"I thought you had the plans!" exclaimed my friend. "I just woke up. We can do brunch."
But brunching on a budget in Toronto is backbreaking business. Fancy fare from Figo was out, as was the thought of venturing to Cafe Cancan - both were spots I had been inclined to check out for a while, but never with the appropriate company to do so.
After securing parking on a quiet segment of Richmond St., we trekked over, passing by Gusto 101 along the way. My friend was intrigued, so we entered for a quick menu scan. The same process was executed for Portland Variety. Soon afterwards, we retraced our steps to the avante-garde industrial storefront.
Gusto 101 housed a gargantuan seating area comprising of a street-level patio, interior dining hall, and upper-level patio. Connecting the main floor to the patio was a dimly-lit concrete staircase, which blurred themes of industrial influence and the raggedness auto repair shops.
Each - presumably unisex - stall comprised of a sliding door with latch lock, a substantial garbage bin, wall hook and counter, and decently clean facilities. Though, the environment was dim, which would have camouflaged any apparent areas of filth. The handwashing station consisted of about four taps; automatic faucets would have been more preferred than individual knobs, but, then again, it wouldn't exactly adhere to the fashion of the establishment
The patio hostess was kind enough to provide us with a shaded table on the upstairs patio in spite of reservations that had been made beforehand. (Might I add that her vibrant purple strands were a spectacle to behold.)
Menus and water were provided almost immediately after being seated. Once we were both comfortably settled, the waiter came around to deliver greetings again. I took advantage of his presence to ask for recommendations, after which he politely excused himself to allow us time to ponder the selection. We concluded that it'd be best to share two dishes - one sweet and one savoury - to conserve dessert feast-ability.
Two poached eggs, softened greens, and a charred segment of bread ("fettunta") sat atop a meticulously ground chickpea purèe in a shallow dish. A generous spoonful of what I presumed to be the bomba Calabrese had been layered in between. The combination of its bright orange hue and slowly seeping oils lent me the belief that the bolognese-like component would be spicy to taste. But it wasn't. Much to my relief, the chewy condiment contributed boldness while being entirely mild.
I appreciated the consistent appearance of blueberries, whether in fresh form, slightly wilted, brewed into compote, or fused into syrup; the lemon curd proved too sugary and starchy though - my Minion rendition was better.
Upstairs was a photobooth in which beauty enthusiasts could capture memories of their visit. It was noted that the space may later be utilized for workshops.
The shop was small, but contained very little besides an open kitchen area, two cashier areas, and counters for munching while standing. It was apparent that the businesses were in pre-opening phase.
The Ice Cream Taiyaki rang in a hefty $7.50, while Croissant Taiyaki were priced at $3.75 individually or $10 for three pieces.
The wait time was minimal, as the dessert shop was empty at our time of visit. Moreover, the taiyaki waffles and Croissant Taiyaki had already been made in advance.
Amidst our visit, Loftea offered us a sample of carbonated Strawberry Fields. Fizzy milk with a shot of synthetic-tasting strawberry did not validate a purchase, especially since we were set on grabbing bubble tea later.
The topmost layer of toppings turned out to be no more than a mere dusting of crumbs and two sticks of Pocky for added visual appeal. Similarly, there was a minimal amount of custard lining the bottom of the open-mouthed waffle.
That said, I'm not sure I'd be willing to relinquish a total of $7.50 plus tax for such a brief amount of bliss.
I was determined to discover whether the impact of a toaster oven would yield the same outcome.
Should the creators of the brand wished to delve deeper, "koi" could also refer to "love", as in "a love for desserts". But none of these fun facts were brought up during our stay.
Decor was quaint, but details were messy. The environment appeared Mainland-like, in the most stifling method possible.
Frankly, Mainlanders seemed to be the tea shop's main customer base anyways, so I guess this didn't matter.
My own choice was fruity and refreshing, with just the right amount of ice. Appearing in small cubes instead of their typical rectangular form, the compact coconut jelly was an interesting twist.
Gagging, I reinstated the lid to its original position and bolted to the next stall over.
Some thirty seconds later, a patron sporting a white dress entered the forsaken stall. There was no reaction.
She merely finished her business and departed the washroom without even bothering to wash her hands.
If this wasn't the most distasteful, unappetizing scene to witness, I'm honestly not sure what else would qualify.
I visited on Tika's third day of operations; I cannot fathom how the establishment's hygeine rating will falter over time.