Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Bymark

Bymark is an culinary jewel in the heart of the financial district of Toronto. Famous for their $35 burgers and exquisite food prepared by celebrated chef Mark McEwan, it's considered a sign of wealth & prestige to dine here. And luckily for the business crowd who can expense client lunches to their companies, they can afford to really wine and dine their clients at this classy venue. For the rest of us, there's Winterlicious (thank goodness!) otherwise I don't think I could stomach spending more than $25 for lunch and even more for dinner. The Winterlicious menu for lunch is $25 (excl. tax and tip) and dinner is $45. We chose to do lunch since they were offering up their normally priced $35 hamburger for $25 with two additional courses. What a deal!


Roasted root vegetable salad with grapefruit segments & white balsamic dressing was good, but not worth $19 on the regular lunch menu. It was great as part of the Winterlicious line-up though! Great appetizer to really whet the appetite.
Crisp crab cakes with celery root & apple remoulade
As you can clearly tell, it was very artistically presented. The crab cakes were perfect! Crispy and golden brown on the outside and meaty inside. Good portion size, but not enough of the sauce/mayonnaise for me to dip my crab cakes in. The celery root salad was really nice - refreshing and tasty. I found that there was a little too much onion in my salad, thereby making it too tangy.

Ahh...the Bymark 8oz USDA Prime Burger with brie de meaux and grilled king oyster mushrooms

Burger was huge! The Winterlicious take was slightly different than the regular menu burger which has grilled portobello mushrooms and your choice of tempura onion rings, rocket salad or crisp frites. 
Something else I wasn't expecting - the waiter asked how I would like to order my burger. So I ordered medium rare which was perfect! There was lots of juice in the meat and it soaked the bun since the patty was almost too big for the bun. This made the bottom part of the bun slightly soggy but still absolutely delicious altogether. The bun was lightly buttered and toasted inside while the outside remained the same. Inside there was also some red kale leaves besides the brie and grilled king oyster mushrooms - great combination because it was simple and they all went very well together. 
I'm not too sure I'd pay $35 for the burger - but $25 made this burger well worth it!

We weren't given an option for the side and received the crispy frites which lived up to their name. They felt like they were the ends of the full fries which is not the part of fries that I enjoy. Very brown and very salty so I didn't particularly enjoy them. The dipping sauce of spicy mayonnaise was too spicy so I ordered a non-spicy mayonnaise which turned out to be really good! It was like a garlic mayo similar to tzatziki but a lot smoother (reminded me of the tzatziki sauce I tried at McEwan's supermarket uptown which is amazing by the way - I would totally recommend it even with the $7 price tag) 
Apple crostata with caramel crunch ice cream
The crostata was slightly difficult to eat with a spoon since the shell was harder than I expected. However, it reminded me of warm apple pie and the caramel ice cream on top just melted and oozed onto the spoon when I was taking a bite. I wasn't a big fan of the almost burnt caramel/sugar brown thing on top of the ice cream (I assume that's the "crunch" in caramel crunch ice cream) but the dessert overall was good!

Orange Nanaimo Brownie with Toasted Meringue
The dessert was rich and decadent and vaguely reminded us of an orange Lindt dessert. Very nice! 

Gingerbread cake with sweet potato mousse and maple walnut fudge
I'm not a fan of gingerbread, but even I admitted this was really good - very moist and it held true to the gingerbread taste. The sweet potato cream was interesting, not what I'm used to seeing done with sweet potato and it added a nice touch to the gingerbread cake. I LOVED the maple walnut fudge - I could eat a block of the delectable fudge - WOW! Best part of the cake for me!

Winterlicious here is a great deal! Bymark doesn't disappoint. Good for your wallet and great for your tastebuds. Yum!

Website: http://www.bymark.ca/

Bymark on Urbanspoon

Monday, 30 January 2012

Crème Brasserie

Crème is one of those hidden restaurants that you can't see from the main streets of Yorkville - it's hidden in one of the side streets between Cumberland St. and Yorkville Ave. However, when you find it, it's really picturesque outside and nice and cosy inside.
Inside the Crème Brasserie

When we entered the restaurant, the owner/manager was in front offering to seat us and take our coats. He was very polite and accommodating and we were really pleased until we saw the other group in the restaurant - which was a huge party of about 20+ people seated. So we had a bit of a wait for our appetizer course (since they had to be served first), but we still got good service (i.e. refilled on bread 3 times) and the other courses came out in good time after the appetizer course. 
From the Winterlicious menu, I ordered the Grilled Calamari with asparagus spears, tomatoes and olives with balsamic reduction. The calamari was ok - slightly on the gummy side because I think it was too overcooked. The sauce and balsamic reduction combination was done really well - the sauce balanced out the slight bitterness of the balsamic and together with the calamari was great! The asparagus spears were were charred. 


