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We had our 15th or 16th (I’ve lost count) progressive dinner recently. It was our turn to host the main course, so we got to choose the theme and we chose Canada’s 150th birthday! This opens up the menu to several options and we all did very well! We began our feast with appetizers at John and Nancy’s, they had a lovely selection of Canadian cheeses with a variety of crackers. We were up next and we chose Tourtière as our main course. We finished the evening off at Tom and Iona’s where we enjoyed a Canadian Touque cake! I wish I had taken a picture of it, but it was dark and we were already into a few bottles of vino! 😉

Tourtière is a traditional Québequois meat pie with as many variations on the recipe as there are families! So, of course, I had to put my own spin on it. But before I get to the recipe, allow me to give you a bit of history that I found interesting (like to learn more? This is a good article).

This was the first test recipe.

Tourtière can be traced back to the 1600’s, served on Christmas Eve as part of a massive réveillon after Christmas Mass, it is time-consuming and expensive to make. Original recipes were made of cubed meat instead of ground meat and usually contained a variety of pork, beef, veal and in some cases, wild game. The uniqueness of Tourtière comes from the spices used to flavour the meat blend, most commonly would be cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, summer savoury, and thyme. Some even added grated potato, bread crumbs or oatmeal to help soak up the liquid. The pastry is always a rich, savoury, buttery pastry in a pie form, or are baked in layers like a lasagna; I chose to make mine a log similar to Beef Wellington. I will say, it was tasty but I doubt I would make it again (unless it was a special request).

The first one looked a little rough.

The first recipe I tried included grated raw potato which was added to the browned meat at the end and stock poured over to help cook it. Both JT and I agreed that it lead to a starchy filling and I decided right then and there that I would not go that route. You do need a little something to absorb some of the flavouring liquid so I chose bread crumbs. For this quantity of meat, some recipes added an entire cup, but I really wanted to avoid that starchy, gummy texture so I reduced both the stock and breadcrumbs significantly and was much happier with the outcome. The other thing I did slightly differently, is I added cooked bacon! It really brought a nice, layer of flavour to the pie without being overly bacon-ie.

The pastry is rather rich and employs a completely different method than regular pastry, the butter is room temperature and is basically rubbed into the flour and then the lightly beaten eggs and water are added at once, using the paddle attachment until just combined. Then it is set into the refrigerator to allow for the butter to set. It is rather odd, but it does work and it does make a very rich pastry that is both delicate but firm enough to hold the heavy meat filling. I decorated the log with maple leafs and then I scored the leaves for effect.

Just about ready to be popped into the oven.

Tourtière

Please click here to print recipe
Serves 6, plus

Ingredients:

  • 100 g bacon
  • 275 g each beef, veal, and pork
  • 130 g onion, finely diced
  • 125 g celery, finely diced (roughly 2 ribs)
  • 10 g garlic, finely minced (roughly 2 cloves)
  • 125 mL beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 20-30 g bread crumbs (unseasoned and finely ground)
  • 1 tsp each, salt and pepper (less salt if your bacon was really salty or to taste)
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme

Directions:

  1. Crisp the bacon. Reserve 30 mL (2 tbsp) of the rendered fat (set remainder aside if desired).
  2. Caramelize the onions in the 15 mL (1 tbsp) bacon fat. Near the end, add the garlic and stir until you can smell the aroma (this will cook further, later in the process). Reserve the onions and garlic mixture.
  3. Brown meat in batches using a little bit of the remaining 15 mL of bacon rendering. On the last batch of meat, deglaze the pan with a mixture of the beef stock and Worcestershire sauce.
  4. Turn the heat right down and return all of the meat to the pan, and add the celery and stir well.
  5. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs a little at a time while stirring to achieve a slightly drier texture but be careful, because it can make it mushy and starchy (I used about 20 g of the bread crumbs).
  6. Lightly toast the aromatic spices (nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon). Mix with salt, pepper and dried thyme and sprinkle evenly onto the meat mixture and stir well. Allow the meat to cool completely and then assemble into the pie crust.

 

This one turned out very well.

The Savoury Pastry Recipe

Please click here for original recipe. The recipe makes enough for 1 log.

Please click here to print this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 470 g cake and pastry flour
  • 12 g salt
  • 254 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 125 mL cool water
  • 2 eggs

Directions:

  1. Combine flour, salt and smallish chunks of butter in the large bowl of your stand mixer, equipped with the paddle attachment. Mix until the butter is fully incorporated into the flour (should be mealy).
  2. Combine the water and eggs and mix well. Add the water egg mixture to the dough all at once and mix until just incorporated, the dough will be very shaggy.
  3. Transfer the dough without a lot of handling to a smaller bowl and cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours so the butter can set.
  4. Turn the shaggy dough out and bring it together with your hands, flattening and folding the crumbs until it comes together.
  5. Roll as required or wrap and chill or freeze for future use.

