The Magic Oven Restaurant, Toronto, Canada

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The Magic Oven offers award winning pizza made with organic flours, organic mozzarella & raw milk cheddars and organic meats. They also serve a diverse selection of healthy salads, pastas and sandwiches, all made to accommodate a variety of diets – for instance, there are organic spelt pizzas, gluten-free rice flour pizzas and the option of vegan or lactose-free cheese.

The restaurants (there are 6 spread across the city of Toronto) are fully licensed (offering a selection of specialty wines and beer with organic options) and reflect the owners commitment to respecting resources. They use environment friendly packaging, their menus are printed on recycled paper, the pizza boxes are made of recycled cardboard and they use degradable plastic bags. Also, the Magic Oven restaurant locations are all reclaimed sites, saved from demolition crews and featuring recycled furniture and fixtures. All in all, it’s the sort of restaurant that every town and city will have in a few years time, there’s simply no other way for society as we know it to survive than to have services like the Magic Oven which find a way to balance doing the sustainable, decent thing with making a profit, and we’re very happy to have the chance to review the restaurant here on The Photographers Guide.

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The Magic Oven that we visited, at 6 Wellesley St West, is a 5 minute walk from Wellesley subway station. On the afternoon we visited I was taking photos down in Dundas Square in the very centre of town and Lamia was visiting a gallery on Dundas St West; for her it was a 10 minute train ride and for me it was a 15 minute walk straight up Yonge Street.

The restaurant has a take out option – useful if you’re in one of the nearby hotels (there’s a Hyatt and a Radisson nearby) and want the sort of healthy, tasty food the Magic Oven provides.

Before we talk about what we ate off the regular menu, which has plenty of choice of Pizza, Pasta Dishes, Sandwiches, Salads and Sides, their ‘Express Yourself Pizza’ option is worth a mention. This is where you can create your own pizza with the following options….

  • Pizza size (10” or 16”)
  • Crust (Organic Flour, Wholegrain, Organic Spelt or Gluten Free Flour)
  • Sauce (Non GMO Tomato Sauce, Pesto Cream, Spicy Tomato, Ginger Tomato and many more)
  • Cheese (Organic  Mozarella, Raw Milk Organic Cheddar, Lactose Free, Goat Cheese, Daiya Vegan Cheese and more)
  • Meat Toppings (All-Beef Organic Salami, Organic Bacon, Tandoori Chicken, Organic Italian Sausage, Grilled Salmon and more)
  • Vegetarian Toppings (Thyme tossed Portobellos, Caramelized Onions, Tandoori Sweet Potato, Organic Tofu, Hemp Nuts, Roasted Coconut, Edamame, Garlic Rubbed Spinach and much more.

So you can see that there is a huge range of ingredients being used at the Magic Oven, and I’m positive that there’s something on the menu for absolutely everybody.

For starters we shared a selection of dishes. Bearing in mind that one of the slogans on the Magic Oven menu is ‘Slow Food is Good, Clean, Fair Food’ our dishes didn’t take very long to arrive – about 10 minutes from when we ordered.

Our favourite was the Goat Cheese Bliss (mixed veggies and tomato with melted goats cheese served with garlic spelt crisps).

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The dip was served warm, as were the crisps. I’ve never eaten spelt flour before other than in a loaf of bread and I was surprised to find that these crisps had a very different texture to the regular crisps that I’m used to. These didn’t shatter when you bit into them, as I thought they would (they looked like poppadum’s so I expected them to act like them), instead they held together perfectly. It made for an easy way to eat the dip, and the dip stayed free of crisp debris all the way to the bottom!

Sometimes in the past goats cheese has had an overpowering taste for me and been quite stodgy when melted but this dip wasn’t like this – all of the flavours were subtle and allowed the others to surface and be noticed. If I had to compare it’s consistency with something more mainstream it would be thick egg mayo with cress or chunky veg sandwich filling, except it was 100% more tasty than those. I think I could eat this for lunch, together with the Summer Sweet Salad I talk about below, and be entirely satisfied, it felt luxurious and was proof that good, healthy food doesn’t have to taste austere or bland.

Then we had the Greek Fries (with feta and oregano served with a Greek dip made with lemon juice, feta cheese milk, cultured skim milk, garlic, salt and egg yolk). These were regular fries sprinkled with crumbled feta cheese and a hint of oregano herb.

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The fries were crunchy outside, soft inside and clearly freshly cooked. Perfectly seasoned (not pre-salted) and the dip was a lovely substitute for ketchup or mayo. We were reviewing restaurants in Athens last year and this dish brought pleasant memories of that flooding back.

Summer Sweet Salad (baby greens with avocado, mango and walnuts with a grapefruit vinaigrette).

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I loved this. It was so colourful, just looking at it was a delight! And you know how it is when you eat something and know instinctively that it’s super healthy for you, how it just increases in taste value as a result. This was like that. Not to say it wasn’t tasty, it was. The mango and avocado were just at the right stage of ripeness – flavourful but not falling apart – and the walnuts added a pleasant crunch to it all.

Garlic Bread with mozzarella. Fresh and hot, with a good helping of mozzarella. Not too much that you think they’re trying to hide low quality ingredients with bulk, as many restaurants do, but enough that the taste and texture of both bread and cheese came through.

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Lamia really enjoys Garlic Bread. She thought that this version was excellent; the bread itself was soft inside, toasted to a slight crunch, and she said she could have easily eaten the whole lot to herself.

