Monday, 26 December 2011

Pickle Barrel - Markville Mall

View from the inside of the Pickle Barrel Markville.

We were doing our Boxing Day shopping at Markville Mall and on our way out, the advertisement for a 3 course dinner for $14.99 - $17.99 at the Pickle Barrel caught my eye. 
The Caesar Salad side was good - they used our favourite Caesar Salad dressing (Renee's - which is kind of thick, super creamy and heavy).

My brother and I got the Tex Mex Soup (the daily soup) with chicken pieces, black beans, corn, celery and carrots. The soup was very watery and spicy - I couldn't really finish the soup since I couldn't take the heat.  The Pickle Barrel at Yorkdale Mall has much better soup (especially the cream of broccoli and beef barley soup which are amazing! If it's the daily soup, you can get a huge jar of soup for $4.95 at the Yorkdale location and it's a great deal!)

The paella used really dry rice (almost borderline crispy) and instead of using tomato sauce, the paella seemed like it was made with ketchup instead. The shrimp in the paella were also bland and didn't quite soak in the flavour from the rest of the paella. It was very disappointing. 

The salmon course was great! The glaze was a perfect complement to the salmon and the dish was nicely done. There was a good balance of vegetables: cauliflower, red potatoes, green & yellow beans, carrots and broccoli. I wasn't sure if the green onions were a garnish or if I was supposed to eat them (LOL). The only downside was that some of the yellow and green beans were cold when it got to me. 

The top sirloin was a disaster - we ordered it medium rare and it looked terrible (the outside looked like it was charred, but the inside was almost rare). The sprig of rosemary was awkwardly placed - it looked like it was drilled into the end of the steak --> strangest presentation I've ever seen. And I have no idea about the grilled vegetables, they kinda looked like they were grilled hours ago and then just microwaved or something: terrible. The sweet potato fries were good at least, because you can never really go wrong with those.

The last chance for redeeming this meal: Dessert! The waitress offered us a little tray of 6 tiny martini glass desserts to choose from and we selected (from the top left) the Candy Cane cake, apple crumble cheesecake and brownie delight.
The Candy Cane dessert was super sweet and nearly gave me a toothache (and coming from a dessert & chocoholic that's a terrible sign when it's even too sweet for me), the cake portion was nice though and I managed to finish that (but not all the icing). The brownie delight was great! Lots of chocolate and evenly balanced (as in not too sweet). The apple crumble was great at first bite, but as we kept eating, it just got worse.

Conclusion: What a disaster! Not worth it to come eat at the Pickle Barrel Markville, not only did the service take forever (we sat there and ate for 2 hours meaning we lost valuable Boxing Day shopping time), but the food was bad (with a few exceptions). There's a reason this place is empty (even on the busiest retail day of the year) and unless they totally remake this place - I definitely won't be going back even with the cheap promotion.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Real Sports Bar and Grill

This place is awe inspiring for the avid sports fan - approximately 200 HD TVs including a Two storey HD TV right in the center. OMG is it every overwhelming in there! There's something for every type of sports lover there wherever you're sitting.

The sheer size of this place is astounding...
And it's super convenient since my friends work across the street! So you can take an hour lunch and then pop back over or it's a short walk from Union station through the new section of the PATH. 
The Real Sports Burger - HUGE! There was so much meat in this burger that it took me like 1/2 hour to eat it. Great stuff! The burger came up to $12 (excluding tax and tip)

My friend's Black and Blue Burger with portobello mushrooms & blue cheese on top - she enjoyed the burger but couldn't really finish it since we also got an Calamari appetizer which really filled us up. The green salad was great! Cranberries, some nuts (not peanuts), iceberg lettuce and orange/mandarin (?) slices - all tossed together with a subtle but delicious dressing (I definitely should have ordered the salad instead of fries). 
My other friend got a burger too and sweet potato poutine! The poutine was fantastic! Melted cheese curds and gravy on crispy sweet potato fries - I'm surprised this isn't a bigger hit in Toronto.

