gracecheung604 | write on time: June 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

One Restaurant at One Hazelton

So on my last fun day in Toronto, we had made reservations for a Brunch Buffet at Four Seasons. But because it was the same day as their Ride for Heart, we totally missed the time. And at $48 a pop, I’d have to eat a lot in an hour to make up the lost time. As much as I enjoy eating, I don’t like it when it becomes a sport. As a Foursquare whore, I decided to use it to figure out where the four of us could go eat. The first place that popped out was One – the new McEwan joint. So off we went.

After the initial confusion of “where is the entrance”, we eventually found a hostess who seated us, and a waitress who was determined to take our drink order. After being traffic for about an hour, I needed a Ketel One Martini…the rest of the group ordered Carlsberg beers except for the one girl ordered a Fujian white rose tea...

I was still in breakfast mode, so I ordered their Eggs Benny, which was some artisan ham and a perfectly poached egg served on brioche bread, with “baby potato slices, baby tomato and basil leaf, and topped with diced chive”…and boy was it ever. I do believe this is the first time I’ve had a martini at breakfast…yes, mom, it was! The eggs were poached just right, but would you expect anything less from a McEwan joint?

The two guys with the Carlsberg decided to order the Burger, which was a gigantic patty, smothered in barbecue sauce atop a hamburger bun. The burger looked impressive, but oh epic fail …the bun wasn’t grilled. Honestly, if you are going to have a huge patty as your middle, you need the robe to be substantial too. And for me, the bun sort of got crushed (and not in a nice way) when you picked up the burger. A nice sear on the bun would have gave it a bit more texture and perhaps some legs to stand on.

The “tea” girl ordered a Cobb salad, which had chicken, goat cheese, quail egg, pancetta, and heirloom tomatoes, dressed with a mustard-based dressing. It had a beautiful presentation, but I didn’t take a bite, so I’m guessing it was good.

To go along with the Eggs Benny, Burgers and Salad, we needed some sides. The first one we ordered were the Truffle Fries. I mean, deep fried potato slices covered with parmesan cheese shavings and then doused with truffle oil…how could you go wrong? Well, maybe the truffle oil was applied too liberally, but all the fries were soggy. It was as if they were day-old reheated sticks! You could taste the truffle and the cheese, but there was no fry-like crunch. It reminded me of poutine.

The other side we ordered were the Onion Rings. It came with almost a “fish and chip like” batter, and were gigantic ringalooos. On the side was a citrus garlic aioli…almost as an afterthought. The rings were rich…heavy, you only needed one or two. Well, but I had about four! Although this wasn't on my list of "Places to Try" for this trip, I'm sure glad I made the visit!
Note...service not nearly as good as the food!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

First Breakfast in Maui - not home made

Longhi's on Urbanspoon
So here is my first post about the food on last month's Maui trip...
After an amazing Saturday wedding in Maui, we were free to enjoy the rest of our stay at Honua Kai. We headed to Kaanapali Beach in search of brunch. After parking the car, we walked along the beach and saw a few things that caught our eye. Bubba Gump’s Shrimp…but it seemed like such a tourist trap.
We ended up at Longhi’s, a place for brunch. It was a really nice and open spot, with a great view of the beach. Food choices were a bit limited, but I settled on the Two Eggs and Sausage special, while my friend settled on a Vegetarian Frittata. Both came promptly, accompanied with two slices of bread. If you look closely at the two pictures, you’ll see how his bread was obviously from the same loaf, but mine really looked like they grabbed the end of the last pile.
The food wasn’t anything special, eggs and sausage, can’t really go wrong, and they were smart enough not to fuss around and add fancy sides.
The one waiter that didn’t serve us (he was more like a busboy) was amazing…he had a way with glasses…he carried about 20 water glasses in one hand…stacked them just the right way so that he could insert a finger into each stack of 5 and carried them off. It was like watching a magic act…the force was with him.
But how can you be in a bad mood when you’re having brunch beachside. Birds were chirping inside the restaurant, and we got our first taste of lazy Maui time. One elderly couple came in around 11:15 and were craving something a little more hearty, so they asked for the lunch menu. The waitress brought it over, and they placed their order from that menu. Funny thing…the waitress said she couldn’t ring the order in until 11:30…because they don’t serve lunch until then. Weird…who’d have thought they would be a stickler for timing, when their speed limit is 35-40 mph.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day at Yew

