Green Mango Blossoms at Yonge and Bloor
By Janice Warren
Immersed in mid-February Toronto, the spirit within us all must rebel eventually. So out we go to outrageously priced movies, still seemingly the most viable option. But even though the fat years are well behind us, we can no longer conceive of a movie without dinner -- before, after, or at some chic art houses, during.
Since the intersection of Yonge and Bloor offers the greatest concentration of theatres, it is here we most often search for inexpensive nourishment. Good luck.
Most of what is available does not suit our needs. Either we are drawn to the glitzy eateries of Yorkville, where the food is la touriste (that is, overpriced and thoughtlessly prepared), or we settle for fast-food grease.
However, a newcomer to the neighborhood has filled this dining gap in a style I have encountered nowhere else, but would love to see proliferate. The Green Mango is my nomination for the best fast food in Toronto.
Really stage two of another Thai operation that began in a back alley around the corner (the now-defunct Lemongrass), this latest enterprise, one block south of Bloor on Yonge, occupies the former premises of a second- rate pizza outlet.
Spotless but sterile, this family-run operation offers food to eat in or take out, which in itself is no big deal. But the food....
The surprisingly extensive menu relies on the steam table, the owners have cleverly chosen items that survive this treatment, using an internal kitchen for only a few items that require last-minute preparation.
On a hot summer day, one of the salad dishes ($4.95) can really awaken dormant tastebuds. Available in beef, shrimp or chicken, whichever is chosen has been zestily marinated and lightly cooked. It is served over a bed of Thai noodles (regular or spicy) accompanied by an Oriental coleslaw-type salad, topped with chopped peanuts, fresh coriander and a thin sweet/hot sauce.
Conversely, nothing is as warming as Shrimp Lemongrass soup ($3.95). A clear broth covering the aforementioned shrimp and lemongrass is heightened with ample chilies -- not for the faint of throat.
Follow this with one of a variety of entree dishes. Choices include basil chicken (mild); lemongrass chicken (medium); and ginger chicken (spicy). With each you may choose one of steamed rice, classic Pad Thai noodles, spicy noodles, basil noodles or crystal noodles. Very good vegetable fried rice is $1 extra. All of this comes with the same Oriental salad, peanuts and coriander and each is priced at the same $4.95 (as are all the entrees). Special tip: upon request, the server will sprinkle a scattering of tiny fried onions over all. Ask for it.
Other dishes available in the same format and at the same price are curried chicken, beef or vegetables. In the past, however, these have looked rather uninviting.
Besides the soup, Green Mango offers an interesting range of starters and side dishes. Green mango salad, being rather acidic, may not be on a par with that found at other Thai restaurants, but the "fresh rolls" here are noteworthy. Resembling uncooked spring rolls, they are really translucent dough wrappers holding crispy shredded vegetables. Accompanied by a pungent dipping sauce, these come in three styles: Shrimp, chicken or vegetable. Three rolls cost $2.50, with not a drop of oil in sight.
Even the traditional spring rolls are presented with a twist -- these are stuffed with the thinnest of crystal noodles.
There are a few other listings, but I feel this restaurant is a work in progress and fully expect to find a few changes each time I visit.