25 December 2010

Chako: Korean BBQ take 4

as one who's no stranger to korean bbq, Chako came as no surprise to me: all you can eat, meats marinated a bit too much. the only surprise here was that in addiition to the various meats available, you can also get sushi, fruits and veggies. on top of all that, there is not much else to compare: you're charged extra for what you don't eat, parties of 8+ have the gratuity built in etc. etc. etc.

one thing that really took me away here was the pleasant taste of the green tea and the option of either green tea ice cream, mango ice cream, red bean pudding or mango pudding for dessert. having had more than my fair share of green tea ice cream over the years as dessert, i opted for the mango ice cream and to my surprise it was actually quite pleasant and delicious!

10 October 2010

Main's Mansion

main's mansion..located at 148 main st. markham north, it's one of the best places to be at--especially with friends! i had their cheese tortellini & cream sauce, which i thought had a slight overdose of salt...talk about a shock to my palate...it was like an "assault of salt". i also sampled a bit of my friend's pierogies--AWESOME and i also sampled my other friend's New Orleans style jambalya...a tad fiery, but pretty good all the same. we also shared a pound of honey garlic wings that came w/ blue cheese dip, celery and carrots. i must say it here and now: those were some of the best bar food wings i've had in a freakishly long time!! the celery and carrots were also great for not only getting your veggies, but i found it helped to clear my salt-overloaded tongue.

safe to say we were all really full--asking for a light meal here is completely out of the question, as even smaller portions of diishes can leave you quite full and satisfied.

affordable: borderline pricey
best with company: yes
live music: yup

20 September 2010

Matahari Grill: fire and ice

18 September, 2010

let me start by saying that as i am not being the overly crazed fan of spicy foods, I must confess that going to a place like this can be rather difficult for me (unless i were to go for drinks & desserts). As the cuisine there is Malaysian, it can be quite fiery for people who don't fare well with heat.
while there are some dishes that pack on the heat, there are also ones with a relatively tame heat level--the mee goreng (Egg noodles stir fry with blend of spices, prawns, tofu, potato, bean sprouts, and egg topped with crushed peanuts) is a favourite of mine, as is the Casbah Cashew Prawn - Prawns stir fry with mushrooms, sundried chili peppers, red onions and cashews ($18.00). i MUST admit that one of my favourite side dishes to eat when i'm cooling down my completely spice-shot palate is a steaming bowl of either coconut flavoured rice or jasmine rice. looking for an alternative side dish instead of rice? get the roti. i also really adore some of their cocktails--the lychee martini being one of them despite being a bit stronger in taste than anticipated and the mangotini being the other.
dessert is one of my favourite components of a meal. upon my return to matahari grill on Sept.18, my family and i savoured little crepes filled with toasted shredded coconut, fried plantains in a rum-caramel sauce with ice cream and one of my favourite desserts: Sago-Sago--a light, satisfying dessert of little tapioca pearls and slightly sweetened coconut milk, served cold.
personally, next time i'm back here it'll hopefully be just for dessert and drinks.
if you're adventurous, i highly recommend the rendeng beef (a bit pricey at $20, but worth it!), along with the dishes i suggested.

i can't be bothered to mention how much money can be spent here, even just on a date, as i have absolutely no idea.

location: 39 baldwin st
closest TTC station: St. Patrick
also in proximity: University of Toronto, St. George Campus

19 September 2010

philthy mcnastys: definitely an awesome sports bar.

voted as canada's best sports bar & grill in 2005 by the viewers of rogers sportsnet, it's easy to see why they got this accolade. not only is their menu filled with incredible pub fare, but some of the little banquette tables have..you guessed it: MINI TV so that patrons don't need to stretch their necks too far to see the games on screen! my friends and i were seated, incredibly enough, in the same spot where we sat last time we got together there during the 2010 Olympics. now, if i told you that eating four sliders (mini burgers) was the same as eating a WHOLE burger, you'd probably laugh..but yes, it is true. philthy mcnasty's at 130 eglinton ave east has really adorable sliders and you get the option of eating them either as an appetizer like i did or, as my friends did, have the sliders as a meal. as i recall from my previous visit, the chili fries, and cheesy garlic bread are SPECTACULAR options--especially for sharing with friends..on the other hand, just about everything there is perfect for sharing (yes, even the wings!). one of the other things my friends and i really loved about this place is the ambience & atmosphere--it's always been a big factor for us when we go out together.
overall, i adore this place to no avail and now i wish there was one closer to home and i now have the craving for a slider or two as a midnight snack!

affordable: YES
approximate price range after tax & tip, no booze: $10-14/person
next stop: to be determined.

