Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Coconut Grove

It's funny that when I used to work in this area, I never actually ate here (although I heard good things about Coconut Grove) and now that I've left the area, I'm coming back and trying it now. 
Chicken Roti
Chicken Roti
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It was around 5pm when we went and the store was closing. Luckily, they had some stuff left and we were able to order two rotis (although most of their stuff was gone). 
I liked the roti - it had a hint of a crispy skin from the grill and the curry was flavourful with a bit of a kick.  The portion was pretty big too! 
I definitely want to come back and try the goat curry and oxtail next time. 

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Big Smoke Burger @ Yorkdale Mall

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I haven't had a Big Smoke Burger in a while, but I was taking my aunt shopping at Yorkdale and decided to grab one of my favourite burgers with the yummy rosemary garlic mayo. 
Unfortunately, the burger seemed to have shrunk compared to what I remember
It was still okay, but a lot smaller.  The onion rings were still as awesome as I remember! 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

R&D

Some of my out-of-town friends from San Francisco and Hong Kong were back in town for a visit.  And being the huge foodies that they are, they wanted to eat at MasterChef Canada winner Eric Chong and MasterChef judge Alvin Leung's new restaurant R&D on Spadina. 
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I find it interesting that they're opening an Asian Fusion restaurant in the middle of Chinatown - that's a pretty bold move.  The restaurant was really nice! I love that they took an older building and just updated it to reflect their modern chic cuisine. 

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Steak Tartare $17
Interesting combination of steak tartare with the ramen eggs and crisp & crunchy crostini
A nice way to start the meal. 

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Ma Po Poutine
I wasn't sure what to expect with this - the concept sounds really cool. 
The actual poutine? Not as impressive since it was just soft slightly runny-in-texture ma po tofu on top of potato cubes.  I also didn't get the heat from the ma po tofu and the portion size was not really worth what we paid ($9) - so I felt this one missed the mark. 

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Colonel Tso's Chicken and Waffle $25
I was pretty excited about this dish because I love Hong Kong Egg Waffles (eggettes). It's safe to say that I was anticipating this dish the most out of the entire meal.  The presentation was nice, but the egg waffles were so overdone that you could barely get the flavour from the waffles.  The waffles were a huge let down, but the chicken was a little hit or miss.  One of my friends got a nice juicy piece of chicken, and I got a slightly drier piece.  It probably didn't help that the skin was also super dry and rolled in spices.  I think the sauces were supposed to help, but I didn't really like either of them as an accompaniment. 

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Half of Sweet and Sour Pork Ribs with pineapple and slaw
I don't think I imagined this when I saw the $13 price tag.  The pork ribs had a nice sweet and sour glaze and the slaw was ... interesting.  I mean the food was decent, but I couldn't help but think that I could have eaten sweet and sour pork up the street for half this price and probably the same sized portion (the wood serving plate probably gave us the perception that the dish was smaller than it actually was, but it definitely made me a little sad when I was served this - since it looks so disproportionate). 

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Eric's Curry ($20) and Five Grain Rice ($5)
Ok, the curry was delicious! It had depth and a great balance of spiciness and flavour.  The beef was also tender and I was really happy with this dish.  My main gripe was the $5 rice...given that white rice was $3, we figured let's spend a little more and get the nicer rice.  However, who pays $3 for a bowl of white rice in Chinatown? Either I haven't been eating downtown for a really long time and I'm out of touch with pricing for bowls of white rice, or something's off here. 

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Soft Shell Crab Bibimbap $18
Another one of those cool concept dishes, but soft shell crab just doesn't have the same strong flavour as beef to help carry the dish.  Also, I've had better bibimbap for a fraction of the price. 

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CSB - cha siu bao or BBQ pork buns $8
These pork buns were the specialty of R&D and rather similar in style to Tim Ho Wan in HK
However, I found that in comparison to Tim Ho Wan - it just didn't measure up (taste and price wise).
I totally get that food in HK is different than Canada, but if I'm paying $4 for a bun - I'm expecting to be blown away really. 

Overall: I should caveat my review by mentioning my general dislike of Asian Fusion (case in point Bent).  I find it expensive, not as delicious as real ethnic cuisine and for some reason, never filling (probably because I don't get my staple carbs or hefty portions of meat). Certain things were great here like the curry, but for the most part, this meal was probably an experience I wouldn't repeat. 

