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We ate lunch at 4 Nudos at the Port in San José, Spain. You may see a trend here of luncheon restaurants in Spain, it is because we eat too early and nothing is ever open at 7:30 (17:30) in the evening for dinner (they open at 9-9:30 which is far too late for us to eat). We have eaten at 4 Nudos many times and it’s always busy because it is a local favourite and it’s a destination restaurant.

4 Nudos is known for its seafood; they don’t serve meat, period. The port side restaurant is tastefully decorated with a seaside theme but the main focus is the view of the port through the open wall, the inside just flows outside seamlessly. We have dined on their delightful Paella (takes about 20 minutes to make) and other seafood delicacies but for our most recent lunch, we ate Tuna Tartare and the Tuna Tataki.

They began our meal with a lovely amuse bouche of phyllo-wrapped torpedo shrimp with a creamy fresh cheese sauce (sorry, forgot to snap a pic) and some wonderful warm bread.

I ordered the Tuna Tartare (~20 €) which was beautifully presented and delicious. It was lightly dressed in a creamy mayo and tossed with avocado, celery and red onions, wrapped in thinly sliced cucumber. This one is a keeper!

A delicious combination of fresh tuna, perfectly ripe avocado, crunchy celery and crisp red onions; thinly sliced white onions cascade from the tower like a waterfall.

JT ordered the Tuna Tataki. To say this was a generous portion would be an understatement. It was at least 250 g or more! There were perfectly roasted vegetables served alongside with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. The lemon wedge brightened everything up. The tuna had the best sear I have ever seen, still leaving a good part of the insides rare. It was a perfectly executed dish.

The portion size of this dish was huge. I think we may share this next time. The photo is a bit misleading as the lemon wedge is huge too!

We also ordered a little dessert of Almond Flan (~6 €). It was my least favourite of the meal and didn’t have much almond flavour but perhaps it was my misunderstanding, it might have been only almond topped! But the presentation was lovely and I love how the plate reminds me of the Azur colour of the Mediterranean Sea that this lovely restaurant sits near.

I would definitely recommend 4 Nudos in San José, the servers speak just enough English that they understand what we are ordering (although, I do try to pronounce the Spanish menu items). But beware, they have an English menu but it is not up to date and they warn you that things on it may be different or unavailable. It’s best to pull out your phone and Google translate with the picture feature.

Overall rating of 4 Nudos, San José (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4.5/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

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Our time in Spain seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the short time of our return. In Canada, everything seemed to come to a head the day after we got home!

To put your minds at ease, we were in the province of Almería in my cousin’s little village of San José, some 573 km (356 miles) from Madrid. Our stay took place during low season, many (probably more than half) restaurants and shops were closed for the season and there were very few tourists. My cousin’s flat is in a complex of 14 and the busiest weekend had maybe 5 flats inhabited; during week days there were usually only two inhabited flats and we were one of them! The province of Almería has only 46 confirmed cases to date (March 20 when I wrote this post), we were fortunate. We are into our second week of isolation with no symptoms (I am so relieved). But it’s a moving target and we need to be diligent. Having been away for 40 days we haven’t seen any of our friends so coming home to isolation is emotionally challenging. A big thank you to you, our blogging community, you’re never too far away with a kind word. As we are learning to be virtual with our local friends, it’s comforting to know that our virtual friendships are tried and true.

We had lunch at La Tagliatella in their CC Torrecárdenas, Almería City location just prior to skipping over to Northern Europe. It gets 4.5 stars from Trip Advisor reviewers. The food was excellent and service was good too. Our Spanish is pretty sad so the young woman serving us brought English menus to the rescue, we didn’t even ask.

The restaurant is tastefully decorated in a contemporary Italian style and unless you look out the interior window, you wouldn’t know you are in a mall. There were very few patrons when we dined (at one point it may have been just us!).

We began with a little amuse-bouche that was a cracker topped with fresh cream cheese (sorry, forgot to take a photo).

I had the Carpaccio al Tartufo Bianco (paper-thin slices of veal, with white truffle ice cream and white truffle pearls)(~16 €), it was excellent. It was accompanied by a very large but very thin, grilled bread/cracker with a drizzle of olive oil. It was a little difficult to eat but it was delicious (later during our sojourn in Northern Europe, I discovered that it should have been saturated in olive oil). The carpaccio was doused generously in olive oil and a little too generously peppered; the truffle flavour was mild but enough to enjoy (sometimes it can be too strong). The white truffle ice cream was sweet, which was a bit of a surprise but there was so little of it, it did not impact the enjoyment of the dish.

JT had the Scaloppine (slices of Pork tenderloin in a creamy sauce with mushrooms, fries and vegetables)(~15 €). It didn’t look like much but it was quite delicious. The fries were a nice portion too (quite the opposite of what we became used to in America!).

JT felt like a little sweet after lunch and I felt like an espresso so we ordered the Caffè Gustoso (Coffee with chocolate truffles and a mini tiramisu)(~6 €) which was perfect for sharing (I forgot to take a photo so I took one from their website). The tiramisu was a take on the classic dessert but the pudding itself was quite tasty. The truffles were exceptional.

If you’re looking for a nice Italian meal in Almeria, check out La Tagliatella. They have two locations.

Overall rating of La Tagliatella, Almeria (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Miss you Dad. March 23, 1923 – July 16, 1981

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Mesón El Pescador, San José

I am uncertain if it’s just us, but travel seems to get easier as we get older. I seem to recall that the transatlantic flights used to bag us completely, but now it hardly bothers us at all. And I used to be able to sleep on the plane, now I just binge-watch a series that I’ve downloaded. We generally land in the UK in the morning and stay one night; JT and I drop our luggage off at a hotel and take the train into town. Last year, we even saw Come from Away in the evening and we were still OK around midnight!

First things first, we ordered our adult beverages.

For our 2020 trip, we flew into Gatwick, spent the night and then the early the following morning we flew into Almeria and picked up our car. We like to feel at home as soon as possible so we unpacked our luggage and drove into town for lunch. February and March are definitely low season in San José and many of the retailers and restaurants are closed. We don’t mind because we don’t like crowds or the heat of the summer when everything is open. Unfortunately, Mesón Il Pescador was one of the few restaurants open when we went hunting for lunch. We just dived in without reading reviews which is totally out of character for me, but it turned out well and I’m glad we went. Sadly, it doesn’t get good reviews but it was relatively busy with the locals when we stumbled in, so we took a chance that it was good and it didn’t disappoint.

We sat outside along the beach and were lucky to get a table. There were mostly locals dining that day; I could tell because they were all sporting winter jackets while the tourists are wearing T-Shirts and Shorts!

Steamed Mussels € 10. ($14.50 Canadian)

JT ordered a ham and cheese sandwich that wasn’t available and then the chicken cutlet of which they also ran out. The steamed mussels (10 €) were his third choice. The dish would have been nice with some crusty bread alongside, we asked but it never showed up. The mussels were relatively large, fresh and tasty. I ordered the grilled octopus (20 €) (incidentally, it was my only choice) which was grilled to perfection, tender and nicely flavoured by the grill. The octopus was drizzled with a good, spicey olive oil which made for a nice sauce to dip the fries into. Although it was delicious, I found the 20 € pricey.

We enjoyed the meal and if I crave grilled octopus again, we will definitely go back. But read the reviews and be your own judge. We may have been lucky that day.

Pulpo a la Plancha 20 € ($29 Canadian)

Overall rating of Mesón Il Pescador (in my opinion): Decor n/a, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: n/a (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full-price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

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This post was written entirely on my iPhone 8, in the air, flying from Granada to Gatwick in a EasyJet sardine can.

By the time you read this post, we will have returned from a whirl-wind vacation to the UK and Spain to escape the freezing temperatures and snow of Toronto. Let me back up a bit, shortly after we returned from our month-long holiday in Arizona, we had a week or so of nothing but bleak, grey winter days and I hit my limit! My wonderful cousin let us stay in her flat on the Mediterranean coast in a cozy little town, in the province of Almeria, all I had to do was get through January and most of February; no problem because I had this to look forward to:

We flew into Gatwick and stayed the night in London, where we dined and saw the musical “Come from Away” (very good, by the way)! The next morning we boarded a commuter train to a small city near Manchester, where my friend and Master Chef runner-up, Dave Crichton, picked us up. Dave and his lovely wife Zahra gave us the grand tour, but the real highlight was that Dave cooked dinner for us! What an incredible treat to have a fellow blogger AND contestant of Master Chef UK 2018 cook for us! It was a feast to be reckoned with: emulsions, sauces, exotic meat and even a wonderful carrot ketchup! I know you are dying to know if he made us his famous Careless Whisper dessert, indeed he did! We sampled several flavour combinations with tea when we arrived at his home. The experience was exceptional.

For our dinner, Dave made us the most velvety, creamy Truffled Parmesan Mousse with a goats cheese, mushroom duxelles, tarragon, truffle stuffed morel. It was indeed very moreish.

The main course was fennel crusted Iberico Presa, seared and prepared sous vide, served over carrot ketchup, pumpkin seed pesto, Madeira jus garnished with the best tasting parsnip crisps! The flavours and textures were outstanding.

The finale was a delightful Miso and walnut butterscotch tart with black sesame ice cream. Now I don’t usually eat dessert and JT was eyeing my serving but to his dismay, I polished it off and nearly licked the plate clean!

Dave, Zahra, John and I

The following day, Dave and Zahra gave us the grand tour of Manchester and in the evening we were treated to dinner at Hispi Bistro in Didsbury (South Man). The meal was delicious but Dave’s cooking really stood out for me.

