FOOD SAVVY (782 Queen East, at Saulter, 416-466-0466) Complete lunches for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a gourmet coffee. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 4 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free, washrooms upstairs. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
With a focus on catering, food Savvy owner/exec chef Petal Moore creates "urban ethnic" fare, pairing fresh herbs and other ingredients in unique cross-cultural combinations.
From Greek to Caribbean, her imaginative style can be sampled in this impeccably chic yet comfy bistro. Seating is limited to about 12, primarily around a sweeping tiled counter, but everything is also available to go.
I venture out on a -30° day for some takeout, not realizing the primary menu of six sandwiches are all grilled. Fortunately, the Queen streetcar is unusually quick to arrive and the food well wrapped, so everything's still warm when I get home.
The sandwiches, called piadini, are made with different types of low-carb flatbreads, and three of us divvy up the booty: eggplant crunch, lime chicken wrap, jerk chicken ($6.50 each) and two small salads ($3.50 each/$6.50 for a large).
The jerk chicken is the unanimous favourite, with well-seasoned grilled chicken, pickled red onion and a perfectly balanced jerk sauce on a thick flatbread. Runner-up is the lime chicken wrap, with its summery flavours in the depths of winter.
Lime juice keeps the chicken tender and moist, and there's a hint of Monterey Jack. It could use more fresh cilantro. Between the avocado cream or chipotle mayo as dips, the latter is the better choice for those who like a bit of kick.
Breaded eggplant with fried vidalia onions, zucchini, tomato and lettuce wants garlic, and the kopanisti sheep's cheese spread on the flatbread, while a laudable alternative to chèvre, lacks flavour.
Lemon dill couscous with chickpeas is also a fresh approach to a staple but again needs a little more dill to liven it up. Shanghai noodle salad has a pasty texture, as though it's spent too much time in its sesame oil dressing, which has softened the noodles.
Moore's novel combinations, though, should be applauded, even if the flavouring is a little timid.