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Fried chicken & waffles.

Most unusual combination.

Or not ;)

It was one of those days. And Harlem was just the place for a little soul food. A classic Southern gluttonous experience of finger-licking good.

You’ve never seen a table so excited to scan a menu. Scan it we did…over and over again. Appetizers: catfish lafayette or bayou baked brie? Entreés: jambalaya or braised short ribs? Sides: mac n’ cheese or corn bread? We debated like it was our last meal. And frankly, felt like it was gonna be mine that day.

Two words: Red wine.

Sigh. No further story. With too many options swirling, we did the next best thing and asked our lovely server. Without hesitation, her response – “chicken & waffles”.

Really! Well, now. Someone had to order it.

Hand up.

Verdict: Insanely good. Absolutely hit the spot. Dare we say, perfect?

Perfect for what I needed on that painfully…painful day. Any other day and enthusiasm would’ve been muted. But to be fair, will definitely come back for round II.

…once we’re able to button our jeans up again.

Stand-out dishes:

Catfish Lafayette
(seasoned deep fried morsels of succulent fish w/ a great sweet & hot sauce + jerk scallion mayo)

Cajun Tempura Fried Okra
(part of 2% of population who loves okra. don’t care. pair that w. a crispy tempura batter, satisfying!)

Honourable mentions:

Southern Fried Chicken & Waffle with a chipolte-coriander-lime maple syrup
(crackling skin & juicy meat, combined with sweet waffles smothered in syrup…comfort food at its best)

Sweet potato fries
(with that wickedly good chipotle mayo)

It pains, but unforgettable:

Braised short ribs seared & slow simmered in rich thyme-molasses-scotch bonnet pepper & veg stew
(N enjoyed, but wasn’t blown away & it was a little too fatty for our liking)

Fried Plantains
(sticky…in a “hold pls, need to unlock jaw first” kinda way)

Until next time:

Hot Crab & Crawfish Dip with chili-garlic toast

Harlem Jambalaya
(shrimp, chicken, smoked sausage, catfish & crab meat w. seasoned rice)

Blackened Catfish
(J’s dish. Too busy licking fingers to try…next time.)

Great, casual, easy vibe. Serving Cajun & Creole, Harlem (Underground) is good.

Too good. Once-in-a-quarter-let-it-all-go-good.

http://www.harlemrestaurant.com/

Harlem Underground
745 Queen St. W
416.366.4743
or
Harlem East Side
67 Richmond St. E
416.368.1920

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Union

Last dining experience? 24 days ago. Don’t ask how I remember… it’s disturbing, I know.

After a glorious 6-week binge (there’s no other word), wallet cried mercy.

And so, it ceased. Regretfully.

But we’re back! And what better restaurant to try than Union? On the list for months & much-anticipated… with no tastebuds. Ok, slight exaggeration, but how does one manage to be stuffy and runny at the same time?! Never understood.

Anyway, NG was duly forewarned and off we went!

Tiny restaurant. Great space. Effortlessly casual. Free-drawn mural covering one expanse of the wall. Open-kitchen. Yes.

photo cred: Robert Brodey

Menu is startlingly small, but it’s not about quantity. Nearly half of the menu changes according to what’s available at the markets that day. Chef Teo Paul’s dedication to fresh and local.

And since NG is currently doing a nineteen-day sunrise-to-sunset Bahá’í fast, we had the added element of pure appreciation for food that night. Heightened senses to offset sniffly senses. Great partnership. ;)

What I didn’t have, was the new camera. For shame. Regardless, verbal depiction of our experience – hope you enjoy.

Outstanding dishes:

Sticky ribs: pork ribs on the bone with smoked & bruised pork belly

(If you like ribs. love ribs. lukewarm about ribs. hell, even if you hate ribs. You MUST try.
Sauce. Ridiculously good. That’s all)

Fresh fish: White fish w/ roasted vegetables & seasonal greens

(Succulently flaky, moist, tender, and boldly-seasoned. Rarely used for fish, but it fits. And the roasted vegetables…perfect accompaniment)

Honourable mentions:

Elk sliders w/ miran galangal glaze & pickle on challah

(Meaty & juicy with a bite from the pickled pickle. Slight disappointment with the toast – think high end hamburger bun, visual letdown)

Sides: Frites & winter-style potatoes w/ yogurt, radish & chives

(3/4 of the way through our meal – surprise! oh my. just perfect for dipping into that sweet, slightly spicy, wickedly good rib sauce)

Until next time:

Haddock cakes – Charcuterie – Crispy Polenta Gratin – Roast Bird – Soup du jour – Plat du jour
(for the adventurous. oh so exciting!)