YEW Restaurant + Bar on Urbanspoon
On Father's Day, I decided to surprise my stepdad with a visit to Yew. I know he hasn't been here before, but I've taken my mom here for brunch, and she enjoyed it. The restaurant wasn't too busy, so we were seaterd quickly.
My mom decided to order $35 Prix Fixe meal, which came with a choice of Consumme/Spot Prawns for the appetizer. She chose the consumme, which arrived with a little bowl of basil oil on the side. The flavoer was rather mild, but the very refreshing. Even more shocking was the portion size, much more generous than I expected. 
My appetizer were oysters, some miyagis and kumomotos, all served with their homemade sauces, House-Made Tabasco, Ice Wine Mignonette, Guava Horseradish and a Citrus Ponzu.
My stepdad chose to order the Spot Prawn app, which was a serving of four poached spot prawns, atop a bed of fennel salad...pretty good! 
The mains were next, and the choice with the Prix Fixe menu was either Crispy Duck or a Local Seafood Sampler. Both my parents opted for the seafood. The sauce was made from a lobster broth enriched with herbs and saffron, and a splash of pernod. Despite its rich texture, there was no milk or cream in this sauce...just a slow and patient reduction...divine! 
I opted for the Bison Garganelli, part of the regular menu. Described as a dish of Bison Meatballs, Garganelli Pasta, Crushed Tomatoes, Farmhouse Country Blue Cheese, it was exactly as described. The handrolled pasta was cooked perfectly al dente, and the bison meatballs were nicely complimented by the blue cheese. I do have one complaint though...the sauce was really watery...almost as if the pasta wasn't drained properly.
Here is a closer look at the perfectly formed garganelli...I love fresh pasta...
The prix fixe came with the following dessert...raspberry sorbet, I'm guessing? I've lost my notes for this page... If anyone knows exactly what this is, please comment below.
For my dessert...which I do remember, it was the amazing pear martini...nicely done, and a perfect end to a very satisfying meal! 
After we asked for the check, the delighted us further with cocoa dusted nuts and various gelees. Oh, I will be back! 

Friday, June 18, 2010

Chicken Pot Pie Facial?

Acme Cafe on Urbanspoon
Last Friday, there was a very interesting tweet from @acmecafe. They were offering 20% off to anyone following them on Twitter. I’ve been hearing tons of rave reviews for this place so this was just too good of a deal to pass up! Very clean decor, nice recessed lights and bright white walls.
We had a vague idea as to where it was, and it only took one circle around the block to nail it. We didn’t relish the thought of an evening stroll around streets of East Hastings. Having said that, it’s easy to find and well worth the search.
Loads of comfy dishes on the menu…SO hard to settle on just one or two! I have been craving puff pastry for weeks, and their Baked Chicken Pot Pie seemed to be the perfect antidote. Since that takes 15 minutes of prep time (they bake to order!), we ordered that right away. Also loved the huge array of sandwiches, and settled on the Meatloaf sandwich. Not being a huge fan of hoagie buns, I requested Ciabatta, panini grilled. So yummy.
As we waited for our Chicken Pot Pie, you could smell it baking in the oven! Made waiting even harder! The good part, we had some vino to keep us quiet. The cheapest wine on the menu is the Finca los Primos, an Argentinean Malbec, $20/bottle ($4.75/glass), and the priciest? $35/bottle of either the Blasted Church’s Hatfield’s Fuse, the Babich Sauvignon Blanc or the Mission Hill Pino Noir. Oh, they also have Red Truck beer for $5/pint.
The Pie arrived…puffy and hot! Slicing into the crust to release the fragrant steam…I felt like I was getting a facial…a chicken pie steam, if chicken soup is good for a cold, then a chicken facial must be good, for something! The filling was awesome…not too starchy, and wet enough to dunk the crust in to soak up the sauce. The greens were fresh, and a good compliment to the main course…and I love endive.
The sandwich arrived with perfectly grilled ciabatta, stuffed with meat loaf, with some Dijon, bbq sauce and mayo, and then layers of Swiss cheese. The veggie contribution came in the form of some caramelized onions and arugula. You could get this with your choice of soup or chips. I wasn’t in the mood for soup, so we got the chips with the broccoli almond slaw, both for very crunchy, actually, so was the pickle!
We were pretty satisfied with the meal, and at 20% off, we felt like we got an awesome deal. Just as we were leaving, some baked goodness caught my eye…homemade oreos! Since we were all set to get into the car, we quickly paid for them and brought them home to enjoy.
A few things to note: they bake pies...I totally missed that! They open until 9 everyday, including weekends. They have online ordering!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CHARMing my Mom

