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Posts Tagged ‘tapas’

January = a month of tiny gluttony. I know, two words that should never sit side by side.

And 23 days too late.

In my pathetically weak defense, I DID start this post 23 days ago. And if I don’t complete, N will shoot me her “work/life balance” look. So let’s give a try (speaks the girl who’s going on vacation for 3 weeks in 3 days).

Hello tapas. Hello Wine Bar, Malena and Salt Wine Bar. Sans photography, written snapshots.
Hope you enjoy :)

 

{WINE BAR}

Sorely disappointed. Wasn’t overly enthused about the menu (which changes on a daily basis), but still optimistic a few dishes would stand out. Sadly, no. Qualicum bay scallops were overcooked, tomato ratatouille too sweet for the braised beef cheek, and the B.C fluke, pulled pork poutine and risotto simply didn’t live up to their expectations. Enough moaning, you get it. Highlights: Beautiful use of the space. Ambiance. Open kitchen. And we all admired the pickled jars lining the back wall & the recipe wallpaper in the ‘loo. Would I recommend to others? Negative.

http://www.9church.com/
9 Church Street
416.504.9463

 

{MALENA}

Beautifully serene, with meticulous attention to detail – from decor to the menu designs, it’s quite lovely. You do feel as if you’re a guest in someone’s house, even if it’s accompanied by the feeling that one must be on their best behaviour. Fitting for its Yorkville locale. Dishes are influenced by some Greek love, some Italian love, and all quite memorable. Worthy of the prices? Debatably no. Would I recommend to others? Debatably no. Unless, it’s a special treat. Then, by all means yes.

Outstanding

Rodney’s oysters on the half shell – agro dolce & ‘bomba’
Seared maine scallops with winter squash & raddichio risotto

Honourable Mentions

Grilled octopus with pancetta & root vegetable fregola, greek yogurt & orange agro dolce
Sheep’s milk ricotta gnudi with braised rabbit, spinach & crisp parsnip

Sadly, forgettable

Squid ink chitarra & lobster with tomato, fresh herbs & calabrian chillies
Warm chocolate budino with local preserved strawberries, honeycomb & fresh whipped cream 9.
Greek honey ‘loukoumades’ crispy fried doughnuts with attiki honey, pistachios & cinnamon crema

http://www.malena120.ca/
120 Avenue Road
416.964.0606

 

{SALT WINE BAR}

Darkly inviting and intimately familiar, imagine the inside of a wine & pickled goods cellar. You’d really like to stay a while, wouldn’t you? We certainly did. The newest kid on the Ossington block, she’s a sexy mix of Spanish and Portuguese. Really, quite lovely. Interior aside, the menu has the potential to be stellar. But, when only a handful of dishes hold our attention and dessert takes the limelight; it’s not there yet. Would I recommend to others? Yes. I do feel compelled to come back. To try other dishes. Introduce others to it. Discuss over a bottle of vino or two.

Outstanding

Braised oxtail consumme with garlic mashed, tthyme
Wagu beef crudo with truffled quail egg, parmesan croutons, watercress
Brown butter creme brulee
Cinnamon churros with dark pot of chocolat

Honourable Mentions

Striped beets on bed of arugula, goat cheese, marcona almond, tarragon & citrus vinaigrette
Pulled pork sandwich with guacamole
Oyster mushrooms on toasted baguettes with parsley & garlic
Lobster bisque ‘basque’ style

Sadly, forgettable

Grilled calamari (this one didn’t really stand a chance after disappointment over no octopus)
Rapini with garlic, chili, olive oil

http://saltrestaurant.ca/
225 Ossington Ave.
416.533.7258

 

Next on the list: LEE LOUNGE

Expectations are through the roof. Can’t help it. Susur commands it…for me anyway. And I peeked at Toronto Life’s review last night. O my. 1. Peking duck rolls 2. Asian-style salmon ceviche. Y’all know my long-standing mission. Find the best ceviche in the city.

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Guu Setup

A life-changing experience. Well, for two weeks at least.

There’s no greater satisfaction than introducing friends to a new restaurant, where their enthusiasm surpasses yours (a difficult feat, mind you), and their appreciation for food knows no boundaries.

The three of us seized the evening, took off for Guu and miraculously, managed not to wait an hour and a half in line…a sign for a good night ahead. Walked in to a room filled with loud, boisterous greetings, sat down, ordered sake and rubbed our hands in anticipation. K&K poured over the menu, scanned every dish, finally looked up, and said “order for us”.

Should’ve seen the grin on my face.

Although…it could have been disastrous.

berry sakegria!

Thankfully, it wasn’t! Suspenseful, this blog is not. May even claim greatest success to-date.

Matched up a couple with a restaurant. High five!

Their infatuation has since waned (1 of 2 will dispute that claim), but for fourteen days, it was glorious.