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Steam House

April 11, 2015
I can't believe how much difference a year makes in a restaurant.  I've been hearing that Steam House wasn't as good as it was before, but I didn't know the extent of their changes until I came back. 
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Steamed Chinese mushroom, fungus and sliced chicken on rice
The portion size and presentation of the dish have changed. (see the "before picture" below).
There was way less chicken and Chinese broccoli and a lot less rice than before. The flavours were there, but the ingredients were missing!

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Tiger shrimp steamed rice
Also a huge disappointment - where are these tiger shrimps?? I see tiny shrimps and some egg whites thrown on top of steamed fried rice. The dish was also a little salty.

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Oxtail bowl with tomatoes and potatoes
The dish was rather bland, which was kind of surprising considering how everything else had a lot of flavour.
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Hong Kong Milk Tea
The worst part of this whole meal was the ruined milk tea (what a way to cap off a disappointing meal).  The tea was way too bitter and awful tasting; we tried to tell the waiter that there was something wrong but they were (a) impossible to find when you needed them.  So we left our teas completely unfinished to show our dissatisfaction.

Overall: Since our expectations were higher from previous visits, the fact that this meal turned out so badly made it feel like it was a terrible experience.  The service was awful, the food was mediocre and we were really disappointed - we probably won't come back.

April 21, 2014
I love going to Maple Yip for Chinese food, but sometimes I like to try out new restaurants too and the new Steam House restaurant at Finch and Kennedy came recommended.
Steam House

Menu
They have a $5.99 lunch menu!
Beef Brisket Noodles
Soup vermicelli with beef shank
A decent sized bowl of vermicelli and beef shank. The beef shank was tasty, but it would have been nicer if it was braised longer to make it more tender.

Chicken and mushroom steamed rice
Steamed Chinese mushroom, fungus and sliced chicken on rice
The steamed bowl didn't look particularly filling at first, but it turned out that there was actually at least 4 bowls of rice under all that sliced chicken, mushrooms and choy. This steamed rice dish is the signature dish here and they really deliver! The chicken was delicious (and boneless!) and the rice was steamed in the juices and all the flavours were augmented by the sweet soy sauce. Yum!

Cream sauce and ketchup sauce spaghetti
Baked shredded chicken and shrimps in cream and tomato sauce on spaghetti
The chicken was on the tomato sauce side and the shrimp and zucchini were on the cream sauce side. 
Each sauce side lacked something individually - the tomato sauce was too sweet and didn't really add anything for the chicken and the cream sauce side was pretty bland with the shrimps. However, it did taste a little bit better when you mixed both sides, but it wasn't a favourite dish by any means. 

Diced chicken and salted fish fried rice
Fried rice with chicken and salted fish
Huge plate of fried rice! There wasn't a strong taste or smell of the salted fish and it was interesting that there was zucchini in the fried rice dish. Overall though, it was okay but nothing spectacular.

Crocodile soup
Coconut, sea coconut and crocodile meat soup
I thought this soup was really cool! I haven't really tried crocodile, but it definitely had a hint of that swampy smell (think rivers and bayous) and a leathery texture. The meat was tougher but it was really good in the soup! It was very aromatic and flavourful. Definitely another one of their specialties here.

Beef and egg noodles
Stir fried noodle with beef & scrambled egg
Contrary to how sloppy the noodle dish appears, it was actually pretty tasty. The scrambled egg made a kind of runny and delicious sauce with the stir-fry beef and it was all on a bed of ho fun noodles.

Braised pork and pickled vegetables and taro
Braised pork belly, pickled vegetables and taro
There was a little too much vinegar in this dish compared to the Maple Yip version and the pork belly wasn't as tender. However, the taro was a nice addition because it just absorbed all the sauce under the pork belly and pickled vegetables and offset the tangy flavour. 

Steamed tilapia
Steamed tilapia
Prepared Chinese style with soy sauce, coriander and scallions - classic and appetizing. 
The fish was a nice portion for lunch.

Yu Choy
Steamed Yu Choy

Overall: Enjoyable meal at the Steam House - the food was reasonably priced and pretty good. The service was a little slow though, but the restaurant was pretty big so the waitresses had a lot of ground to cover.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Lisa Marie

April 10, 2015
After a hard day's work, we decided to celebrate by going out for tapas and drinks!
This is the cutest beer I've seen this year:
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And it was really good!