I must say that I am intimidated by the thought of cooking for he and Zahra when they visit us in Toronto or Arizona. But there were a few inspirational dishes we had during our stay in Spain. Something from Restaurante Alameda, Granada might just make the cut.

We literally stumbled upon Restaurante Alameda during our first few hours in Granada quite by accident, we were hunting for a lunch place! Sadly, it didn’t open until later so we made reservations for that very evening. It is Michelin rated but doesn’t have a star, yet.

I must tell you that the food impressed us, it was nicely presented but even more importantly, it was delicious. So delicious, in fact, that we made reservations for the next (our last) night in Granada.

The restaurant is contemporary in design with some rustic elements (like the back-lit birch half-logs along the wall) and effective function (such as the sound absorbing ceiling). The lighting is moody but enough to read by but not enough to have to wear sunglasses (as many European restaurants are!). The plates are rustic but tables are mostly covered in linens.

The first night we dined at 7:45, still considered early for Spaniards but more in line with how we like to eat. Service was fine, nothing outstanding, but relatively efficient (even if our waiter seemed a little overwhelmed). We received a little amuse bouche of a deep-fried phyllo wrapped prawn that was delicious (no photo) and then we shared a starter of Burrata (no photo) and locally grown tomatoes. If you’ve ever been to Spain, you will know that the tomatoes are exceptional! The best I’ve ever tasted. There were a variety of tomato species and they were all perfectly ripe and flavourful. The burrata had just the right amount of bite and creaminess! The dish was finished with sweet pepper flakes and dotted with little balsamic pearls.

My second course was an octopus carpaccio, it was deliciously thin and moreish, although, it could have used a touch more acidity than the little lemon pearls that speckled the plate.

JT had a cannelloni with veal ragout, that was more like a lasagna, none-the-less, it was outstanding! It was the reason why we decided to return the next night! Although the second night, we decided on only the burrata and the cannelloni to be shared! The pasta tasted homemade, the ragout was rich and meaty with a creamy béchamel and Ricotta. It was comfort-food at its best!

Sadly, the second night was a bit disappointing. Service seemed an afterthought; we were seated behind a table planning a wedding with what seemed like the catering director or owner, and they were definitely priority. Ambiance faltered as well, as the music kept cutting in and out of the speakers near us.

The burrata was again flawless, but the cannelloni came out barely lukewarm. Now, I don’t know about you, but I hesitate to send a dish back in an unfamiliar place. So we grinned and beared it. Still delicious but… Afterward, I mentioned it to our waiter, in a nice way, of course. I wasn’t sure it was understood but when he brought the bill, he told us that they had removed the cost of the cannelloni entirely! Now I realize that we should have said something at the time and not afterward, live and learn.

Notwithstanding, I am still comfortable in recommending this restaurant, and if I ever go back to Granada, I would consider dining there again.

Overall rating of Restaurante Alameda, Granada (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinion is just that, my opinion.

Restaurante Alameda, Granada

C/Rector Morata, 3 (Junto a Plaza del Carmen)
18009 Granada – España
Tel: +34 958 221 507
restaurante@alameda.com.es

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Updated March 30, 2019: added Oretta’s Burrata Truffle Egg photo

Over the last few years, I have worked (prepping and cooking) many times with David Rocco, author, chef, and producer. About a year ago, I decided to follow him on Instagram and I have not regretted it. He doesn’t post too often and he posts about his family as well as the standard self-promotion that celebrities post about. I love the posts about his family. He has three kids and an absolutely gorgeous wife. The first time I heard of Oretta, an authentic Italian restaurant in the Entertainment district on King West in Toronto, was on David’s Instagram (apparently, he goes quite often)! The food looked beautiful and delicious so I immediately put it on my restaurant bucket list. If you’re looking for American-Italian-family-style gluttony, this is not your place, but if you’re looking for authentic Italian cooking in a tastefully decorated Italian-style space, this place might be for you! This is the type of restaurant that all the beautiful people frequent, particularly during TIFF.

The first time I stepped into Oretta was last summer, for dinner, it was like stepping into a high-end restaurant in Florence, Italy, it literally took me back to 1989, when we last visited that special place. High, vaulted ceilings, geometric wall art, interesting tiles and spectacular food. We have eaten several times since, and I have wanted to post a review but have always forgotten to take photos (story of my life). The food is authentic Italian and it’s delicious! They even have Neapolitan pizza (in a wood-fired oven, no less).

Everything is wonderful at Oretta, but each and every time we have been there with reservations, we have ALWAYS been seated beside a table of infants. Literally, babies. And each time I have to ask to be moved, which they do quite happily (but why on earth do I need to ask?). I must have a sign on my forehead that says, “seat me beside the noisiest, fussiest table, please!” It won’t stop me from going but I know that I will need to ask to be moved. Every. Single. Time.

Their menu has the usual suspects (arancini, burrata, polipo, polpette, foccacia, pizza, pasta to name a few) but it’s their brunch menu that is truly special. Sadly, it was one of those times that I forgot to photograph it but I can certainly speak to it. I had ordered the Uova Burrata E Tartufo (truffled eggs with burrata). It was to-die-for! The truffle added the perfect earthiness and the burrata, portioned in every bite, gave the dish the richness that made the brunch extra special. It was so good that I actually dream about it, it was the type of dish you wish would not end. My only regret was that I gave JT a bite to taste and he wasn’t thrilled but he doesn’t like truffle so it was wasted on him!!

The last time we were there was at the end of January. I was obsessing about the egg dish and so looking forward to having it again, but sadly Winterlicious had just begun and they didn’t have their brunch menu. No worries, though, all the food is great.

I ordered the Polipo ($20.00), charred octopus, chickpea puree, red pepper jam, olives, pancetta, crostini. The octopus was perfectly cooked and not overly ‘charred’. The creamy chickpea puree and subtly sweet red pepper jam was the perfect canvas to showcase the polipo. The briny umami of the olives balanced everything perfectly.

JT ordered Manzo ($22.00) 6oz seared flat iron, caponata, tomato emulsion which was also quite tasty. Although the steak was perfectly cooked, it was a tiny bit chewy which made me think it might not have been brought up to room temperature before cooking. The dish was meaty and the soft sweet vegetables made for a lovely contrast. Both meals were worth ordering again, so we will definitely be back. But those eggs…

We were recently in Cancun, Mexico for a destination wedding (don’t get me started) for my Goddaughter/niece. They literally picked the most expensive place in Cancun (don’t get me started). We haven’t been to an all-inclusive for 25 years and this 2-day experience reminded me why, it’s just not our thing!  What was most disappointing is that not one room had an ocean view, not one. I cannot imagine why you would go to the Carribean and not want to see the Ocean from your room. Anyway, now I can put my focus on our next trip, Spain.

Here are a few pics. Click on any one for a gallery view.

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It’s not often you will see a ‘fast food’ establishment reviewed on this blog, but this time I had to do it. My first experience at Mi’Hito Sushi Laboratory was with a dear friend and long ago tenant, Lower Level Leanne. We needed a quick and healthy bite after we shopped at Tap Phong (my favourite restaurant supply store). She ordered the Rising Sun Sushi Burrito which was filled with raw salmon, lettuce, cabbage, avocado, tempura crunch, tobiko, carrot, crab meat, green onions, spicy mayo dressing ($11.99) and I had the Ahi Tuna Poké Bowl which had raw tuna, spinach, cabbage, carrots, edamame, crab meat, mandarin orange ($12.99). Although my poké was good, both she and I were blown away with her burrito, made with seaweed instead of a wrap! And it was HUGE. So I knew, the next time we were downtown and needed lunch, Mi’Hito would be our stop!

JT and I were touring downtown for Doors Open 2018 way back in May (scroll down to see some of our pics of Our Adventure) and fortunately, we were close enough to Mi’Hito to make a lunch stop (OK, full disclosure, I planned our route to end close to it!) This time JT and I shared a custom Sushi Burrito, made with raw tuna, avocado, lettuce, seaweed slaw, corn, sesame seeds and cucumbers ($15.99), it was awesome, fresh and totally filling. And their wasabi (in a little packet like soy sauce) was the hottest I have EVER had! The burrito comes in a really cute paper cutaway container, which is great for takeout, but a little overkill when eating in.

The food is served on little aluminium trays with small packets of soy and wasabi. The restaurant itself is fast food, no table service. It is brightly lit, with several large back-lit menu boards hanging behind the counters and a TV in the seating area. You can order off the menu or chose a custom bowl, burrito or taco. They also have sushi, but the burritos are so much more interesting!

I will definitely keep this place on my radar when I’m downtown.

This is half of the burrito. It is about 8 cm (3 inches) in diameter and about 22 cm (9 inches) long (full burrito). There are no vacant holes in this puppy, it is CHUCK FULL!

Here are some of the photos from Doors Open 2018. We visited several sites over two days but these were the most memorable pics. We have lived near Colborne Lodge for 17 years and have never toured through the house. You can read about the house and its history here. The Masonic Temple is special to me because my parents’ Puppet company performed for a CBC Children’s Christmas Party in the 1970’s. The graffiti pics are from our esteemed College of Art. There was graffiti all over the inside of the building, it was rather shameful. Plus, it wasn’t all that great for an art college!!!

