gracecheung604 | write on time: July 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Epic 9-course Dinner at Coast

With a couple visiting from Edmonton, we decided to take them to Coast for a fantastic seafood dinner. I have been there many a times and it's easily one of my favourites in the city, especially for seafood. We didn't know how to order from the vast menu, so we asked Chef Pedro to "make us dinner", almost like an omakase. What he delivered was beyond our expectations, with each course amazing us anew. 
We started off with Buck a Shuck, a variety of oysters. Lots of horseradish, mignonette, and cocktail sauce. The freshness of the oyster is unmistakeable, and Oscar the oyster shucker did a fabulous job. A wonderful first course to start dinner, that's for sure.
IMG_3780 fritter Once we left the bar, we sat down and started dinner. After our first course, our second was the amuse bouche of a Crab and Prawn Fritter. The outside is crispy and the little ball had more crab than you would expect, no filler, all seafood. It's a little ball of deliciousness! 
IMG_3782 Our third dish was a Halibut Karaage. The little bites of halibut were served with an apple slaw. The fish was delicately breaded, and the coating was nice and salty. The fish was flakey and very moist. No tartar sauce needed here, just a squirt of lemon and you're all set. 
IMG_3785 We also got some sushi rolls for our fourth course, the first is a Negihama Roll, with chopped hamachi and scallions. We also tried some Fish and Chip Cones, with tempura cod inside, as well as some Japanese tartar sauce. It was nice to have something fresh, after two courses from deep fried foods! 
IMG_3788 Next up, Grilled Scallops, made up our fifth course, accompanied with a Steamed Mussel. These scallops were gigantic as you can see in comparison with the slice of lime. There isn't really much you need to do to these, better to leave them simply seasoned and just grill them. 
IMG_3792 salad As a palate cleanser and our sixth course, we had a Chopped Salad, with shredded fuji apples on a bed of butter lettuce. There are also dates and pecans for crunch and some parmesan shavings for a salty touch. We all enjoyed this really refreshing salad.
IMG_3793 2 For our seventh course, we were served a seafood course of Grilled Halibut, a King Crab Leg in a bed of Cucumber Gazpacho. The halibut had a rich sweetness, further enhanced by the crisp flavours of the cucumber. The crab leg held tons of meat and was well worth the effort of extraction.
IMG_3798 At this point, we were very stuffed but we realized that we missed out on the Crab Stuffed Twice Baked Potato, so we reminder our server. Well, we knew something was up when he brought over steak knives (we were full, not stupid). Turns out the Chef had one final surprise for us, and that was a serving of the Baked Potato, with a side of melt-in-your mouth Beef Striploin for our eighth course. Totally over the top, but delicious! Don't get me wrong, the beef was amazing, cooked to a medium rare (just the way I like it), but the baked potato, crammed with lots of crab meat, cheddar, scallions and capers was super decadent. It was our only carb of the night and we inhaled it. 
IMG_3799 Realizing that we had overlooked the veggie department, we amended this by ordering the Spring Gratin, with broccolini, mushrooms and tons of parmesan. As this is a "side", I'm not counting it as a course, but if you're keeping tabs, this would be eight and a half courses. There, all food groups have been represented, some to excess, extreme excess.
IMG_3805 Alas, I spoke too soon...dessert IS a food group, right? In the back of the plate are the Cocoa Nibs, which are essentially homemade chocolate covered honeycomb nibs. We also got some of their Red Velvet Cheesecake, paired with a mango puree. There were more goodies on the plate, but I couldn't give it a try, since I'm allergic to cherries. This was a perfect end to a decadent dinner of 9 or 10 courses, depending on how you slice it.

Take Note:

  • Give them a ballpark figure for costs to help them craft your menu
  • If you have allergies, tell them, they can and will accommodate
  • Buck a Shuck oysters available 3-6 Monday to Friday (varies on weekends) 

Coast Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bulgogi Brothers - Toronto