11 September 2010

auld spot pub: small place, awesome food!

so..i know i said my next review would be philthy mcnasty's at 130 eglinton ave. east, BUT before i get to that next week, i'll take you through the auld spot pub on the danforth (just across the street from the Big Carrot around the danforth-chester area). the pub is quite small--at least in comparison to the other pubs i've been to...not to mention it's actually the FIRST pub i've been to where they have an organic beer available.

as a designated driver, i was unable to sample the alcohol, but i did get a good taste of their fish & chips (having just arrived from a baby shower, i opted for 1 piece of fish). i gotta say this: the fish was perfectly cooked, just a light coating of batter and just the right portion size. the fries on the other hand were a tad greasy and for me, beyond oversalted...and if you're gonna tell me i should have sent it back, i'll admit i didn't because i simply couldn't be bothered--not to mention i was already quite exhausted.

dessert options were vanilla crème brûlée and a chocolate pot de creme. not having had either dessert for a very long time, i must say it was quite nice to indulge the sweet tooth! the vanilla crème brûlée had such a distinct, fresh brilliant vanilla taste (the way vanilla should be in desserts), im 99.99% sure it's thanks to the use of both vanilla extract AND fresh vanilla beans. the chocolate pot de creme was not entirely as i had expected, as it is often warm when served...in this case, it was cold but nonetheless, rich and satisfying. thankfully i had a glass of water with lemon to help cut through some of the richness and some coffee.

auld spot pub: 347 Danforth Avenue (416) 406-4688
affordable? mains are $12-$18
note: fish & oysters priced according to market value
would i love to go back? YES PLEASE!

05 September 2010

el tipico restuarant ecuadoriano (the typical ecuadorian restaurant)

latin flavours here i come! they're flavours i love..and thankfully, they weren't overpowering and there were no chili peppers anywhere near my tongue, except for a ramekin of homemade salsa that i believe had either had habaneros or scotch bonnets! we asked for cheese filled empanadas and i honestly swear that there's nothing better for an appetizer than that...and while i knew that we were allowed to add some white sugar to the still hot empanada for a bit of sweetness, i preferred the deep fried tortilla and stringing cheese combination! for a main, i asked for clams and rice. not being sure if it was what i ordered, so after some verification from the waitress (meaning that i basically had it mixed up with another dish pictured in the menu!), i dug in with relish. i MUST confess that i totally underestimated how big the portion size would be, but i gotta say that i was glad for some sweet, caramelized plantains and some veggies (sweet peppers, peas & carrots) to make the meal a bit more balanced. all of that said, i only managed to finish about half of the dish--it's enough for two people to share--and took the rest home with me. i definitely can't wait to go back there again! i know the service there that night was a tad slow (and i know that can annoy a lot of people at times), but i gotta say it's worth the trip for something new and different! good for going to with friends? YES affordable? ABSOLUTELY. flavours all blend well? you bet. location: 2312 Keele Street, North York, ON (about 15-20 mins drive from vaughn mills) next stop: a trip back to philthy mcnastys (130 eglinton ave e).

23 August 2010

dim sum: the best hour i can spend eating...

ah! my ultimate favourite set of dishes on the weekend: dim sum. i suppose you're asking what exactly dim sum is. in brief, it's a brunch made up of little individual dishes (as many as you'd like to order) and a pot of tea. dim sum for me, is awesome and here's why: not only is it affordable, but it's one of the few times i get all my favourite dishes in one meal: steamed shrimp dumplings, pan fried turnip cake, shrimp & avocado spring rolls etc. i also love dim sum because even though you don't think it'll be enough food when you first try it, you soon realize that it actually catches up to you pretty fast and it's definitely a meal you can either enjoy by yourself, or, in my preferred case with some good friends. favourite dim sum locations: chili secrets (9021 Leslie Street, Unit 9 Richmond Hill, ON) sam woo seafood restaurant (375 bamburgh circle, scarborough) all time favourite dim sum dish: steamed shrimp dumpings (aka "har gow") affordable: absolutely (avg. $10/person)