Steak frites 
Instead of frites, I asked for a substitution of vegetables and I got crisp and crunchy green beans & a few carrots, a spinach mix - which was cold but quite good, and the steak was on top of a bed of cabbage mix which was like sauerkraut but not sour or bitter. 
I liked the portion size of my steak and it was nicely done at medium. The steak was full-flavoured and juicy and each bite was good and not too chewy for me. Unfortunately, my friend's steak was burnt on top and she had to try to skim the top to avoid the burnt flavour and she found her steak chewy despite it being cooked medium rare - not very consistent quality.

Lastly, for dessert, I had the chocolate crepes with strawberries, banana, caramel and cointreau. There was a disproportionate amount of strawberries and bananas in my crepe: 1 full slice of banana on top and 3 tiny chunks of banana inside the crepe and the rest were strawberries. The actual crepe was nice, but I didn't quite get the chocolate flavour I was expecting and I was glad that there was chocolate sauce to help enhance it. I think a better choice would have been the crème brule with the wine poached plum on top. 

Conclusion: It was a good meal, but I'm not sure I'd come back and pay $35 (excluding tax & tip) for the three-course meal. It just seemed too pricey and we weren't blown away by the food. 


Website: http://www.cremebrasserie.com/
Crème Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Friday, 27 January 2012

Rosewater Supper Club

Rosewater is an upscale dining establishment right next to the financial district. The decor inside is stunning - classy and romantic. The food was mouthwatering - all the items on the Winterlicious menu were appealing and reasonably priced for $20 (excl. tax and tip)

Winterlicious in Toronto started 10 years ago after local restaurants suffered from the fear of the SARS epidemic. Popular restaurants all over the city decided to ban together and offer 3 course prix fixe menus to encourage people to eat out. The idea was so popular that they decided to offer the prix fixe menus twice a year for 2 weeks: Winterlicious (January - February) and Summerlicious (June - July). 
The Prix Fixe menus range from $15-$20 for lunch and $25 - $45 for dinner. 
Inside the main dining room

Truffled Cream of Cauliflower with ice wine Crème Fraiche
The soup was thick and rather heavy, but the creme fraiche really made the difference in the overall soup. I felt that there was the right amount of truffle oil so as not to overwhelm or take away from the actual cauliflower soup. A great way to start the meal!

Parsley Crusted Salmon with steamed garlic clams, yukon gold potatoes and leek chowder
The salmon was also nestled on the cubed yukon potatoes, carrots and clams. But clearly the main attraction was the salmon which was perfect. It was moist & nicely crusted so that every bite was scrumptious (especially with the chowder)! I could go on for days about the chowder - it was heavier than a regular sauce and packed a bunch of flavour. It all worked together and made the dish divine! I'd come back to pay regular price just for the salmon dish alone, but it got even better with dessert:

Pistachio mandarin tartlet with raspberry ice cream
The pistachio tart was heavenly! Seriously decadent and evenly warm throughout the entire tartlet (no cutting corners and microwaving here). I never thought mandarin oranges and pistachio could come together and create such an exquisite dessert - WOW and with combination of the raspberry ice cream and cookie crumbs - absolutely superb. Even though I wasn't very hungry, I literally tried to lick the plate clean and devour every single crumb. Definitely an amazing dessert chef to watch out for here at Rosewater!

Conclusion: Great meal and service at Rosewater! I'd highly recommend it (especially the dessert)!

Website: http://www.libertygroup.com/rosewater/rosewater.html

Rosewater on Urbanspoon

Monday, 23 January 2012

Clafouti

Update: The Restaurant has Closed in Feb 2016
January 21, 2012

The second time around we decided to try something different - so we bought:
From top left: Strawberry tart, Pomme Coco - which is caramelized apples, shredded coconut and cinnamon, Lemon tart and the same Pomme Normande and Poire Amande. 
There's definitely more selection on the weekends than the weekdays. 
The Strawberry, Lemon and Pomme Coco tarts didn't really impress us as much as the Pomme Normande and Poire Amande tarts. They were still quite delicious, but it didn't have the stand-out quality we were expecting of Clafouti.

Pain Chocolate Amande and a Croissant
Amazing! The pain au chocolate amande was fantastic - really yummy! It was better than some of the pain au chocolate amande I've had in Paris. Each bite into the chocolate almond bread was exquisite - the frangipane was done really well and with the chocolate? Heaven!
The croissant had a perfect a flaky outside and moist buttery inside. MMM!

So now that we have all the savoury treats - we needed lunch! So we bought croque monsieurs for $4.75 each (excl. tax).

