Waterford Valley Plaza
673 Topsail Rd. (Unit 3A)
Phone (709) 747-0777
After a Christmas and New Year of eating too much fat, sugar, salt and all those other things that are deleterious in excess, it was good to check out an eatery with significantly healthier fare. It’s called, Freshii, and is located in an easy to miss strip mall across the road from the relatively new Starbucks coffee shop on Topsail Road.
Being part of a chain (“in over 75 cities and 15 countries no less”) the St. John’s Freshii location has a look and atmosphere similar to what you might experience in Toronto or Calgary. It’s a utilitarian setup but with the kind of au courant design that suggests utilitarian on a budget perhaps, but not cheap.
An open kitchen counter area in the corner (with pick-up station) is the heart of the restaurant. Customers are expected to place their orders at the counter and then wait. Take-out business was brisk when we visited. There is single seating at a long narrow window bench, as well as two booths for four and a communal table for 10 at the centre of the room.
Every salad, wrap, bowl and burrito on the menu is meatless, to begin with, but can have either chicken, steak or turkey added. Poultry costs an extra $1.99, steak an extra $3.49. Falafel or tofu can be added for $1.49. Other add-ons or substitutions can be made. For example, the low-fat frozen yogurt (Froyo) can have almonds, blueberries, chocolate chips, cinnamon, dried cranberries, green apple, honey, mango, Oreo or strawberries added. (Thanks for the chocolate chips and Oreo options Freshii. Life’s got to have a little fun.)
Apart from Coffee Matters coffee, served at Freshii’s counter, other beverages and fresh juices (in individual, clear plastic cups) are in a cooler on the wall, next to snacks like those “all natural” Popchips. I tasted the Carrot Zinger juice and the Mighty Detox juice (ordered by spouse). I’m reluctant when it comes to drinking anything labelled “detox” in public. Not because I’m against detoxification. I just think it’s something you should do in the privacy of your own home, thank you very much.
Spouse said Mighty Detox tasted like our lawn. Our lawn, in season, is fresh and chemical free, but still. Initially I was inclined to agree with spouse’s assessment. But after many seconds I realized it tasted profoundly of cucumber skin, not lawn (but not terribly fun). The carrot juice was another story. Not only did it taste of sweet, fresh carrots, it also tasted of apple with the zing of ginger. Hence, Carrot Zinger.
Freshii’s Spicy Lemongrass soup was wonderful. Besides tasting of lemongrass it had the freshness of cilantro, sweetness of carrot, sunshine brightness of tomato and the earthiness of mushroom. Flat quarter-inch rice noodles gave the soup extra body.
They are keen on quinoa at Freshii. The Market Salad had plenty of the seeds tossed through. Quinoa gave the honey Dijon dressed salad of spinach, carrot and beet slaw (among other ingredients) a pleasing texture. Together, the excellent soup and good tasting salad would have made a formidable lunch. Just those two items.
More quinoa arrived in the Spicy Thai burrito, a little too much I thought. The wrap also contained edamame, cabbage, carrot slaw and lemongrass sauce. Even with the inclusion of hormone-free turkey this one left me cold, in more ways than one. It didn’t have much of the promised heat or spiciness.
If you’re looking for a warm and filling meal try the Buddha’s Satay. With its background of peppery peanut sauce this combo of rice noodles, vegetables and crispy wontons is a well-balanced bowl. Not too much, nor too little, of any particular flavour, spice or texture. I added some turkey, which made it even more of a ribs-sticker.
Freshii’s Buffalo wrap (with chicken) was everything I hoped the Spicy Thai burrito would be, in terms of taste. It had the savoury chicken meat, the bite and richness of aged cheddar, carrot, crispy romaine and very hot buffalo sauce (tempered only slightly by a dash of Greek yogurt). It was so thick you couldn’t have found space in there for another sliver of lettuce.
The sweetest things on Freshii’s menu are the smoothies and the previously mentioned low fat frozen yogurt. I went for the yogurt, topped with blueberries and honey. Although it was billed as “low fat” the yogurt had the rich smoothness you expect from a full fat product, plus lots of flavour. A single, generous portion of the dairy dessert cost $4.99 for the yogurt, plus 50 cents each for the toppings.
Freshii also serves breakfast, with something for everyone. Several slow cooked oatmeal flavours are available for those seeking lean and lighter cuisine, and for those wanting something more substantial Freshii has grilled egg pockets and grilled breakfast burritos like the Ranchero, and Steak, Egg & Cheese.
Three-course meal for two with juice, tax and tip costs $66 (approximately).
Friendly and fast.
Bright, cafeteria atmosphere.
Low to moderate.
Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. (Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
Walk-ins are welcome.
Fresh juices and a range of healthful cold beverages are available to accompany your meal.
Ramp available several yards from entrance, no automatic door, some table access, accessible washrooms.
* Fair * * Good * * * Excellent * * * * Exceptional
Karl Wells is an accredited personal chef, author of “Cooking with One Chef One Critic” and recipient of awards from the national body of the Canadian Culinary Federation and the Restaurant Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. Contact him through his website, www.karlwells.com. Follow him on Twitter: @karl_wells