14 August 2010

paninis + pickle barrel = love

Just as luck would have it, I miraculously found myself back at the Pickle Barrel at Yonge-Eglinton..this time for a birthday dinner (and running into a couple friends of mine!). Always with the itch to try something new, I took after the chicken & avocado panini on an herbed foccaccia bread--with a green salad and dressing on the side. I dug in with a ravenous appetite, I managed to devour and savour every bite, knowing it likely won't be long before I try to make this home. What I definitely did NOT expect was to be so full that there was no room for dessert! Instead, I had a cup of coffee to settle my stomach and for me, that was definitely a good idea. For some reason, the dog days of summer seem to bring out the craving for paninis..maybe because they're light, yet they make a perfectly satisfying meal with a green salad on the side. perfect for: a light, satisfying meal affordable: YES!

11 August 2010

Taste of the Danforth

ah! i love the taste of the danforth--the smell of lamb, quail and various other goodies all available to sample! i managed to get a hold of a few things i had really been lacking: a good bit of lamb and a big juicy burger from Lick's (Pape-Danforth). there was a bit of rain while i walked around, taking in the sights and smells... always worth going..and a good way to go to Greece (and other places) without spending the money for a hotel and airfare!

12 July 2010

some of my fave cold treats...

so i bet you're wondering what this entails...in this case, it's all about some of my absolute favourite treats to have during a summer like what we're going through. 1) Gelato: Italian-style ice cream, with a richer, denser texture [there's not as much air in gelato] 2) iced coffee. Does this really require explanation? I don't think so. 3) frozen yogurt. this is great for those who like a cool treat and something healthier, and also great for kids--seriously. 4) Tartufo. Another Italian ice cream dessert, containing chocolate, of a creamy mousselike consistency, its literal translation is "truffle" (referring to the edible fungus in this case) 5) Ice Cream..the American way. Again, no explanation required as to why. 6) Iced tea. Specifically, an iced venti tazo passion tea that's unsweetened and not diluted with water! finally, to cap it all off I must pick a lovely, chilled sangria, made with White Zinfindel and slices of oranges, lemons and limes added for flavour & garnish! that's my pick for favoured cold treats. what are some of yours?

01 July 2010

Best burger I’ve had: the Smokey Jack’s burger

Best burger I’ve had: the Smokey Jack’s burger (Jack Astor’s). 
July 1, 2010 © Let me start by saying that before this, the best burger for me was always the Lick's Home burger that I would ask to be simply topped with a heaping pile of lettuce, tomatoes and no skimping on the cucumbers...and then came this: The Smokey Jack's Burger from Jack Astor's (available at all locations). This burger is pretty much your standard restaurant/pub burger in terms of bun, meat, lettuce, tomato, and maybe some mayo & red onion. This one on the other hand stands out with thin, crispy, fried strips of onions in addition to 2 strips of bacon. The really obvious difference though, is that it is a lot bigger in size--trying to get a single bite (or rather the first few bites) was quite difficult! Now, if you’re wondering why I’d try something like this, here’s why: It was suggested by one of my friends who accompanied me. I also had to wonder if he was bluffing or if his suggestion was for real...and it turns out, he was right! With the option of having either fries or salad, I was admittedly foolish enough to ask for fries rather than my greens, but I’ll know that for next time!

25 June 2010

the big ragu: an Italian Heavenly Delight!

What a delightful, unexpected surprise. I had no clue what to expect, but I knew once again, I had to trust another person's judgement. With an empty stomach and open mind, off to the Big Ragu it was. Greeted with a smile from the über polite and courteous waitresses. Promptly after we were seated and given our menus, a basket of fresh, warm bread accompanied with balsamic vinegar & oil for dipping appears.