First meal on my June visit to Toronto was rather unplanned. I just wasn't sure how hungry I would be. OpenTable to the rescue, we just checked to see what was new and had availability on a Saturday night in Richmond Hill. What I didn't realize was that this location of Bulgogi Brothers is the first one in Canada. Not really sure how/what to order, I have to say the staff was really helpful, from food to drink to service. 
2013-06-08 20.08.15-2 Up top are a variety of appetizers. From the left, you have Pickled Italian Parsley, a traditional Red Kimchi as well as a White Kimchi. Next plate held some Preserved Root Vegetables, a cool scoop of Pumpkin Mash as well as some Spinach that is similar to Gomae. 
2013-06-08 20.09.15 
For a beverage, we got a bottle of Jin-ro Makgeolli, a wine made from sticky rice. It's milky, a little sweet and quite low in alcohol, only 6%. It's best served cold and is quite refreshing with the BBQ'ed meats.  
2013-06-08 20.12.11 For the BBQ, the two option we chose was the Rib Eye Steak and some Korean BBQ Ribs. The accompaniments are onions, some squash and a few mushrooms. For flavour, there are cloves of garlic as well. 
2013-06-08 20.13.45 
You can also get the Ultimate Umami, which is a selection of lettuces to wrap the BBQ meats in. The variety is pretty impressive, ranging from endive, radicchio, butter lettuce, romaine and even kale. Some of these are more bitter, so you'll need some sauce to balance out the flavours. 
2013-06-08 20.12.43 This is the Gangdaejang, a soybean based stew with pork, tofu and mushrooms. It's a bit spicy but not hot. It's a good sauce for the BBQ wraps, giving the lettuce wraps a bit of needed moisture.
2013-06-08 20.22.31 
The Miso Soup was really hearty, with an abundance of tofu, enoki as well as cucumbers, but alas, no seaweed. However, the flavours are very rich and concentrated. If you don't like the usual watered down version of miso soup you've gotten at Japanese restaurants, you'll be pleasantly surprised by this one. 
2013-06-08 20.27.03 
And this is the rice that comes with dinner. I liked the addition of beans and peas. The rice was just a bit sticky, but it's how I think of Korean and Japanese rice. To me, only I expect them to be more glutinous and just a bit gooey. 
2013-06-08 20.13.36 
So here is the cooking about to start. They heat up the gas grill and toss some Squash, Roasted Garlic, Onions and Mushrooms to season the grill. 
2013-06-08 20.16.48 Next, they add the Rib Eye that was ordered and cook it to a medium rare. You can request what you want, whether it's super rare or well done. They cook to the way you want it. I've always liked my meat medium rare, and they did that to perfection. 
2013-06-08 20.35.48 
pThe second meat is cooken upon request, they don't want to rush you. So next was the Korean BBQ Ribs, and it takes a bit longer to cook, due to the presence of the bones. Again, this is supposed to be wrapped up in the lettuce and paired wit Gangdaejang. If you want, ask for some hot sauce on the side to season it to your liking.
2013-06-08 21.17.52 
For dessert, they brough out a frozen Green Tea Mochi. It was good, cold and a great way to end the meal. Don't ask me why it looks like there is a paper clip dent on it, I prefer not to think about that.

Take Note:

  • Takes reservations
  • Very friendly staff, if you don't know what something is, just ask
  • Tell them how you want you food cooked, they are happy to satisfy

Bulgogi Brothers on Urbanspoon

Origin - Toronto

While I was in Toronto this year, I decided to revisit a spot that I found a few years ago, Origins. When I first visited, it was when one of Top Chef Canada's chefs were running the show. I'm sure he's gone now, but I wanted to see how the food was now.
2013-06-09 19.30.03 To start things off, we got some Oysters. These are super pretty, the colours are amazing, almost too pretty to eat. The bit of heat from the chilis are fun as are the edible greens. Served differently than in the West Coast,  there are no sauces here. Rather, they sprinkled some yuzu dressing on top and that's all you need.
2013-06-09 19.44.54 Believe it or not, this is a salad, a Bangkok Beef Salad to be exact. The beef is barely grilled and served super rare. It's a deconstructed salad, with peanuts, fried shallots off the the side. The plentiful slices of beef hide a bed of mint, mango and other greens. The nam jim dressing gives it a nice briny flavour but doesn't overwhelm the beef.
2013-06-09 20.28.35 As a main entree, we opted for the Halibut and Clams. The green puree is made of sweet pea and is very fresh. There are some charred sprigs of green onion. The clams are dusted with a bacon vinaigrette, yes, Bacon! The halibut was cooked perfectly and flaked easily. The clams were a bit small, it would have been nice to see a mix of clams and mussels on the plate to make it seem less empty. But what was on the plate was good, I just wished there was more of it!  2013-06-09 20.28.12
A close-up of the Halibut. Fresh and vibrant flavours. Loved the charred spring onions too! 
Origin Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Strike - Noodles, Wontons and so much more!