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There is a new Japanese restaurant in our hood and it’s called Kenkou Sushi. It literally took over the space of a previous Japanese chain called Sushi 2 Go and sadly, they still haven’t changed the signage (apparently, they are waiting for good weather). Personally, I think this is a mistake as Sushi 2 Go was expensive and inferior quality than the present family owned resto. For some bizarre reason, chain restaurants usually don’t do well in my little hood so this bodes well for Kenkou Sushi. I’ve been 3 times since the beginning of February and it’s been excellent each time. It’s not fancy, but the food is fresh, tasty and nicely presented and best of all, it’s quite reasonable. If you are looking for a good Japanese restaurant in Toronto’s west end, I suggest you pop in, it’s right beside Jolanta Interiors at the corner of Bloor and Willard, you’ll need to look for Sushi 2 Go until the weather gets nicer!

The restaurant is simply decorated, with the sushi kitchen lining the back wall. There are only 7 tables but they do takeout. I like a place a little fancier for dinner, but I’ll certainly do takeout for dinner.

We decided to have a late lunch and make it the main meal of the day, but I still couldn’t finish my entire Bento Box! Both lunches came with Miso Soup, Small Salad, 6 California Rolls, 5 pieces of tempura (including 2 shrimps) and glass noodles.  JT ordered the salmon teriyaki (because he is making more of an effort to eat more fish), sitting on a bed of sautéed veggies.  The salmon looked to be about 110-120 g (good solid 4 oz).

Salmon Teriyaki Bento Box $14.00

I ordered the Sashimi Bento Box that came with 10 pieces of very fresh fish. They are not specific what fish comes out, it depends on what is fresh each day. They were wonderful and flavourful. As I previously mentioned, I was unable to finish it all, so the leftovers (I did eat all of the raw fish) will be lunch tomorrow.

Sashimi Bento Box $16.00

It’s excellent value and I love that the family members work there. So if you’re in the mood for Sushi, give them a go.

Kenkou Sushi

2370 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON M6S 1P5

Hours:
Everyday: 11:30 AM–10:00 PM

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Last May I decided I wanted to see Kinky Boots for our wedding anniversary, I knew it would be a treat but I honestly was not prepared for the sticker shock! The price equaled a nice weekend away in our own wine country at a four-star hotel (all be it, during off season)! So I passed. Then, last month I received an email from a local radio station that they were offering a discount to see the show (I don’t know why, because they seem to sell out) but I wanted to see it and so I checked out the deal.  We ended up getting two seats in the first level balcony for $90, all in (and by all in, there is 13% tax as well as ‘convenience’ fees, whatever they may be). It was a matinée on a Wednesday afternoon (freelancing allows that freedom) so we decided to check out Chef Rob Feenie’s Cactus Club before the show.

CC_Front

Rob Feenie is a celebrated Vancouver Chef who presides over 18 Cactus Club restaurants in Canada and the Toronto restaurant is the only one east of Calgary! Located in First Canadian Place in the heart of the financial district, the place is poised for high-end business deals over delicious luncheons and the suit crowd for after work drinks.

The Cactus Club Toronto is on three levels, each level boasting a unique style but serving the same menu; I’ve heard that this location is their flagship. We dined on street level which has a casual bar-like décor and ambiance, sadly with a few TVs.

CactusClub

The patio was still decorated with beautifully lit Christmas trees and propane heaters, a little excessive to say the least, but beautiful!

They don’t take reservations, they do have a few tables set aside for reservations, but their preference is for walk-ins, whether it’s for lunch or dinner. The front of the restaurant is set back into the building allowing a large hall to accommodate stanchions with velvet ropes for the large queues that, no doubt form. Most of you who have known me for some time, know that I do not wait in line for a restaurant so, this set-up did not bode well for me. However, it was a Wednesday, noonish and we were shown directly to our table. Whew! But as a side note, we have tried to make reservations for dinner a few times and have been turned down which is too bad because I would have liked to return.

CC_Interiior

Bar Interior from our booth. Too bad about the TVs.

The decor for this part of the restaurant is contemporary but warm. The perimeter is lined with large booths (but mostly sat only two people) around an enormous bar with stools all around. The window side had some little tables as well. What’s really interesting is the original art collection! On the upper levels you can enjoy your dish sitting alongside an original Warhol, Basquiat, or Mr.Brainwash!

Although we dined during the lunch hour, it wasn’t overly busy and they seemed to have a reasonable number of staff to ensure service was good. The kitchen is on the second or third floor which means the bus-boy is running up a flight of stairs with a basket of dirty dishes every 5 minutes or so, it also means that the food must be carted down the stairs alongside patrons walking up to the ladies or men’s rooms, which I found a little strange. Our server was attentive, friendly and considerate (asked if we were on a schedule).

We started with Szechuan Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($16.50) which turned out to be an extremely generous serving, in fact, JT and I said we could have been satisfied with just this course! It’s sweet and spicy Szechuan glazed chicken garnished with peanuts and crispy fried wontons with Korean chili sauce and spicy yogurt on the side. It was DELICIOUS! I would definitely order this dish again.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

The serving was extremely generous and very tasty.

My main course was the Tuna Stack ($16.00) made with raw ocean wise™ albacore tuna and avocado tossed in a citrus tamari vinaigrette (ceviche-style) garnished with crispy tempura, nori, sesame and micro cilantro with a large stack of deep fried wonton chips on the side. This too was a very generous serve and could have easily fed two people for a light lunch.

CC_TunaStack

Again, the Tuna Stack was a very generous serving size.

JT ordered the Short Rib Sandwich ($17.50) with sweet potato fries (which were extra, but I can’t recall how much), this dish was the least impressive by sight, flavour and size of the three we had — it was still delicious but not “WOW!” The sandwich is two halves of toasted sourdough bread with caramelized onions and Emmental cheese on tender short rib meat served with beef jus and a mayo that was a little like tartare sauce! It was fine, but not memorable.

CC_ShortRibSandwich

Although visually the Short rib sandwich was the least exciting, it was very tasty.

CactusSelfie

The Ladies Room had this mirror with the hashtag #cactusselfie which I thought was cute.

We loved the Cactus Club and based on the food, service and ambiance would love to return but the potential queues at 7:30 in the evening for a table does not grab me…frankly there are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line for another one!

Overall rating of Cactus Club (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Cactus Club

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Sunday – Wednesday 11am – 1am
Thursday – Saturday 11am – 1:30am

End Note:

In case you are wondering what we thought of Kinky Boots: It was very entertaining and the music was catchy (not much sing-talking either, which I find annoying). The acting was captivating and the story played out very nicely.

The Royal Alexandra Theatre is an early-20th-century, Beaux-Arts-style theatre owned by Mirvish Productions. The theatre is gorgeous on the inside but the seats are incredibly small (the upholstery on the seats doesn’t look that old) so I will warn the ladies to wear slacks and taller patrons should only sit in the aisles seats.

RoyalAlex

That’s JT on the left and me on the right and I’m only 163 cm (5′ 4″) tall! 

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SushiThai_first

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted a restaurant review. It’s not that we haven’t been going out (not the case at all) but I’ve been relatively uninspired, not by the restaurants or meals, just kind of an overall humdrum feeling. Night falls far too early and the days seem to be full of grey, mostly. On the plus side, it hasn’t snowed…yet. Most of the leaves have plummeted to earth and the birds and squirrels are running around frantically looking for food. The bird feeder needs refilling almost every two days; those little sparrows eat quite a bit! Speaking of eating…

Last spring I purchased a couple of Groupons for Sushi Thai on Bloor, a restaurant in our hood so that my Hungarian relatives could experience Thai food. We’ve been to Sushi Thai several times but I wanted to get as many plates for them as possible to vary their experience, hence the Groupon. What I completely forgot was that you can only use ONE Groupon per table and we weren’t going to sit at separate tables, so I had an extra Groupon left over for a lunch JT and I had recently.

I’m always surprised that this little place isn’t busier, the décor is contemporary Asian with some tasteful Thai embellishments; it has flattering lighting and the service is good with authentic Japanese staff with a reasonable command of English. The Sushi is fresh, delicious and often creatively prepared (piped mayo, toasted sesame or rice puffs etc. and decoratively laid out on a white plate). Both Thai and Japanese foods are also very good. Complimentary tea is not offered.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

A delicious bowl of soup and salad.

We both ordered the lunch specials ($11 each) that came with a small bowl of miso soup and a typical Japanese-style salad made with iceberg lettuce, a few shavings of carrot and beet, thinly sliced cucumber and radish and a slice of tomato dressed with a thousand island-style vinaigrette (it has been my experience that almost all the Japanese restaurants in Toronto make a salad like this, some better than others). The miso was warm, with lots of dashi and small cubes of soft tofu garnished with green onion. Some misos can be salty but this one was not. We both commented that it could have been warmer, of course, the day was one of the first of the colder days so we were still stinging!

Sushi

Just the perfect amount for lunch.

I ordered the Sushi plate which came with 11 pieces of tasty sushi. There were 3 salmon rolls, 3 tuna rolls, and 5 pieces of Nigiri: Tuna, Hamachi, Salmon, Shrimp and Surimi. I could do without the Surimi but it seems to be prevalent on the more budget conscious restaurants. The fish was fresh with a lovely soft texture and the wasabi was pungent!

A decent lunch portion.

A decent lunch portion.

JT ordered the Chicken Teriyaki which came with a good amount of thigh meat in a light teriyaki sauce and a reasonably large mound of rice and a few broccoli florets, all garnished with some white sesame seeds. The chicken was tender and all of the fat had been properly trimmed off (you’d be surprised at how much fat and grissel JT leaves in some places). All in all we both really enjoyed our choice. We did not have dessert.

