Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Review of Mengrei Thai with my gals

So this weekend it was my school girls' last weekend before they all went off to their respective parts of the planet to continue their lives after we all completed Nutrition school together. Yes it was a sad weekend of farewells but it all cullminated with a delicious comfort meal of Thai food at a very quaint but busy restaurant tucked on an Ontario street corner. The restaurant doubles as a cooking school so the chef and assistants certainly know what they are doing as they educate on the art of cooking all day.

The decor is very cute as the walls are made up of exposed brick and paintings line the walls. Very clean, simple but cute. The only awkward part is that the place is divided into 3 separate rooms. 1 small room in the middle as you walk in from outside then the 2 main dining rooms at either side. I always like the more open concept type space but all in all it is a pleasant atmosphere.
As for the food, my friend and I shared the fresh cold vegetarian spring rolls to start. Filled with tofu, mango, carrots and hoisin sauce, it was light and refreshing - perfect to start the meal off.

Next the 3 of us had 3 of their top dishes. I had the green curry with shrimp. My friends had the red curry with tofu and the pad thai respectively. These were 3 of the most highly recommended dishes from both my friend who had been there before and the waiter. Both curries were delicious with the green version being slightly more spicey than the red. My stomach doesn't do too well with spicey but the steamed rice I added to the mix tamed the heat down considerably making it much more enjoyable and worry free! Large morsels of shrimp swam in the flavourful broth, finished with all sorts of veges.

                                                                Red curry

All in all the food was delish. One thing I would recommend to all my foodies wanting to dine there is to speficy in you reservation (and yes you should reserve as it gets packed) that you would like to sit  in one of the 2 main dining rooms and not the lonely bar area which we were designated to since we hadn't specified..

Also, the service was a little on the slow side, although we realized we had been assigned to the 2 new employees who had apparently only been there for 2 days so who knows if they had made a mistake in the ordering....and maybe another reason why they assigned them to the small empty room were were sitting in. However, all the waiters and manager alike were very welcoming, sweet and attentive, which made up for the long wait...Buuuut of course I couldn't help but do my usual get up and ask the waiting staff if our food had been forgotten (as if they had literally lost our orders..what happens when you're desperately hungry haha)

Mengrei Thai
82 Ontario Street

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Classic french cuisine at Biff's Bistro avec maman

Sorry guys it has been a while since I've posted...school's sort of taken over my life...regardless, I've been very excited to finally blog about my most recent entry...Biff's Bistro.

My mom came to visit me last weekend from Montreal so she asked me where I wanted to go eat while she was here. Knowing I'm a real foodie, she trusted me to make some stellar picks. Of course I was so caught up in school work that I waited until the last minute and all the places I was thinking about were of full all weekend :( I'm telling you if you want a get a table at one of the new trendy places in Toronto on a Friday or Saturday you better make sure to get a reservation well ahead of time...or you may be greatly disapointed. My mother then suggested a place I had never heard of... a place she had been a couple years earlier on a prior visit to Toronto...called Biffs Bistro. I wasn't too sure about it cuz I had never heard of it and I'm always on top of knowing what's best out there!! But, in the end i must give her all the credit because it was the best place we went to eat out of all 3 nights she was here.. Way to go mom!! I know where I get my good taste in food from ;)

This is one of the restaurants owned by the Oliver and Bonnicini group. First of all the service was attentive and top notch throughout. True we were pretty much the only ones there in this great big open space and it was still early for supper on a sunday since I had to get my mom to the airport (we were told the restaurant just started being open for supper sundays so it hadn't caught on quite yet..) However my mom assured me the last time she was here it was packed. I can only imagine the amazing vibe this place must have on a full night. Such great ambiance in this place...and for my me and family, that's half of what makes or breaks a restaurant!

Now to the foooooood....So consistently good. I made sure to take more than just 1 pic this time for you guys. I was super excited to show you guys what we ate. Too bad I can't have one of those fancy cameras cuz I really don't think my blackberry camera does justice to the quality and presentation of the food.

