NIRVANA (434 College, at Bathurst, 416-927-8885) Complete meals for $35, including all taxes and tip. Average main $9. Open daily 11 am to 2 am. Licensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms in basement. Rating: NN
There is that which is incontestably bad. Something like, let’s say, Madonna’s entire filmography. Magnificent flops are to be celebrated for uniting us in derision. More troublesome is badness that, through the illusion of competence, enlists enough victims or accomplices to sustain its shortcomings – for example, the prime ministerial aspirations of Stéphan Dion, or CBC’s Air Farce, only now just removed from network life support.
Let us add Nirvana to the list of these dogged underachievers. Using the already proven formula established at sister enterprises the Green Room and the Red Room, Nirvana has created an attractive foundation on which to build its culinary house of yawns.
Spacious, candlelit, chandeliered, semi-exotic in a pseudo-Eastern manner: combine all this with a big bar that dispenses cheap drink specials and you have exactly the right environment for the undiscerning and inexperienced to scarf down some impressively flavourless food.
To Nirvana’s credit, pretty much everything is prepared to a uniform standard of competence and freshness. But you could say the same of a well-run Meals on Wheels program.
The bland leading the bland. The pesto pizza ($6.95) is the kind of thing I might make for lunch if I had some time and prepared ingredients to spare: cheddar and mozzarella, artichokes, black olives, roasted peppers and a goodish smear of pesto all broiled up on a pita. Cali-terranean-esque cheese on toast.
Blander. Eggplant curry dip ($5.95) features a small bowl of oily minced eggplant containing fewer parts per billion of curry powder than the average Thanksgiving vegetable casserole. Colluding in mediocrity is the accompanying bowl of plain yogurt and the floppy paratha flatbread triangles.
The bland played on. Vermicelli noodles ($7.95) with spring rolls and and grilled chicken breast tastes like what you’d get at a Vietnamese restaurant in Salt Lake City staffed entirely by blond Mormons named Aaron.
Blandest ever. Avocado and Brie sandwich ($5.75) is an oleaginous comedy act with two straight men. Tragicomedy, actually, since the kitchen manages to toast the bread into whole wheat shingles.
Only the sliced onion rises above the fog of flavourlessness.
Not surprisingly, the tastiest thing on the menu is made somewhere else. Dufflet’s Turtle fudge cake ($5.95) pleases with its combination of lightness and luxuriant textures.
Nirvana? More like Stone Temple Pilots unplugged.