Camros Organic Eatery
25 Hayden Street,
Located one block south of Bloor, east of Yonge Street, is a cosy Persian-inspired eatery. Providing respite from the traffic and culinary congestion of Yonge Street, Camros is a unique cafeteria-style vegan spot featuring homemade organic dishes free of sugar, soy, wheat, and gluten. Low fat, but high flavour? But how, you ask? Not exactly your mother’s “white-meat” pork bred by American ingenuity. The Persian influence provides the herb and spice inspiration that fills out the flavour. From a daily changing menu, featured items include Adas Polo (Basmati brown rice with nutty lentils kicked with saffron, cinnamon and rice), Gheyme Stew (split yellow lentil and potato stew flavoured by limes and plums) and the eatery’s take on cabbage rolls stuffed with basmati, tomatoes, peppermint (for digestion, we’re kindly informed), tarragon (presumably, for flavour), and saffron.
The head chef, Mojdeh Shams, insists on promoting the restaurant first as Persian and second as vegan. Though not all the dishes are traditional or have been adjusted, the use of saffron (often substituted in Indian restaurants with turmeric which is less expensive and less flavourful, but the same colour…) and the dried fruit certainly is authentic. Yes, here you will feel like you’re eating ‘healthy’ but you’ll also feel like you’re eating something exotic. The rotating menu ensures the freshness of all the dishes. The restaurant has such a heavy turnover that you never wonder how long the dish has been sitting there waiting for a gullible diner to choose it.
For small to large appetites Camros features two-item combos ($4.96) to four-item combos ($8.99).
From the Friday menu we sampled the Mixed Vegetable Stew-carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, peas, onions-that surprises with a rich taste of apple and cinnamon, the perfect fall comfort food that combines your meal with your dessert of apple crisp. I’d put it on my Thanksgiving menu…and still finish with another apple crisp. The stew is so good for you that this is easily rationalized.
As it turns out, every day features a coloured rice ball with a different filling. Our red rice ball (thanks to beets, not food colouring!) was filled with lentils. Here I got in a little fight with my dining companion. I liked the subtle flavour of the glutinous basmati even though the lentils didn’t add anything to the ball, but my ‘subtle’ was my companion’s ‘bland’. I advised trying it after a more flavour-intense dish like the stew and found that the contrast made it work. We agreed it’s definitely an acquired taste. Much like the kale. No matter how good it is for me, I sincerely doubt I will ever truly enjoy eating kale. You can rinse it for a half hour in spring water, marinate it in apple-cider vinegar, lemon juice and oregano, and douse it in tahini dressing but kale is a tough green and tougher to like.
At Camros, fortunately, there was no such thing as a tough cookie. Catering to practically every food allergy and sensitivity except almonds, the cookies from Olivia’s in Richmond Hill are sweetened using agave nectar and the only difference between them and your mom’s homemade cookies is that they don’t rise. They are still melt-in-your-mouth good. Stick with the ginger-spice and lemon-poppy and avoid the unsatisfying chocolate.
Only complaints: While lentils and beans are not everyone’s idea of a good time, if you’re interested in trying homemade Persian cuisine, this is a good place to start. It certainly will do you no harm.
For background info and menus, visit www.camroseatery.com