…clearly need to go back.

And another reason? Laissez-faire Saturdays.
Cue east coast oysters, in-house charcuterie, artisanal cheeses & vino. H-E-A-V-E-N.

Every Saturday from noon–5:30pm

Who’s joining me this weekend?

http://www.union72.ca/
72 Ossington Ave
Toronto, ON
416.850.0093


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Tutti Matti

It’s becoming a bit of a tradition at O – birthday lunches at Tutti Matti.    

And we were back, celebrating our lovely M last Friday.     

Getting nine people out the door, at the same time, on time, for a reservation – a feat in itself. Best part, the restaurant is next door (literally). And, bless them – we’re forgiven each time. So, shortly after 12:30pm, we walk in.      

And our eyes widened.     

Packed. Every table, every seat. Conversations swirling. Cutlery clinking. Lips silently smacking. The restaurant was humming. Ahh, Winterlicious. Alida Solomon’s cooking.   

Some of us opted in, some opted out…pourquoi?     

Loyalty.     

You know what I’m referring to. When a dish is that good, it inspires loyalty. So, why deny yourself the pleasure? I would never judge. And if I did, throw “arctic char. black cod. Foxley” back in my face.   

That’ll teach me.     

On the other hand, we thought we knew every pasta on the menu. Oh, were we mistaken!  6 days later, still thinking about them. That’s right, plural.     

     

Stand-out dishes:     

Pappardelle con stracotto
(changed my life. well, for 90min. And for a few others as well.)    

hand cut pappardelle with pulled brisket, tomatoes, garlic, fresh herbs

 

Tortelli di asparagi
(complete surprise. “WOW.” one bite, that’s all it takes. sweet deliciousness in each tortelli)    

tortelli: ricotta and mascarpone cheese, pumpkin, mint with butter & sage

 

Tagliatelle con cinghiale
(inspires loyalty in many,  you’ll be next – i guarantee it.)     

hand cut pasta, wild boar stew, porcini mushrooms

 

     

Honourable mentions:    

Fettucine aglione
– hand cut pasta with organic tomatoes, garlic and extra virgin olive oil -
(one of my personal favs. simplicity wins.)    

Carpaccio di manzo 
– beef carpaccio served with fresh arugula, shaved parmigiano reggiano -
(earlier claim still stands. best carpaccio in the city)    

Zuppa di Funghi e Ceci
– chickpea and mushroom soup -
(plentiful & delicious, served in the greatest soup bowl)    

Open-faced panini: Dado   

bufala mozzarella, oven roasted tomatoes, basil

 

    

It pains, but easily forgettable:    

Fettuccine di piero
– hand cut pasta with meat sauce -
(simply pales in comparison to the others)   

Gnudi di Spinaci e Ricotta
– spinach and ricotta “naked” ravioli in butter & sage -
(disappointingly naked. that’s all.)   

    

fyi: you’ll never look at pasta the same way again.  Alida makes sure of it.   

http://www.tuttimatti.com
364 Adelaide Street W.
416.597.8839

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Politica

Last last Friday eve (timely, this post is not), we had a much-anticipated ladies night.   

Why? Because it had taken us months to get together. And 5 out of 7 live in the city. For shame.   

Restaurant chosen? After much debate, Politica.   

Located inconspicuously between Queen West & Libery Village, tucked away on Strachan, it was completely different from what I had expected. The resto pic from dineT.O featured a brightly lit, casual, Mediterranean-style space. What we walked into was warm, intimate, & darkly romantic.   

The perfect date spot.   

I was about to have a date with 6 beautiful ladies.   

photo cred: kingwestrestaurants.blogspot.com

 

Over a few bottles of vino, shared appetizers & our entrées – we traded stories, updates, escapades of the single life (and there were lots), relationship insights, woes, travel plans, career advice…imagine it all.     

The food was delicious, but will be honest, not outstanding. Ranging from fair to excellent, the sea bass was the highlight (for me personally).   

And remember, I’m a highly visual person. Beautiful presentation makes me love a dish that much more.   

As romantic as the ambiance was, could barely make out what was on the plate. Didn’t know if I was cutting into lightly grilled peppers or sea bass. You should never have to guess.   

Unless, you’re at O’Noir.    

Add a few more candles please, and we’ll be back to give it another try.  