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Root beer braised beef cheek mac and cheese $7
Very cheesy and the beef cheek was really tender.
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Porchetta tostada  $9
The tostada was a little harder to share, but we made it work. Crunchy tostada on the bottom and packed with flavour porchetta on top.

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Seoul fried chicken $19
This chicken was a huge disappointment considering it was almost $20. I couldn't believe the price tag on these four pieces of chicken. It was tasty, but definitely not worth it.

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Deep fried panna cotta with caramel and chocolate sauce
Really cool concept! Deep fried panna cotta was rather solid and tofu-like.

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Elvis in a jar
Peanut butter, banana, whipped cream and bacon on top.
Quite yummy (except for the not so crispy bacon on top).

Overall: This experience was a little underwhelming.  The tapas were cool and different and tasted okay, but the pricing was really strange.

March 28, 2014
I've been meaning to try Lisa Marie after I tried Fidel Gastro's tacos 
Lisa Marie

Mmm bar snacks...
Lisa Marie Menu

Eggplant Meatballs
Eggplant Meatballs
The meatballs were actually really well done. I loved the crunchy texture of the deep fried eggplant and goat cheese balls with the viscous jalapeno mint jelly.

Pad Thai fries
Pad Thai Fries
I didn't really get the Pad Thai feel from the plate of crispy fries (except maybe the lime and a little seasoning).

Creole Poutine
Creole Poutine: Tempura fried sweet potatoes with Louisiana Trinity Sauce topped with whole prawns, parmigiano cheese and brown butter.
Definitely a different take on poutine: it had the basic requirements of potato, cheese and sauce (?) - but it wasn't fries, cheese curds or gravy. I can't say I particularly enjoyed it, but the fried sweet potatoes were interesting and the tomato paste was nice.

Fritas
Philly Cheesesteak Tostada
This tostada with the grilled sirloin, onions and cheese was amazing! So delicious! It was a little hard to share, but we managed...the crispy tostada shell + the piled on toppings were great!

Bulgolgi Ravioli
Bulgolgi Ravioli
The fried ravioli with the bulgoli beef inside was kind of interesting, but it wasn't really a favourite around the table.

Snow crab pogo
Snow Crab Corn Dogs
Really different and cool! The chili ketchup was pretty neat too!

Turkey Wings
Two Turkey Wings
Honey garlic wing on the top and pretzel covered mustard wing on the bottom. An curious combination of flavours that actually worked out okay. They were massive turkey wings - I didn't anticipate this! (obviously I forgot how big turkeys can get.)

Moroccan Short rib
Moroccan Short Rib
Tender fall-off-the-bone meat..mmm

Korean burger
Korean Fritas
A burger in a fried bun (?) with kimchi pickles and garlic yogurt. I actually thought it was supposed to be a burger, but it was more of a doughy wrap around an oblong chunk of burger with a slight Korean flair.

Deep fried pizza
Deep Fried Pizza - Smoked Duck
It reminded me of Peking Duck on a crispy pancake rather than a pizza.

Overall: An interesting experience - a lot of fusion food and crazy combinations of cultures and flavours. I thought it was hit and miss with the plates, but it was a lot of fun trying everything! It can definitely add up to a pricey meal with the small dishes. Also, it can get pretty loud inside with the music and the food took a while to come out.

Lisa Marie on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot

For me, hot pot brings back childhood memories - but of course, back in the day, our soup bases and ingredients were a lot simpler than what's available today.  I've heard some good things about Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot, which has become a bit of a sensation in the Asian community.

First, you choose your soup base: spicy or non-spicy or you could get half and half. However, I heard that the spicy soup base is really spicy (so I avoided that)
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Selection of meats, seafood and vegetables
The soup base was pretty good by itself - lots of flavours which were both subtle (green onions) and bold (chinese mushrooms and red dates). 

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More selections of food (and a napoleon for dessert).

Overall: A fun experience, but a little on the pricey side for hot pot (especially since you have to do your own cooking haha).  Unfortunately, I got food poisoning the day after (which kind of ruined my experience) - and I couldn't tell if it was my under-cooking or if it was something I ate.