Padmanadi is Indonesian for “Lotus Waterspring,” and that’s not just a reference to the cascading waterfall washroom faucets. The restaurant emulates the peaceful sentiment of its namesake in its decor, food and service. Padmanadi opened in 2002 after the owner moved to Canada from Jakarta. The restaurant serves vegetarian dishes that might not be what you’d expect – many are full of faux meat that often tastes and looks really close to its real meat counterpart. On the walls hang dozens of canvas prints featuring guests and their families smiling and laughing, exemplifying the restaurant’s mantra to “make friends, not money.” The bamboo fungus soup is full of tofu cubes, soy mutton, carrots, snow peas, mushrooms and the transparent main ingredient. The bamboo, swimming in a light broth, looks like a mesh noodle, but has a surprising crunch. The “mutton” tastes just like the real thing, and the dish is the perfect start to the meal. A favourite dish is the spicy coconut eggplant, which sees grilled eggplant and peppers served sizzling in a spicy sauce. It can be overwhelming for some but the restaurant accommodates that by offering to “spice down” any meal. -E.S.
While vegetarian meals have become mainstream, vegan and raw dishes often still carry a stigma. But every time I go to Noorish, whose specialty is vegan and raw food, the restaurant is packed. The dishes are hearty, unique and full of flavour, with items like the Be Here Now Bolognese, the Bodhi Tree Burger and Pacha Mama’s Mac n’ Cheese challenging patrons with preconceived notions. Desserts, such as the kiwi lime pie, are made of real food you can recognize rather than the chemicals commonly listed on grocery-store packaging. Smoothies like the berry bliss are mixed with goji and ginko rather than alcohol, giving you benefits rather than pain the next day. -C.B.
When you walk into Veggie Garden, you feel the yin and yang. It’s in a small, tranquil, low-traffic spot in Chinatown. Yet, you’ll notice some militant anti-meat cartoons and literature that would make a PETA member applaud. But this isn’t about whether or not you should eat meat. We’re here to recommend restaurants based on the quality of the food. And, the Veggie Garden offers one of the best pan-Asian meals in town. The green cilantro cakes (think green onion cakes, but better) come with a decadent dipping sauce that has a strong mango feel; and the vermicelli “beef” is excellent, with just the right amount of tang and heat in the noodles. -S.S.