   

Stand-out dishes:   

Sea bass with grilled market vegetables, asparagus, mini potatoes   

photo cred: TT

 

Honourable mentions:   

Osso bucco
Pisa salad
- baby arugula, fennel, apple & artichoke, golden raisins, pine nuts, gorgonzola cheese, white balsamic pink peppercorn dressing -  

It pains, but easily forgettable:   

Avocado & buffalo mozzarella salad
Oven baked tomato, roasted red peppers, zuchinni & topped with buffalo mozzarella (think veggie lasagna, without the noodles)
Soup of the day: Leek & potato topped with old cheddar   

Until next time:   

Stuffed calamari (with apple & fennel sausage)
Truffle wild mushroom parpardelle   

And any one of their pizzas (just feast your eyes on those ingredients):   

Bianca
- danish brie, anjou pear, candied walnuts, proscuitto, topped w. arugula & house dressing - 

Politica’s Brother
- basil pesto, spicy Italian sausage, red onion, roasted red pepper, goat cheese -  

Angelico
- gorgonzola cream sauce, proscuitto, grilled chicken, roasted garlic, asiago, old cheddar - 

Mercatto
- basil tomato sauce, artichoke hearts, rapini, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes mozzarella - 

Gamberi Diavolo
- basil pesto sauce, spicy tiger prawns, shaved red onion, baby spinach, mozzarella -  

Politica
127 Strachan Ave
416.366.0990

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Torito

Sharing good food with friends. The best. 

Sharing good food with a friend you haven’t seen in 3.5 years…even better. 

But of course, not completely out of touch. Impossible not to know a snippet of their life, if that news feed algorithm or semi-stalking works as it should. Wait. The algorithm, not the stalking. 

Anyway, instead of the “i can’t believe how much time has flown by” conversation starter, we dive right into the good stuff. 

Our passions. 

Well, you all know mine. 

His? Ideas. Opportunities. Action. 

Plate after plate, story after story – the combination was heady. TJ, you’re heady. Or bait. Enjoy either reference. 

The setting: Torito. Kensington. Tapas bar. 

photo cred: ACRiley.com

 

  

Stand-out dishes: 

White bass ceviche with corn & yam
(tender chunks of white bass in insanely good cilantro-citrusy juices…the love only grows stronger) 

white bass ceviche

 

Shrimps al ajillo
(succulent & saucy… yep, my greatest description yet) 

shrimps al ajillo

 

  

Honourabe mentions: 

churros w. dulce de leche
(“like beaver tail, but 100 times better!” “wait, like those cinnamon sticks from taco bell but 1,000 better!” – ok, NOT our greatest descriptions) 

churros w. dulce de leche

 

Piquillo peppers stuffed w/ salted cod & tapanade sauce
(would not have ordered…but ohh, the power of reviews. now, you go & try!) 

Grilled flatiron steak, gallega chips & fried egg
(medium rare) 

Roasted quail, pomegranate glaze & sweet squash
(too salty for my taste, but mixed w/ glaze & squash and it redeems) 

  

It pains, but easily forgettable: 

Crab croquettes w/parsley aioli 

crab croquettes w/ parsley aioli

 

Braised beef tongue & cheek
(tongue & cheek. cute eh? not so much on the tongue action. PASS. 
won’t even attempt to describe texture. never again.)
 

braised beef tongue & cheek

 

  

Until next time: 

Andalusian spinach & chickpeas stew
Chilean tripe stew 

Yes, we ate our way through half the menu. But, these two stews warrant a visit back. Along with a repeat performance of the ceviche & churros.  

  

fyi: all food photo cred goes to TJ & his MannLanders wit. 

http://www.toritorestaurant.com/
276 Augusta Ave
416.961.7373

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The things we do for food. 

Including wait outside in -18C weather. 

Yep, that’s right. Hesitated for half a second. But, N & I are like-minded…and stubborn as anything. 

And her reaction to the french toast…EPIC. Worth it. If only we had a video camera, I’d replay over & over again. Warmed my frozen little toes right up. 

latte bowls

 

Menu was smaller than expected, with daily specials written in chalk on the blackboard. Debated the omelette of the day (chorizo, asiago, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions), but ended up getting one of their signatures, which immediately caught my eye when we finally squeezed ourselves in 20 min later. 

The croque madam: lightly toasted brioche layered with ham & gruyere, topped with an over easy egg, sliced baquette and fresh greens… ahhh, why people rave about this place. 

croque madam

 

For dessert, snuck in a few bites of the thick french toast. Sweet deliciousness. Could not get over how GOOD it was…and I don’t even like french toast. Honestly, if we could’ve captured that first moment. 

french toast

 

According to the couple sitting next to us, the quiche was the best quiche he had ever had. Wow. Ok, already planning next visit. 