(Plated on my plates - not Clafouti's)

First thoughts - OMG that's a lot of cheese! And considering I'm not a big fan of cheeses (especially soft cheeses - if it's spreadable, it's not appetizing to me), I wasn't too sure about this until I tried it.
The cheese was really good - although it got to a point where I couldn't differentiate the bread from the soft creamy cheese inside the sandwich (I'm not a cheese connoisseur - so I can't really tell what cheese it was). But what I do know is that this was one cheese-filled sandwich I'd eat again and again (especially at that price!). Wow - it is such a good deal for a sandwich downtown! Great price for a really great sandwich! What else could you ask for?

January 5, 2012
Tarts!


From the top right: Blueberry, Wildberry Clafouti, Pecan, Poire Amande, Pomme Normande and center is Key Lime
All I can say is WOW! These are really good tarts - all of them and they are probably some of the best I've ever had! 
Here's my ranking of the tarts we bought:
1) Poire Amande: this was such a different kind of tart compared to the more popular ones. The poached pears were great and the frangipane was light and not too overpowering. The combination was interesting and worked really well together. 
I thoroughly enjoyed the tart and really wished I had more. 
2) Pomme Normande: absolutely lovely! The tart was sweet and nice. It was amazing how fast it was gobbled up since my family loves apple pies and tarts. 
3) Pecan tart: I'm usually not a fan of pecan tarts because I find that most people don't make the filling well (and I'd rather err on the side of caution and avoidance than suffer a bad dessert). This one by Clafouti definitely blew my expectations of pecan tarts. It was moist, delectable and such a delight to eat!
4) Key lime: light and refreshing and the crust was fantastic! Crumbly and provided the perfect contrast to the heavy key lime cream. Relatively heavy tart for a snack, but if you had a light dinner then this dessert would be the best way to top it off!
5) Wildberry Clafouti: delicious, but after eating all the other ones - this one felt like it was as brilliant as the other tarts. If I just had this one tart, I would have loved it because (a) it was a great tart and (b) I love all berry tarts since you can never really go wrong with them. But alas, I had all the rest before I had this tart.
6) Blueberry: I enjoyed this tart, not as much as some of the other ones because I had a comparison point with the other ones. I felt like this one tasted like it was made with blueberry yogurt and I didn't find it as enjoyable as some of the other tarts.

Conclusion: You've got to visit Clafouti for their tarts! Delicious!


Website: http://clafouti.ca/
Clafouti on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 21 January 2012

SongCook's Authentic Korean Restaurant

My second time at SongCook's - and this time was a disappointment because I felt that the food didn't live up to my original standards.
We ordered the Pork Bone Soup again (in the black bowl) and it was very different from the last time I went here. This soup was much spicier and it detracted from the actual taste for the soup (at least it was the case for me since I can't eat spicy food at all). Last time, the broth was a lot more clear and well-seasoned. 

We also decided to try a few new things and the other item in the picture is KalbiJjim which is beef short ribs. The kalbijjim was really well done - the meat was tender and succulent and it made you really want to clean off meat on the ribs. The only downside was the fact they were drowning in the sauce (broth?). There was enough flavour in the dish and a little hint of spice which suited me just fine. I'd really recommend trying the KalbiJjim - it's great!
DuKuk with Seafood
Their own home-made noodles with shrimp, dried shrimp, seaweed and clams. This was ok - the soup was nice, but the pasta was kind of bland and the seafood wasn't that fresh.

One of their dishes that we ate had a ton of MSG in it because when we got home we had to drink a litre of water. That was a huge disappointment because I thought they wouldn't have to resort to using that much MSG in their cooking to bring the flavours out.

Conclusion: We left unhappy and not very satisfied with the food. Although the prices were really reasonable, it just wasn't worth it to us.




Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Osechi

Osechi (formerly Dozo Sushi and Sake Bar)

 
Inside the restaurant - very snazzy!

 
The All-You-Can-Eat Sushi menu! Quite a lot of choices (approx 120+)

Getting ready for All You Can Eat Sushi!

Orechi has all the typical AYCE sushi offerings and a few different ones including fresh oysters (which they limited to Fridays and Weekends and one Oyster per person). The oysters were nicely done. A fun experience for anyone who hasn't every tried it - the texture and taste is very different from cooked oysters and pretty refreshing.

Salmon Sashimi and Spicy Salmon Sushi 

Tinier portions than what we were used to, but that could also be a good thing since that also means we waste less (in case we can't finish everything we ordered). The salmon sashimi was fresh.
Shrimp tempura
Nicely battered and crisp & crunch on the outside and the shrimp was nicely done. The tempura sauce was pretty good and we were very tempted to double dip.

