Friday, 18 October 2013

Drake One Fifty

The latest in the Drake Hotel chain is Drake One Fifty in the financial district.
Drake One Fifty

Menu Menu Menu
The menu
Octopus
Charred Octopus with sunchokes, romano beans, smoked cipollini + swiss chard
The octopus was not quite what I expected it to be especially since it was also labeled a starter. I figured they would give enough octopus to share for a few people...instead it was just a meaty tentacle.
The salad underneath was interesting and it worked well with the octopus.

Beef Tartare
Beef Tartare
Cumbrae's sirloin, tomato puree, pickled shiitake, egg yolk + potato chips
The beef tartare was delicious; I rather enjoyed the contrast between the hard crispy chips with a scoop of the soft beef tartare topped with chives and a runny egg yolk.

Gnocchi
Ricotta Gnocchi with broccoli pesto + florets, pine nuts + preserved chili
This gnocchi was the smallest portion ever for $19. A huge disappointment and it wasn't particularly amazing either.

Margherita Pizza
Margherita pizza with tomato sauce, mozzarella di bufala, basil + preserved chili
The pizza was rather doughy and didn't have enough tomato sauce.

Rabbit pasta
Rabbit Confit Torchetti with sundried black olives, spinach, chanterelles, pecorino
The rabbit was nice and sweet, but the dish didn't really wow me.

Drake 150 burger
The One Fifty Burger with Cumbrae's thirty day aged shortrib, Perth bacon, cheddar, pickled red onion, bibb lettuce, Russian dressing + hand out fries

Roast Lamb
Roast Lamb with Greek yogurt, roasted baby eggplant, citrus new potatoes, haricot vert + chili puree
The roast lamb was nicely spiced and I liked the Greek yogurt and chili puree sauce. It added a different touch to the normal roast lamb dinner. I do have to say though, considering I paid almost $30 for this dish, I was kind of disappointed there wasn't more to it. It was good, but not that good.

Overall: The new Drake One Fifty aims to cater to young professionals and bring in a hipster vibe to the Financial District. The decor was interesting and the bar area was packed.  In terms of the food though, I found it very pricey and only average.

Drake One Fifty on Urbanspoon

Friday, 11 October 2013

Asian Legend @ Sheppard & Brimley

It's been a long time since I was last at Asian Legend: it's an oldie, but a goodie. 
I remember the last time I went, the food was good, but it was on the pricier side. 
Asian Legend

Shanghai Fried Noodles
Shanghai Fried Noodles
There's cabbage, noodles, carrots, green onions, pork and shrimp (in that order). 
It didn't really have the strong flavour I usually associate with Shanghai Fried Noodles probably because the vegetables got in the way of the noodles absorbing the sauce. 

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Chunked Beef Noodle Soup
The beef noodle soup was really good! The beef was tender and tasty and the soup base had a nice spicy kick to it. And who can forget the choy and green onions to keep everything balanced?

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Zhajiangmian
This was zhajianmian done Taiwanese style...which unfortunately just doesn't taste as good as the original Northern Chinese version. The zhajiangmian sauce, in general, has a pretty strong taste and smell and the sauce is hearty and savoury. I found this sauce was more about the tofu and cucumbers than the traditional heavy and savoury black sauce used to overpower the taste of the wheat noodles, it just felt a little weak and not particularly tasty to me. 

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Scallion Pancake Roll with Beef (cong you bing)
At the last few places I ordered this roll, there are chunks of beef and springs of green onion all smothered with hoisin sauce and wrapped in the pancake and even that version got me hooked onto this delicious treat. 
I have to admit, Asian Legend does a pretty good scallion pancake roll with beef with the scallions baked right into the pancake. I would have preferred more hoisin sauce, but the beef was done really nicely and it was really tasty. 

xiaolongbao
Xiaolongbao (Soup Filled Dumplings)
They passed the dumpling stem test like the xiaolongbao from Din Tai Fung. However, it was mostly because the dumplings didn't have a lot of soup inside, but the meat inside was good.

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Steamed Chicken Dumplings
Personally, I found these chicken dumplings kind of bland (pork dumplings usually have a stronger flavour). Then again, I usually avoid eating dumplings with vinegar - so maybe it's the vinegar adding flavour to this dish? 

Wo tip
Wo Tip (Pan Fried Dumplings or Potstickers)
Yummy! One of my favourite things to eat. This version had lots of meat inside, but the skin was a tad oily and only the bottom was crispy (I love when the skin is crispy all the way around).

Red bean and tapioca dessert
Red Bean Dessert with tapioca
Watery and grainy...I'm a bigger fan of cakes than I am of Chinese desserts.

Overall: I love Northern Chinese cuisine and it's pretty hard to find restaurants serving great food.  I thought it was an okay meal at Asian Legend - there were some hits and some misses (and it was on the pricey side), but the service was fast.