Outstanding dishes:

As the raw egg was deftly mixed into our salmon natto yukke & spooned on to a square of seaweed – held my breath, this was a favourite – if K&K didn’t enjoy, setup was gonna fail…miserably.

Seconds later, we had ourselves vigorous nods & incoherent ramblings. Yes.

salmon natto yukke

Honourable Mentions:

Tuna tartare & avocado. Layer 1 of happy. Layer 2 of happy.

Special of the night…hope it re-appears again.

B.C tuna tartare & avocado w. sesame oil, teriyaki sauce

Scallop sashimi was our hero. Fresh & citrusy with the yuzu, another ceviche knocked off the list!

scallop, prawn, squid ceviche

ceviche + deep-fried octopus balls

It pains, but easily forgettable:

Take a look at this pic. Something I’d want for breakfast. But shockingly – and note, you’ll never hear me say this again – too much of a good thing.

grilled avocado & prawn topped w. mayo & panko crust

Riding our high of good food, good company…we were also determined to get the best farewell.

Finale of a tweet: SUCCESS! the chefs screamed goodbye & our waiter ran into a table opening the door for us #guu

Try it, you may also find a compatible match ;)

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

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Origin

I get excited, really excited, about trying new restaurants. You all know I do ;) And Origin topped my excitement list. Heads up, this is a raving post. Comfort zone. Scathing…not so much.

I have a long-standing affair with tapas-style restaurants. Reminds me of Spain. A lot of people, however, are on the fence…dishes are too small, expensive, half-satisfied bellies etc.

Pigs.

My take: you get to sample a little from a lot…flit from plate to plate, be experimental & try dishes you’d never think of trying. Life should always be this fun ;)

So, we walked in…and in that first sweep, completely smitten. Dark woods, exposed brick, unique fixtures, stainless steel open-concept kitchen. Main attraction. Inviting. Soirée ambiance. Good energy (like I’m an expert).

[insert resto pic – my shots didn’t do it justice – take my word for now]

We started off with cocktails and immediately, my eyes went to the sake something something. Forgive, it’s been weeks. What I remember are two defining ingredients. Yuzu + ponzu.  Favourite à la moment ingredients. Fresh asian citrus with a sharp tangy bite…love so much that I had to try the sake. It’s like wanting to try your favourite food in any way, shape or form. You just want it. First sip. Interesting combination, clean flavours…

N ruined it when she said it tasted like soap.

Outstanding dishes:

Chinois duck wrap + pickled cucumber + sriracha :

The most lackluster presentation out of all 6 dishes. But oh, the redemption! Tender pieces of duck, smeared with great heat from the Sriracha (yep, rooster sauce), offset & cooled by sour cream, with a slight crunch of thinly sliced cucumbers…took one bite…and completely enamoured. BIG crush. Already planning next encounter.

Salmon tataki +ponzu-soy + dried miso + diakon salad :

Beautiful sashimi-styles, delicate crunch of diakon & the ponzu…this dish so did not disappoint. Not in the least. Reminiscent of Foxley. Our happy place.

Miso-glazed black cod + mushroom + jerusalem artichoke puree  + crispy soba :

Again, we both have a soft spot for black cod. Again, our happy place. And we’re so glad we ordered. Perfectly cooked, light & silky, flaking with the touch of our forks…sitting in a dark pool of serious deliciousness. Not kidding. Try it.

Honourable Mentions:

Shrimp ceviche + lime + tomato + freeze-dried corn + coconut :

Yep, you read that correctly. Freeze-dried corn. The mad scientist in Claudio Aprile making an appearance…down Colborne Lane over to Origin.

N – influenced by helping me achieve mission of trying every ceviche dish in this city – caved, and we ordered. Nice fresh citrus that ceviches call for, but didn’t wow. Lacked… something. Or too much of…something. Unnecessary liquid nitro, hmm?

And instead of shrimp, scallops or arctic char. Probably not up for debate – but hey, you never know ;)

It pains, but forgettable:

Bufala mozzarella + pear + rosemary oil + pinenuts + honey :

Least favourite. And interestingly, it was the most ordered dish.

Couple to our left, couple to our right, couple across the bar… and I wondered: did they all feel the same thing?! Disappointingly devoid of any  flavour. Muted. Beige food is boring.

However. Look at that presentation…not boring at all. You’ll likely order, based on this pic alone.

Dessert: Manchego cheese cake + saffron sorbet + marinated berries :

Waited weeks! May have spent an entire Sat morning reading menus. Food porn, don’t judge.

Patience was rewarded in the form of wee indulgence w. a side of tart… if the sorbet is home-made, kudos. Cheese cake…hmm. If spoons are clanging against plate to break through crust, it’s too hard.

Of course, did that stop us from clanging? Absolutely not…until all that remained, were freeze-dried blueberries.

High time for another Origin dinner! I hear they may have opened up a patio. Who wants the duck wrap?

http://origintoronto.com
107-109 King E.
416.603.8007

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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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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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