Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Cafe Polonez

Cafe Polonez is a long standing Polish restaurant in the west end of Toronto.
Cafe Polonez 
Interior
There were quite a few tables and only two servers working (quite a feat - but they did a great job!)
Bread
We got some thick and dense bread with butter to start - I think it was potato bread because it was so hearty and filling.
Potato Pancake
Potato Pancake Hungarian Style $14.95
potato pancake stuffed with goulash and served with a side bouquet of salads

The pancake had a crispy edge with a soft inside and it was even better with all the huge chunks of meat from the tasty goulash wrapped inside. Super hearty and filling meal. The sides of buttered carrots and coleslaw were delicious as well. 

Combination Platter 1
Polish Combination Plates Platter for 1 $19.95
4 pierogi, bigos (hunters stew), polonez schnitzel and salad bouquet

According to the menu, the side bouquet of salads includes beets, coleslaw, fried cabbage and/or carrots. I didn't like the cold beet salad, but everything else was delicious! The hunters stew was not quite what I expected since I've never had it before - I thought the stew would be a separate bowl or something and when I got the platter I thought it was part of the bouquet of salads until I looked at the menu again. I was pleasantly surprised because the cabbage was really tasty and I liked the chunks of meat in the mix.

The pierogis were interesting: they had four different fillings of (1) cheddar and potato, (2) cottage cheese and potato, (3) minced meat and (4) saurkraut and mushroom. The pierogis with sour cream and fried onions & pork were really great and my favourites were the cheddar and potato and saurkraut and mushroom.

The highlight of the platter was definitely the polonez schnitzel. It was huge! In case you can't see, the schnitzel was covered by mushrooms and the pierogis, coleslaw and carrots also partially covered it. Basically, it was almost the size of half the plate and it was fantastic! Meat was thin and nicely breaded to perfection. I like the sauce on the Schnitzel Queen schnitzel better, but this one was still really enjoyable to eat. 
I did a pretty good job...
I think I did a pretty good job right?
I left 1/4 of the schnitzel for lunch the next day! :D

Overall: Great place for authentic Polish food! Fantastic hearty and filling food, decent service, and if you're lucky enough to get your hands on a Groupon ($10 for $20 worth of food) - then it's super cheap! Even without the Groupon, you've got to try the schnitzel and pierogis here! Delish

Café Polonez on Urbanspoon

Monday, 26 November 2012

Alice Fazooli's

Alice Fazooli's has a steak and lobster promotion for $27 all November:
Alice Fazooli's
The restaurants on York Blvd are huge - which is great because then you get seated really quickly, the downside is that it can be chaos if the service isn't organized properly. You can probably guess how my experience at Alice Fazooli's went based on that comment. The service was really slow and disorganized: our waiter was never really there when we needed him. I was really confused about how they assigned tables to wait staff but it felt like the staff were running all over the restaurant. The two managers or assistant managers seemed like they were pretty bewildered because there was a lot of running back and forth from the kitchen to the front desk. 

We started off with a basket of warm bread and pesto olive oil. The olive oil had some chilis in it to add a little heat. The pesto was overwhelmed by all the olive oil, so it wasn't particularly enjoyable. Instead, we ordered butter and got this delicious whipped butter to go with our bread. 

Steak and Lobster promo
Surf and Turf with angel hair pasta
Seasoned and grilled top sirloin served with a butter brushed Atlantic half lobster and angel hair pasta tossed with sun-dried tomatoes and fresh spinach

Where to start? Maybe I should start with the angel hair pasta (an unusual side, but given that Alice Fazooli's is an Italian restaurant, maybe that makes it okay for them?). The pasta was tossed in an olive oil sauce (which made it a little bland), but there were also the sun-dried tomatoes and spinach which added a little colour, but the defining point was the salty grated parmesan cheese. I thought it was great that the waiters/bus staff carried out a huge block of cheese and a grater when I asked for cheese on my pasta - it's nice that I'm not getting the powdery parmesan. 
Next, the lobster...it was okay - there wasn't a lot of butter on it, but the meat was sweet. The steak was a disaster: when it first came to our table it was lukewarm and almost cold in certain parts. So we asked for them to put it back on the grill for a bit, but then that dried out the sirloin. It was also kind of bland.

