June 26th, 2004

Fishy Circumstances

Sunshine on vintage clothing

I'm a lapsed flautist. I tooks lessons for something like twelve years, played in a flute choir, a band, and duets with my family. I hardly play anymore, and the skill I once had is a memory, something I know I could revive with practice, but I haven't recently.

C. and I went for brunch today at Mitsy's, walking there through air which bordered on both cool and warm. It hadn't occurred to me to bring a hat. The streetcar wasn't running and the bus was diverting around the portion of street I would have taken it over, so we walked. The weather warmed and my shawl was redundant. The clouds were fluffy whie in a clear blue sky.

Toronto is crowded with parades and fairs and festivals in the summer. Many of them are huge events which attract hundreds of thousands of participants and audience members. The Pride Parade is the best-attended event of the year - that's tomorrow. Caribana and Taste of the Danforth are enormous. Then there are more diffuse events, which attract large numbers of people to a wide variety of locations, such as the Fringe Festival (starts next week) and the Toronto International Film Festival (at the beginning of September). Further down the size line are the plenitude of ethnic and neighborhood festivals which claim portions of major streets for the day or the weekend: Taste of Little Italy was the other weekend, for example. Every neighborhood has one, if not five, over the course of the summer. Today, Parkdale took over Queen West, and blocked public transportation with a modestly varied Vintage Fair.

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Fishy Circumstances

Salad King

Location: Younge and O'Keefe (one block north of Dundas), Toronto

I'm picky about rice. It bores me and fills me up easily, so I generally order noodles instead when possible. I am endlessly interested in noodles. There are some amazingly good risotti in the world, although I don't often try to find them. Lemon rice can be delicious, but it's rarely available. Fried rice is usually too greasy for me, with all its flavors diluted into one amorphous greasy one. In other words, I don't usually try to hard to find rice which will interest me because I am easily disappointed, bored, and full from it. Which brings me to Salad King, a restaurant I went to several weeks ago with hereward and double0hilly - because their fried rice was flavorful, varied, and delicious. It was the best dish I sampled there.

Salad King isn't quite just-another-Yonge-Street-Thai restaurant because their plates and serving bowls are too elegant for that. There's a downstairs portion, with minimalist decor and long tables. It reminded me vaguely of places like Belgo (in London, UK), although on a much smaller scale. Diners crowded in, eating from beautifully arrayed platters and trays, all in simple, elegant white china. We were headed up stairs to the full-service portion of the restaurant, called "Linda", complete with wine and linens. Linda herself came by to introduce herself and her restaurant in an elegantly high-ceilinged room with dark wood to contrast the white of the tableclothes.

I had dinner plans elsewhere, so I only ordered an appetizer, then stuck around to steal bites of everyone elses' appetizers and mains. My mango salad was substantial, underripe mango julienned into a pile of delicate slivers. It was a respectable salad - although I like mango salad even better when the mango is juicier - but the presentation is really what made the dish spectacular. Not only was the dish itself beautifully laid out, it was presented in an angled white china bowl, a good two inches lower on one side than the other. This meant that the dish was displayed to me personally, and my dining companions had to lean over the top of my bowl to discover what lay inside. The point of the dish isn't secretiveness though - it's very nice presentation.

The chicken satay skewers were a bit dry, but the peanut sauce was good. The soft shell cold rolls, a recommended specialty, were flavored in unexpected ways - if it was the pickled carrot, the mango, or the dipping sauce which made the difference, I can't remember at this distance. I don't remember being particularly enticed into ordering more of the cold rolls - but I remember that they were decent. Nor can I remember what double0hilly's main dish was called - but I do clearly remembe the beautiful contrast between the colors of the ingredients layered together on the plate, bright greens against purples and reds, and I remember how nicely cooked the mini-eggplants were which came with it, the vegetable highlight of the meal. Indeed, the mini-eggplant, crisp, but cooked, and the multivalent tastes of the fried rice are what stay with me this many weeks later after eating there.