Conclusion: Great bar food and ambiance - very busy at lunch hour (so make sure you have a reservation to get the best seats in the house to watch your sports)


Friday, 16 December 2011

The Sultan's Tent

Ambiance pictures: (Super dark inside - but really nicely decorated and suiting for the theme)
It was super dark in there and my Ipod Touch didn't have Flash - so I was left taking pictures in really bad lighting.

Round 1: First Course

I upgraded to the Duck Confit Salad which was delicious! The vinaigrette was perfect - we tried to dip the bread for the table into the vinaigrette to soak it up because it was so good! Who'd have thought that Champagne & Pomegranate together would taste so yummy? One one complaint about the salad was that the duck was all off on one side and there definitely was not enough duck for the salad. My friend had the Harira soup which was really strong for our tastes - felt like it totally cleared up our sinuses, but once we dipped the bread in and diluted the fragrant spices - it made it easier for us to finish the soup.

Winner: Duck Confit Salad -one word: vinaigrette!!!

Round 2: Second Course

Next I had the seafood briouats (seafood wrapped in flaky pastry) and my friend the maftoul (Moroccan cigars pastries). The pastries were very flavourful and nice. The seafood briouats were super filling - so much so that I didn't know if I would be able to handle the next two courses.

Winner: Maftoul - light and refreshingly different

Round 3: Third Course


The Braised lamb feast vs. Moroccan beef short rib. Again I have to reiterate, I'm not usually a huge fan of lamb, but I love the lamb here - they make it perfectly! Seasoned nicely and tasty morsels of fall off the bone lamb along side a portion of couscous and carrots and sweet potato cubes. I can't comment on the the way the couscous was prepared because I really don't like the taste and texture of couscous- to me: it's not rice and it's not quite the same as pasta and therefore, not high on my "yummy" list. 
On the other hand, the short ribs were delicious - tender and juicy and melt in your mouth goodness with mash potatoes and veggies on the side - what a great main course!

Winner: Moroccan beef short rib - yum!

Final Round: Fourth Course

At this point, my friend and I admitted defeat - it was a LOT of food during the course of 2.5 hours and I even got a belly dancing lesson between my third course and dessert (so I worked off 1/100th of my salad since I turned out to be a terrible belly dancer). The belly dancer was very talented and made the experience of learning a ton of fun! She let us tie the jingling scarfs on our waists and shimmy around - we tried to copy her actions but mostly it was just pretending to go along and trying not to step on her toes...

Anyways, back to dessert - we both got the Moroccan treats which were mostly cookies dusted with sugar and cinnamon. The cookies (especially the chocolate covered one) were great! Not too hard and not too soft and given the crazy 4 course meal we ate - a pretty nice way to finish off and end our meal on a good note. 

The Sultan's Tent is a great experience and I would totally recommend it to anyone interested in Moroccan food and a introductory belly dancing lesson! 

Monday, 5 December 2011

Fran's on Front Street

After a walk around the Toronto Christmas Market in the Distillery District ( and seeing all the expensive food, my friend and I decided we'd rather go to Fran's for dinner than pay $5 for a hot dog or small poutine at the Christmas Market. So we journeyed back to Front Street to grab some diner food. 
We've been to the other Fran's locations near College and Eaton's Center, but seeing as the Front Street location recently opened up, we thought it'd be worth a shot. 

We got the Grilled Chicken and Bacon Panini with home fries and the Lasagna. The Panini was good - nothing super amazing about it - the avocado was a nice touch in the sandwich, but we didn't think there was enough Jack Cheese since my friend wanted a cheesy sandwich - but the cheese on the lasagna more than made up for it:
The food was ok - I think the food at the Fran's near Eaton's Center is much better quality than the Front Street location, but it definitely quenched our hunger. 
For the best diner food, I think Mel's in Waterloo ( definitely takes the cake. Unfortunately, it also burned down in my second last year of school, but I will always remember the French skillet breaded strips of chicken, green & red peppers, onions on a bed of scrambled eggs all topped with hollandaise sauce and two pieces of toast and homefries on the side...amazing.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Great Cooks on Eight

The amazing view from the 8th floor of The Bay. Great Cooks on Eight is a restaurant in Downtown Toronto that is only open at lunch (which is not surprising since it was pretty packed at lunch)

The set up of the restaurant - high chairs! 