Overall: It was a mediocre meal: service was a disaster and the food wasn't very good. For some reason, it seems pretty popular - I'd rather go to Wildfire rather than eat the surf and turf here again. 

Website: http://www.alicefazoolis.com/
Alice Fazooli's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Patachou


A little few blocks north of Rosedale subway station, is a cute little cafe & patisserie shop - Patachou.
They offered a whole selection of prepared meals, soups, baked goods and treats and quiches.

Outside of Patachou
What I was truly interested in was the tarts! They had so many tarts: raspberry, apple, salted caramel, chocolate, orange almond, lemon and a variety of cakes...mmm cakes
Box

Blogger Pictures by peachgirl6
Apple tart, raspberry tart and an amandine tart.

Amandine Tart
Amandine tart - almond tart with ground almond paste and apricot filling. $5.50
I really like apricots and almonds and it's not a combination I usually see together, so I decided to give it a try. The tart was a little bland, but at least it wasn't too sweet. The apricot and almond flavours can be pretty subtle when baked together (I should have remembered that - but pear and almonds taste amazing together), but I think the biggest issue was that I wasn't a fan of the almond paste. 

Apple Tart

Apple tart $4.95
I was pretty disappointed by this apple tart. It looked really pretty, but when I tried to eat it - I found it extremely sticky. The crust that was supposed to be flaky just ended up being gooey and the tart filling was mushy apple sauce. I was not a happy camper.


Salted Caramel Macaron & Pistachio Macaron
Salted caramel macaron and pistachio macaron ($1.75 each)
The macarons were what saved my trip to Patachou! They were delicious little morsels of pistachio and salted caramel. The cookies were denser than conventional macarons, but they had a crispy outer shell. I loved the pistachio; the foot was moist and filled with pistachio flavour. The salted caramel macaron had a sweet salted caramel icing, but I liked the pistachio buttercream much better!

Overall: Patachou is a quaint nice cafe - probably a great place to grab lunch and some treats, but I think I might stay away from their tarts.
Patachou on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Congee Delight

Located at Unit 4 in Skymark plaza, Congee Delight is a popular Chinese restaurant next to the No Frills supermarket. 

Beef tendon and brisket in soup
The brisket was a deep red color and tough to chew, but the tendon was done well. For a bowl this size, I found that they didn't really have enough mein in the soup. It was pretty mediocre. 

Seafood & chicken fried rice in Fukien style
This fried rice dish was fantastic! It had the perfect amount of sauce with the fried rice and it was so tasty and delicious. I thought it was done really well.

Braised assorted vegetable with bean sauce in hot pot
The assorted vegetable hot pot had black fungus, white fungus, tofu pockets, enoki mushrooms, chinese mushrooms, bok choy and noodles all topped with a miso-based sauce. The miso based sauce had a grainy taste and texture and because I didn't really like the sauce - I didn't like the dish.

Overall: The service was decent, the food was okay, prices were reasonable - I think there are much better Chinese restaurants in Toronto than this one (like Honest Kitchen or Maple Yip in Scarborough or even Congee Wong at Leslie and Finch).

Website: http://www.congeedelight.ca/
Congee Delight on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Reservoir Lounge

The Reservoir Lounge is a classy lounge with live music bands playing jazz, swing and blues. 
The lounge is small and cozy in the basement of the historic Wellington Street buildings.
Beausoleil oysters 
Delicious! Tiny morsels of sweet oyster - even better with a pinch of lemon. 

Pistachio crusted shrimp with spicy mango papaya dip 
The shrimp were really gummy in texture and I felt that they were almost "weighed down" by the pistachio crust. The dip added a nice flavour to it, but overall this appetizer wasn't very good. 