First they brought to our table some classic french cornichons (baby pickles) and fresh grainy mustard along with our bread basket. Made sure to get a pic...totally bistro style.  
cornichons and fresh grainy mustard

As an appetizer I had this perfect salad that combined all the right flavours of sweet, salty, crunchy, chewy.. It was a roasted beet, spiced pecan and cheese salad. I had never heard of Ciel de Charlevoix cheese. It's a Quebec cheese that my mom assured me was terrific, and since my mom is as quebecois as you get, and is a cheese fanatic on top of it, I took her word for it. I was not disappointed. It had a bit of a bite but not as strong as a blue cheese and was firm yet melt in your mouth delicious. Complemented the sweetness of the

I followed that up with a seafood bouillabaisse (basically seafood stew). Coming from Montreal and having eaten at many a  french restaurant, I have encountered some good and not so good versions of this dish. This one was definitely one of my favorite. What I especially appreciated about it was that they cooked the large morssels of fish and seafood seperately then the waiter added the fish broth over the whole beautifully presented concoction right in front of my eyes. The fish was topped with a cheese covered baguette crouton. I savoured every last bite..and of course soaked up the rest of the spicy broth with bread until I polished the bowl..mmmm!

bouillabaisse...I want more!!

My mom opted for one of her staple favorite dishes - the mussels - always a must at a french bistro. These were a la Provencal (in a tomato, garlic and thyme broth) They were huuuge!  - I swear the meat in those shells were 3 times the size I'm used to. Needless to say she was very pleased by the portion...and the quality. The broth was savoury as again,  we both dipped bread in it to finish off when she was done! She ordered some signature thin cut french fries which came with a side of fresh housemade rouille (also a classic  french sauce made up of olive oil, chili peppers, and garlic) It paired great with the fries.

mussles, fries, and rouille

We shared a nice bottle of white bourgogne alligote which complemented our seafood dishes perfectly. No room for desert though.. But what a great finish to an amazing weekend with my mom. It's times like this that I really appreciate my french heritage and my family's love for good food..

....oh and did I mention that I love food?!

So just go, and try the desert for me...let me know what I missed out on!
Biff's Bistro
4 Front Street East

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Asuka - Authentic sushi in the heart of Yorkville

I say sushi, when well done, should be like sex in the mouth. The distinct flavours in a maki roll should leave me closing my eyes allowing me to distinguish the independant ingredients yet savouring their harmony as a whole.

Asuka is the first sushi place I have ever been to in Toronto and still remains my favorite..for that exact reason..

Sato the chef is there every day except monday. He is completely passionate about his art, his sushi.

The best, very best roll is the red carpet roll. This original and melt in your mouth roll consists of crispy shrimp, avocado, and tempura bits wrapped in rice paper and rolled in an abundant amount of fresh tuna sashimi. (yup that's right - no rice! so a great choice for all you low carb addicts ;)  And this whole concoction is topped with a delicious spicy sauce. This same roll is offered as a yellow carpet roll, where the tuna is replaced with salmon. Whenever my family and I go to Asuka we straight away order one of each even before thinking about looking at the rest of the menu.. talk about sex in the mouth!

Other great choices in include the sexy roll- consisiting of shrimp tempura, eel, spicy tuna and avocado

Their straight up sashimi also rises above the rest. Chef Sato never skimps on the portions..you'll have plenty to keep you full...and by that I don't mean rice..i mean fresh fish and or/veges.

The decor is casual yet very authentically japanese. You don't feel like you're in a pretentious sushi restautant and yet the quality may reflect top notch!

So make your way to the underground restaurant on Yorkville avenue and visit where all the NHL players and movie starts frequent whenever they are in town...just take a look at all the portraits on his wall of these celebrities posing with Sato to prove it...guessing he must be doing something right!

