The Living Well CafE (692 Yonge, at Isabella, 416-922-6770) Complete meals for $30 per person, including all taxes, tip and a $4.71 glass of domestic beer. Average main $11. Open daily 11:30 am to 1 am. Licensed. Access: short, steep ramp at front door, washrooms in the basement. Rating: NN
a picture on the wall at the liv- ing Well Café is captioned, "Living well is the best revenge." Good philosophy, but if exceptional dining is my way of wreaking vengeance, I won't come here to do it.
A free-and-easy attitude pervades Living Well, and that includes the menu, which hops haphazardly across continents. The almost inevitable results of such happy-go-lucky eclecticism are some manic hits and misses.
The laissez-faire spirit does little for the service, either. The busy dining room long ago escaped the control of the waiters. It takes too long to place an order, and both starters and mains arrive at several-minute intervals, leaving my guests and me shifting uncomfortably over our cooling dishes.
The meal peaks with appetizers, on the strength of the Tempura Brie ($7.95). Served with lightly toasted brown bread, the firm block of brie gets added crunch from a tempura coating. Raspberry jam on top finishes the dish off with a bit of tang.
This and a zippy bowl of gazpacho ($4.95) make up for the bruschetta ($4.95), which, although loaded with diced tomatoes and extra feta cheese, ($1) lacks garlic.
The big mistake comes with the eggplant parmigiana ($8.95), two slices of eggplant covered with cheese that was melted far too long ago. Lukewarm and plopped down side by side without garnish, they look like a funky pair of old shoe soles.
A piping hot pad thai ($12.95) improves on the eggplant with big, bursting shrimp, but the generously spiced noodles clash with unnecessary bits of cauliflower and broccoli. Sri Lankan chicken curry ($11.95) features plump pieces of chicken and makes a good impression by keeping it simple, delivering a standard but perfectly prepared curry sauce.
A tolerable dining experience, but a few steps short of eating well.