The rolls we ordered: Asian Roll, Red Dragon, Golden Dragon, Spider roll. The most notable roll was the Golden Dragon with thin slices of mango on top and mango sauce. The spider roll was ok - I thought the soft shell crab wasn't crispy enough.

Round 2 of the rolls we ordered - the dragon roll at the bottom wasn't as tightly wrapped as our first sushi roll plate. And I think the other roll was the Volcano roll.

Golden Dragon and Green Dragon (we really love our Dragon rolls)

Unagi hand roll

Fish....and tuna and salmon sashimi. 
The Sashimi portions were kinda tiny - but it also meant we could eat more!

Dessert of mango ice cream and mango pudding with evaporated milk (not a fan of the mango pudding)

For $23 (excl. tax and tip) for AYCE sushi, it was ok. We got a coupon from the Newspaper for 10% off (which made it a bit better), but I just wasn't really feeling the sushi here. 

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Druxy's @ College Park


We were having a discussion about what to eat for lunch, when my coworker brought up her favourite lunch place to eat for lunch: Druxy's. I was slightly puzzled by this as I've tried their roast beef sandwiches for lunch before, but I just didn't think they compared to Fast Fresh Food sandwiches (http://www.fastfreshfoods.ca/). Instead, she told me she loved the salads at Druxy's and she raved about how cheap and filling they were. 
I have to say, I'm not a salad person and I really didn't believe her when she said that a salad would be a filling lunch - so she came up with the "salad challenge" for lunch. We would go to Druxy's to get salads to determine whether a salad could fill me up for lunch.

We got the small salads and loaded them up with a whole bunch of unlimited toppings from the salad station. I decided to make my salad a protein-less salad and just load up on toppings to see if they could fill me up. So for $6.78 including tax, I got this:
I literally went down the rows of toppings and selected all that I liked: broccoli, carrots, celery, peppers, red cabbage, cucumbers, tomatoes,  avocado, baby corn, sunflower seeds, sun-dried tomato, crispy noodles, parmesan cheese and tossed with roasted red pepper and garlic dressing. 
Fantastic salad! Even though it was a small size, it was still very filling with all the fresh toppings and protein. Definitely great value here!

Friday, 6 January 2012

Spring Rolls @ Yonge & Dundas


Spring Rolls introduced the All-You-Can-Eat Lunch Buffet for $14.99. 
Once upon a time, I was a fan of Spring Rolls since I used to work really late (sometimes until Midnight) and  my options for ordering dinner in Downtown Toronto were (1) Swiss Chalet, (2) Pizza, (3) Spring Rolls and (4) Go Hungry.
Given the options, I used to chose Spring Rolls a LOT and I think Spring Rolls used to be much better back then (maybe it's the franchising that's diluting the brand?). 
A few years later, they invented Orderit.ca (and all my late night dinner problems were solved).

Anyways, back to Spring Rolls:
Crispy Battered Tiger Shrimps and Vegetable Spring Rolls

The name of the Crispy Battered Tiger Shrimps sound appealing, but in actuality, it didn't live up to its name. I have no idea how they made it, but the fact that there were pieces of greenery in the shrimp batter was really gross and the batter didn't really feel that crisp (which meant they probably took it out before the shrimp were ready so that they could serve it fast). Also, of the two shrimp I tried, half the shells were still on the shrimp before they went into the batter - so I got an unpleasant and inedible surprise when I bit into the part near the shrimp tail.
The Spring Rolls were ok; usually you can't go really wrong with spring rolls. They weren't particularly tasty and I didn't like the sauce that much, but they were edible.

Chicken Pad Thai
It tasted like there was lots of ketchup in this Pad Thai since it was pretty sweet. The portion size was ok.

Dynamite Roll and Green Dragon Roll
This was awful - the avocado was super mushy in both rolls and the rolls were badly wrapped (they definitely weren't tight enough especially for the Green Dragon Roll). The Green Dragon Roll tasted so soft and semi-liquid that my friend thought there was mayonnaise. Terrible - don't ever order the sushi here. 

Gyoza
The Gyoza sauce was interesting, since I'm used to eating Gyoza with soya sauce. This was some kind of thicker seasame soya sauce or something - very different and I didn't particularly enjoy it. 
The gyoza on the other hand? I've had much much better in a seedy little izakaya in Gotemba, Japan. 

Conclusion: Bad food at an established food Franchise. Definitely not worth it - there's so many other fantastic options you can eat near Yonge & Dundas or even the Urban Eatery Food Court would be better than here (Thai Express has great Pad Thai). On the plus side, the service was fast despite the packed tables at lunch (but it can't beat fast food court service!)

Website: http://www.springrolls.ca/