Restaurant Review: Camros Organic EateryMichelle Singerman September 1, 2009
Camros Organic Eatery
25 Hayden St.
September is the time of new beginnings, highlighted by new schedules, new activities and new unknowns. This hectic time of year is often further complicated by the need for a new daily meal routine.
Each year your kids’ eating habits evolve, which means you can’t remember if they’re happy going off to school with a fresh veggie sandwich or if they’d rather cart off last night’s leftovers for lunchtime. And although your own school days are a distant memory, you can’t seem to escape the same syndrome – what to eat for mealtime that is satisfying and up to your standards?
Just like the kids, often our eating habits differ from year to year. If this is your year for healthy, organic and local – and yet you barely have time to prepare the family meals – we’ve got just the place for you (not to mention it’s vegetarian, too).
Camros Organic Eatery is unassumingly situated near one of downtown Toronto’s busiest cores: Yonge and Bloor streets. In 2004, the Shams family had the vision of catering delicious organic food to the professionals and students who seem to run downtown Toronto. Affirms the family right in the restaurant’s slogan, “Our key purpose is to provide delicious, nourishing food that provides your body with vibrant energy, while providing you with a delightful sensual experience. At Camros Organic Eatery, we strive for an exceptional culture of warm and courteous hospitality, so that our customers feel happy about consistently choosing us.”
Their unique homemade meals are the brainchild of head chef Mojdeh Shams. After testing out her Persian recipes at farmers’ markets around the area, Shams realized her food was a hit. The triumph of the meals at the markets led to participation at trade shows around the city. The positive feedback led the family to finally open what is now Camros Organic Eatery.
All meals created at this city oasis are 100% organic, unless clearly stated otherwise. (When I was there, it was evident Camros cares. A note above the food read that in their decision to choose in-season items, the restaurant would be serving regular lemons that day as opposed to organic ones, because the city supply had run dry.) The gang at Camros even provides contact information for their food suppliers, just in case you have doubts.
Although the focus here is on wholesome, clean and healthy foods, the restaurant is unmistakably geared to the hustle-bustle of the city. Not a sit-down style restaurant, you order your food from the bar upon arrival. There is a hot and cold section of the food bar (and of course a dessert section, too), with an obvious conscious effort taken to create and inform you of the nutritious options. Each dish is carefully labelled with all ingredients, which makes life easy for those with specific food sensitivities.
You can choose a plate of two, three or four dishes, or mix in a soup (pricing is done by the type of plate chosen). We opted for two three-combination plates ($10.79 each). Our first plate was loaded with hot options: daal lentils, tender chickpea stew and brown rice with saffron. The second plate contrasted with a selection of cold salads: raw kale salad, quinoa salad and black bean salad.
The fresh quality of all ingredients was obvious, though the hot items prevailed as my favourite. Daal lentils were cooked traditionally – red split lentils mixed with sour tamarind, fresh lemon juice, onions, garlic and sweet tomatoes, all blended to perfection. The tender chickpea stew was a first try for me, and I was impressed. As the description states: “soaked chickpeas cooked to delicious perfection, with nourishing touches of garlic, ginger and cumin.” And nourishing it was. The warm, sultry stew warms you from the inside out. The third selection was the brown rice with saffron, which did not disappoint. Anyone who enjoys rice will quickly become a die-hard fan of this succulent dish.
The salads were a perfect fit for a summer’s day. The marinated kale in lemon juice, apple-cider vinegar and oregano mixed with beets and carrots packed a punch of freshness with each bite. The black bean salad was tossed with sprigs of peppermint, throwing this concoction of beans, onions and peas into a swirl of flavours. And of course the quinoa salad, which never fails to impress, stayed true to its ancient grain potential. Here it was served with broccoli, green lentils and a zesty lemon and olive oil dressing – an extremely light and refreshing option that I may even try and tackle in my own kitchen.
Because Camros caters to the downtown hustle and bustle with a lunch-style restaurant, the menu runs on a 10-day rotation to keep up with the fast-paced turnover of daily customers. But as head chef Shams told me while I was there, sometimes the staff gets creative and strays from the set menu. After all, they like a change, too. So while listed on the menu are items such as roasted mixed vegetables, carrot rice, gheyme stew (traditional Persian lentil stew), red rice ball and many more creations, there is a good chance you will discover a completely new organic dish on the day you visit.
The restaurant’s hours also follow the business schedule, so make sure to get there before 7:30pm. When the downtown chaos dies down each evening, Camros shuts down, too. Even if you have to get there a bit earlier than usual, it’s definitely worth the visit.
What makes the early trip exceptionally worthwhile is that you can load up on take-away containers (100% organic, made from the stalks of sugar cane plants) and fill your fridge with the likes of raw beet and carrot salad, vegetable stew and other satisfying, filling and healthy options to send your children off to school with. Toss in an organic dessert for good measure on that first day back to school, such as the double-layered chocolate brownies that are baked in solar energy powered ovens, and the kids will be thrilled.
The best part about Camros: feeling good about every menu choice you’ve made.
Hours of operation: Monday to Friday, 11:30am to 7:30pm
Closed Saturdays, Sundays and all statutory holidays