Yes, it's Back! Chinese Bites dinners! Having been on hiatus for the past couple months, I was delighted that these dinners are back again! With a large group of us gathering at a Taiwanese eatery nearby UBC, we were treated to 15 different items! It was a great way to try lots of items and we always love eating family style.
STRIKE special yam fries - ็”˜ๆข…็”œ่–ฏ่–ฏๆข First up, a plate of Yam Fries - ็”˜ๆข…็”œ่–ฏ่–ฏๆข, sigh, where was my mom? I've never been a fan of these, but decided to give it a try, because I was absolutely starving. On a few people's recommendation, I avoided the dipping sauce, which was supposedly cloyingly sweet. The fries themselves already had a bit of sweetness and the dip seemed like overkill. 
Wonton with chili oil sauce - ็ด…ๆฒน็‚’ๆ‰‹ The next item was an appetizer as well, Wontons with Chili Oil Sauce - ็ด…ๆฒน็‚’ๆ‰‹. I know the chili oil looks potent, but it really wasn't. In fact, it seemed like there was more sesame oil than chili oil. The skins of the wontons were really thin, which I really liked. The pork filling was plentiful but had a drier than expected texture.
Taiwanese Braised Minced Pork Rice If you like Pork Floss, you will love this Taiwanese Braised Minced Pork Rice. And yes, adding an egg is quite common in Taiwanese cooking. The preserved veggies also gave this dish a unique flavour. 
Taiwanese cold noodle -ๅฐๅผๆถผ้บต Now this dish isn't for everyone, because it is served cold. Taiwanese Cold Noodle -ๅฐๅผๆถผ้บต is great in the summer when you want the comfort of noodles without sweating buckets over a bowl of hot pho or ramen. The flavours are very light and the veggies help to give the bowl texture as well. It helps to think of it as almost like a salad, with its soy based peanut sauce as dressing.  
STRIKE special BBQ chicken - ็ ดๅบ—็‡’้›ž่…ฟ The next dish was the Special BBQ Chicken - ็ ดๅบ—็‡’้›ž่…ฟ, essentially a whole chicken thigh and drumstick. I found this a little burnt for my liking but it did have a great grilled flavour. And despite the appearance, the meat inside was quite juicy.
Five spice beef wrap - ๅคง้ค…ๅคพ็‰›่‚‰ This Five Spice Beef Wrap - ๅคง้ค…ๅคพ็‰›่‚‰ was a bit of a confusing dish. The wrap was far thicker than what I'm used to, but I did like the presence of green onion built into the wrap itself. The meat was well-seasoned but was overwhelmed by the doughy wrap. Eaten separately, this would work, as a wrap, not so much.
Stewed tofu with garlic sauce - ๆฒน่ฑ†่… I absolutely loved this Stewed Tofu with Garlic Sauce - ๆฒน่ฑ†่…, something so simple but huge flavours here. I liked the tender inside of the tofu as well as the slightly fried exterior. The sauce was excellent, a good blend of sweet and savoury, this is something commonly seen in Taiwanese cuisine. 
Deep fried pork chop - ็‚ธๆŽ’้ชจ This Deep Fried Pork Chop - ็‚ธๆŽ’้ชจ was pretty tasty, and I liked that they cut it up for us, making it easy to share. I also liked the fact the there were some bony pieces, those are my favourite! There isn't much sauciness here though, with the flavour coming mostly coating on the pork. 
Deep fried chicken nuggets - ้นฝ้…ฅ้›žMore deep fried goodness, these are Deep Fried Chicken Nuggets - ้นฝ้…ฅ้›ž and boy, these were a hit! The chicken is breaded and then deep fried. Lots of garlicky flavours and a nice punch of saltiness too. And these are super crispy and you will never want to eat McDonald's Chicken Nuggets again.
Slowly braised pork belly with spiced soy sauce - ๆฑๅก่‚‰ As with so many of our Chinese Bites dinners, this is the Slow Braised Pork Belly - ๆฑๅก่‚‰. The skin and fat had a really nice chew to it, and the meat itself was richly flavoured. The sauce was really good and I appreciated the veggies as we were eating lots of meat already! This isn't on the menu currently but it is something they plan to add.
STRIKE Thai style chicken - ๆค’้บป้›ž This was another winner, the Thai Style Chicken - ๆค’้บป้›ž. Too much raw onions for my liking, but the chicken itself is solid, juicy and tender. The Thai flavour comes through with just a bit of sour and a touch of sweet.
Taiwanese style steak with black pepper sauce - ้ป‘่ƒกๆค’้ตๆฟ็‰›ๆŽ’ The next two dishes are very similar, both arrive on a sizzling hot plate and are served with noodles, veggies such as baby corn, carrots and broccoli. If you look closely, you'll also see the fried egg. This is the Taiwanese Steak with Black Pepper Sauce - ้ป‘่ƒกๆค’้ตๆฟ็‰›ๆŽ’. Because the sauce is on the steak and not mixed with the noodles, you sort of have to do this yourself. Move the steak off to the side and toss the noodles with the sauce and veggies.  
Taiwanese style chicken steak with black pepper sauce -้ป‘่ƒกๆค’้ตๆฟ้›žๆŽ’ This is the same as above but with chicken, the Taiwanese Chicken Steak -้ป‘่ƒกๆค’้ตๆฟ้›žๆŽ’. The egg is hidden underneath some of the veggies, but it's there. Add the yolk to the sauce for extra creaminess. I found both these dishes to be a bit dry, could definitely use more sauce. 
House special beef noodle soup - ็‰›่‚‰้บต More noodles! This is the House Special Beef Noodle Soup - ็‰›่‚‰้บต. Although this arrived early on in the meal, I didn't actually get to try it. So we asked the owner if we could have another one to try and he graciously agreed. I think round two of these noodles were better, I found the broth to be quite good, although a bit mild, but I really loved the tender pieces of the beef. It came piping hot and it was one of the highlights for me. Those how ate the first bowl didn't have the same experience, so consistency may be an issue. 
Stir fried chicken with shaoxing wine - ไธ€ๅ“่Šฑ้›•้›ž This dish was the last one to arrive and it took about 30 minutes to come out. It's Stir Fried Chicken with Shaoxing Wine - ไธ€ๅ“่Šฑ้›•้›ž. It's not currently available on the menu yet, but the chef wanted us to try it. This had a lot of flavour, as you can see by the large pieces of ginger, garlic and dried chilies  The chicken were bone-in pieces and was excellent as well. Since most people were full already, there were lots of leftovers of this dish, which I was lucky enough to take it home!