And though there was a line-up, we weren’t rushed out. In fact, we were offered a platter of decadent-looking cakes & tarts. Twice. Declined once, almost accepted the second. 

Final sips of our latte bowls, happily stuffed – we wandered outside both wanting to explore the neighbourhood… stopped. looked at each other. realized it was still -18C & said “are we crazy?!” 

Charming & tiny – seating less than 30 ppl – this Leslieville brunch spot is a clear favourite. Couldn’t even tell you when a good time would be to go. Ask the morning people. 

fyi: cash only 

http://bonjourbrioche.com/
812 Queen Street E.  
416.406.1250
Open: Tues-Sun (8am-4pm)

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Cava

O & K’s mantra of the night —  

“Don’t be deceived. We’ll eat our weight’s worth…and more.”  

Forget the set-up, no time to mince words. It’s late & won’t be able to sleep until posted. Remember? Save draft mode doesn’t exist. Must share experience now…and plus, body is still recovering from the onslaught it just received.  

photo cred: spotlighttoronto

 

So, why didn’t we stop after the 6th dish? Because, we’re gluttonous souls.   

3.5 hours, 8 dishes, 4 glasses of vino later… INCROYABLE.  

Service? Fantastic. Say hi to Kyle if you go. Ms. Le & Mr. Dey sent you.   

   

Stand-out dishes:   

Jamón iberico
(as my Dove chocolate wrapper instructed ‘ignore the price tag’, so we did. oh YES.
proscuitto has nothing on you.)
   

jamón iberico

 

Pinchos of gamay-poached foie gras with prune plum chutney
(jaws dropped. pause. best EVER. period.) 

Smoked kingfish ceviche with a friseé salad
(yes! ceviche-streak is going strong) 

kingfish ceviche

 

Eggplant with queso fresco, honey and tomatillo sauce
(surprise “wow” dish of the night)  

eggplant

 

Honourable mentions:   

Torta of duck breast & anchovy
(first taste & “Oooo, so good” of the night)  

Forty-eight hour beef cheek with white pureé & chimchurri
(just slather & let melt)  

48 hour beef cheek

 

Braised oxtail tamal with pasilla chile sauce 
(10 pts for presentation)   

braised oxtail

 

It pains, but easily forgettable:   

Chickpea morcilla
(“if this was our least favourite, I can handle it.”)   

   

Until next time:
Pinchos of avocado & wild salmon machaca
Four oysters on the half shell with tomatillo salsa
Cauliflower & chickpea tagine with medjool dates & spanish saffron
Octopus anticucho with lentils & romesco
Clams with chorizo & fresh bay leaves
Quail & porkbelly a la plancha with calabacitas   

   

fyi: all food photo cred goes to O.Dey & his far-superior mobile device.  

http://www.cavarestaurant.ca
1560 Yonge Street
416.979.9918

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Tapas… Japanese-styles.  

Immediately intrigued. Love small plates. Love sharing food.  

A girlfriend mentioned Guu to me a few weeks ago, a buddy had raved about it. Hugely popular in Vancouver. Owners just opened up a new restaurant in Toronto. Then, I read a post by torontolife. And all the comments that followed it. Then, another friend asked. Then, a co-worker.  Then, another friend… OK, that was it. I HAD to go. 

  

photo cred: compendium daily

 

We arrived exceptionally early. 5:30pm early. Well, A was on time. I was running late… as per usual. sigh. Life-long resolution. 

Atmosphere was warm, loud and boisterous; chefs yelling, waiters answering, voices raised to make themselves heard …this was gonna be great fun. 

Menu begs you to try something different. So many choices. Where to start? Our strategy: pick one ‘safe’ dish, then pick one dish you’d never think of trying. Ooo, I like this game.  

guu izakaya menu

 

Ok, must admit – whenever there’s salmon sashimi on a menu, deal is sealed. Can’t help it. Undeterred by unfamiliar ingredients (natto + shibazuke + takuan) and the raw egg (didn’t bat an eyelash) – this was my ‘safe’ dish…with a twist. Salmon natto yukke, done. 

Adventurous pick? The mackerel. Simply because, I’ve never tried. A ordered tuna sashimi (secret fist pump, love tuna) and deep fried calamari.  

Hungry tummies were waiting. With great anticipation. Would the food live up to the hype? 

photo cred: Renée Suen

 

YES. unequivocally yes. 

My favourite? The ‘safe’ dish! And uniquely different. 