Devil's toast with a ragou of wild mushrooms, pancetta and melted asiago cheese on grilled garlic bread
I liked the combination of mushrooms and asiago cheese, but I didn't really like the pancetta with those two ingredients. It was added on almost as an afterthought and it added a salty element to the toast which I wasn't really a fan of. 
Wild mushrooms pizza with grilled Sicilian eggplant, marinated artichokes, sundried tomatoes, basil pesto sauce & Woolwich goat cheese
All the vegetables worked nicely as the salty and sweet pizza toppings - but I think it was the sundried tomatoes and goat cheese that made it great on the nice thin and crispy crust. I wasn't too sure I tasted the basil pesto sauce, but the other ingredients made up for it. 

Free range chicken pizza with baby spinach, sundried tomato, portobello mushrooms, asiago cheese & yellow tomato sauce. 
This pizza was okay, it may have been missing some cheese? It looked pretty and colourful.

Virgin Mimosa

Raspberry tartufo in a glass and crème brûlée
The tartufo was nice - chocolate ice cream outside and raspberry sorbet inside. The crème brûlée was okay, I really love the burnt sugar on top - but I keep expecting something exciting to happen to the custard to make the crème brûlée interesting. 

Overall: The Reservoir Lounge is a great place to grab some simple appetizers and listen to some great live jazz, swing and blues. The food is decent, service is a little slow, but the music is fantastic!

Website: http://reservoirlounge.com/
Reservoir Lounge on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Holts gourmet

July 26, 2012
In the basement of Holt Renfrew's flagship store in Toronto, there is a reasonably priced grab and go eatery called Holts Gourmet.
They offer a variety of already prepared grab and go items like sushi & sandwiches

Paninis on the left and pre-made sandwiches on the right.

And some heat-up later items like salmon and chicken with side salads.

My Holt Renfrew Brown-Bag lunch!

Chicken, brie, pesto, lettuce and tomato panini $7.95
They offer a daily selection of 6 paninis. When I went, there were 4 great vegetarian options and two meat paninis, being a carnivore - I chose the chicken option. 
I chose the chicken and brie panini and they immediately put my panini in the grill while I went to pay. The panini was crunchy and crisp on the outside with the perfect amount of melty cheese and grilled chicken inside. I was skeptical about brie cheese and pesto sauce since I usually associate mozzarella and pesto together, but it worked out well. 

Overall: When you think of Holts, you associate the name with quality and expensive luxury goods. And when you add "food" in, you would probably think that they have pricey and delicious food as well. It's not the case with Holts Gourmet, you get great food without the high-end prices.

Update: November 13, 2012
Grilled salmon with mango mayonnaise and a side of squash quinoa salad ($4.50/100g)
The mayonnaise on the salmon was really nice, but it didn't save the super dry grilled salmon. 
On the other hand, the salad was really good! The squash was tender and tasty, the quinoa was really tiny and hard to eat, but the dressing tied it all very well together.

Pesto chicken pasta ($4.50/100g)
Very dry! And they barely reheated it - we were super disappointed. This was a huge waste of money.

Overall: I was really disappointed with the quality of Holt's Gourmet food - it's definitely not worth the price you pay for. 

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Thai Kitchen - Thunder Bay

We decided to mix it up and try Thai food in Thunder Bay
The restaurant was a decent size and pretty busy during lunch. I was surprised that there was only one server in the restaurant, but he did a really good job because we were in and out in an hour for lunch (there were also 2 kitchen staff and 1 dishwasher). It's a relatively small operation but obviously quite popular. 

Taro Bubble Tea
Disaster! It tasted like water + taro bubble tea powder.

Yum Nua Yang
Grilled sirloin steak, thin sliced with shredded green mango, peanut, cilantro, lime and mint
It was pretty good - they had varying levels of spiciness (mild, medium, hot), but I think they just add more chili flakes on the dish to make it spicier.  

Kwit-deo nua
Rice noodle soup with sliced sirloin in a flavourful beef broth topped with fresh greens, crushed peanut and celery leaf. 
I ordered a half bowl and it was quite satisfying. I really liked the broth - it was done really well and I loved the fresh crisp flavours from the cilantro and celery leaf. 

