Spring Rolls Restaurant, Toronto, Canada

The branch of Spring Rolls Restaurant that Lamia and I visited, at 40 Dundas Street West, is just 2 minutes walk to Yonge and Dundas intersection (the central square of the city) and the Eaton Centre (downtown Toronto’s shopping mall). If you’re in town for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon then it’s a 10 minute walk from the finish line.

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There’s a take away option – useful if you want to sit out in Dundas Square or take back to your hotel –  or a regular eat-in. We chose to eat in. Diners have the choice of ordering off the menu or eating buffet style, with the lunch buffet style costing just $14.99. The food isn’t already laid out in serving trays, you order it fresh from the menu and keep doing so until you’ve had your fill. That’s a decent option if you’re really hungry but we decided to keep to a 3 course option off the menu.

We had a chat with a member of staff before we ate (see the video at the end of this review to view part of our conversation). Spring Rolls is a family business that has grown from a single location in 1996 to a chain of over 10 branches in the Toronto area. Many of their dishes are unique to them, such as the aptly named ‘Unique Pad Thai’, created by the head chef who’s studied the Pan-Asian fusion style (a mix of Chinese, Japanese and Thai influences) in Thailand and China in the recent past.

I’m a vegetarian but Lamia isn’t so we were happy to see that the menu caters for meat eaters, vegetarians and vegans alike, and has a special selection of gluten free options. Ok, now to our food experience.

The food was well presented throughout the meal. The photos you see below show the food as it appeared before us. We’re not food photographers and we had no special lights with us on the day, so what you see here is an accurate representation of what you’d see if you were in the restaurant yourself.

Lamia first ordered the chicken spring rolls.

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They were non greasy, light and fried to perfection. The filling was substantial (sometimes they can be very empty and more batter than filling) and  the sauce was a garlicky plum flavour. It was a tasty appetizer.

Then Lamia moved into the Unique Beef Satay Pad Thai (stir fried in lime juice, tamarind and tomato sauce with a blend of dried shrimp, chilli, garlic, shallot and peanuts). She wanted to try this as she’s enjoyed Pad Thai in the past elsewhere and wanted to taste Spring Rolls’ unique take on this famous dish.

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The beef (she chose beef but you can also have chicken, shrimp or vegetarian) was tender, well cooked and plentifully scattered through the dish, but it had tofu in it too. She’s not usually that keen on tofu, she said, but this was a bit better than she normally finds it. The noodle was tender, could have been a little firmer for her taste, but the bean sprouts were perfectly crunchy and complemented the noodles well. It was already very citrusy, so when Lamia squeezed extra lime over it, it was a touch too much. Lesson learned, she said, try before you season! Lamia admits that she’s a very picky eater so her slight criticisms are just that – slight. In general this was a very enjoyable dish.

Next came Tornado Rolls (tiger shrimp wrapped in fresh noodles and then fried).

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Lamia said these were kind of awkward to eat at first. She’s simply never tasted anything like it before and was unsure how to eat them! This is yet another unique dish that the chef at Spring Rolls invented, you’re really unlikely to taste something like it anywhere else. Very crunchy and not the sort of thing you could eat on a first date as the crispy noodles tend to spread out over the table and your shirt when you bite into them! Taste wise the tiger shrimp was perfect, cooked evenly, soft but not rubbery and full of flavour that went well with the soya sauce dip.

To drink Lamia had Mango Juice.

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It was lovely and cold, tasty too. Because mango wasn’t in season when we visited in the winter she’s guessing that this drink would have a stronger taste in summer and be all the better for it.

For desert we both had Pandan Leaf Crepes with a crispy coconut and peanut filling.

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This is yet another dish that’s unique to the restaurant, invented by an Indonesian lady who works in the office. Ground up pandan leaves are mixed with flour giving the crepe an enticing green colour and served soft. The texture was excellently complimented by the crispy coconut and peanut filling. It reminded Lamia of something that her grandma would make as a comfort dish back in Bangladesh in the depth of winter. It was her favourite dish, something that she could serve up to her mum and impress even her with (Lamia’s mum is a great cook and is generally dismissive of restaurant food).

Ok, now to my vegetarian meal. I had Vegetable Spring Rolls for starters.

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They were like Lamia’s chicken spring rolls but without the meat. These were filled full of vegetables cooked just right. The batter was crispy rather than rubbery (a common fault of this sort of finger food) and the plum sauce enhanced the veggie taste.

Next came Triple Cheese Dumplings (crispy dumpling filled with a mild cheese blend).

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These looked like samosas and were served with a raspberry dip that was a delight in both colour and taste – a perfect combination! I thought the dumpling would be greasy – a cheese dumpling sounds like something you might order at a hole in the way joint alongside deep fried mars bars or something when you’ve had a few too many drinks – but here the dumpling was extremely light and the cheese filling more saucy than stodgy. Like the spring rolls, these dumplings are a perfect appetizer or side dish.

For my main I had the Veggie Explosion (mango, asparagus and avocado topped with sweet potato tempura).

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These were truly an explosion of colour and taste. Made like sushi – the strips of yellow mango and bright green asparagus and avocado are encased in sticky rice and seaweed – these were served cold with wasabi paste on the side that you can mix with soya sauce to your own taste (wasabi can get pretty spicy so go slow if you’re not used to it) and the dish is topped with sweet potato tempura. This tasted and looked more like a dish you might get served in a far more expensive restaurant; like all of the dishes we tried at Spring Rolls it was very fine dining but without the high price.

For drinks I had an organic beer from the Mill Street Brewery.

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This is a light beer from a Toronto-based brewery. Organic with a 4.2% strength and a refreshing yet not overpowering taste, it is a good choice when you’re eating food with so many unique flavour combinations, as I was.

Here are a few photos we took of the inside of the restaurant and Jenny, our friendly waitress. The service was attentive and helpful – Jenny asked if we had any allergies as we ordered – and the general atmosphere was chilled. The background music wasn’t too loud and everything, including the water fountain/stream that ran through the middle of the restaurant was, well, calming.

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We really enjoyed our lunch at Spring Rolls and totally recommend it. Coming from the UK you’re unlikely to have tried it’s style of food before but if you enjoy the thought of Pan-Asian (combinations of Thai, Japanese or Chinese) food you’re sure to find a variety of tasty dishes on the menu that’ll suit you. To discover more about Spring Rolls please visit http://www.springrolls.ca

And here is our video of the short chat we had with Quyen, who handles PR at Spring Rolls.

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