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The Vegan Duchess

Quick, Raw and Organic

Most food reviews focus on restaurants, and specifically restaurants serving dinner. However, when people eat out in Toronto, it isn’t necessarily for dinner, and it isn’t necessarily at a “sit-down” establishment. That’s why I try to expand the review envelope. This past year I’ve reviewed places that serve brunch and those that serve traditional tapas and pintxos. And now a “quickserve” raw organic joint.

The Vegan Duchess is a small storefront spot on Yonge street, a block north of Eglinton. I used to live and work in the neighbourhood. While there are lots of good, fast-food, delis and restaurants close by, there are really very few excellent places to eat. Clearly meant to service the neighbourhood, and the lunch-break crowd, the Vegan Duchess does pre-made and made to order take-out. There are a few seats by the window for a quick bite. The spot is bright, modern and clean.

Exercising a raw food diet is a lifestyle decision. Eating at the Vegan Duchess is not. Whether you are vegan, or you are looking to simply eat wholesome, healthy food, they aim to show that raw food can be interesting and reasonably priced. And that is a challenge, as for raw food to taste like anything other than a salad, the ingredients have to be cleverly manipulated. Raw dishes are labour intensive, and organic ingredients of course come at a premium.

In this regard, The Vegan Duchess excels. For our lunch, at the suggestion of the server we sampled the pre-made Falafel Wrap ($14.40) and the Raw Burrito ($13.50) and the made to order Pad Thai ($14.40). The Falafel is Collard Green Wrap, Sprouted Lentil Red Pepper Falafels, Sunflower Seed Hummus, Cashew "Tzatziki", Lettuce, Tomato, Red Onion, Lemon Dill Tahini Sauce with a side of Cauliflower Hemp Tabouli. The middle-eastern flavour profile was spot on, as was the texture of the falafels. I’m a fan of the side salad and the dish was filling.

The Raw Burrito comes with a Sun-Dried Tomato Carrot Tortilla, Pumpkin Seed Refried Beans, Salsa Fresca, Guacamole, Lettuce, Cashew "Sour Cream". Again, the flavour profile hit the right Mexican notes without being spicy. The texture of the “tortilla” was soft, but the dish looked like a burrito.

Perhaps the dish that best mimicked authenticity was the Pad Thai: Zucchini and Kelp Noodles tossed In a Maca Almond Butter Cream, with Softened Vegetables, Bean Sprouts and Chili Crusted Almond Clusters. Made to order, it tasted fresh and had the best mouth feel of the dishes.

For those in the Yonge-Eglinton area looking for a fresh, clean meal for lunch or for their families. or for those looking for difficult-to-find raw food, try The Vegan Duchess. Note: all prices listed were after a 10% discount for paying cash.  2354 Yonge Street. www.theveganduchess.ca