ORIGINAL SOUPMAN (260 Yonge, Eaton Centre food concourse, at Dundas, 416-915-7687) Complete meals for $10 per person, including all taxes, tip and a soft drink. Average main $7. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 9 pm, Saturday 11 am to 7 pm, Sunday and holidays noon to 6 pm. Closed statutory holidays. Unlicensed. Access: barrier-free. Rating: NN
Al Yeganeh clearly has no sense of humour. Back in 95, when the gruff owner of New York City’s Soup Kitchen International was parodied on Seinfeld as the Soup Nazi, Yeganeh didn’t get the joke and reportedly threatened all manner of legal repercussions.
Since then, that episode has been rebroadcast thousands of times – not to mention viewings on millions of DVDs – and the Soup Nazi has entered the popular lexicon.
So much so, it’s inspired countless imitators: witness Toronto’s Soup Nutsy. Ten years later, Yeganah seemed to change his tune and launched his own franchise, calling it the Original SoupMan.
It’s his seafood bisque that caused New Yorkers to descend en masse in the first place, so many of them that the tetchy restaurateur was forced to institute his notorious rules: choose your soup, pay promptly and move to your extreme left or it’s no soup for you. After sampling a bowl at his queue-free Eaton Centre food court kiosk the other day, I don’t understand the fuss.
Sure, it’s tasty enough – whole cocktail-sized shrimp in buttery cream flecked with bits of bell pepper and carrot – but the bisque comes across as underspiced and overpriced. His smoked sausage jambalaya (both $6.99, with baguette, fruit and a piece of chocolate) fares no better, and the chicken vegetable ($6.49) may as well be his garden vegetable ($5.49, all 8 ounces) with added bird.
The Original SoupMan’s paper napkins may claim that Yeganeh “set the standard,” but Ravisoups – and to a lesser extent Soup Nutsy – have taken the concept to a much more delicious level.
And without treating customers like cattle.