Stay Cafeteria, an Asian fusion restaurant, opened earlier this month at 388 Spadina (between Baldwin and Nassau). First time owners Tao Zhang and Jianing Hu wanted to bring many Asian cultures together in their cooking, whilst keeping things accessible and affordable.
The interior, designed by Tao (a former architecture student), has an industrial loft vibe. Drop lighting with edison bulbs, mix with darkly stained wood tables and vintage metal chairs. Along with old jazz, it all makes for a more relaxing atmosphere than I'm used to in Chinatown.
The menu is quite extensive. Broken up into several parts. Taking centre stage are the main courses, plates ranging from $7.50 - $12. With dishes like braised beef brisket in a spicy bone broth with rice noodles ($7), and Teriyaki eel baked with mozzarella cheese on rice topped with Japanese sea sedge and white sesame ($10), the prices are more than reasonable.
The snack/ soup and toast menu is great for a quick bite. The creamy onion and mushroom soup is served with a flaky yet buttery puff pastry on top ($8).
The sweet potato croquette ($6) is a little less conventional. Whilst it still comprises a deep-fried mashed sweet potato, it's stuffed with a hard-boiled egg and slathered with Thousand Island dressing, and sprinkled with sesame seeds and nori strips. If you love Thousand Island dressing, you'll probably be in heaven. If not, this might be overkill.
The baked marshmallow toast ($5) is reminiscent of a hopped-up Texas toast. Spread with butter, and a topping of burnished marshmallow and chocolate sauce, it's like decadent cottage fare. By the time you're looking at this part of the menu, you'll also be looking at the extensive tea list, with highlights like the Japanese roasted sencha milk tea ($5.50), or the premium rose Tieguanyin tea ($5).
The smoothies are all $7 and big enough to share. The avocado and peach smoothie is evocative of my slushie making days as a child: one flavour stacked on top of the other. The avocado is rich and creamy, while the peach gives the sweet and crisp flavours of late summer. I'm curious to try the fresh mashed taro or the lychee apple on my next visit.
Stay is open Sunday through Monday 12pm - 12am , Friday and Saturday 12pm - 1am.
Photos by Jesse Milns