SALAD SPA (90 Eglinton East, at Dunfield, 416-487-2523) Complete meals for $20 per person, including all taxes, tip and a smoothie. Average main $8.50. Open Monday to Friday 8:30 am to 9 pm, Saturday to Sunday 11 am to 7 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: NN
The Salad Spa conjures images of affluent uptowners stopping in for a quick oil-and-vinegar massage or maybe an entire Salad Spa day getting therapeutic tossing treatments in a giant wooden bowl.
In reality the Salad Spa is a bright, functional room dominated by a salad-serving counter where staff compose salads and wraps according to the dictates of customers who usually are picking up lunch or stopping in on the way home from work.
Knowing I'll be faced with an endless combination of "lettuce bases," "throw-ins" and "proteins," I conform to established templates and attempt to execute, roughly, a Greek salad, a Cobb salad, a soup and a chicken Caesar wrap. (I'm not entirely sure how well established the chicken Caesar is in the wrap pantheon, but it seems like a sensible idea at the time.)
Here's how it all works out. Greek-style small salad #1 ($4.99) - romaine, black olives, tomato, celery, radishes, cucumber, red onion, feta (50 cents extra) and Greek dressing - fails to excel on every level. Everything's fresh and bland in a Dominion-produce kind of way. Without some truly outstanding ingredients, which would obviously push up the price, or culinary dexterity, it's just a plain old salad.
Small salad #2 ($4.99) is made up of spinach, green onion, avocado (50 cents extra), turkey ($1.99 extra), bacon bits, corn and honey mustard dressing.
This Cobb approximation's processed turkey, sweet dressing and remarkable Liquid-Smokey bacon bits give an unintended nod to the 70s salad bar, but not even these taste sensations can up the flavour ante beyond humdrum.
The wrap ($4.39) - grilled chicken ($1.99 extra), spring salad mix, green onions, parmesan, tomato and Caesar dressing - is more of the same: not especially awful, not awfully special.
The small soup ($3.79) is made of coriander stock, rice noodles, green onions, broccoli and shrimp ($1.99). Soup is one dish that doesn't benefit from being made on the spot. This may be the most flavourless bowl of soup I have ever had the pleasure of not eating.
I wash it all down by a Berry-Good for You smoothie ($3.79). It's berry okay.