Red carpet roll and and fish roe roll

Asuka Japanese Restaurant
108 Yorkville Avenue
(416) 975-9084

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pure Spirits Oyster House

Can I just say I love the Distillerie district?! I love walking along the cobble stone streets and peaking into the little art galleries or boutiques. But first and foremost, they have quite the noteworthty restaurants- my favorite being Pure Spirits Oyster House

Unfortunately, I have never tried their signature oysters, however they are not short on other delectible dishes. The menu is quite impressive to read. If you have an adventurous pallet you've got a lot to choose from.

 I just had to post a pic of the interior, which I love. Firstly, don't get me started on the exposed brick...Looooove the rustic feel! And on a very original note, wine bottles are hung horizontally along the wall so as to give it the wine cellar feel. Very cool.. Most of the tables are booths at one of the room, and a long narrow bar filled with stools line the other side. Funnily enough they are more well known for their patio in the summer, but yet both times I have been we have chosen to eat inside due to the interior atmosphere.

Food is varied for all tastes. The chef is definitely not afraid to experiment with different flavours such as their
hawaiian ahi tuna tartar mixed with sesame seeds , grilled pineapple, red onions and served with rice crisps - perfect for making little canapes. Very fresh and copious. I savoured every bite of that one...only wish I had the pic to show you guys :(...oh well, guess I'll have to go back soon to get on that ;)
Another noteworthy dish is their goat cheese and roasted beet salad. Verry generous on the sweet beets! It's also completed with marinated mushrooms, red onions, balsamic and fig vinaigrette. delightful

Their sandwiches are alright but not one of their best dishes. Pretty sure they only serve them for lunch. So many of their entrees I haven't tried sound great..such as short ribs, black cod...In a nutshell, looks like I'll have to be going back very soon

Although their specialty is seafood, there are plenty of meat and vegetarian options to choose from. So an excellent choice for tastes of all kinds...not to mention a vibrant atmosphere!

Located at:

55 Mill Street
[416] 361 5859

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sunday Brunch at Lola's Commissary

Went to brunch at Lola's Commissary on Church street today witih my bro. Right from the moment we walked in we were impressed by the building and decor. The exposed brick walls lined with paintings and the simply furnished open space made for an inviting place to want to sit in and relax on a slow halloween sunday.

Bro got Eggs Lola: poached eggs, ancho chicken, tortillas, avocado, la vaquita (sheep’s milk crème fraiche). Looked amazing. (and dish was scarfed down at the speed to confirm the presumption..)

I got the Egg White Frittata . filled with goat’s cheese, mushrooms, spinach, hemp pesto.the flavours were magical..

Was originally going to get the Eggsmopolitan - their version of the salmon benny - always a brunch favorite of mine, but unfortunatetely they were out of salmon today. I guess I'll have to go back verrrry soon to get my fix.
I am indeed looking forward taking a friend there for my next visit.

The menu boasts both sweet and savoury dishes as well as vegetarian options. So suitable for all tastes.

                                               Egg white frittata..with rye toast and "sexy potatoes"
                                               (mix of sweet and roasted potatoes)

Lola's Commissary
634 Church St.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Lunch at Utopia Cafe

I've been to Utopia Cafe 3 times and have never been disapointed. They have a killer menu (by that i mean in quality aaand quanitity...very long) But the restaurant doesn't suffer from the usual downfalls of places offering a large menu - usually being the quality of the food!
Not only is it good, but be prepared to take half of it home as the portions are huuge...but still serve up some healthy and fresh ingredients. What I love about this place is they don't skimp on the veges and greens. I've experienced too many dinners out where the restaurant's salad is composed of a few lonely pieces of lettuce.

For this particular meal, my parents were over for a visit from Montreal, and as I know my mom loves her salads, I figured it would be a great place to take them for a nice lunch on a beautiful sunday afternoon.
My dad got a lamb and brie wrap (yes sounds quite rich...but oh so good, and just spicy enough to keep you wanting more). But to my complete shock, my father, who I have never seen leave anything on his plate, couldn't finish the decadant sandwich. This only due to the fact that it was humongous and rich enough to make up 3 meals for a regular person!
My mother got a shrimp curry salad. The dozen or so shrimp were prepared in a spicey indian rub and covered a beatiful bed of lettuce.

