Calii Love is the new kid on King St. West. Vv Magazine’s Amanda Phuong gives us an exclusive first look at what’s on the menu at this new poke spot.
A new way to eat fresh fish has taken Toronto’s food scene by storm. Poke, a Hawaiian-style raw fish salad, has swiftly become the next popular dish that tests Torontonians’ patience and compels them to put up with long lines. And with poke restaurants opening up left, right, and centre, it was only time before King St. West got in on the action.
Calii Love is the latest poke joint to open up in the city, joining the ranks of night clubs and tourist-driven locales that make up the popular strip. Differing from neighboring restaurants that swarm passers-by with menus, the restaurant is welcoming in a non-confrontational way. With a bright teal storefront and “ALOHA” sprawled on the tiles beneath your feet, your mood is instantly lifted as you walk through the front door.
Drawing inspiration from the surfer lifestyle of California and Hawaii, the mood of Calii Love is laid back and inviting. Accents are bright and colorful, with surfboards lining the wall and Ol’ Dirty Bastard lyrics – something partner Sacha El Wakeel tells me Nick Cannon approved when they hosted a slew of TIFF celebrities – in string art opposite the cash desk.
Like many of the poke restaurants that have popped up in the city, Calii Love serves their dishes in a fast-casual style, with an assembly line and seating. One of the main differentiating factors, however, is the lifestyle they serve. With a focus on wellness, Calii Love isn’t just about food. Quotes like “Good Vibes Only” line their coffee cups and menu items are named after emotions – relaxed, blessed, and confident to name a few – based on how you want to feel that day. Sacha El Wakeel and partner Dan Gunam note they are also planning on using the space upstairs as a studio for yoga and other community activities.
As for the food, well there’s more than just fish. Mornings start off with coffee ($2.25-2.50), lattes ($4.00), espresso ($2.50-3.25), smoothie bowls ($9.95) and smoothies ($6.95). Coffees are direct and fair trade, uniquely blended for Calii Love from Columbia, Brazil, and India and lattes are whipped up by the ever-popular Barista Brian.
Both the smoothie bowls ($8.95) and smoothies ($6.96) are made fresh on the spot, with the smoothie bowls something of an Instagrammer’s dream, lined with toppings of coconut, dates, raspberries, goji berries and more.
Poke bowls are also served fresh and on demand, with options of signature or DIY bowls in small ($10.95) and regular ($14.95). When I dropped by, Chef Joe Friday was still finalizing the menu but I had the opportunity to try one of his newest creations: the Confident poke bowl with trout, black rice, kimchi, peppers, edamame, sprouts, avocado aioli and wasabi peas. Each bite is an explosion of flavors and textures, with just the right amount of crunch from the wasabi peas and peppers, and the perfect bite of spice from kimchi.
While I stick with a signature bowl, DIYers have the option of curating their own colorful creations ($10.95-$17.95). With a variety of bases like sushi rice, black rice, and lemon herb quinoa; fresh fish toppings from Daily Seafood like yellow tuna, salmon, spicy ginger tuna, spicy mayo salmon, and tempeh; a variety of shoyu and aioli sauces; and additional fixings like veggies, avocados and nuts, your bowl can be as healthy as you’d like it.
Calii Love is open 7-days a week at 367 King St. West, Monday to Friday from 7am to 10pm and Saturday to Sunday from 8am to 10pm.
Have you tried Calii Love yet? What was your favourite dish? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below or tweet us at @ViewtheVibe.