Overall rating of Sushi and Thai (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Sushi Thai on Bloor

2279 Bloor St W
Toronto, ON
M6S 1P1

Tel: 647-347-6826

Monday to Thursday 11:30 am-10:00 pm

 

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We’ve been to The Good Fork a few times now and I thought it was time to do a Kitchen Inspirations review. The folks at The Good Fork were incredibly generous around the Christmas holidays when Toronto experienced wide-spread blackouts and JT and I were without charging power for our phones for a couple of days — they let us plug in! The Good Fork is located just on the cusp of the Western edge of Bloor West Village and because it’s on the cusp, sadly it’s pretty easy to forget about it; I’m glad that on that cold December day we didn’t!

It’s about 1.6 km from our house which makes a good walk but there is street parking usually close by. I would recommend reservations if you’re going with a group because it does fill up quickly and there isn’t a bar to wait at. If you’re going for brunch, like we did, make sure you arrive before 10am because you’ll have to wait for a table if you arrive later!

The folks are very nice at The Good Fork and we have found the food to be very good quality. I like that their menu is not huge but what they do is very tasty and the prices are not bad. The portions are a good size and if you’re not starving you may even find it enough to share with an extra salad. The Good Fork is fully licensed and serves VQA wines and beers from Canadian micro breweries. The decor is modern and simple and there are many spacious booths. Their second floor can be rented for events. 

JT and I visited The Good Fork for brunch; I ordered the Nova Scotia Benny ($13.00) which came with two poached eggs, a generous serve of smoked salmon, cream cheese, preserved lemon and fresh dill on Gordy’s gorgeous house-made bun (it was so good that even I found it difficult to resist eating the top!). I chose a side salad instead of home fries and although the salad was very tasty, it was over dressed for my taste which is a mistake I find many restaurants make (note to self, ask for dressing on the side next time).

A delicious combination of flavours.

A delicious combination of flavours.

JT ordered a slightly more decadent dish: The Pulled Pork Benny ($13.60) topped with crispy fried shallots and a delicious slaw on the same house-made bun. The pulled pork had fantastic flavour and the crispy fried shallots added the much needed textural contrast to the sweet and tangy pulled pork. JT also ordered the salad as the side and it too was over dressed. Overall, I would say that both dishes were winners and we will order them again (perhaps to share next time).

TGoodFork_2455

Succulent pulled pork and a very tasty house-made bun.

 

Overall rating of The Good Fork: Decor 2.5/5, service 3/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

 

The Good Fork

2432 Bloor St. West
Toronto, ON M6S 1P9

 

Hours:

Monday and Tuesday 9:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, 9:00 am-10:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 am-4:00 pm and 5:30 pm-10:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am-5:00 pm

 

Contact

647.352.5955
ALI@goodfork.ca
TOLGA@goodfork.ca

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In our neighbourhood, Bloor West Village we have an abundance (some might even say too many) of specific retailers and services in about 1 km (0.62 mile) length:

  • 36 dentists
  • 11 optometrists/eye glass dispensaries
  • 42 hair/nail salons
  • 6 green grocers
  • 8 Pubs/Gastro Pubs/Sports Bars
  • 5 Japanese/Thai restaurants!

So when Sushi 2Go opened a restaurant in the Village we were surprised! Sushi 2Go is a relatively small chain of Japanese Restaurants all over the GTA, in fact there is another one about a kilometre (0.62 miles) away. There are a few high-end Japanese restaurants in the GTA but most are quick, luncheon-type places and Sushi 2Go is no different. I’m not saying you can’t have a nice dinner there, it’s just pretty simple with typical ambiance. We had lunch there a few weeks before Christmas and even though we’ve been back again, I found it a little expensive for what it was.

The restaurant is contemporarily decorated with a few Japanese touches. The sushi kitchen is toward the back and there are about 10-15 tables, not huge by any stretch. Both times we’ve been there, there were only 2 other people dining in, although there were takeout orders being fulfilled and picked up.

I ordered the Tempura Udon Noodle in hot soup with tempura ($14.95). It was quite flavourful and the tempura was plentiful, I even took most of the tempura home for another meal.

Sushi2GoTempura_1279

Sushi2Go NoodleSoup_1278

JT ordered the Sushi & Tempura Bento Box ($17.95) which was comprised of 7 pieces of nigiri, 3 california roll & tempura. It was also very tasty but $18 for lunch doesn’t sit well with me. Next time we’re going to share the Tempura Udon Soup (JT will have the tempura and I’ll have the Udon!)

Sushi2GoBentoBox_1280

Overall rating of Sushi 2Go (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Sushi 2 Go Bloor West Village

Sushi2Go
2370 Bloor St. West
Tel 416-762-0505

Monday to Thursday 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Friday and Saturday 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Monday Closed

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Hello everyone! I am so sorry I was not able to post last week but I was booked the entire week for food styling assisting! I can’t believe it has taken off so well; of course, I take nothing for granted and keep pounding the pavement for my next job. Many of you have been interested in what this new position for me entails, well let me tell you. I met with the food stylist on Monday morning and we went over the recipes and shopping list. Of course, being the type of person I am, I had asked him to send me the list the week before because I wanted to prepare myself and practice if need be. Well, there was a need, BIG TIME! Of all the things to be prepping that week was CANDY! Now I’ve had some experience with candy making, but few and far between. I know some of the basic rules but I haven’t made a lot of candy. But the prepping wasn’t all of it, there was shopping to be done.

I had touched on shopping in a previous post so I’ll keep it brief this time; it’s gruelling. It’s about buying the most beautiful fruit/vegetable when it isn’t even in season! Next time you’re at the market, take a look at off season fruits/vegetables, the pickings are slim and what’s there isn’t even pretty. So it’s dragging your butt all over the city to buy the perfect beet is exhausting. But I do love grocery stores, so it’s not as bad as it sounds.

The shoot last week was on location, which for this particular situation meant it was at a home. Sounds like fun? Think again. The downtown home is chosen for the shot, and nothing else, particularly not the kitchen. Small, unknown (appliances); it’s a challenge. And then there was the parking issue — there was NO parking, hence the $30 ticket kindly left on my windshield by some thoughtful parking police person (thank you by the way)! But it went well and we’ll all see the results next year.

I also wanted to thank you for your kind wishes and your encouragement, it’s not easy starting out something new, but to do it at my age is even scarier; your encouragement and kind words have been paramount in my confidence and I can’t thank you enough. I would also like to thank you for not ostracizing me for failing to comment recently, I’ve been swamped and I’m just trying to get my balance back. I’m reading your blogs, I just haven’t been able to comment on my phone (usually reading in the middle of the night!), so I thank you.

Now back to the usual programming…

We were finally able to get into Gusto, a very popular restaurant on Portland in Toronto, but just. We decided that waiting in line for dinner was not our bag so we thought lunch might be more forgiving. We scored the last table on a recent visit with my niece (a newly graduated lawyer) and her botanist beau! You may recall that I got a bit ahead of myself and made their famous Kale Salad site unseen or palate tested! It turned out that I had it pretty close but their version was a tad sweeter — I have modified my recipe.

The restaurant itself is a very cool, contemporary warehouse design. Lots of super hard surfaces makes it very noisy and I suspect I wouldn’t like it as well at night because it was reasonably noisy at brunch when there isn’t as much boozing. Our server was friendly and attentive without being over bearing and was knowledgeable about the food. The courses were brought out with reasonable timing which made it an event instead of a rushed meal that some places offer. There was absolutely no attempt to rush us from our table and the place was packed.

I was happy to sees that the salad was served in a similar Christmas tree shape that I served our's in as so many of you commented. :-)

I was happy to see that the salad was served in a similar Christmas tree shape that I served our’s in as so many of you commented. 🙂

I thought I had taken photos of the other dishes we all ordered, but sadly they are no where to be found so I shall review only the Kale Salad which we ordered for the table and the Popilo which was my lunch dish.

The Kavolo Nero ($13.95)  was macerated with lemon juice and honey decorated with toasted pine nuts (the short Italian kind), Pecorino cheese and currents. Since I’ve tasted the real thing I have increased the honey a touch in my recipe and have switched up the currents for either dried cranberries or dried sour cherries. Parmesan can also be substituted for the Pecornino.

GustoPolipo_1175

Tender Grilled Octapus

The Polipo ($14.50) was a char-grilled octopus with an olive tapinade and a celery root cream with baby zucchini, chorizo all harmonized with a delightful sherry smoked paprika vinaigrette. It was wonderful and my mouth is still watering as I type this review. It was a decent portion as were all the other dishes at our table.

Overall rating of Gusto 101 (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 1.75/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Gusto 101

101 Portland Street, Toronto
eat@gusto101.com
General inquiries: 416-504-9669

Mon: 11:30 am – 10:00 pm
Tue: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Wed: 11:30 am – 11:00 pm
Thu: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
Fri: 11:30 am – 1:00 am
Sat: 11:00 am – 1:00 am
Sun: 11:00 am – 10:00 pm

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Continuing on our trip to Michigan this past July, we spent one lovely afternoon and evening in Grand Rapids to help break up the driving time to Wisconsin. After a delicious but unfortunately quick dinner at Grove we decided that the night was still too young to be packed in so we checked out Reserve, a lovely wine bar in the heart of down town. We were very pleasantly surprised to end the evening off so well.

