<b>Rating: </b>4/5 stars</p>
For me, the battle between healthy and fast food on campus is a losing one because when I actually feel like pulling a Julia Roberts and going all Eat, Pray, Love on myself, the choices are limited. For instance, I can personally think of only two restaurants in the plaza that have some health-giving potential: Sweet Dreams Tea Shop and Subway (but eating bread that was once bonded together by the same plastic that molded yoga mats frankly doesn’t go too far in all that body-temple worship business).
Grace and Healthy Premium Dumplings, both a saving grace and a hidden gem, is tucked in the corner of theplaza on the east end between Al Madina and K-Zone.
Walking into Grace and Healthy, I was a little bit lost on where to go or how to order as all of the attendants were working busily behind the counter. It unfortunately took several minutes for them to notice me, and I had to seat myself in one of their comfortably lit wooden booths. The restaurant was tastefully decorated in a neutral green palette, and the walls were lined with posters that listed the menu’s various health benefits in addition to, curiously, the few odd Bible verses. Everything about this place smacked of wholesomeness. It, again disappointingly took several minutes for the staff to even bring me a menu — service here was clearly slow and inattentive due to constant rotations between working in the kitchen and serving, but luckily for them the customers didn’t appear to be in a rush. Watching the staff, I had to wonder if this business was a family-run affair. It felt homey, like I was at a friend’s house waiting for lunch to be served.
The pork seaweed congee came first to the table, and at only two dollars and coming with a side salad option, it was a steal (take note, they run out of the more popular options — like the seafood one — very quickly, so arrive early). It was my first time trying congee, a kind of Chinese rice porridge, but it was very reminiscent of Filipino arroz caldo, a similar dish from my childhood that I was very fond of.
A cure for colds, the flu, and hangovers, this congee was also perfect for eating in the dead of winter. It was tasty, gaining a rich earthiness from the seaweed; however, the pork was unfortunately chewy and overcooked, and could have benefited from a bit of brightness from even a slice of lemon or some spring onions.
On the other hand, the potato tuber side salad I ordered was great; being light, well-spiced, and bright in flavour, it was also a slightly cold dish that contrasted nicely to all the other dishes on the table.
Finally, an egg, hard-boiled and marinated in tea and soy sauce, was innocuous and easily forgettable (although it did go well eaten with the congee).
Moving on to the main stars of the restaurant: the dumplings; for KW, I was rather impressed at how well-made and tasty these dumplings were, especially considering how often I subsisted on Toronto’s Chinatown dumplings. The chicken napa dumplings in particular were delicious and the highlight of the meal, with its dough being well-cooked, freshly-made, and not sticking together at all so the dumpling retained its structural integrity.
The welcome addition of corn and chives also added some much needed brightness. Conversely, the pork kimchi dumplings that I’d expected to be a flavourful hit fell flat, the pork being finely ground to an almost pâté-like texture, and the kimchi hardly detectable (and this girl loves her kimchi), sadly leaving the dumpling lacking in dimension. If you’re going to tell me there’s kimchi, I’m reaaaally expecting kimchi — slather it all over everything, seriously.
Overall, the one word I would use to describe this place is “wholesome,” bringing me back to childhood days when I was told to eat food that was delicious and more importantly “good for me.”
Leaving the restaurant, I felt like my insides had been scrubbed clean, which is a nice contrast to all of the other times I’d eaten a meal in the plaza feeling slightly worse than when I’d begun. Grace and Healthy is a welcome addition to my growing list of choice restaurants in the plaza, and I will be sure to return to meditate on a mouthful of dumplings.