College & Bathurst a haven for the rowdy. Not that I mind really, but sometimes it's nice to have an escape option nearby.
That escape has materialized in the form of Nirvana, a new restaurant/lounge now open in the old Picadilly location across from Sneaky's. A clear re-incarnation of the Red Room (444 Spadina), Nirvana offers up that same eclectically furnished and dimly lit bohemian hideaway, only with a more polished and upscale feel.
The menu also differs in many areas, adding more complex ingredients to the dishes, new appetizers and even oysters from Oyster Boy. Not that they've nixed the very College/Bathurst greasy nachos platter from the menu, but like I said before, it's nice to have options.
Where once we'd have ordered nachos, pizza and fries, we now go for the grilled pita with sour cream and eggplant dip, a pita pizza covered in pesto, olives and artichoke hearts and a plate of garlicky scalloped potatoes (pictured at the top).
The grilled pita is almost more fried than grilled, but other than that, no complaints. We especially dig the crispy potatoes. All make fantastic starters or standalone dishes to share alongside a pitcher.
From the entree list we try out various East-Asian style entrees like glass noodles with tofu, chicken curry, and vermicelli with chicken and spring rolls. All come with a mixed green salad to start with.
The soy-rich glass noodles are paired with piles of stir-fried vegetables and tofu making for a very savoury and filling meal - especially after all those appetizers. The curry is rich and flavourful, though a little too spud-heavy on the potatoes-to-meat ratio.
The only real miss here is the vermicelli dish.
The chicken and spring rolls are good (typical of this Vietnamese dish), but the "vermicelli" are too thick -- more like spaghetti in disguise. Not to mention that beside them sits another salad just like the one we'd just had.
To make up for it, I order a couple pints of Sangria in the hopes that they're as great as the Red Room version.
Thankfully, they're even better.