I don’t know about you, but JT and I check reviews and sometimes we get lucky and choose a good place on a good night and sometimes it’s an epic fail. This little spot, we got lucky! We sat at the bar and chatted to Cory the Mixologist who turned out to be a fantastic spokes-person and historian for his humble city. When he wasn’t attending to other customers, Cory spoke very highly of Reserve’s dining experience (that we’ll have to return to try!). With just over 100 wines by the glass, there isn’t a shortage of libations to choose from, priced from a sampler size to a full 9oz glass these folks have everything your heart desires. They have a very sophisticated system of storing and serving the wines (the system extracts the oxygen and seals each bottle after use) and they are said to keep for 30 days, although I wouldn’t think they’d need to as the place was hopping! There were a variety of prices and non of them seem exorbitant.

Reserve is located in the down town area of Grand Rapids, by the Grand River. It’s cool, contemporary décor is a perfect stage for the trendy business crowd. It’s not a huge place and where we were sitting the noise level wasn’t too bad. Lighting was a bit harsh particularly beneath the centre area but at the bar it was very flattering. If the quality of service could be gauged by Cory’s level of attention and friendliness, I would say it’s excellent! Definitely deserves a return visit.

Reserve

201 Monroe Ave. NW

Grand Rapids, MI 49503

616-855-9463

Hours

Monday – Thursday 11:30 AM – 11:00 PM

Friday 11:30 AM – 12:00 AM

Saturday 4:00 PM – 12:00 AM

Sunday Closed

 

Overall rating of Reserve, Grand Rapids (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 4/5, food n/a, Value 3/5, Noise: 3/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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As you may recall, JT and I took a little road trip down to Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois to meet up with old friends and make new friends. To make the drive a bit more manageable we decided a stop in Grand Rapids, Michigan was in order so we booked a night into a nice hotel downtown and did a few touristy things (to come).

We chose Grove for dinner from the reviews on Yelp and Trip Advisor and it was certainly spot on; an unexpected culinary experience in Grand Rapids, who knew? And even more so surprisingly it was not expensive at all!

The restaurant is nicely decorated in a contemporary style but if you ask me, it had a few too many hard surfaces making it rather noisy for a quiet, romantic dinner. I also found the TVs in the bar area distracting because they are visible from the dining area and although I understand why they have them, I personally feel it takes the dining experience down a notch.

Service was prompt and efficient, our server was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the food, but dinner lasted only an hour and I would have liked it spaced out a bit more.

I ordered the bouillabaisse ($11) and it was OUTSTANDING! My only complaint is that that there was not enough broth! It is a rich saffron, tomato seafood broth generously filled with fresh shrimp, scallops and a variety of fish. It was almost as good as the one I had in Marseille, but then again we were in France eating outside! For the reasonable price of $11, I could have easily had another bowl, it was so tasty!

The bouillabase was full of tender, perfectly cooked seafood.

The bouillabase was full of tender, perfectly cooked seafood.

JT enjoyed the sweet corn soup ($6) but kept dipping his spoon into my bowl of bouillabaise! As you can see from the soup’s colour, it had A LOT of cream which diluted the sweet corn flavour a touch. It was not nearly as lovely as the one at Toca JT recently had.

This corn soup had A LOT of cream.

This corn soup had A LOT of cream.

An interesting take on an old favourite. The hard cooked crumbled eggs were a lovely change.

An interesting take on an old favourite. The hard cooked crumbled eggs were a lovely change.

For my main I had the steak tartare ($12 also a starter) which was very nicely seasoned and had a twist of crumbled hard boiled egg on top and some bread and butter gherkins on the side. It was roughly chopped and I generally prefer a finer chop it was seasoned perfectly to my taste and I enjoyed it very much.

JT had the Chicken Confit ($10) which compared to my bouillabaisse seemed a little lack-lustre although there was nothing technically wrong with it. Sorry, forgot to take a photo :-(.

All in all an excellent experience we’ll tuck away for our next visit to Grand Rapids.

Overall rating of Grove, Grand Rapids (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Grove, Grand Rapids, Michigan

919 Cherry Street S.E.
Grand Rapids, MI 49506
P: 616.454.1000

Hours of Operation

Sunday – 5pm-9pm
Tuesday – Thursday 5pm-10pm
Friday – Saturday 5pm-11pm

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Way back in June I took JT to Toca to celebrate his birthday, it’s the fancy restaurant at the Ritz Carlton on King Street West.

TocaMenu_0350

The menus were placed on individual plates hand painted by one of the wait staff who is coincidentally an artist! How lovely that the Ritz did this!

Toca is a contemporarily decorated restaurant with large booths and cozy tables and very flattering lighting. The walls are decorated with custom hand painted plates which were created by Jacqueline Poirier , one of the wait staff. Each place setting is also adorned by these beautiful works of art.

We started our lovely dining experience with some house baked Middle Eastern breads — now I usually try to skip the bread to limit my carbs, but these looked too good to pass up. The patty style bread on the right had a perfect chewiness and the sesame seeds were just the right topping.

TocaBread_0351
House made breads were too tasty to pass up

I couldn’t resist ordering the smoked burrata. It was served with fresh figs and an absolutely spectacular presentation where the smoked burrata came with a glass dome covering it with smoke trapped within. The server released the burrata and the smoke quickly dissipated. I’m going to have to figure this one out, so we can try it at a dinner party. Any suggestions?

TocaBurrata_0352

A gorgeous glass dome encasing the burrata with smokey flavour was the presentation.

JT ordered the creamed corn soup, made entirely without cream. It was spectacular! It was served with a corn & tomato salsa and lump crab. I’m definitely going to make this one!

TocaCreamlessCornSoup_0353

So creamy and delicious, but there isn’t any cream in it.

My main course was an appetizer portion of Alberta Classic Beef Tartare (yes, I do enjoy my tartares!) served with a lovely quail yolk on top and very crispy potatoes on top. The description included tartar sauce which made it a little too creamy for my taste, and I wasn’t able to finish it. The lovely waiter and then manager suggested I order something else, but JT had already started his steak and I didn’t want to be eating on my own or to allow his to cool off while I waited so I declined. They even took it off the bill.

TocaSteakTartare_0355
The Steak Tartare was a little too creamy

JT ordered the Alberta Filet Mignon and because the soup was so filling, he decided not to order any sides with it. It was dressed with a cherry gastrique which was simply delicious against the earthy flavour of the Filet Mignon.

TocaFiletMinion_0358

Simple and delicious

Even though my main course was not to my liking, I would definitely return to this restaurant. The pace was lovely and the service was exceptional as one would expect from the Ritz.

Toca Menu_0359

Even the fingertip towels were logo’d in the bathrooms

It was an unseasonably cold day and even colder evening and as we exited the restaurant were drawn by some live music in the courtyard adjacent to the hotel. It was Luminato and we walked right over to see X Alfonso. If it hadn’t been so chilly we would have stayed and danced the night away, but the wind had come up and it felt like October weather instead of June!

Overall rating of Toca Ritz Carlton (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 3.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Toca, The Ritz-Carlton
181 Wellington Street West
Toronto, Ontario M5V 3G7
(416) 585-2500

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Happy civic holiday! in ontario, today is a day off!
We just got back from a wonderful road trip to Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois, so I’m still catching up. We visited our lovely friends Paul and T’s wonderful Lake House on Delavan Lake. We drove down this time and decided to break the drive up into two days stopping over in Grand Rapids, Michigan for the afternoon and evening. It worked out very well, having a five hour trip to Grand Rapids and then a four and half hour trip to Wisconsin.

Grand Rapids is a fantasic city with a bustling down town; there are several things to do, but because we were there only the afternoon and evening, we only did The Frederick Meijer Gardens. It is a beautifully manicured sculpture garden and green houses; they even have a couple of Rodin’s and a Henry Moore, plus lots of other great sculptures. It’s a beautiful way to spend the afternoon. The next morning we got up bright and early and hopped into the car for the second leg of the journey, Delavan Wisconsin. In the interest of keeping this post a manageable length, I’ll do some other posts reviewing the various restaurants and touristy things we did.

Our fantastic little holiday culminated in Chicago where we met some more bloggers: Celi from The Kitchens Garden, Kristy and Mike from Eat Play Love, Our Family Food Adventures, and Chgo John From The Bartolini Kitchens. We all met at Rick Bayless’s casual Mexican dining room Fontera Grill. I was particularly excited to meet everyone. John graciously offered to pick up JT and I at 10am and give us the beautiful and now famous Bartolini Food Tour; we stopped at Sur La Table a wonderful kitchen gadget shop (which will be on my GO TO list here on in), his favourite Indian Spice/Grocery shop and his favourite Asian Spice/Grocery shop. I joked with John that I never get a cart or basket in these places because so often I come out empty handed (taking a cart at the very beginning is just bad luck), so I walk around the store, picking up this and that until my hands are totally full and someone brings me a cart. John so very kindly asked several times, but I just didn’t want to jinx it! Oh yes, I went to town! Not that I couldn’t get things in Toronto, we have little India and China Town and some great gadget shops, but it wouldn’t be the same — now when I use the cumin from the Indian Spice shop, I shall fondly think of our time with Chicago John. Thank you John, you are truly a gentleman and a wonderful host. We extend the invitation to you anytime you wish to see Toronto!

ChicagolandBloggers_0716

We had a great lunch at Fontera Grill and even better conversation. Thank you Celi, John, Kristy and Mike, it was a blast to meet you all and I hope to do it again soon. Please don’t hesitate to visit us in Toronto.