It’s a joy when food is bought to the table at the correct temperature. I don’t mean scientifically correct, or correct by some fancy 5 star standards, I mean the correct temperature at which to enjoy it properly. The pizza we both had as a main course was served just warm so you could eat it straight away without having the cheese or other toppings burning the top of your mouth. This is basic stuff but plenty of restaurants get that one wrong.

And the main that we shared (I know, we ate a lot, but it was so tasty we couldn’t help it!), which was a Flavonoid Lovers Pasta (penne pasta with spinach, eggplant, zucchini, hemp seeds, roasted red peppers in a tomato sauce) was served much hotter, which was fine since we were eating it slowly, with a fork, and the sauce coated the pasta but congregated at the bottom of the bowl, which took us a bit of time to get to, by which time it was still warm but not overly hot.

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The dish looked amazing, so many colours! The pasta was al dente and the little chunks of vegetables gave a good texture change, as did the hemp seeds. For me this is so important and some cuisines just fall down heavily because they fail to take it into account – there has to be a balance of texture! When we’d finished the pasta the toasted bread was there to mop up what remained of the sauce.

Lamia had the Fresh Market Magic Pizza (tomato, red onion, roasted peppers, portobellos, tomatoes, mozzarella) with a wholegrain crust.

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The waitress asked us what crust we’d like when we ordered, and since neither of us had ever had pizza with anything other than regular flour crust Lamia chose the wholegrain option whilst I had the spelt. Lamia says that this was the first pizza that she’s had that wasn’t obviously comfort food. You know how regular pizza often is, loaded with cheese and sugary tomato sauce. This pizza wasn’t like that, the flavours were more natural and subtle, so it took some getting used to for her. On top of this she’d enjoyed the starters a bit too much so didn’t have much room for it, so I ended up eating half of it. I liked it a lot, although the tomato pieces were a touch too raw for me. I do make my own pizza at home and this was pretty much like that, it’s how pizza turns out if you have quality fresh ingredients and you’re not trying to fool yourself into feeling good with a huge sugar rush.

I had the Mediterranean Magic Pizza (tomato, garlic spinach, roasted peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, feta cheese, kalamata olives).

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The spelt made the crust crunchier than I was used to. I liked it as I was eager to try something new but if you enjoy your crusts on the softer side I’d say that spelt is not for you. The kalamata olives were used sparingly which is good as they can be overpowering (like pepperoni can be also). As it was, there was just enough to offer their taste but not so much that I couldn’t also enjoy the sun-dried tomato and feta.

For dessert I had the Vegan Chocolate Cake.

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This was a bit more crumbly than a regular chocolate cake might be, I suppose because it lacked egg, but it was rich and very chocolaty and the slice was a generous size (some people on the table next to us shared their desert, it was enough for 2 people who were already pretty full yet wanted a sweet to finish with). Perfect for me as I believe it would be for the vast majority of people. I think if you’ve never had a Vegan Chocolate cake before then this would be a good place to start. 

Lamia had a Hazelnut Cappuccino Cheesecake.

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Lamia describes this as having all the attributes of a good quality cheesecake. The base was hard enough but not too crunchy or crumbly and the small pieces of nut added a subtle texture change from the 2 layers of cool coffee. The pineapple was an interesting garnish, not something we’d think of partnering with coffee flavours but it worked well and the chocolate drizzle pulled it all together.

Like everything else we ate at the Magic Oven the dessert flavours were all there but none were particularly overpowering to the point that you couldn’t enjoy whatever was mixed with it. Their menu really is a well thought out selection of items/ingredients/ways of cooking pulled together by a group of people who are clearly as knowledgeable about their food as they are passionate about healthy and sustainable eating.

For drinks Lamia had the organic Mango Juice and Pomegranate Juice. Both were cold, not overly sweet (in other words, not artificially sweetened) and their flavours were real and discernible.

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I had home made organic iced tea (above right) and a Mill Street Organic Beer.

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The iced tea was refreshing; the flavours were very subtle indeed and when I’d gotten to the bottom I found there were flowers that looked like daisies in there. It’s more a drink for a summery lunchtime I think than a winter’s evening, although I’m glad I tried it. As for the Mill St Organic Lager, I’ve had this brand before and know it to be a very decent beer. It’s 4.2% strength, produced in Toronto and it’s very light. Perfect if you’re eating a variety of flavours and just want a simple beer to go with them rather than to overpower them.

Finally, here are some images of the restaurant and of Candy, the manageress. As you can see the restaurant is homely and cosy. What you can’t see is the atmosphere, which was very calm and relaxed even later in the evening when the place filled up with families and couples. A word about the service – our waitress was very well informed about the menu and happy to offer suggestions based upon the preferences we put forward. Our water glasses (water is complimentary here) were never empty and we never had to wait more than a minute to speak to her if we wanted anything, such as when it came to ordering extra drinks, or dessert.

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And here’s a short film of an interview we did with Candy, explaining more about the Magic Oven and what it offers.

We’re going to be re-visiting the Magic Oven at some point. There were far more things on the menu that we want to sample (the Honey Chilli Tofu Finger sound excellent and I’d love to make up my own pizza, and Lamia fancies the Tandoori Chicken Magic Pizza). There are only about 12 tables so if you’d like to visit yourself, I’d advise reserving. You can find out how to do this, and discover more about the menu, on their website at http://www.magicoven.com/

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