Charm Modern Thai on Urbanspoon
My mom rarely comes downtown, but she ventured down with some of her friends, I decided to join them for lunch. She had gotten the Groupon from Charm Modern Thai last Thursday and was itching to use it.
There were four of us in total, and we each ordered one Lunch Plate with the intention of sharing. We ordered a rice, two noodle dishes and also a curry. This way we could all try something different. All their $10 lunch plates come with Deep Fried Prawn Wontons, as well as a bowl of Tom Yum Soup. Those came promptly once we placed our order.
The wontons were deep fried and served with a slightly sweet and sour sauce, not coated in it, but just mildly tossed. The Tom Yum soup was good, with chunks of chicken and mushrooms…pretty spicy stuff. Good to warm up after a walk in the cool Vancouver weather.
First up after that was the Pad Thai with Chicken – exactly like it is pictured on the front of their menu. The noodles were cooked perfectly, not overdone at all. Accompanying the noodles was a good medley sliced chicken and tofu, along with the usual bean sprouts and crushed peanuts. The sauce was slightly sweeter than expected, the dish was fragrant and steaming hot. This dish is prepared mild, without a “spicy chili” next to it in the menu, so if you like more kick in your pad thai, then ask for it to be made hotter.
Hot on the heels of the PT was the Thai Style Fried Rice with Chicken. Presentation was pretty, and the vertical shape showed off the vibrant colours of the red, green and yellow peppers in the dish. This was a very big portion, much more than one person could eat. The rice had one chili on the menu, and was very light on the spicy scale.
The other spicy dish was the Spicy Linguine. Again, perfectly cooked noodles tossed with bamboo shoots, peppers and basil. Much of the sauce was down at the bottom, but that is where the flavour also is…make sure to mix and coat thoroughly! If you don’t find it spicy enough, (I’m a heat fanatic) ask for a little hot sauce on the side and toss it all around. All of our dishes had chicken in it, and all the chicken was cooked well, not dry or rubbery at all.
The last dish to arrive was the Red Curry with Chicken that I ordered. I tried this first and was thrilled with the spiciness of it. It was a generous bowl of chicken curry, with a serving of rice and steamed veggies on the side. The curry was piping hot with an even hotter kick. The rice was welcomed. Along with the soup and the fried wontons, you definitely get good bang for the 10-bucks!
Most of the earlier comments around the table regarding the first three concentrated on the mildness of the spiciness. But once they tried mine, they realized that it was indeed the dishes they ordered and not the kitchen being light-handed with the spices! My mom prefers foods that are less spicy, so the first three were perfect for her.
Four women...Four huge plates of food...three lunch leftovers. One note…for the onions that were in both the Fried Rice and the Spicy Linguine, they seemed a little undercooked…perhaps thinner slices would allow it the cook through more?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

More Ramen Motomachi Shokudo

Motomachi Shokudo on Urbanspoon
Yummy comfort food for lunch today. Headed to Motomachi Shokudo for a bowl of ramen, off the too-often trekked Alberni/Thurlow corridor. They are on Denman, so I’d only go there if someone was nice enough to come pick my sorry butt up from work to high-tail it down there.
We arrived at 11:50, and wouldn’t you know it, there were three people waiting for the doors to open…which doesn’t happen until the clock strikes 12. The chopsticks came with a little belt around them, presumably to hold the pair together. I was delighted to figure out that the holder transforms into a chopstick rest. Ahh…Japanese ingenuity!
I ordered their Extra BBQ Pork Ramen (Shoyu flavoured broth), which includes their usual pork shoulder butt plus some BBQ Ribs. I’m so glad I tried this, because the shoulder butt was really fatty, but the ribs were amazingly tender.
Totally salvaged the bowl of noodles for me. There was the usual half egg, loads of bean sprouts, green onions and four large pieces of nori, my favourite! Although the bowl didn’t seem humungous (as in a large pho size), it was still too much for me to finish. Strange, since my friend pointed out that I had no problem polishing off a similarly sized bowl from Benkei just last week.
Can I blame it on the gigantic gyozas then? Not really, since although they were large, there were only four of them instead of the usual six. And we had gyozas there too! One thing I did notice is that they fry their gyozas together, so that when served, all four are stuck together which isn’t a big deal, but I prefer it when they aren’t.
My friend had the Bamboo Charcoal Dark Miso Ramen…which was black…not grey, but actually black. Well, if it's got charcoal in it...and again, with the requisite sides, but other than the colour of the broth (and it’s dietary and anti-aging benefits), nothing spectacular. In fact, the broth was just salty. My broth was too salty too.
I know it’s a taste issue, but I am not a mild-flavour type of girl, so I was surprised that I found things salty here. In fact, I actually felt sorry for the server who came around to fill our water glasses at least three times.
At Benkei, I’ve seen a girl order a mug of hot water when they first sit down, take a sip of the broth when it arrives, and pour the whole mug into the noodle bowl. Now I know why, anything to dilute the saltiness.
Would you believe I haven’t yet been to Kintaro? It's owned by the same people, but supposedly a totally different experience. That’s next on my list…next time someone comes downtown and is willing to drive my sorry butt down there.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Calamari, Paparadelle, and Spaghetti Carbonara, oh my!

