SIMPLY ZOUP (762 Yonge, at Bloor, 416-915-9990) Complete meals for $13 per person, including all taxes, tip and water. Average main $5.75. Open Monday to Friday 11 am to 9:30 pm, Saturday noon to 9:30 pm, Sunday noon to 6:30 pm. Unlicensed. Access: barrier free. Rating: NNN
Whether it’s lack of originality or outrageous optimism, it seems like every newly minted independent fast food restaurant is now conceived as the template for some soon-to-be-realized chain of franchises.
With its convoluted trademark-worthy combos, bland but comfortable interior and Starbucks satellite soundtrack, Simply Zoup is definitely taking a link out of the chains, but I enter hoping the cooking isn’t intent on imitating the corporate model.
Humankind could definitely exist on soup alone, but we decide to diversify with a Chef Designed Salad ($7.50). It starts with an oversized plastic pod of premixed greens, to which is added goat cheese, roasted red peppers, grilled corn, candied pecans and raspberry vinegar. The corn doesn’t taste grilled and the peppers are minimal, but the cheese renders the fruity vinaigrette creamy and the fresh-tasting ingredients all add up to an agreeable bowl of greens.
Sandwich and 12-ounce/340-millilitre soup combos include the Signature ($7.95), as we order it, an Absolutely Ultimate Potato soup and a tuna panini; and the Premium ($8.65), Manhattan clam chowder and a grilled portobello mushroom sandwich. Just to be sure, we throw in a French lentil soup ($4.25).
The soups are all excellent. The key here is the quality of the base stocks, which, we are assured, are prepared from scratch.
The chowder is a clam-fest backed up by solid tomato flavour that avoids harsh acidity. The potato soup, while maybe just a hair too thick, is a robust rib-sticker with balanced seasoning, and the French lentil, prepared with vegetable stock, is no less flavourful. Any of these liquid lunches would see you through to the nightly news. All soups come with a chunk of quality baguette.
Since the name of the place is Zoup, not zandwich, it’s not surprising that the loaf loses out to the ladle. Both the tuna with Swiss cheese, asparagus and tomato and the mushroom with goat cheese, arugala, black olives and roasted shallot sauce suffer from too little time on the panini press and blandness despite the nod to haute ingredients.
Reasonably healthy and inoffensive, but no match for the soups.
Simply Zoup may continue to be one of a kind (despite appearances to the contrary), but the hungry strip-mall visitors of the nation could do way worse.