Every restaurant that I’ll review here, whether or not it comes out on top in the end, should be both affordable and worth patronizing. The first place that came to mind when I decided on this mission was an old favourite of mine: the highly-esteemed Café 668, a vegetarian Chinese place located at 885 Dundas Street West. Subject to enthusiastic reviews from numerous newspapers (including a 2002 edition of NOW that gave them the title of Toronto’s best restaurant, regardless of category) Café 668 is nevertheless mainly run by a team of two: manager Hon Quach and partner/chef Ngoc Lam.
At their old digs, the restaurant had the feel of a mom-and-pop place. It looked like any other Chinatown eatery, with its unassuming sign, crowded quarters and a friendly proprietor behind the counter. Although they’ve relocated to a much fancier place—glass walls, expensive-looking tables—the food has only increased in quality and the prices themselves are still affordable: $6 for a bowl of soup, $15 for a main course.
There may be cheaper meals out there but, as far as quality goes, Café 668 is at the very top of the market, and most of the city knows it. Quach and Lam are true immigrant success stories.
It’s time, however, to talk about the food. When I returned to Café 668 at 2ronto.com’s behest, I thought I would try several items I hadn’t tried in the past. I ordered the summer rolls ($4.50 for 2) - rice paper with Thai basil, mushrooms, cabbage, tofu, green bead threads, julienned carrots, celery, peanuts, and house sauce; and the Vegetarian Curry ($12.99) - a spicy number containing bean sprouts, yellow beans, mushrooms, carrots and celery; and a garden salad.
The summer rolls arrived first, delivered by an Asian server, with good English and a polite smile. Throughout the meal she remained courteous; the service, in general, was excellent, and the summer rolls turned out to be delicious. They were fresh, the vegetables were finely balanced, and overall they were something to make any immigrant from that area of the world pine for home. I enjoyed them so much that I’m going to return next week and order four as a meal unto themselves.
The vegetarian curry was equally sumptuous. Not only that, it came on a square plate and the way the food lay upon it spoke volumes. Putting my fork to it almost felt like an act of defilement, but it did taste as good as it looked. Or better. Here’s where my abilities as a food critic fail me, and I have to state that it’s simply the best vegetarian curry I’ve ever tried. It’s spicy but not too spicy, the tastes all blend with each other perfectly, and it was a sizable amount of food.
I had planned to top off my meal with their coconut cream banana desserts, but I was too full. Still, there’s always next time.
And there will be a next time, that's for sure...