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Finding LOV on King West

I remember walking by this restaurant in the late fall back when it first opened for business and making a mental note that I’d have to go check it out because, hello, it looked so cute from the outside looking in.

All white interior with floor to ceiling glass windows lets any passerby be privy to all that’s happening inside the uber Instagrammable restaurant. And there are plants. Several plants. Hanging from the ceiling, perched in troughs, draping around columns, it’s a thing of beauty, really. Not to mention, it speaks to the plant-based theme of the restaurant.

According to their website, LOV "speaks of a tasty and responsible plant-based cuisine.” That means that their fast-fine restaurant hybrid offers a unique menu that is super healthy and sustainable if you consider the lesser ecological impact of a vegan diet.

After an afternoon at the theatre with my childhood friend Sabina, we headed to LOV for dinner. Walking through the door, I loved the chill vibe and look of the space. I was also a huge fan of their effortlessly cool French playlist. I might have asked Sabina to Shazam a number of songs as the night went on!

To drink and peruse the menu, I ordered a Poptail. The jazzy name was really the main selling point for the drink. Plus, it was served with a popcorn garnish and I’m a sucker for a cocktail that’s garnished with snacks. A concoction of Appleton V/X rum, popcorn syrup and aquafaba (for the frothy finish), this cocktail was niiiiiice to sip. Maybe rum is my drink?

My counterpart opted for a less boozy bevy, the Berry Best Smoothie made with acai, raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, bananas, oranges and hemp seeds. Super healthy and rich in nutrients as well as sweet and tart berry goodness.

Though I’d initially gone in guns a’ blazing and ready to order the Not a Cheese Plate, our waitress suggested otherwise. I mean, feta, garlic and chives boursin, gorgonzola and gouda with grilled pepper chutney, mustard sprouts and crostini sounds awesome and I do like to try non-dairy cheeses but, I guess I’ll have to go back for this vegan delight another time.

Instead, we were recommended to order the Dumplings. Stuffed with mushroom and mixed veggies, these fried dumplings were served with an almond butter kimchi sauce. Sadly, though the dumplings were much-hyped up by our waitress, I must say they were good but I highly doubt they’re the best thing on the menu. For starters, I would have liked a crispier dumpling, personally. And while the flavours inside the dumpling pocket were decent, take away that nutty and firey sauce and the dumplings leave something to be desired.

In between dumpling bites, we also grazed on Brussel’s Sprouse which were roasted Brussel sprouts tossed in a buffalo sauce and sprinkled with fleur de sel. I’m a sucker for anything roasted, so I was totally LOVing these... ;) The buffalo sauce was a nice little addition that helped amplify flavour profiles without being too overpowering with richness or creamy viscousness.

Moving on, my tasting buddy for the night decided on a Power Bowl for her main. A medley of greens, cucumbers, corn, tomatoes, radish, quinoa, lentils, sprouted mung beans and LOV crunchy mix, there was a fair amount of stuff going on in this bowl.

Yet, with all these colours, textures and flavours, it seemed to be a little boring. Plus, it wasn’t terribly inventive. I’ve made better power bowls at home, tbh. The accompanying green goddess vinaigrette provided a little bit of relief but as my pal pointed out, it just sort of felt like a cilantro overload.

Luckily, my entrée, delivered a bit more of a wow factor. Truffles & Caviar, caught my eye almost immediately. I can’t not order something with truffles!

A pasta dish, Truffles and Caviar consisted of zoodles (zucchini noodles) tossed in a creamy truffle sauce and topped with roasted oyster mushrooms and tapioca caviar. I have to say, most of the time I’m not a huge zoodle fan, but these were awesome. That truffle sauce was earthy and creamy, just plain old decadent. But, I did not feel heavy in the least after eating it!

As for caviar component, I was really curious to see how it would be executed and to be honest I was impressed. I thought that the tapioca pearls were a creative way to provide another level of intrigue as well as texture and colour. I’m not sure that they truly had a flavour of their own (we got hints of garlic, but it could have just been the sauce), but I liked the concept more than anything.

To end our evening, we nursed Blue Lavender Lattes crafted with a non-dairy oat milk base and Pitaya Rose, butterfly pea, ashwagandha, nutmeg and cinnamon. Not gonna lie, I had to google what ashwagandha was! Btw, it’s an Indian ginseng.

Not as beautiful or blue as what is advertised on their online menu, my latte was grey beneath a layer of froth. Likewise, I wasn't terribly crazy about the lavender flavour as it definitely wasn’t subtle—I likened it to sucking on a soap bar.

To with our lattes, we also ordered a Crème Brûlée. When it arrived at the table, it looked like the traditional non-vegan dessert. I mean, the caramelized sugar was on point. The custard, however, was a dead give away that this was a vegan treat. Made with a coconut base, it had qualities reminiscent of the buttery richness of a crème brûlée, but it sort of tasted like coconut yogurt topped with a crackable sugar topping. Good, but definitely different.

Because we tasted cocktails, apps, mains, desserts and post-dinner beverages, the bill was not cheap. That said, if you stick to an entrée or sharing a couple of apps, LOV won't break the bank. Though it is located on King West, beside some more elevated restaurants, LOV is pretty down-to-earth. Heck, most of the menu is available as a take-away option.

One thing that didn’t help the dining experience was an overwhelming presence of fruit flies. I’d wager that this is an effect of all the live plants. This is something that took away from the dining magic a bit as no one wants to be swatting away tiny bugs during their meal. Also, it’s winter so it shouldn’t really be a problem.

LOV is a place that’s been given a lot of hype lately, based on its recent opening. Because it’s plant-based and vegan, this makes it a viable contender for diners with special diets, which is worth noting. However, this is not the only all vegan restaurant in the city; nor is it the most creative. A lot of menu items are vegan without trying like Brussels sprouts, fries or avo toast. I would have liked to have seen more traditionally non-vegan food that’s been given a plant-based makeover. There is poutine and burger, but I'd like something a little more in the realm of that caviar tapioca.

At the end of the day, I think this is a good place for lunch or dinner (the brunch menu seems a little underwhelmed) when dining with someone who has a plant-based diet. Since the menu is all vegan so it takes out any guesswork or dietary woe, but for the average Joe, I'm not sure it leaves a lasting impression.

Still kinda curious about that cheese plate though. Maybe it’ll be a Poptail and cheese night one day as I stroll through the neighbourhood. But with so much out there, I’m not sure I’ll be hurrying back to LOV.

. . .


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