Gourmet ve­gan tast­ing menu blows us Awai

2.5 hours of food and en­ter­tain­ment

Annex Post - - FOOD - By Caro­line Ak­sich and Karolyne El­la­cott

Awai was born in early 2017 as a cu­ri­ous pay­what-you-want, plant-pow­ered con­cept. Although Awai (2277 Bloor St. W.) is still ve­gan, the menu now boasts prices. (Din­ers, as it turns out, like to be told what to pay.)

Al­most two years on, chef

Nathan Is­berg has left, and Awai has mor­phed into an un­ortho­dox col­lec­tive of­fer­ing its staff prof­it­shar­ing and ben­e­fits.

A strict bud­get

Armed with our $100 al­lowance, we have two choices. Ei­ther we bend the rules and blow the bud­get, with two $55 five-course tast­ing menus, or dive into the $85 eight-course op­tion. We opt for the lat­ter. An or­der of “one eight-course tast­ing menu to share” is met by mild con­fu­sion and a smile.

A feast large enough for two

But when the first course ar­rives — baba ghanouj–smeared coco bread topped with acorn squash, ca­per berries and young kale — we de­cide a mis­take was made. We check: Yes, this giant flat­bread is for one.

The pa­rade of plates con­tin­ues. Next up? Gaz­pa­cho swirled with can­taloupe and co­conut and grape sliv­ers. Course three is a dance of tomatil­los and heir­loom toma­toes with a shake of fu­rikake.

Ve­gan food reimag­ined

Awai’s menu bol­sters the rep­u­ta­tion of ve­gan food. Here, each plate is a med­ley of fresh­ness and colour, in­cor­po­rat­ing textures from foamy to chewy to creamy and a cor­nu­copia of sea­sonal veg­eta­bles.

Dubbed “the Woods,” course four is a minia­ture land­scape fash­ioned out of veg­eta­bles. The for­est scene in­cludes a log (oil-braised sal­sify), trees (broc­col­ini and cau­li­flower flo­rets) and “soil” made from pis­ta­chios and beets.

One pasta dish, one chick­pea panisse, one mil­letrisotto–stuffed yuba dish and 2.5 hours later, we near the end.

The fi­nale is a pretty tart: a swirl of thinly cut tulsi tea–poached Red­haven peaches that looks like a bloom­ing rose cra­dled in a pas­try shell — a sweet end to a truly en­joy­able ve­gan feast.

Clockwise from top: Baba ghanouj coco bread, peach tart, gar­den salad

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