Overall: For a light lunch, Thai Kitchen does a good job. I left pretty satisfied (with the exception of my taro bubble tea) - they were reasonably priced and service was decent (which says quite a bit considering there's only one server). 
Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Costco

Costco! I haven't been in years...so I was kind of excited.
You've got to love their super cheap food too:

$1.50 hotdog & drink and $4.29 for a huge box of poutine with huge cheese curds and tons of gravy
I knew they did cheap bulk items - but I didn't know it extended to cheap abundant food portions in the fast food take-out area. 
This definitely gives Ikea a run for its money - It's not the most gourmet meal or the best hot dog ever, but $1.50 for a hot dog and drink??? and unlimited toppings like relish, onions and hot peppers - I'm not complaining. And the poutine! Those cheese curds are HUGE and they're pretty good - I wish they melted it  in the microwave, but the fries were crispy and the gravy was hot - so I enjoyed it.

My other favourite thing at Costco: store made Tiramisu $14.99 for a huge block (1/4 of it was eaten when this picture was taken)

Layers of delicious tiramisu cake
A good, cheap and delicious tiramisu in case you can't afford Paese's tiramisu. I recommend this.


Friday, 2 November 2012

The County General

After months of failed plans (see Swan and Lou Dawg's), I finally made it to the County General and I didn't have to wait 2 hours to get a table! Hurray!

 
The Fall Dinner Menu

Trio of Steamed Pork Buns $12
kimchi, avocado, cucumber and oyster
All the buns were two slices of pork belly with assorted condiments in a house-made bun. From left to right:
1) Cucumber and oyster sauce pork bun: similar concept to the Momofuku pork buns except the bun was lighter and a little gummier than Momofuku's.
2) Kimchi pork bun:  I really liked this - it was different and tasty. The kimchi was done really well as it wasn't too spicy and overwhelming and the pork meat was tender and juicy.
3) Avocado, cilantro and red onion slaw pork bun: interesting take - it had a fresh crispness to it from the slaw and cilantro, but I thought the other buns were done better.
Yellow bottle was the homemade hot sauce (I avoided that one)

Beef Cheek Au Poivre $16
Cumbreas Farm Beef Cheek, Heirloom Carrots & Brussels, Shallot & Green Peppercorn Sauce

6 oz County Burger $14
Milk Bun, Mustard, Mayonnaise & Pickle 
I thought the burger was a little raw for medium and the meal looked a little tiny for $14

"For 2" - Roasted Yorkshire Pork Rack $48
Caramelized Apple & Onion, Boudin Noir n' Crackling Salted Caramel
Left to right: Pork ribs, Blood sausage, crackling (i.e. pig skin), cuts of pork meat and pork belly 
All on top of a bed of onions and caramelized apples with caramel sauce
Blood sausage: it had a grainy texture and tasted like a cinnamon flavoured sausage. It was really good, but it was difficult to finish an entire sausage as it got a little metallic at the end. 
Crackling: crispy fried pig skin...it has the texture of shrimp crackers (I wasn't a fan)
Pork meat: Delicious! Cooked to perfection! I especially loved the pork belly cuts because they were super juicy and tender and with the caramel sauce...it was heavenly. 
The only thing I didn't like about some of the pork cuts was the fatty pieces with the skin on them - the skin was super hard to chew through and not appetizing at all. I was expecting something similar to Chinese crispy roast pork belly (siu yuk) and I was really disappointed because I couldn't eat the skin.  
Apples and onions: Soooo good! The soft mushy apple in caramel sauce was like the perfect complement (and dessert portion) of the pork rack. 
I felt like I was eating a deconstructed pig roast (without the pig head) and the whole time I was thinking that this is a meal like what they would eat in the TV series Game of Thrones (but the gourmet version set in the 21st Century Toronto). 

Overall: Great meal at the County General! The restaurant is homey and cozy. The portion sizes are a little tiny considering what you pay for, but the food is good. I didn't get to try their famous fried chicken - so I think I'll definitely be back!

Website: http://thecountygeneral.ca/
The County General on Urbanspoon