Familiar flavours mixed with new flavours (fermented soybeans + pickled egglant/cucumber + daikon radish pickle). Raw egg? Yep, it holds that mixture together. Spoon on to seaweed, roll and enjoy. It’s messy. But, delicious.  

A’s favourite? Ikapiri. Calamari, spiced up with a kick and dipped in wasabi mayo. How can you not like? 

ikapiri

 

Sure enough, by 6:30pm – all seats were filled. We didn’t care. Barely noticed. Too busy saying “ohhh, so good” & eagerly reaching for more.  

Would reco going with a small group of 3-5. Just so you can sample more, and very affordable with each dish between $5-9.  

We had 5 dishes between the two of us…and probably could’ve kept going. Gluttony is at an all-time low after the holidays. clearly. high five. 

Sitting at the long wooden communal bench, shoulders touching with complete strangers, inadvertently over-hearing conversations (“seriously, I could eat this dish every single day, it’s that good”), not-so-discreetly eyeing each other’s plates, openly asking which ones we had tried… ohh, I’ll be back. 

And bringing a few of you with me. 

  

Stand-out dishes:  

 “SALMON NATTO YUKKE” Chopped salmon sashimi with 7 friends (Natto, shibazuke, takuan, wonton chips, garlic chips, green onion and raw egg yolk). Mix them up and wrap it in NORI seaweed.  

“MAGURO TATAKI” Lightly seared B.C. albacore tuna sashimi with ponzu sauce and garlic chips  

maguro tataki

 

Honourable mentions:
“IKAPIRI” Deep fried calamari with spicy ketchup and wasabi mayo
“Grilled SABA” mackerel with garlic, lemon and herb on vegetables  

grilled saba

 

It pains, but easily forgettable:  

 “KABOCHA KOROKKE” Deep fried kabocha pumpkin croquette with a boiled egg inside  

kabocha korokke

 

Until next time:  

“ABURI SALMON” Lightly seared atlantic salmon sashimi with ponzu sauce & wasabi mayo
“AGEDASHI TOFU” Deep fried tofu in DASHI broth
 “HOTATE BUTTER” Pan fried scallop with soysauce & garlic butter
“GINDARA” Grilled black cod with SAIKYO miso & white wine sauce
“BUTAKIMCHI BIBIMBAP” Rice, spicy ground pork, kimchi, assorted vegetables & an egg in a hot stone bowl 
 “OKONOMIYAKI” Deep fried Japanese style pancake with TONKATSU sauce & mustard mayo 

  

fyi: 2-hour time limit 

And until the hype dies down, go early. Or you risk waiting. And they don’t take your #, tell you to go across the street & have a drink while you wait. You just wait.  

  

http://www.guu-izakaya.com/toronto.html
398 Church St.
416.977.0999

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Tomi-Kro

Every Tomi-Kro review will rave about the lobster maki balls.  

This one, won’t be any different. So unoriginal, I know.
Visual caveat: these maki balls don’t do anything for me. Barely excited. 
And I like to get excited about my…… food.  

So, we get over the presentation. And focus on the different layers of fantastic.  

Cut into the crispy battered tempura shell to the lobster meat & avocado (that combination alone); smear on some heat with wasabi and dip into the soy. Redemption.  

photo cred: blogTO

 

Let’s rewind and focus on the foie gras crème brûlée for a minute, shall we?  

Foie gras + crème brûlée. It’s exactly what you think it is.  

Take your spoon and lightly tap… into indescribableness.
I know it’s not a word and please don’t hate me for enjoying it so much.  

photo cred: Jen Chan

 

And rewind again, to that first step through the door. Immediately, you’ll take in the ambiance, artlessly detailed decor, warm tones…eclectic and inviting. One of those great date places.  

Try it, you’ll see.  

photo cred: Jen Chan

 

Stand-out dishes:  

Tempura lobster maki balls
Fois gras crème brûlée
Cedar Valley organic duck breast (if you enjoy duck, you’ll love)  

   

photo cred: blogTO

 

Honourable mentions:  

Veal osso bucco
Bay scallops over slaw
Shitake risotto
  

It pains, but easily forgettable:  

Wasabi panko potato cake
Tuna tartare & sashimi (delicate portion woes)
Brussel sprouts with asiago & pancetta
Roasted beets w. pistachio, balsamic vinegar & goat cheese (not a beets fan, wasn’t converted)  

Until next time:  

Octopus ceviche (on a mission to try every ceviche dish in the city)
Sesame albecore tuna
Arctic char  


Tomi-Kro
1214 Queen St. E.
(416) 463-6677
  


  

 

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