I took the day off for JT’s birthday back in June and although it wasn’t a super hot day, it was very lovely and sunny so we decided to spend the day at Toronto Islands. You may recall that we did this several years ago and enjoyed it very much, but we were at a fringe season and were not able to check out The Rectory Café so we decided to come back for the experience.

MermaidCafe_0337

Funny little sandwich board where we got off the Ferry.

The Toronto Islands are made up of several islands and are accessible by Ferry at a number of points. There are residents of the islands who own their own homes but rent the land from the Government on which they stand (apparently it’s a 35 year waiting list!), a few social Yacht clubs, an amusement park, a petting zoo, several beaches (including a nude beach), a lighthouse, parkland fast food and restaurants. It’s quite a beautiful place to walk or ride your bike. It’s also the place where in 1914 Babe Ruth hit his first professional home run into the waters of Lake Ontario! Go figure!

We made it into a half day trip, walking and spending time outside.

We made it into a half day trip, walking and spending time outside.

We like to arrive at Hanlans Point and walk the 5+km (3+ miles) to Ward’s Island making little detours and stopping for a look along the way. Ward’s Island is where the Rectory Café is and it’s a nice way to finish of a 4+ hour day!

The Rectory Café has a wonderful open air patio, and we decided to sit outside even though it was rather chilly. We started with the Sun Blushed Tomato Hummus ($10) ccompanied by Kalamata olives and toasted flat breads. It’s a very nicely seasoned hummus with some tasty little flat breads. Quite reasonably priced too.

Hummus_0343

Hummus with flatbread

I then ordered the Char Grilled Calamari ($7 for one $13 to share) Marinated in a fifteen spice rub and served with a scallion thyme aioli and lemon olive oil, which was delicious and quite generous for the price.

GrillCalamari Rectory_0345

Grill Calamari

JT ordered a sandwich which was also generous but I didn’t try it so it’s intentionally omitted.
Overall rating of The Rectory Café (in my opinion): Decor 4/5 (how could you go wrong sitting outside?), service 3/5, food 4/5, Value 4.5/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

The Rectory Café
102 Lakeshore Avenue
Toronto, ON M5J 1X9
(416) 203-2152

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We’ve been craving delicious thin crust wood oven pizza since our return from DC. I don’t eat pizza often so when I do, I really want it to be AWESOME! Terroni is a small, family owned Italian Trattoria ‘chain’ with three restaurants in Toronto and one in LA. Their claim to fame is their overbearing motto that allows for no substitutions, so if you want anchovies with that and it’s not on the menu, they’ll refuse to serve it to you. Period. Now you have to admire the guts to do that. Not withstanding, they are enormously successful; one of their places(Queen Street West) in Toronto won’t even take reservations, so if you want to dine there, go stand in line at 5pm and you’ll get a table at 6!

Terroni Grilled Calamari_0211

Perfectly grilled and tastefully seasoned

The location JT and I recently dined at is central, right down town in old Toronto’s Courthouse, a beautifully renovated old brick building. The washrooms are in the basement located in the old holding cells. I would have taken a photo but it was disgustingly filthy (yes, I mentioned it to them, apparently a number of women had just stormed through).

We arrived a few minutes late due to traffic and we had to wait a minute or two for our table; we were seated in an outdoor space converted to an interior covered courtyard. I’m glad we were seated in this smaller room (~50 people) because it was noisy enough, the main areas it would have been brutal. They don’t rush you per-say, but it’s not a lingering meal (just as well, as I found it to noisy to talk).

We decided to share a pizza but have our own appetizers; I had the Grilled Calamari and JT had the Salad Nizzarda. The Calamari alla Griglia ($15.95) was a generous serving of grilled calamari, mixed greens, fresh tomatoes with a very nice balsamic dressing — the tomatoes had a lovely tomato flavour. By contrast, the Nizzarda ($12.50) which is like a salad Niçoisse, was a scant serving of Italian tuna, on a bed of arugula, potatoes, eggs, red onion, tomatoes, olives with pits, green beans and anchovies (JT gave me his anchovies, I hope we weren’t caught!).

Terroni Puzza Pizza_0215

The lighting was very dark by the time we ordered the pizza, so I photographed the leftovers at home the next day. Boy was it tasty!

We shared the Puzza Pizza ($17.95) which was a white pizza with mozzarella, italian mascarpone, gorgonzola, mushrooms, Italian ham, not inexpensive by any stretch of the imagination but it was well worth it. The creamy white base, slightly salty Italian ham with the tangy gorgonzola was a perfect combination. Even the next day it was outstanding. The pizza measured about 11-12″ in diametre.

Overall rating of Terroni, Adelaide (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Terroni Adelaide

57 Adelaide St E

416 203 3093

Mon–Wed 09:00–22:00

Thu–Sat 09:00–23:00

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I mentioned that when we travel we never pre-determine lunch, but we find free wifi and Yelp a place close by. Sometimes we’re just lucky enough to just come across a little gem serendipitously and that’s exactly what happened with La Tasca. La Tasca is a Spanish tapas establishment directly across from Chinatown in DC. We were hungry, hot and very tired and were cautiously excited about our little find (keeping expectations low means less disappointment!). Plus they had free WIFI which meant I could upload more pics to Facebook for my family and friends back home; JT has his head buried in a map app or a sports app to keep up with the latest scores :)!
La Tasca has a couple of locations in around DC, but It doesn’t scream chain. The service was great, and the food, well…it was dang good, we dug in before I remembered to take a photo, yep, that good. The quality and presentation brought us back immediately to our trip to Barcelona, Spain last fall (only it was way hotter in DC). Talk about a lovely memory!

The décor is kind of kitschy Spainish but we sat at the front looking onto the street so it wasn’t that offensive. I suspect this place would be great for larger groups.
Tapas means small, sharing portions which is perfect for JT and I. For lunch they have three sized specials: 2 for $13, 3 for $19 or unlimited for $24, we chose 2 & 3, and it was perfect.

Our meal:

Tortilla Torera: this is Spain’s traditional potato and onion omelet and here it’s served cold. It was lovely, as good if not better than some we enjoyed in Spain.

Brocheta de Gambas y Vieiras: these were Skewers of shrimp and bacon-wrapped scallops drizzled with a wonderful lemon emulsion, served sizzling hot with just enough garlic to get your mouth watering.

Garbanzos con Espinacas: this was an incredibly delicious Andalusian-style chickpea and spinach stew, i just wish we had bread to sop it up with (yes, I wrote that).

Empanadas de Carne, not the traditional empanada that i’m accustomed to, these were two good-sized stuffed pastry shells filled with ground beef and cheese. I’m not used to cheese in my empanadas but OMG was this good! It was also deep fried which I generally don’t prefer but it was soooo worth it. I almost wish we had ordered two more!

Our last dish was another cold tapas Tabla de Jamón y Queso, this was a very simple plate with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese served on artisanal bread brushed with the traditional Catalana tomato spread. This was the weakest of the dishes, but only because the others were so AMAZING!

The presentation was beautiful on all the dishes and I’m really sorry I didn’t take photos of all the plates. My only complaint was that they brought everything at once and the table wasn’t quite large enough for all the plates.

And that concludes our visit to DC, thanks again to Jed and Liz for their generous hospitality and advise.

Overall rating of La Tasca, DC (in my opinion): Decor 1.5/5, service 3/5, food 4/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 4.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

La Tasca

722 7th Street NW

Washington, DC 20001

202–347-9190

dc@latascausa.com

 

Hours of Operation

Sunday-Thursday 11–10

Friday-Saturday 11–11

Bar Open Late Weekends

 

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When we travel we never like to book lunches because we never really know where we are going to be when hunger strikes; so we leave it to the last minute and find a Starbucks sit with an espresso and peruse Yelp for some recommendations in relation to our location! I love that Starbucks has free WIFI! Yelp is an excellent review site where I find most of the reviewers are more foodie than not and their restaurant reviews are excellent! Sometimes we use open table, but it’s only good for establishments who subscribe so it often doesn’t work out.

We landed on Café du Parc in Washington’s elite Intercontinental Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue. The restaurant describes itself as a traditional French bistro where the food ‘fuses witha modern atmosphere to provide a truly authentic bistro experience” (from Café du Parc’s website) — well, I’m not sure about food fusing with atmosphere, but the experience was pleasant enough. Have I ever mentioned this thing that I find SO INCREDIBLY annoying? It’s when the wait-staff remove plates before everyone is finished at the table. JT eats faster than I do and I am often left eating on my own with the table cleared. Not this time but I had to tell them to leave the plates alone until I am done! What school of etiquette did these people go to? They’ll loose points on service for that one.

The décor is blues, creams and yellows and the dining room was light and airy; it made me happy to be there! They also had a very lovely patio but the heat was overwhelming so we chose to eat inside; bad choice since all the windows and doors were wide open and the A/C didn’t seem to be on, but we soon acclimated and all was well.

With the exception of the faux pas of the attempt to remove JTs dishes before I was finished, the service was efficient, friendly and quick — we were in and out in less than an hour, but we had places to go and people to see, so we were fine with that.