**Strike hosted Chinese Bites for this tasting but my opinions are my own.**

More reviews available here for Signature Dishes Tour Dinners. 

Strike ็ ดๅบ— on Urbanspoon

Richmond Station - Toronto

On a recent trip to Toronto, (more YYZ eats here) I had the pleasure of trying Top Chef Canada Winner Carl Heinrich's restaurant, Richmond Station. Menu changes frequently, so make sure to try what's fresh. That's what I did. 
IMG_3440 One item that seems to be a regular on the menu is their Quinoa Salad. I've been in love with quinoa since I tried a salad at IK2G0. This version is loaded with small pieces of broccoli, asparagus, radish, fresh peas and some sunflower seeds. There was some crispy kale for crunch too!  There is a bit of a soybean based hummus spread out on the bottom of the plate as well. And to flavour the greens, there is a light red wine vinaigrette, which were asked to be served on the side. 
IMG_3444 Another classic appetizer is their Beef Carpaccio. Uber thin slices of beef just sprinkled with salt and pepper. I loved the greens that topped this dish, the bitterness was actually quite refreshing. Bits of radish and parmesan gave the dish additional flavour and texture. 
Beef Tongue Sandwich Richmond Station 4 One of their entree specials on the day that I went was the Beef Tongue Sandwich. Served with fries, some pickled veggies and a bit of au jus. The bun was pretty boring and could have benefited from some sesame seeds but it did have a nice grill on the inside. 
IMG_3447 But the star of the show is clearly the beef tongue. I think the tongue was slow roasted and it was super tender. There was quite a bit of tongue, and it was paired with an slice of cheese, which melted lovingly over the tongue. This was delicious but very decadent, as tongue is actually very high in fat. The fries were really good and paired better with vinegar than ketchup, the dish just needed that bit of zing. 
IMG_3454 And the other entree is the Wild Boar Ragupart of their regular menu. The orecchiette is hand made, and tossed with tomatoes, cheese, so celery and a touch of basil. The boar is slow cooked to a comforting stew. I had expected more gameyness from the boar, but was surprised by just how mild it became. The orecchiette seemed more like gnocchi is shape but worked well with the sauce and boar. 

Take Note:

  • Daily specials are worth a try
  • Reservations are available
  • Closed on Sundays 
Richmond Station on Urbanspoon


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