When asked what appetizer we would like, I merely shrugged, not knowing what was good, and my boyfriend simply said two words: Magic Mushrooms. I just sat there wondering exactly what that meant--all I could think of at the sound of that was that it sounded a bit like something out of a Mario game! Thankfully, my question got answered minutes later--and I also found out why the dish has its name as I dug in and savoured every bite I could.

The combination of the wine reduction sauce, and peppery baby arugula salad in addition to the portobello & mushroom caps filled with soft, melting goat’s cheese just rounds out all the flavours nicely. Believe me, if I could've, I honestly would have ordered another plate just for myself--despite the fact that it would another $12 added to the bill!

The pear bellini (a perfect combination of pear nectar & Prosecco) compliments the food nicely, and co-owner Carmine is one of those chefs who loves to come out and chat with the customers! Honestly, go hungry, leave happy, full, want more...and always go on an empty stomach with an open mind, as you never know what might happen.

A heavenly delight, I love this place to pieces and I’m still, to this day insanely grateful I’ve had the chance to go. Would I return there in a heartbeat? Absolutely!

Suffice to say, it was the best Christmas gift I received and a nice way to bond before he had to return to his CF base.

(originally written 5 May, 2010 ©)

Aroma Espresso Bar: a haven for foodies & coffee addicts

Aroma Espresso Bar: a haven for coffee addicts & foodies 10:45 AM | 15 June, 2010 © When I first spotted Aroma Espresso Bar at the Promenade Mall location (probably around April), I noticed that the pricing for the food was probably more than what I’d be willing to pay for, but I really needed a coffee break at that time. First things I noticed: freshly baked loaves of bread, and the sound of espresso being freshly ground and brewed as it should be--not the way they brew espresso at Starbucks or Second Cup for that matter--they grind the old school way! I also love how everything is absolutely immaculate and the staff are courteous & professional, knowing that a customer’s needs are important. Milk for their lattes & cappucinos are done with whole milk (unless specified otherwise), allowing for a richer, creamier taste; poured over the full bodied espresso with care and finesse. I also have to admit that having a dispenser containing water with lemons and plastic cups on a tray indicating to help yourself is a fantastic idea--it’ll definitely keep you hydrated while you wait for your order to be filled. There is no doubt that the ambience & atmosphere allows you to know that it’s a more upscale cafe, with a lot of healthy food choices all prepared to order. I haven’t managed to sample any of their food, but based on my experience in the Hospitality industry (I do cook, you know!), my nose doesn’t lie when it smells something great that also looks incredibly appetizing. As I finish writing this from their Bathurst & Rutherford location (9320 Rutherford Road), I have to say that Aroma Espresso Bar is a real delight and in the last 7 (almost 8) years, I never thought I’d find a place that I love just as much as Starbucks & Second Cup for satisfying my coffee fix.

the best things i ever ate (pt.1)

Best things I’ve Ever Ate, why & where to get it (part 1) One of the best things I ever ate is the Magic Mushrooms appetizer at the Big Ragu (1338 Landsdowne Ave, near St. Clair West). I must say that the flavours blend so well, it's crazy--and I kid you not, you WILL want more--despite the fact you'll add another $12 to your bill. The combination of the wine reduction sauce, soft, oozing goat cheese, portobello & button mushrooms and baby arugula salad just brings it HOME...and believe me, if i could've, i honestly would have ordered another plate just for myself! Another one of my favourite dishes happens to be quinoa with sauteed green beans, red bell peppers, onions and topped with some roasted rainbow trout that I made myself. The flavours work quite well and really don’t need a lot of seasoning, and in this context, the flavours simply shine individually and work cohesively. I also have to admit, it does remind me slightly of the utterly fabulous dish from the Pickle Barrel: a panko crusted basa fillet that came with a mango salsa along with cousous filled with dried fruit & nuts: simple, clean delicious flavours that worked well together...and tasted better with a glass of Pinot Grigio wine (the waiter’s pick). One of the best things I’ve eaten in terms of desserts was when I went to Cora’s on June 22, 2010 for a rather late brunch and shared half of a chocolate-banana treat with my friend: a crepe stuffed with nutella, bananas, and topped with icing, chocolate drizzle & a strawberry. Sinfully delicious, and definitely not ideal if you’re attempting to keep the weight down, but all the same: worth trying & worth every penny!