First-time restaurateurs Roy Qian and Oliver Chen's seven-week-old Grasshopper (310 College, at Robert, 647-340-3666, grasshopperrestaurant.ca, @grasshopperrest, rating: NNN) gets a lot of things right. Conveniently located close to U of T and Kensington Market, the 24-seat room ticks all the rustic decor boxes - exposed brick, reclaimed barnboard, flickering light fixtures - and features a short multi-culti card that's not only easy on the pocketbook but almost entirely vegan to boot. Problem is, some of it needs work.
Oh, the kitchen sends out a terrific take on Caesar salad, its romaine properly ripped, its creamy non-dairy dressing free of anchovies and its croutons replaced by deep-fried cubes of panko-crusted tofu. And a main-sized salad of white Korean cabbage and kale - sadly, not of the massaged dinosaur variety - in apple cider vinaigrette (both $8) supplies enough roughage for a week.
There are Vietnamese pulled pork banh mi subs made with TVP in sweet 'n' sour barbecue sauce finished with pickled daikon and carrot ($8.50), and one of the tastier veggie burgers around, even if its patty and toasted multi-grain bun are outsourced and its optional "classic burger" sauce contains mayonnaise ($9.50). All sandwiches come sided with more of that curly kale salad and a handful of anemic undercooked fries.
In contrast, bowls of steamed red rice topped with sautéed 'shrooms in tahini sauce ($9.50) or mild-mannered "Southwest-style" chili could be the work of a first-year university student who's just discovered the Moosewood Restaurant cookbook. But that's no excuse for gluten-free mac 'n' cheese (both $9) made with quinoa penne and what the menu calls "creamy cheesy vegan chedda' sauce" but tastes remarkably similar to the non-vegan peanut sauce it sells as a side for a buck.