Fraticelli's Italian Grill & Lounge on Urbanspoon
Headed to Fratecell’s in Richmond Hill for dinner prior to the hockey game. This restaurant boasts a menu created by Celebrity Chef Massimo Capra. It’s part of the Tortoise Restaurant Group, which owns the Turtle Jacks next door.
There was a 30 minute wait for a table, so we sat at the bar and had a glass of Chianti Ruffino and a Moretti Draft. The wait took a while, and even as the lounge cleared, we were still waiting. The bartender felt bad for us and actually offered us a slice of pizza while we waited…nice touch.
We had the Grilled Calamari to start and ordered a Spaghetti Carbonara with a shrimp skewer added, and an order of their Papardella Bolognese.
Our Calamari appetizer came and it was three large grilled pieces of squid upon a bed of diced tomatoes, red and yellow peppers, olives, all doused with a splashing of white wine.
This was the followed by a plate of focaccia with some antipasto dressing to be used as a spread. It was pretty yummy, but the waiter didn’t really tell us what the dressing contained. I figured it was sundried tomatoes and some olive oil. Weird that it came after the appetizer, but I could live with that.
After we finished the Calamari, we got our mains: My Pappardelle alla Bolognese arrived first. Whenever I go to an Italian place, I always want to try their meat ragu…it has to taste good, and their pasta has to be fresh. My plate arrived nice and hot, and a quick toss revealed tons of meat ragu and the steam carried the fragrance all around me. Topped simply with some Parmesan Reggiano, and I was in heaven.
The other dish we ordered was the Spaghetti Carbonara, and it was recommended to us by the bartender (who looked like Steve Buscemi). The plate wasn’t as hot, but still hotter than the dishes that the ladies next to us had. The grilled prawns arrived, four on a skewer and wrapped in pancetta. How great it that? As we were eating, someone showed up with our Grilled Calamari, the second time. Geez, if we didn’t finish ours and were already onto our main course, I’d probably have taken it too.
A sure sign of growing pains in the kitchen. Due to the closeness of the seating, we overheard the ladies next to us complaining and asked them to elaborate. First of all, they were seated but left without water and/or food for a very long time. In fact, we were the second couple to sit down next to them, and they still hadn’t gotten food yet. They received their appetizers just as we were placing our order, but then they received their entrees while they were still noshing on the appies! Wait staff arrived with food in hand, expecting their customers to make room for the food on a table filled with water and wine glasses, bread plates and appetizer plates.
It was a much different experience from ours. They had to send a salmon dish back once (or twice, not too sure now) and their Pappardelle arrived at room temperature. They were celebrating a birthday, so the four of them were brought three cannolis gratis from the restaurant. Although the serving is set at 3 when you order the dessert, you would think that they would make an exception and provide enough for all the ladies to each have one…or was the birthday girl supposed to go without? They also raved about the Fritto Misto and the Bruschetta, will have to try these on my return visit. To the restaurant’s credit, the salmon was taken off the bill. The ladies shared a cannoli with us so we ordered a dessert too.
Partly because I wanted to return the favour, and partly because I wanted to see what a Lemon Tiramisu was like. Layers of ladyfingers and creamy lemony foam. It was pretty damn good.

During our dessert course, we overheard the ladies complaining about the fact that lattes were listed on the menu, but weren’t actually available to order. And then, strangely, a cappuccino that we didn’t order arrived at our table. So they have a cappuccino machine, but nothing to heat the milk required for a latte? Very weird. So although this restaurant does have some growing up to do, there is strong promise here that they could end up being pretty good. I’d love to try it again on my next visit to TO. My one regret, I forgot my leftover paparadelle at the restaurant, and when I called 5 minutes after we was gone! Should have turned the car around and just gone back instead of calling. Darn.


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