Wutai Vegetarian Restaurant
Wutai Vegetarian Restaurant is where to go for Chinese vegetarian food. Also known as Buddhist cuisine , the dishes served up may not come with any meat but certainly aren't lacking in taste.
The interior of the restaurant brings to mind an old-school fancy Chinese restaurant. A large chandelier looms in the middle of the room, as if overseeing the din and chatter of the dining room. The most impressive thing is how spotless and sparklingly clean everything is.
Chinese vegetarian cuisine isn't really well-known in Toronto, but is actually a considerable niche in the Chinese culinary diaspora. The cuisine's East Asian Buddhist roots present themselves in more than the lack of meats: certain strong-smelling plants and spices are also not to be used - you won't find any garlic or onions here.
The Marinated Black Fungus ($6.99) is a cold appetizer dish with wood-ear mushrooms marinated in wasabi and apple cider seasoning. It's the perfect way to warm up for the gastronomic adventure to come.
Those who want a more conventional appetizer should try the Pumpkin and Corn Soup ($10.50 for a large portion). Lightly seasoned, the natural flavours of pumpkin and corn are very pronounced, and the soup is semi-thick without being overly rich.
An interesting dish is the Crispy Fried Milk with Mushrooms ($16.50). Milk pieces, thickened with starch, are deep fried in a light batter and served beside a bed of sautĂŠed mushrooms. The combination doesn't quite resonate with me, but each element works nicely on its own. The airy batter on the milk is especially noteworthy and provides a nice textural dimension to the dish.
The highlight for me is the hand-made Lotus Root and Glutinous Rice with Tofu Skin ($16). Reminiscent of a vegetarian onigiri , it's essentially a sticky rice burrito that contains a symphony of seasoned diced vegetables. It's just about perfect.
To pad our growing stomachs, I also get the Braised Eggplant E-fu Noodles ($14.50) and the Pine Nuts Fried Rice ($16). Both are surprisingly light - the noodles are especially well-seasoned and come with delicious chunks of eggplant.
Dessert comes in the shape of the Osmanthus Flower Cake ($3.60). These are essentially small gelatinous-like cakes with osmanthus flower and goji berries, and are nicely sweetened with what I suspect to be lychee chunks. It's a nice way to cap off what is definitely one of the more unique culinary experiences I've had in a while.