The elegant menu

Ploughman's lunch - looked amazing and my coworker said he really enjoyed it as well! There were all these cheeses, butters, a fig with nuts and blue cheese, meats and some gourmet toasted bread.

The sandwich of the day! Curried Goat Sandwich on a Rosemary Focaccia bun with arugula, goat cheese and a marmalade spread. I also got the Greens side salad which was light and refreshing.

OMG it was delicious! The lamb was perfect! It wasn't too gamy and with the combination of the focaccia, arugula, goat cheese and the marmalade - it was absolutely amazing. So delicious and super filling (as you can tell by all the meat stacked up in the sandwich). I would definitely recommend this sandwich to everyone (even lamb meat haters) - it's great! Total treat for your tastebuds! The only downside? It's $12-14 for a sandwich at Great Cooks on Eight. Yikes! But totally worth it for an occasional indulgence.

Great Cooks on Eight on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Song Cook's Authentic Korean Restaurant

(Photos courtesy of M.C.)
My foodie friends discovered this little gem north of Steeles and Yonge a while ago and to celebrate a friend's super belated by a month birthday - we decided to grab the BDay dinner here. The restaurant is actually pretty hard to find unless you know where it is since it's not visible on the street. It is located at the back of an easily overlooked plaza and I think the place primarily trades on word of mouth which works really well for them since the food is amazing and the layout is very traditional and authentic.

The best part about the layout? The floors are heated! So even if you have to sit cross-legged or kneeling - you'll be warm and toasty (Perfect for the Winter!)
In case the words are totally foreign to you, there's pictures with the food above the kitchen area which helps give you an idea about what it is you're ordering. 

Pork Bone Soup (KamJa Tang)
Pork Bone soup is a staple of most authentic Korean restaurants - it's everywhere! It usually doesn't come with a lot of meat on the pork bones because the meat is usually used for other cooking and the pork bone remains just add flavour to the soup, but in this case, there was a LOT of meat on the pork bones and the soup was loaded with other stuff (as you can see from the tower of veggies). This pork bone soup wasn't very spicy (i.e. perfect for me) and it was DELICIOUS - lots of flavour and a very hearty meal with the rice. 

Chicken Terriyaki
I love Chicken dishes and this Chicken Terriyaki dish is no exception. I feel like you can never really go wrong with chicken dishes. The chicken was perfectly cooked - moist on the inside and the crazy pile of veggies underneath made me feel like I was eating healthier than I actually was. Yum!

Beef Shortribs (JimKalBi)
Korean Kalbi is one of my favourite ways to eat ribs - the sauce is amazing! The ribs were very good and the waiters at the restaurant had the foresight to leave us a pair of scissors so we could cut up the ribs into smaller manageable pieces to eat. 

Deep Fried Dumplings (Gun Mandu)
These were delicious! I thought they might resemble Chinese Pot-stickers or Japanese Gyoza, but surprisingly they didn't quite taste like either one - the outside layer was crispier and thinner than what I usually eat in pot-stickers or gyoza and they offered us Ketchup to dip it in (with the pot-stickers and gyoza, you usually get vinegar aka "cho" or soy sauce). 

We also got the JaJangMyun and a few other things. The JaJangMyun is a black bean sauce with veggies (usually cucumber slices) and some meat. I've had it a few times at a few Korean places, but they've usually turned out terribly since I'm slightly biased in that I love the Shanghai version of JaJangMyun (because it's the one I've grown up with and most Shanghai places in Toronto do a great job making it well). So my expectations for this Korean version were pretty low, however, I was really pleasantly surprised! They made  a good version of the JaJangMyun! And Song Cook's is probably the only Korean place I've tried so far that can make a good one. So I would definitely recommend getting it here! 


Saturday, 26 November 2011

Cafe Maxim's Patisserie

Cafe Maxim's offers a prix fixe option where if you add $8 (per person) to your entrĂ©e meal, you can get a salad, soup and a slice of one of their cakes which is a pretty decent deal since the cakes are pretty good.
They had two soup specials that day, a creamy borscht soup in the top picture (that was kind of watery) and a minestrone soup (also very watery with a lot of cabbage). 

