Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tomato Fresh Food Café in Kits

After travelling through Mexico for twelve days exploring the fascinating cuisine of that country while being careful to not get sick from contaminated water, I was all too ready for a restaurant with a vegetable (okay, fruit) in it's name, as well as the word "fresh." After all the spicey goodness, fried thingies, loads of meat and cheese and tortillas and sour cream, all I really wanted was a big salad. So, having been a bit out of it lately, I discovered that Tomato Fresh Food Café (2486 Bayswater Street, at Broadway, 604-874-6020) had moved to Kits, (incidentally, perfectly close to the Hollywood theatre which has great double features). I feel badly for all those Cambie Street businesses that have been suffering due to the construction, and I'm glad that Tomato is alive and well. I was also happy to visit after they've had a chance to adjust to the new location.

The new place is a big (really big!), open, comfy space with pleasant lighting and has at least one exceptional server. I'm not sure how the others were, but the one waiter we had was perfect. He was enthusiastic, prompt, refilled our water glasses, and was exceptionally polite. For example, my dining companion asked for the "cream brulée", and I watched as the server quickly stifled the urge to repeat "crème brulée" to avoid correcting him. I also saw that he was checking on us throughout the dinner, yet trying not to be obtrusive or interrupt conversation. He even automatically refilled our bread basket without asking if we needed more. (For those of you thinking this is a given, I once had a waiter at O'Doul's who had the audacity to ask me if I wanted more bread or do I want to skip the empty filler. He made some other comment later about restraint with dessert, I think too. If I wanted to be nagged about my weight or my eating habits, I'll just go to a nutritionist or a doctor. That's not what I pay for when I go to a restaurant!). To be honest, I would go back simply because the service was so good. I also talked to a very pleasant woman on the phone when I called ahead to see if I should make a reservation. However, I was greeted by one of the other servers, and I suspect that I was lucky and wound up getting the best server that evening.

I enjoyed my meal, including a Raspberry Ma Ma, one of their two cocktail specials for the night. It was something that I was expecting to be on the syrupy sweet side, but turned out to be quite the "grown-up" cocktail, and very nice. It was early, so quite quiet in the big restaurant, and perfect for conversation with my friend, Hamburglar.

I had this yummy starter dish of veggies: roasted tomatoes, long stem artichoke hearts, grilled asparagus with feta, hazelnut oil and grainy mustard dressing ($9).

Then I had more veggies: The Westcoaster is a dish of warmed Indian candy smoked salmon, sweet peppers, organic celebration greens and goat cheese, tossed in maple balsamic dressing ($15). I polished it all off and enjoyed it, but it is a dish of sweet upon sweet upon sweet, so it is probably not for all tastes. The maple balsamic glaze is a bit cloying, so I think I would have enjoyed a little bit of lightness or acidity to counter the sweetness of the salmon and sweet peppers, but I should have expected it with the description. I really liked the chewy Indian candy.

Hamburglar's cannelloni stuffed with ruby chard, ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan baked in a savoury tomato sauce ($17, or $19 with chorizo). I had a taste of the sauce, and it seemed quite nice and bright with lots of fresh basil.

I had the warm, upside-down pineapple cake with vanilla gelato or sorbet. It was pleasing enough. The crème brulée was very nice.

Had I not been veggie-crazy that night, I certainly would have gone for their tuna special or their free-range chicken, or the bouillabaise or their antibiotic and hormone free beef tenderloin. My salmon dish had the Ocean Wise stamp, and it's nice to see a restaurant be mindful of these things, as well as supporting fresh local products and organic farmers. I've heard a couple of times what a good value this place is, but dinner prices don't seem that low to me, with the meat mains ranging from $23 - 28. However, I think they have a $28 three course special (possibly the tuna on the fresh sheet when I went - I didn't pay too much attention). Oh, and the bread basket to start you off was quite good. They also has a good-sized wine list. So while it has a casual feel, it has the details of a fancier place, so the prices definitely feel fair. But it's not cheap. It strikes me as a nice safe date restaurant for early on. I should note that my dining companion was sick later that night, but I was fine. This place is also open breakfast and lunch. I can definitely imagine it being a popular brunch spot.


dotorious said...

Hi -- a long-time lurker-fan here. I also remember the service at Tomato being great, but I mostly remember the excellent food. ;-)

See photo of Bouillabaisse du Pacifique (from November 2007)

Dumpling-girl said...

Thanks, dotorious!

That bouillabaisse looks yummy. Would be perfect on a wet, cold evening like this. I'm also watching the food channel right now (a Bobby Flay throwdown), and now want a batch of fish of chips too. Damn, I'm trying to cut down on my food these days.

Jacquie Munro said...

My husband and I went on Feb 22/08...and were both sick that night (we didn't eat the same meals). I knew when we left the restaurant that something was wrong...we felt oddly over-full...though we'd only had an appetizer and entree each. I asked a friend yesterday about it, and she said, "Oh, yeah, don't go to the Tomato. I got sick after eating there..." So, now we know.