Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 8/8/2018 (814 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
This good-looking new café on the Corydon strip doesn’t just offer plant-based, gluten-free or peanut-free dishes. All of the food at Circle Kitchen meets all of those requirements, which is a boon for diners who are often confined to a few afterthought options on mainstream menus.
Ingredients are also local and organic, where possible, and free of "sketchy ingredients," as the website peppily proclaims.
709 Corydon Ave.
709 Corydon Ave.
Go for: plant-based and gluten-free food
Best bet: a vegan spin on the taco bowl
Salads and bowls: $11-13
Monday-Friday: 8 a.m. until 6 p.m.; Saturday: 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
★★★★ Very Good
No stars Not recommended
The food is healthy, then. But how does it taste? Offerings can be a bit uneven, but the best dishes have vibrant, fresh flavours that will appeal not just to vegans but to the vegan-curious and to non-vegan friends.
If you need to start your day with coffee, Circle Kitchen’s is very good, supplied by Fluid Bean, a roastery in Mitchell, just west of Steinbach, which offers fair-trade organic java. You can also get lattes made with cashew, coconut, almond or oat milk. There are teas, including kombucha, and if you want a drink that feels like a meal, consider one of 11 smoothie flavours ($9-13 for 16 ounces).
I tried the Orange Creamsicle, and while I realize that it’s not going to taste like the Creamsicles of my youth, whose brilliantly orange and chemical charms would be antithetical to the whole Circle Kitchen approach, this mix of oranges, banana, coconut milk, dates, avocado and vanilla needs more flavour of the natural kind.
From the fresh cold-pressed juice selection ($7-10 for 12 ounces), I chose the aptly named People Pleaser, which is bright-tasting and verdantly green — "Kaley but not too kaley," my companion said — with notes of green apple and mint.
Breakfast offerings include a chia parfait, with chia seeds suspended in coconut cream, topped with cashew yogurt, strawberries and tasty gluten-free granola, crispy and with just a nudge of cinnamon.
It is, unfortunately, served in a little preserving jar, which is fashionably rustic, but makes it hard to mix up all those lovely layers.
Trendy avocado toast starts with gluten-free bread that’s packed with seeds that help it crisp up nicely at the edges.
A mash of avocado is finished with microgreens and chili flakes and drizzled with a little pumpkin oil. Carrot lox also uses that super-seedy bread, slathered with cashew cheese — tangy and creamy and finished with dill — and layered with strips of salted and marinated gravlax-style carrot.
The traditional garnishes of capers and red onion are joined by nori, which gives an oceanic flavour.
Larger lunch options include bowls and salads. The caesar salad features a hefty portion of romaine and kale tossed with a garlicky dressing that gets its creaminess from cashews. The greens are finished with a dusting of cashew "parmesan," which gives an umami undertow, and shavings of "coconut bacon." I don’t know if I’m wading into a vegan controversy here, but it seems weird to name a vegan food after an extremely non-vegan food when it’s actually a very good thing in and of itself — a little smoky, a little salty, a little sweet, with a nice crunch. Unfortunately, the roasted chickpeas were unpleasantly hard.
The taco bowl pulls off a good balance of tastes and textures. The walnut-cauliflower meat is brilliant — carnivores might find it better than the cheap hamburger that often shows up in taco bowls — and it’s matched with fresh sweet corn kernels and smooth avocado, all wrapped up in salsa and a chipotle cream that imparts a little heat. The black beans were unaccountably left out on one visit.
The menu also includes some rotating specials.
There are just a few desserts. Producing sweets that are gluten-free and vegan while also avoiding refined sugar can involve a daunting degree of difficulty.
A sampled ginger ice cream sandwich — the ice cream made with coconut milk — is a letdown. The ice cream lacks flavour and the ginger cookies have that slight sandy aftertaste sometimes found in gluten-free baking.
More successful are desserts that leave out the whole issue of gluten-free flour substitutes, including some chocolatey almond butter cups and a satisfyingly gooey caramel slice with dark chocolate topping.
Service is friendly and happy to enlighten you if you need more info on obscure ingredients (moringa? maca? blue majik?) but can be a bit disorganized.
The café is located in a lower level with a low ceiling, but the smart design brings in lots of light and bounces it around in a white, bright space with green-blue accents. There are also tables outside to let diners enjoy this spectacular summer.
Camille Bakehouse (#3-1235 Pembina Hwy.), the onetime Thaw Bakery, which has opened and closed a couple of times since its 2017 inception, is now back with a redesigned room and an exclusive focus on croissants.
Made with organic flour and Notre Dame butter, the boutique bakery’s edited offerings are pricey ($4-7.50) but delicately flakey and tender.
One note: the venue’s opening times are currently noon to 8:30 p.m., which seem to me to be odd bakery hours. (Is this a millennial thing?)
Studying at the University of Winnipeg and later Toronto’s York University, Alison Gillmor planned to become an art historian. She ended up catching the journalism bug when she started as visual arts reviewer at the Winnipeg Free Press in 1992.