Since we ordered the Seafood Paella for two, we got a smoked salmon plate as an appetizer which was good! My brother got the normal salad which was decent.

The Duck a l'Orange - I like duck and I like oranges, but I figured out at Cafe Maxim's that I really don't like them together. The orange taste was overpowering here and the duck tasted gamy. This wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but my brother must have liked it because he finished his plate. I don't know if it was a badly done Duck a L'Orange or if I just don't like the combination. My favourite type of cooked bird meat is chicken (although perfectly cooked Ostrich is my secret weakness) and I do occasionally eat duck even if it's not my favourite - but this dish? The duck was terrible.

The Seafood Paella for two - this was well-done! I had quite a lot of Paella in Spain and although this wasn't to the same level of the Paella in Spain - it was still enjoyable. Good food in general - some things that were unexpected but nice were: crab legs - I definitely didn't get that in Spain, and chicken. I couldn't recall if there was Chicken in Seafood Paella? But it was still pretty good! I think this should have been called Seafood Paella for 3 because after I stuffed myself silly - I still had leftovers for lunch the next day.

And now the best part....Cake! This was some chocolate cake my brother got - it was good - but not as good as:
Mango Meringue - oh wow - this was soooo good!!! The Meringue's at Cafe Maxim's are super yummy! They're not as heavy and super sweet as normal French Desserts (mostly because they cater more to Asian tastes which are milder), but they're delicious! The mango pieces and the cream and the crispy outer shell? Wow - I think this is a definite "Must Try" here.

Lastly, the mango cheesecake - not as heavy or sweet as most English/French desserts - but very nicely put together. The crust of the cake was kind of dough-y but the actual cheesecake was very nicely done.

Cafe Maxim's Patisserie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Fire on the East Side

My friends and I were going to Yorkville on a Saturday to do some shopping ( CC for Shoes and me for a purse) and we decided to make a day out of it since we were driving downtown. We parked nearby and did a quick Google search for Brunch places nearby and came across Fire on the East Side which got pretty good reviews. When we checked out the restaurant it was pretty packed, but luckily we got a booth and we squeezed in to eat our Brunch. We got some banana bread as a starter (of which I forgot to take a picture) but it was delicious - very moist and flavourful. My friend ordered the Quiche above with chorizo, potato, bacon and white cheddar and it came with a salad (which was really yummy), a slice of honeydew (don't ask) and some pretty delicious fries.  The quiche was ok...but I think my meal was much better! Sorry NK!

I had the Shrimp and Chorizo Breakfast Empanadas with shredded shrimp and chorizo, cheddar cheese, potato on a bed of scrambled eggs and all topped with a chipotle hollandais. At first I was pretty scared of the Chipotle hollandais since I'm really averse to spicy food (aka I can't handle the heat at all and would run screaming out of the kitchen), but it wasn't very spicy and added a flavourful element to the normal hollandais which I liked. (I also felt like this was the only item on the brunch list with eggs that weren't poached - I'm not a fan of poached eggs, give me scrambled any day). So all in all - very enjoyable! The downside? It cost $14 without tax and tip....yikes!

My other friend ordered the Crab cake bennie (and I had a stupid moment on Saturday morning when I asked "What's a bennie???"). When we actually tried it, we ate about 1/3 of the bennie before we realized there was no crab cake in it (well CC realized it wasn't very crabby - and the rest of us tried a bit before we agreed). Turns out, someone screwed up her order and gave her a Turkey mash bennie instead, but the waitress was great and gave her the correct order after. The crab cake bennie was much better than the Turkey mash (probably because it was the correct order), but the crab cakes were pretty spicy (I couldn't handle it as well as my friend did). It was interesting to try it at least! After all, I don't usually see Crab cakes and eggs benedict together (I'm not a big brunch person - it's probably easier and cheaper to make eggs at home than to go out for brunch).

Overall, the experience was good - it was just expensive for brunch at Fire at the East Side.