Cafe du parc Nicoisse_0157

Cafe du Parc’s Salade Niçoise

I ordered the Salad Nisçoise which was rare tuna served on a bed of mesclun salad, with pitted black olives (I prefer the pits in, the pitted always makes me think they are canned), green beans, tomatoes, a hard boiled egg, cucumber speers, julienned celery, delightful pickled white anchovies (a very nice change) with a very light balsamic vinaigrette which was not over dressed. The salad was fresh, flavourful and quite filling, but for the $21 for lunch, I would have expected a bit more tuna on the plate.
JT ordered the Croque Monsieur which was a very generous sandwich of French ham & Gruyère cheese sandwich, served with a mixed green salad and hand cut fries ($18) considering how expensive the ingredients in this dish are, I felt the $18 price tag was a reasonable amount.
And that concludes our visit to DC, thanks again to Jed and Liz for their generous hospitality and advise.
Cafe du parc Croque M_0159

Croque Monsieur

Overall rating of Café du Parc, DC (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 2.5/5, food 4/5, Value 3/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Cafe du Parc

1401 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

Washington, DC 20004

(202) 942 7000

Monday – Friday

Breakfast : 6:30 a.m. – 10:30 a.m. (a la carte ends at 9:45; 9:45-10:30 buffet only)

Lunch : 11:30 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Cocktails and Light Fare : 2:30pm – 5:00 p.m.

Dinner : 5:30 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Saturday – Sunday

Breakfast : 7:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. (a la carte ends at 10:30; 10:30-11:00 buffet only)

Lunch : 12:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.

Cocktails and Light Fare : 3:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.

Dinner : 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Terrace (weather permitting)

Breakfast is served at our courtyard only.

Service starts at 11:30 Mon – Fri and 12:00 noon Sat-Sun until 10:00 p.m.; weather permitting.

 

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Tomorrow is JT’s birthday, please join me in wishing him a Happy Birthday!

Our second night in DC we chose Bistro Bis, a contemporary French bistro, located in one of DC’s other Kimpton hotels called the Hotel George. The tour bus mentioned that this hotel is famous amongst celebrities visiting DC (the likes of Justin Bieber: gag). It’s high ceilings and lack of soft surfaces makes this establishment a little noisier than I like, but we were able to get a lovely table that was tucked away in a corner allowing me to talk without yelling at the top of my lungs. Our Russian waitress was lovely and attentive and even though her section was rather full, we never felt ignored.

The first dish we ordered was the Escargot Forestière, burgundy snails on toasted brioche with garlic confit, beech mushrooms, artichokes and bordelaise ($13) did not get off to a good start; the escargot were incredibly sandy and it turned us off immediately. There is nothing grosser than improperly cleansed escargot — they slither around in the garden eating anything and everything in their path, they MUST be thoroughly cleansed. We sent it back to the kitchen and they immediately rectified the situation by offering to replace the order with any thing we wanted, so we order the Oysters Gratin Florentine. The dish was an oyster ragout with smoked ham, spinach, fennel, tarragon glaçage and grilled baguette ($12.50) and it was lovely. The portion size was enough to share, I couldn’t imagine eating this rich dish on my own.

Bistro Bis oysters_0100

A deliciously rich sauce

My main course was the Steak Tartare, of course! Steak Tartare Atilla is a traditionally flavoured tartare with finely chopped raw sirloin with capers, onions, cornichons, spicy aïoli and garlic potato chips ($13) — for the price it was a very generous portion and they sold it as an appetizer size. The little salad was delicious with the tartare and I could have used a bit more of it.

Bistro Bis Steak Tartar_0102

Night lighting is not great for restaurant photos.

JT ordered the Côte de Porc Roti which was pan roasted berkshire pork chop with barley risotto, spring vegetables and morello cherry gastrique ($27) and even though it was expensive, it was an extremely generous size of meat. It was perfectly cooked and very tender, and the cherry gastrique was an innovated and delicious pairing. I believe JT would order this dish again.

Bistro Bis Pork Chop_0103

A very generous portion of meat.

We generally don’t order dessert, but we felt like lingering as the meal finished a little faster than we had hoped so we ordered cappuccino’s and I must say, they were the hottest cap’s I’ve ever had. As part of the apology for the sandy escargot, the chef sent out a lovely tasting plate of dessert, very tiny portions, but enough to finish the meal.

Bistro Bis Dessert_0106

After we had finished our meal the manager came over to apologize and we chatted with him for a while. They really redeemed themselves by the service so I would recommend this place, but sadly not the escargot.

Overall rating of Bistro Bis, DC (in my opinion): Decor 3/5, service 4/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 2/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Bistro Bis, Washington, DC

15 E Street NW
Washington DC 20001

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Our first dinner in DC was at Proof, one of the recommendations Jed and Liz (of the infamous Sports-glutton blog) made and it truly DID NOT DISAPPOINT! Proof is a moderately price American restaurant with an eclectic menu (their words). It’s contemporary design with rustic elements (brick walls, wooden tables and antique dressers) make for a very warm and inviting eating establishment — the bathrooms are wild! We chose to eat inside because of the high temperatures outside, but their patios looked amazing! I also wanted to mention that the dinner had a lovely pace to it, not too fast and not too slow, all in all it was almost two hours for the three courses which was perfect.

Both our server and somelier were friendly and attentive enough without being over-bearing — we never once had to fill our own wine glass. We decided to share the starters and chose the Bresaola, which was from Uruguay, cured, juniper scented beef tenderloin ($8US), I thought it was quite tasty although the juniper was very subtle and for $8US I felt we got a good serving size for the price. We also shared the Duck Liver Mousse (aka Fois Gras) with Pickled Red Onions & Baby Greens ($11US) and it was over the top, the duck liver mousse was so creamy, yet felt rather light in the mouth. Our server even brought us a nice selection of house made crackers and breads because as you can see, there are only three crostini’s with the dish. We were off to a great start.

Proof DuckFoieGras Mousse_Spec_0063

Our starters that we shared.

My main course (appetizer portion) was the Ahi Tuna Tartare with Crispy Nori Tempura with hass avocado, wasabi soy emulsion ($15) and I must tell you it is by far the BEST tuna Tartare I’ve ever had and I’ve had quite a few. The flavours just hit me perfectly with just the right amount of wasabi (no tears). The crispy Nori was a beautiful contrast in texture to the creamy avocado and the soft tuna. If you can believe it, my mouth is watering as I type this. I could have had two portions it was THAT good.

Proof Tuna Tartar_0062

The BEST tuna tartar I’ve EVER had

JT chose the gnocchi which came in two sizes, a small appetizer portion and a large main portion — this is the smaller size and as you can see, it was plenty (the bowl was about 24cm or 9.4 inches in diametre. The dish was Sautéed Potato Gnocchi with Hen of the Woods Mushrooms spring peas, baby chard in a sweet farm butter with basil and Parmesan sauce ($15/$27). JT was kind enough to allow me to taste this beautiful dish (sorry, it was already dark when I took the photo) and it was fantastic, but don’t let the sauce fool you, even though it’s not a cream-based sauce there is A LOT of butter in this dish! Both of our courses were lip smackingly good and I immediately wished we had this restaurant in Toronto as it became a fast favourite!

Proof Gnocchi_0060

JT chose the gnocchi

Thank you kindly for the reco’s Jed and Liz, you really hit this one bang on. It’ll be on my list whenever we return to DC.

If you find yourself in DC, do yourself a favour and try this place, it won’t disappoint.

Overall rating of Proof DC (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 4/5, food 4.5/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

Proof DC

775 G Street, NW Washington, DC 20001

proof@proofdc.com

202.737.7663

 

Lunch

Tuesday – Friday 11:30 – 2:00

 

Dinner

Monday – Thursday 5:30 – 10:00

Friday – Saturday 5:30 – 11:00

Sunday 5:00 – 9:30

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A very popular Mexican restaurant opened a second location just north of our hood in The Junction, Playa Cabana Cantina. We were elated because the original location is always so busy they regularly have one hour line ups outside, rain or shine. About a month ago a friend made reservations and they still had to wait an hour for their table! I don’t do lines (queues), period. If I can’t get a reservation and timely seating, I just can’t be bothered to go, no matter how delicious the food claims to be. There are too many really good restaurants in Toronto to waste time standing in line!

Cabana Cantina Junction_4254

The eclectic retro décor really suits the place.

When Playa Cabana Cantina opened in The Junction we were very happy to have a good Mexican restaurant so close to home. We’ve eaten there twice for lunch/brunch both times and I am very happy to report an excellent review BOTH times! We’ve tried going back for dinner but that’s another story.

Our first lunch we each ordered our own meal, and we knew that future visits would entail sharing, the portions are HUGE. JT had a Burrito with Guajillo-chipotle marinated free range chicken grilled over coals with fresh mango salsa which was wrapped with melted Oaxacan cheese, rice, and beans, they topped it with fresh guacamole, pico de gallo, crema, and it sat in two very colourful sauces: green tomatillo sauce and red tomato sauce $13. JT couldn’t say enough good things about it; I had a taste and it was a flavour explosion in my mouth. The red tomato sauce was delicious, the tomatillo was a bit tasteless, but I’ve not had tomatillo sauce before so maybe it is supposed to be mild. Again, there is enough food on the platter to share between two people and I guarantee you will not leave hungry. I ordered a smaller order of three Tacos de Chori-Queso; the tacos were homemade corn and water tacos filled with homemade Mexican Chorizo wrapped with Oaxacan cheese $14. Although my selection was delicious, it was a bad choice for me because the tacos were actually deep fried and the Chorizo was a bit greasy; not withstanding, it was still quite delicious, but I prefer healthier options, particularly when I’m not sharing.

On our second visit we smartened up and shared one of our favourite brunchy plates: Heuvos Rancheros and we were not disappointed. Made with three eggs, Spanish and Mexican Chorizo, rice with corn, black beans, flour tortilla, guacamole, sour cream and queso. The eggs could have been a bit more cooked (the whites were pretty runny) but the yolks were perfect. We divided the plate one third-two thirds (the larger one for JT) and it was perfect. The Chorizo was plentiful and very flavourful and it wasn’t greasy like my first taco experience; it also spiced up the plate with a bit of heat perfectly.

Service was good and both times the food came quickly, but the second time we had to ask for water fill ups. The noise level during Brunch is relatively quiet but another table (bit older than we are) asked them to reduce the volume for the music (we chose a table as far from the hanging speakers as possible). I suspect that it’s likely much more animated during the dinner hours.

Cabana Cantina Junction Huevos Rancheros_4230

Three eggs, chunks of chorizo, a flour tortilla, black beans, guacamole, sour cream, rice and corn.

Cabana Cantina Junction Huevos Rancheros_4254

We shared the Huevos Rancheros the second visit and boy were we glad we did, it was enough food for both of us.

One Thursday night, we decided to try Playa Cabana Cantina in our neighbourhood, but we knew we were playing with fire, so we called first. The gentleman said they were fully booked with reservations but there is ALWAYS seating at the bar; don’t worry, I’ll find you a seat, he said. We do bars! In fact, I love sitting at the bar because you can often get to know the bar tender and it’s always a pleasant conversation. Sadly this was not to happen that Thursday night. About 15 minutes after we called we arrived at the restaurant and guess what? No room, not one seat, not even at the bar. Needless to say we were rather annoyed and likely won’t be going back for a while (they shouldn’t have made promises they knew they couldn’t keep), not that they will miss our business because they seem to be booked every night even without us! Too bad, I liked their food.

Playa Cabana Cantina
2883 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON
647-352-7767

Monday Closed
Tuesday 5pm – 12am
Wednesday 5pm – 12am
Thursday 5pm – 2am
Friday 5pm – 2am
Saturday 5pm – 2am
Sunday 5pm – 12am

Overall rating of The Junction Playa Cabana Cantina (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 3.5/5, food 4/5, Value 4/5, Noise: 4/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meals for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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Bloor West Village has been going through a bit of a make-over in the last few years. This past summer, we had Payless Shoes close (I always wondered what it was doing in our hood) and a Laura Secord shop close (now that was sad, great ice cream) and in their place a new restaurant opened its doors called The Works. The Works is a burger restaurant, but not like any restaurant you’ve seen, they specialize in burgers, high-end burgers. JT stopped by on his day off to have lunch in November and had a good experience so last Sunday we thought we’d another go.

The restaurant is not huge, but it was hopping at the strange hour of 3pm on a Sunday. I guess we were not the only one’s lunching at that hour! It’s decorated in warehouse grunge and it’s quite cool.; corrugated metal on walls, some graffiti, copper plumbing pipe made into cool linear art. The menu is burgers, burgers and more burgers. They offer • Ground Beef • Whole Chicken Breast • Lean Ground Turkey • Gourmet Veggie • Portobello Mushroom Cap • and Lean Domestic Elk (3.39 upgrade). The menu is laid out in steps, so that Step One is selecting your burger, then you choose the venue you would like the burger presented in, with a variety of toppings or if you wish, a salad topped with a burger. I didn’t see a custom burger option but with the variety of choices offered there are plenty so likely there would be no problem in finding something that will satisfy you. The menu is very Toronto centric which is also quite cool and they change the names depending on the city they service (for example, there is the Bloor West Village – grilled eggplant, ripe tomato, red onion & curry mayo 12.93 or the Distillery District – danish blue cheese, walnut chunks & a smattering of dijon-haze sauce 12.91). The burgers are not cheap, but then they are pretty gourmet, and the toppings are not skimpy so you are getting some good value for your dollar.

As I mentioned we arrived at around 3pm on a Sunday afternoon and it was packed. Fortunately, we only had to wait a couple of minutes for them to clean off the table. We were seated with menus and left to peruse for over 10 minutes before a server came by. Even the host came by and asked if we had been seen by someone. Now in all fairness, this was only their second week open, so they may have some hickups to smooth over even though there seemed to be plenty of servers on the floor for the number of people (it’s not a huge place). We placed our orders for drinks and our meals and the drinks came out in a reasonable time, albeit the water took a while. The server warned us that the food will take at least 20 minutes because they make everything fresh. It would have been nice if they had provided some kind of snack (like in Mexican restaurants they give you home made tortilla chips with salsa, or Thai places give you shrimp chips with peanut sauce) since the wait for the food was so long. But they didn’t. We’ll have to keep that in mind if there is a next time as we were pretty hungry.

JT had enjoyed the Elk burger on his previous visit so we both decided to give it another try. It’s not easy to share dishes here because they serve them on galvanized metal trays without cutlery for the most part (my salad came with a fork, I had to ask for a knife). The non-alcholic drinks are served in glass measuring cups (I found it a bit awkward to drink out of the larger glass, so you had to drink with the straw provided). JT ordered the Elk Burger with the Distillery District topping (danish blue cheese, walnut chunks & a smattering of dijon-haze sauce 12.91), I also ordered the Elk but I decided to go with the Waldork Salad (leafy spring mix, red onion, julienned beets, ripe avocado, walnuts, grilled pear then topping it all with some crumbly blue cheese 14.97). Both were quite generous portions with generous toppings, and all in all I was rather satisfied with my selection. I was however, disappointed in my burger which was a tad overdone and quite dry. Apparently they had asked JT how he’d like his burger on his previous visit, but they failed to ask us this time. When I enjoy a house-made burger, I rather like a more rounded burger than a flat patty, because it’s house made, ground on site, you need not be as concerned over having it cooked to death. My patty was flat, dry and over cooked. JT said his was a little less overdone. But two tables from us, the gentleman couldn’t eat his burger because it was too pink. It would have been nice to be asked. Normally I would have sent it back, but frankly I wasn’t prepared to wait another 20 minutes.

Would I go again? Good question. I’m not a big burger eater, so my answer would have to be no, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t recommend it for the burger lovers out there. But I suggest you wait for a couple of weeks so they can work out their kinks!

A tad overcooked for my taste

Overall rating of The Works (in my opinion): Decor 4/5, service 2/5, food 2.5/5, Value 3.5/5, Noise: 2.5/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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On a recent visit to one of our favourite restaurants Bestellen, we chatted with our charming waiter Kirin who is originally from Bath, UK and has been living in the Junction (a short walk from our house) since he arrived about a year ago. He told us about two relatively new restaurants that opened just north or our house, one of which is the Indie Alehouse.

We were excited to try it so we met a friend and her boyfriend on a Friday for drinks and decided to have a small bite while we were there — a Restaurant Review was born.

Let me start by telling you about The Junction; called The Junction because of its proximity to where four rail lines converge and has become an up and coming neighbourhood over the last few years. House prices are still pretty reasonable (for Toronto) and although the overall atmosphere is still a little rough, it’s growing like mad.  This rough exterior adds to its unique character like the Lower East Side in NYC. Lots of young families have moved in and the shops and restaurants are starting to reflect that (when we moved to BWV about 11 years ago, The Junction was actually pretty shady and dumpy).

Indie Alehouse is one of a few new faces on the block and by the local reception, its been a void long needing to be filled. We arrived shortly after seven Friday evening and it was already bustling. We were told a table for four would be about a ten minute wait; but there were four seats at the bar, so we opt for bar seating. Before you knew it, there was a queue outside and the bar area was packed 3 deep in some places.

Indie is a 4,000 square foot brew pub, but most of that square footage must be dedicated to the brewing because the restaurant is not enormous. Decorated with a tin-tile roof, exposed brick, school house lights and warm crafted wooden tables, Indie has a comfortable vibe to it. If it wasn’t for the kitchen pass-through’s blaring fluorescent lights assaulting the warmly lit bar space the lighting wouldn’t have been half bad. And with all the hard surfaces it was rather noisy, and you know how much I like that! Perhaps sitting at a cozy table might have eliminated the overall drone of everyone talking at once, and the odd baby or child crying (yes, these folks bring children to a bar!!!!).

Our bartender (there were two or three) was attentive although my friend must have ticked her off somehow because she conveniently ignored every request my friend made so I started ordering for her. Being a huge fan of coffee beer, I ordered their Breakfast Porter and JT ordered the The Belgian Barnyard (which really didn’t taste like barnyard at all). My Breakfast Porter was a delicious dark creamy beer with coffee, caramel and malt flavours and a very subtle vanilla tone. JTs Belgium Barnyard was a light golden colour with a decent head; it had a light spicy aroma but I think he prefers something a little more robust. My friend ordered a Spadina Monkey which the bartender referred to as a sour beer with a crisp refreshing taste, not unlike a lime and lager; her boyfriend ordered the same as JT. You can also order a flight of five beer tasters for $10 — I wish we had seen that before ordering our pints. We were there for about an hour and getting hungry so each couple ordered a Chacuterie Platter ($19) to share between two of us (if you want to see a photo, click here). To be honest I was disappointed; for $19 we got maybe 100-150 g of meat, although the meat was of excellent quality.

Now we were there relatively early so it was still family time, and we may give it another chance just a little later in the evening. The noise was a downer to me because as you know I am unable to be heard.

Overall rating of Indie Alehouse (in my opinion): Decor 3.5/5, service 3.5/5, food 3/5, Value 2/5, Noise: 1/5 (1 being very noisy, and 5 being very quiet).

Disclaimer: We purchased our meal for full price and my opinions just that, my opinions.

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