Asian Legend 味香村 on Urbanspoon

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Buster's Sea Cove Food Truck @ Nuit Blanche

Is this Art?
Toronto's once a year Nuit Blanche: a free All-Nighter event with Contemporary Art Exhibits scattered all around the city's downtown core.
It was super packed everywhere! On the subways, streetcars, streets, sidewalks, apparently over one million people attended the event.
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Floating Lights
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Exhibits at Nathan Phillips Square
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Forever Bicycles by Ai Weiwei
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Food Trucks on King Street West (between Bay and York Street)

I love that the food trucks were still operating (with huge crowds) into the wee hours of the morning:
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Buster's Sea Cove was drumming up quite a bit of business
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Fish Tacos $10
Dry battered fish, decent salsa, a spritz of lime on a bed of lettuce and soggy tortilla - that's a quick bite at Buster's Sea Cove. I thought the point of food trucks was that they were supposed to be offer cheaper, similar sized restaurant portions and have more mobility than restaurant locations. After this experience, I think the novelty has worn off (or the food trucks were totally overworked). I was starving at 2am and this just didn't cut it because it wasn't satisfying and it was so mediocre and pricey (a $10 snack? yeesh). 

Friday, 4 October 2013

Fishman Lobster Clubhouse Restaurant

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We walked into the restaurant and this was the first thing we saw:
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Tanks of gigantic Alaskan Snow Crab
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 Alaskan King Crab Lobster
Our snow crab and lobsters

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Tofu Mushroom Soup
Nice clear soup broth with king oyster mushrooms, choy, tofu and a seafood taste.

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Alaskan Snow crab legs
Sweet, succulent and delicious meat steamed with crumbly egg yolk, egg whites and green onion. I found the meat from the smaller crab legs was juicier and tastier than the larger crab legs.

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Typhoon Shelter Crab
The lobster was seasoned perfectly - full of flavour and delicious. The meat was sweet and the sauce was savoury and salty with a hint of spiciness - a nice contrast.

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Lobster with garlic chips
Lobster prepared with flaky and crispy garlic chips, but I wasn't really a fan of this style of lobster - it was way too salty.

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Steamed fish with a glass of soy sauce
Typical steamed fish with soy sauce, but with an interesting take on the presentation of the dish.

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Choy with ham on top
Simple & classic choy with soy sauce and it made for a nice reprieve from all the heavier seafood dishes.

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Romaine Lettuce with soy sauce
I didn't really understand the soy sauce in a wine glass as part of the presentation - if anything I didn't even bother having lettuce with soy sauce because I'd grab a bunch of leaves and forget to pour the sauce on top.

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Crab Fried Rice
This fried rice dish was so heavy, especially after eating all that seafood earlier. The rice was good and there were delicious chunks of crab meat - but it was just so much food.

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Black Sesame Soup
A little watery, but okay.

Overall: It's a pretty big restaurant with a lot of big tables (usually for parties of 5 people or more) and it makes sense with all the large portion set-dinners. Definitely a Chinese seafood lover's dream here - they give you a whole boxful of disposable gloves to eat with (I probably went through 5 pairs of gloves myself eating all the crab legs and lobster - I also realized how oily and greasy seafood can get through that experience). Food was good here, service was great...it's pricey for Alaskan Snow Crab legs, but they're really delicious. 
Fishman Clubhouse Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 3 October 2013

O.Noir

Yay! I finally made it to O.Noir after I've heard so much about the place and the experience. When O.Noir had a Groupon deal, I seized the chance to try out Dining in the Dark. 
O.Noir
The entrance to the restaurant looks like a secret entrance to an underground tunnel or subway. I might not have noticed it if I wasn't actively looking for it. 
Once we descended the stairs, we found directions to our destination:
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With a dark dungeon-like feel and a long corridor to walk down to the main hostess desk, we found the environment rather appropriate and a little spooky (which totally suited the theme of the unknown). 
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We arrived in the dimly lit main room where we ordered our meals:
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Oooo Surprises!

My first course:
Our Meal
Surprise!
Literally, I ordered the surprise appetizer and from what I could identify...
The first thing I found on my plate was a hard, wrinkly and sweet dried apricot. I love apricots, so it wasn't an issue for me identifying it right away. The next thing I ate was harder because it was a mushy, almost bland-tasting object which I was pretty sure was avocado (and I eventually confirmed it with our waiter Nasir). Then I tasted the tomatoes and the balsamic and olive oil and pieced it all together as a salad. 
I found the ingredients were random, but I think the combination was more about playing with the textures and tastes. 

Our Meal
Surprise entree
The first thing I chased around my plate was a grainy textured piece of meat. It took me a while to place it because the texture was so similar to ground beef and yet, I could see it being pork too. It also didn't help since it was also seasoned well (if a little salty), but I eventually concluded that it was Salisbury steak (made with ground beef). Then there were two sides of mashed potatoes and green beans. 

Our Meal
Chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream
After the first two surprises, I wanted to be sure of the dessert so I ordered off the menu. 
The chocolate cake was a little dry, but there was a lot of icing and vanilla ice cream to make up for that. The vanilla ice cream was in a separate bowl which made it easier than the cake. For some reason, eating cake with a spoon in the dark is really hard...I can't tell you how many times I thought I scooped up a chunk of cake only to eat my spoon instead. 

Overall: There's something freeing about eating and chatting in the dark.  It was actually so much fun guessing what I was eating because all of your other senses become heightened when you lose one sense (in this case sight). The food was okay, but it was definitely more about the experience.

O.Noir on Urbanspoon