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Introducing: Grasslands, the trendy revamp of vegan stalwart Fressen

Introducing: Grasslands

Name: Grasslands
Neighbourhood: Queen West
Contact info: 478 Queen St. W., 416-504-5127,, @GrasslandsTO
Owner and chef: Stephen Gardner (Urban Herbivore, Fressen)

The food: Vegan dishes inspired by Northern Mediterranean cuisine, including several hold-overs from Fressen days. The menu is divided into bar snacks, like crispy oyster mushrooms ($11) and corn fritters ($9), and proper appetizers and entrees, like cannelloni with tofu ricotta ($11) and a stuffed seitan roast ($19). As before, dishes are identified as wheat free (w), nut free (n), gluten free (g) and Buddhist-friendly (b).

The drinks: Classic cocktails like old fashioneds ($12) and French martinis ($10), as well wine by the glass ($9–$11).

The place: Gardner has refreshed his old Fressen space with industrial light bulbs and plenty of wood. The narrow room is divided into two sections: at the front is a lounge with tables and stools made from a tree trunk, while the back dining room features dark brown booths with aqua wall tiles.

By the numbers: 
• 60 dining room seats, 25 lounge seats
• 12, the years that Gardner ran Fressen before turning it into Grasslands
• 2, the number of maple trees used to furnish the bar and lounge area

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  • Devon Domanski

    Great pictures! Decor & new dishes look great. Can’t wait to come in and sample a meal :)

  • clem123

    Fressen was an AMAZING restaurant. We often took friends there and they raved about the food. It was innovative and delicious! I can hardly wait for us to try Grasslands.

  • Moreen Murray

    I just went there on Friday and it’s fabulous. Great space and the staff were very warm and friendly – a minor complaint I had in the previous incarnation. All that being said however, they still need to do something about the dessert offerings – the one item – ice cream and cookies – the cookies were rock hard and overly sweet, too bad
    they are not up to par with the rest of the menu. I recommend the cannelloni as an appetizier..yumm.

  • Terence K

    WORST DINNER EXPERIENCE EVER. Will save all the nasty things I want to say and only give you the facts of my dinner experience and let you draw your own conclusions.

    #1 – Had dinner reservations for two for 8:30, arrived a few minutes early and was promptly seated. Good start. Only problem is our food did not arrive until 10:00PM – no apologies from the server. No check-ins in-between.

    #2 – The menu makes you believe that their entrees are different but it is all the same dish with no attempt to even disguise it. I ordered the Crusted Chicken and my GF ordered the Mustard Crusted Tempeh. The menu said my dish is “…seitan cutlet, tumeric scented rice batter, braised vegetables, thyme roasted fingerling potato, garlicky asparagus and gui-lan.” Hers was “…seared organic tempeh, grainy organic dijon dredge, maple scented yam mash, seared seasonal vegetables, warm basil mango chutney.”

    Our plates showed up and the first thing my gf said was that they looked identical and indeed they were. Our plates both had the following “…olive oil mash, warm basil chutney, scented yam mash, barely seared greasy vegetables, chive garnish and for some strange reason hers had asparagus and mine did not”. The only difference was that she got the crusted tempeh and I the crusted chicken. So essentially what they do here is serve you the same dish with items that are not even part of your item, switch the protein and call it a different thing. For a $19 entrée this is unacceptable.

    So I called the server to tell her that our dishes were not as described on the menu and why for example I had the mango chutney and was missing asparagus. Also my GF had chosen her dish because she did not want the olive oil and Yukon mash but here it was on both plates. We pointed out that the server had actually helped us choose our dishes because we were having a tough time deciding because every seemed so deliciously different and so why did they then serve us the same dish. he said something to the effect of “We have served all dishes this way but I can see what you mean and unfortunately that how we serve our food” My response to how they would deal with someone who for example was allergic to yams and now suddenly found yams on their plate was a blank stare.

    I asked to speak to the owner and the server returned a few minutes later to tell me that he had said HE WAS TOO BUSY TO COME TALK TO US. So I asked if he would reconsider if I told them I was not going to pay and she responded that he had said to comp our meal. And then she left us.

    So at about 10:30PM we decided to walk out and went off hungry.

    If you are willing to be fooled by the two chive garnish on every main and believe you are having a fancy meal then go ahead and go on to Grasslands.