 

May I offer you a slice? Please have some smoked ketchup with it.

Assembly:

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Bring the pastry out of the refrigerator about 15 minutes (or less if it is hot in your kitchen) before you wish to begin rolling. Roll pastry with a little flour on parchment paper.
  3. Roll a rectangle about 30 cm x 40 cm (12″ x 16″) and place the meat mixture into the centre in a long log, leaving space at each end. Fold up the ends and pinch closed and fold up the sides and pinch closed. Cut off excess pastry at the ends, reserve for decoration.
  4. Flip the entire log so that the seam is underneath. Roll the remaining pastry a little thinner than the rectangle and cut out shapes with a cookie cutter (I used a maple leaf).
  5. Lightly brush the pastry with the lightly beaten egg. Decorate with cut outs and then brush the cutouts with the remaining egg.
  6. Bake for 45-50 minutes or until pastry is golden and shiny. Slice into a variety of thicknesses to please all your guests.

Notes:

  • I served the Tourtière with Bacon Jam recipe and home made ketchup (recipe to come) and this Chutney.
  • Sides to consider: creamed corn, peas, green beans with garlic and almonds, and or mashed potatoes. It is a heavy meal so you may wish to include a salad.
  • JT made a wonderful no knead bread and I cut little patts of butter with my small maple leaf cookie cutter.

Night photos always suck.

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ChoppedLogoLast summer I received a most welcome email from my dear blogger friend, Lorraine Elliot of the famed Not Quite Nigella blog. She was coming to Canada as a guest of the Canadian Tourism Commission and Tourism Yukon and she wondered would I be available to meet if she could arrange a slight diversion to Toronto! I was absolutely thrilled! Of course, I wrote back, who wouldn’t want to meet with one of their blogger heroes? I kept having to pinch myself! No, really!

I suspect that there were many arrangements to make/and subsequently change with the Canadian Tourism Commission so that Lorraine could be in TO for a couple of days. They booked her solid so it was a bit whirl-wind, but Lorraine made sure we had at least a half a day and it was awesome! (You can read about Lorraine’s Toronto experience here, here, here, here, and here). I had asked Lorraine to email me her Toronto schedule so that I could a) make the most of her time, and b) choose something to do that wasn’t on the Tourism Commission’s itinerary. I wanted to show her something unique.

Lorraine_Eva

I’m not too good at taking selfies.

I am very fortunate to know or be acquainted personally with many culinary giants in Toronto, mostly through my past life as a Client Service Rep for a design firm that specializes in Food Packaging, but some because of my current vocation, so I got out my address book. I called Claudia Bianchi, a very close friend of a friend, and an accomplished chef, food stylist and producer of several Food Network Canada shows. I knew Claudia was in the midst of the taping of Season 3 of Chopped Canada and I wondered if there might be an opportunity for us to visit the set and even stay a bit to check out the taping. Claudia very generously put me in touch with Cary Mignault, the PR guy for Chopped Canada, Season 3. It was such an amazing experience, Cary was open and more than happy to make the set visit happen. And such perfect timing too, because as it turned out, the day we visited the set was the LAST DAY of taping the show! Can you believe our fortuitousness? Had Lorraine made arrangements for the day after, it simply could not have happened and I would have been up the creek without a paddle!

I picked Lorraine up at the hotel at 7:30 am and we drove across town to Leslieville where they were taping Chopped Canada, Season 3. As soon as she stepped into the car, we talked and talked and talked, it was as if we were long lost friends! I can attest that Lorraine is as lovely, kind and sweet in person as she is on Social Media. Cary met us in the parking lot and we entered the building. To say this is a huge production is an understatement, there is even an enormous refrigerator/prep room filled with full-size refrigerators! And the set is outstanding, sparkly and new, filled with the latest gadgets and appliances, it is a cook’s dream!

FridgeRoom

The Fridge and Prep room

Fridge_PrepRoom

The off set Prep area.

Claudia met us on set and took us for a little tour, this little slide show includes some of the photos sent to me by Cary. Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to chat with Claudia about the show, so here are some insights:

There are a total of ten judges who participate on the show, but there are only 3 seats actually on the show, the judges alternate depending on availability (read about the judges here). The judges are not just there to assess and evaluate the participants but their interaction also provide mentorship to each culinary participant. I enquired how the secret basket of ingredients are determined and Claudia said that she gets her inspiration from many places…it could be a trip to the market, a weekend at their cottage or perhaps her husband’s restaurant (Actinolite) or even some of the judges! And the ingredients need not be Canadian! I asked what ingredient was sourced from the furthest place, sadly she could not mention it as the show had not aired! As you can see from the slide show below, the on stage pantry is exceptionally stocked (here is a link to some great pantry photos (BTW, my friend the designer Kim Sewell, designed most of the labels because they were not permitted to have branded product on set!)).

