I was in downtown Toronto and decided to walk to Harlem on my lunch break. This restaurant has 2 locations in the downtown core and their website encapsulates best who they are and what they are about:
“Inspired by the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Harlem celebrates the joy of Toronto’s cultural diversity and the art of entertaining. It is a rebirth of creativity in Food, Art, Music, and Cocktails.”
The menu offered clearly marked vegetarian items and the specials of the day included a vegetarian choice. I opted to go for a reasonable amount of food that was traditional, innovative and healthy. And the winners are:
Cornbread – Traditional
The cornbread was at it should be: served warm with lots of butter. The slices indicated this was baked in a miniature loaf pan and the pieces of corn complemented the cake-like texture. Some unknown chili gave this bread a bit of bite – a nice balance to the slight sweetness characteristic of cornbread. Corn is one of the ‘3 sisters‘ in Native American cuisine and cornmeal is used to make cornbread, a traditional staple in the southern U.S.
Avocado Ginger Hummus – Innovative
I’ve had the traditional Middle Eastern version of hummus (i.e. chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice and garlic) but not avocado and ginger. This version was heavy on the avocado and an undetectable ginger. It put me in mind of guacomole rather than hummus. It paired well with the soup though.
Tomato Basil Soup – Healthy
This was the special soup of the day and it also came with a bit of a bite (a theme to many of the food items on offer). A simple soup with few ingredients and bold in taste, this was like a pureed margharita pizza. Comes with a side of bread and is loaded in lycopene (an antioxidant compound found in high amounts in tomatoes)
The total meal came to $12 before tax and was filling and light at the same time. The portions kept me satiated but not stuffed for the rest of the day.
The wait staff and chef working that day represented Toronto’s cultural diversity as did the menu. Curry, plantains. okra, collard greens, Guinness and waffles were amongst the other ingredients featured in the menu. The patio is set up in an alleyway and the walls are adorned with artistic graffiti. Initially it was the RIP Michael Jackson piece that caught my eye and alerted me to this place. Harlem warrants a repeat visit, preferably when there is a live performance.
Harlem is open 7 days a week from 11am-11pm (and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays).