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. 

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