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ChocScoreMacarons_First

I had the good fortune to be called to work a continuous 9-day job recently. It was a crazy schedule that had us styling and shooting 10-20 shots per day; I was first assistant and we even had a second assistant to help with cleanup and be our runner (running things to set when needed).  Even when everything goes right, it’s a crazy ambitious schedule and at the end of each day, I was so beat, I could barely talk — most days were 11 hours but the last day went 13! I even got to style some of my own work as we had two sets going on a couple of days. We did get one day reprieve in the middle of the hectic schedule and being the crazy woman that I am, I made Chocolate-Skor* Macarons for the team!

To be honest, this flavour combo came by, by error; I had made a batch for our anniversary party and the tops cracked (I beat the egg whites too long), so to hide my error, I coated the cracks with melted chocolate and skor* bits! No one was the wiser and they were by far, the most talked about during the party!

The team LOVED them, so I thought I’d record the recipe for posterity! I’ll be making them again for sure!

Macarons

These are the one’s I served at the party, the bottom tray macarons are the cracked ones I hid with chocolate and skor* bits!

Bucket List

Chocolate-Skor* Macarons

A KitchenInspirations Original Recipe

Makes about 18-22 macarons (depending on how large your cookies are)

Ingredients:

  • 70 g blanched almond meal or flour (finely ground)
  • 116 g icing sugar
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 50 g granulated sugar
  • 15 g cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F (177° C). Prepare your macaron template using your computer to draw 2.5 cm or 1″ circles about 2.5 cm or 1″ apart. Print two sheets. Put the two sheets under your UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner to use as your circle templates.
    MacaronTemplate
  2. Add finely ground almonds, cocoa powder and icing sugar into a food processor and pulse a few times to completely combine.
  3. Press the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture through a fine-mesh sieve to remove the larger bits. You should have no more than 2 tbsps left (discard or save larger almond bits for something else).
  4. In the bowl of your stand mixer, whisk egg whites and granulated sugar by hand to combine. Beat until you have very stiff and glossy peaks when you lift the whisk out of the bowl. DO NOT OVER WHIP or you will get cracked tops.
  5. Add the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture ALL at ONCE to the stiffly beaten egg whites and fold with a silicone spatula starting from 12 o’clock all the way back to 12 o’clock in a clockwise motion, then drag the spatula directly down the middle, pressing firmly against the bowl. Repeat this process until all of the almond/sugar/cocoa mixture has been incorporated and the ‘batter’ flows like lava (I counted about 35 complete strokes). Too few folds will result in cracked tops and too many folds will not permit the feet to form while baking.
  6. Prepare a pastry bag fitted with a 1 cm or 3/8″ round tip. Transfer the batter to the pastry bag.
  7. Begin piping the batter onto the prepared UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner directly over the circles you’ve previously prepared. I found starting directly in the middle and piping a quantity of batter until it reaches the circle edge and lifting the pastry bag up and giving it a little twist to release from the pan, is the best way to do it. However you do the piping, you must be consistent to keep the batter size even. Gently slide out the template paper from beneath the UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner.
  8. Allow the pan to rest for 5 minutes, by doing this you give the peaks time to even out so your Macarons are beautiful and flat on top. Some suggest that you gently bang the pan a few time to remove air bubbles, I found I didn’t have many bubbles.
  9. Bake each sheet separately for 11-13 minutes, rotating halfway through if your oven doesn’t bake evenly. Gently slide the non-stick liner off the baking sheet and allow to cool for a couple of minutes. The UNSTICK™ baking sheet liner allows you to  pry off each macaron half easily onto a cooling rack and allow to cool completely. You may freeze the Macaron halves at this point in a well sealed, air-tight container.
  10. Prepare your buttercream, I loved this recipe from Lorraine Elliot of Not Quite Nigella Blog but I did find that I did not need the entire 75 mL of water, I used only about 35 mL.

Chocolate-Score topping

Ingredients:

  • About 65 g Belgian chocolate
  • About 1/3 cup skor* bits

Directions:

  1. Melt Belgian chocolate in a double boiler until smooth and shiny.

Macaron Assembly:

  1. I prefer to work with at least 1-day old macarons which have sat in the fridge or freezer in an airtight container.
  2. Pipe buttercream onto 1/2 of the macaron cookies. Complete the macaron by choosing a similar-sized bottom and press gently onto the buttercream.
  3. Smear a bit of melted chocolate over the top and bottom of each macaron and dip into the skor* bits.
  4. Place macarons in an airtight container and refrigerate overnight. This is an important step to allow the macaron to develop the correct texture.

Notes:

  • I would not recommend freezing macarons which have already been filled with buttercream.
  • Freeze fully cooled macaron ‘cookies’ in an airtight container, they will last about 1 month (after then they dry out too much).
Macaron_1

They were so good!

This batch the tops did not crack, but I wanted the chocolate-score topping anyway!

The tops did not crack with this batch, but I wanted the chocolate-skor* topping anyway!

*Skor was corrected from Score!

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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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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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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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