But I must admit I as "the winner!" (common expression my mother uses for the person who seems to have chosen the best meal out of all those at the table!)

I couldn't resist..I got the warm goat cheese and mushroom salad. I added a tender marinated chicken breast to the order and the plate was perfect in terms of flavors and texture. I- ate the whole thing! Granted I can live off salad.

So for those of you who love fresh ingredients, and a lot of them - along with friendly, no fuss service - check out Utopia.

P.S. They also have the vegetarian friendly option to subsitute any of the meat dishes with tofu! This is great news to any or my vegetarian and vegan friends! Now everyone can go out together and enjoy a top notch lunch or dinner right in the heart of the trendy College street strip.

My salad- "Objects in picture are muuuuuch larger than they appear"

Located at:

586 College St (corner Clinton St.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pho mi gia phung...on a tuesday night

With all the simple yet wonderful little vietnamese restaurants that line the streets of Gerrard St east, I decided to check this unnasuming joint in East Chinatown on a quiet Tuesday evening. Despite the fact that I may have difficulty remembering how to pronouncing the name of this restaurant,  I can assure you it remains memorable. I was immediately impressed by the warm service and passion of the servers...and then very soon found out my waitress was the daughter of the owner and chef...so that may explain quite a bit.

But seriously, I am so used to going to Hanoi 3 Seasons next door to satisfy my routine pho craving.., but this resto holds a place of sanctuary. The manager Tyler is incredibly helpful and patient (who I later found out used to actually manage Hanoi next door), as is my waitress Jenn (daughter of the owner).

I decided to order the delicious house renowned "Mi do bien" which is a bowl of mixed seafood in a light aromatic broth with egg noudles. I never realized until now how much more flavour egg noodles have compared to rice noodles. What I found original is that they serve the noodles seperate from the soup.I was told this helps keep the flavour of the egg noodles intact. Very true indeed- slightly sweet and delicious. Then I realized they bathe the noodles in a light sauce made with green onions and jus a dash of oil....perfect. So then it becomes a do it yourself. You decide how much of the noodles to add into the broth.. best is to do it a little at a time to keep flavours fresh. Genius!
So there you go...a great new twist on a usually very simple dish.The rare beef pho is also devine..and a dish they are known for!
                                                                     Mi do bien

Pho mi gia phung
Located at 598 Gerrard (corner Broadview)
416 463 6699

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The One and Only Cafe

I came to this cafe on the Danforth today as part of my Indie Cofee Passport tour.

I started off by heading there with the goal of getting some school work done. I had a beautiful soothing  rooibos loose leaf tea. The atmosphere of the place was very inviting. Lighting is always a big one for me and I felt at home welcomed here right away as the barista was very helpful and friendly.

When I was done work I realized there's actually a bar attached to the coffee house. They are actually called "The Only". So they work together. They've got a good thing going on here though because both the bar and cafe are host to some delicious and unique drinks. So at "The Only", the first thing I noticed was the very extensive collection of beer from around the world lining the backwall fridge. So many types I have never seen. I figured I just HAD to try one before I left. I mentioned I am not usually a traditional beer lover and tend to go for the fruity type. The bartender immediately suggested I try the Amsterdam "Strong Framboise beer" Sitting in at 6.5% alcohol - I guess that's what they call strong. Regardless, it was delicious and fruity, but NOT too sweet...key for me!

So all in all, I highly recommend both parts of this establishment. Start your outing at the cafe then move over to the bar for a yummy, very well priced pint or bottle of beer. Best of all, look forward to being welcomed by a friendly staff!

Amsterdam Strong Framboise beer

The One and Only Cafe
Located at 966 Danforth (neer Greenwood)