Monday, June 22, 2015

NaRoma Pizza Bar

Date Visited: Lunch on Sunday Jun 14, 2015
Company: Walk-in for 5

I had a bit of a family reunion this summer and had a bunch of family members from out of the country stay at my house for a few weeks. My cousin +Mark decided to take our cousins from HK out for a hiking day trip in Hamilton to experience some Canadian nature. After being rained out, we headed into the city to grab some lunch. We picked NaRoma out of a list of restaurants from a blogTO article showcasing some of the best places to eat in the city. Parking wasn't too hard to find on Locke St. and we also saw a few shops to stop by after lunch (ie cupcakes!).

The location was a lot smaller inside than I expected with only about 8 tables and more of a cafe vibe than a restaurant. Our wait for 5 people was going to be around 10 minutes. Their menu was very intensive with a ton of different pizza flavours. We were a bit confused on what their 'sizes' meant and weren't sure if flavours meant we could try multiple on an order. We ended up getting 2 Coppia's (12 pieces) and only 2 flavours, but we could have tried 4 flavours which was unfortunate to find out after. Our wait seemed forever as we were starving from the hiking but the kitchen also seemed to take a long time. Every time I saw the cooks slicing up pizza I was excited but it seemed they had a lot of take-out orders.

Eventually, our pizzas did come fresh out of the oven and they were huge for the smallest sizes. Our first pick was the Brie e Prosciutto with Mozzarella, Triple Cream Brie Cheese, Prosciutto, Fig Jam, Caramelized Onions, Arugula, and reduced Balsamic. The Prosciutto was very crispy and you could really taste the Brie. The Arugula balanced nicely with the sweet Balsamic which was drizzled all over. I liked this the best, the flavours were equally distributed and tasted great together!

Our second pizza was the Vegetale with Mozzarella, Ricotta, Zucchini, Rapini, Red Peppers, and Garlic. The only reason I didn't enjoy this one as much were the Garlic patches, all I could taste was garlic after eating them. The flavours of the vegetables weren't as prominent, but it was more cheesy and bland. My cousins from HK preferred this one however while Mark and I preferred the Prosciutto.

I was very impressed with their pizzas, they are thicker crust and less cheese but were done excellently. The dough was delicious which is important in this case and they had a ton unique flavours for you to choose from, I can see why it's such a popular spot!

Food: 4/5 - Delicious and filling pizza.
Decor: 2/5 - Very small and hipster, set like a pizza cafe.
Service: 2/5 - Nice servers but slow!
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Definitely!
Overall: 3/5


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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

VIP Bistro

Date Visited: Brunch on Sunday Jun 7, 2015
Company:Walk-in for 3

+Stanley was in town for the weekend and we were planning to grab some brunch with him before he headed back to NY. I randomly looked online for somewhere we can meet mid-town, in between both of our locations. I found Vip/Vivetha Bistro online but it was a bit confusing as to what it's real name was as there are multiple locations and no website for this specific one. Nonetheless, +Will and I drove from downtown into a quaint neighborhood past Yonge and Lawrence to find it. We got some parking on a side street and had a nice stroll through the large houses in the neighborhood onto Yonge. We found the spot and saw that it is called VIP Bistro and even had a website on the sign. After checking the website just now, it is no longer active.

The place was pretty small with about 7-8 tables but was decently filled up. We sat and were given some menus to look over while our waitress asked what we wanted to drink. I was surprised that their food menu didn't have a page for drinks, I kind of wanted something but didn't know what kinds of juices they had. About 5 minutes after we placed our food order, the server came over to tell us that it would be about a half hour wait for food and asked if that would be okay... we said yes because what else are you supposed to say? Stanley already got his coffee so all we could do was wait. Looking around, only 1 table had their food so far so it couldn't have been good news for us.

For my dish, I got the Eggs VIP, Eggs Benedict with spinach and mushrooms with the eggs poached medium as they ask you how you like them done. I wasn't very impressed with the hollandaise sauce as it was very bland and hardly any of it at all. I loaded salt on the eggs to get some flavour as spinach and mushrooms were bland also. The potatoes were pretty good but it seems like they were sitting out for a bit, not that warm. It was a pretty disappointing plate overall and not even filling. 

Will got the Brunch Combo Platter with Blueberry Pancake, French Toast, Eggs, Bacon, and Sausage. He substituted Blueberry for Strawberry so they put some sauce on the side for him. The french toast and pancake looked amazing and were equally delicious. I've never had good french toast before but now I have, it being smothered in apple sauce really helped though. His other plate was also half-filled with scrambled eggs, no way that was only 2 eggs.

Our waitress did apologize for the wait when the food did come, she mentioned something about the cook... he was new or something? She didn't check up on us any other time though and just seemed to avoid the whole situation which was awkward because the restaurant is pretty small.

Food: 2/5 - Worst Eggs Benny I've had, but delicious French Toast!
Decor: 2.5/5 - Quite small but clean and simple.
Service: 0.5/5 - Awful, not sure what kind of business they are running here where the kitchen is this slow.
Willing to go back: 1/5 - Unlikely but would definitely recommend the Brunch Combo.
Overall: 1.5/5

Website: n/a

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Monday, June 15, 2015

George Restaurant

Date Visited: Late Dinner on Wednesday June 3, 2015
Company: AJ's Convocation dinner for 6

Last week, +Will invited me to dinner with his family to celebrate AJ's convocation from Queen's U. They had recently found out about my food blog and Will advised me I would enjoy the restaurant they chose for dinner. He gave me the link and told me to check out their interesting cocktails. The location was walking distance from Will's and had a very cool exterior with large tall door. Upon entering, the decor was a bit more fancy but with a modest atmosphere. They had an open kitchen which we were seated right next to with a mirror on the ceiling to see the chef's working stations. There seemed to be a lot of students in the kitchen learning as well.

We were explained a bit about the difference between their five-course and seven-course tasting menu, each contains an amuse bouche, 1 or 3 appetizers, fois gras, a red-meat course, a cheese course and dessert. The Seven-Course Tasting Menu was decided upon and I also got the George - 75 Cocktail for a drink. The cocktail consisted of Tanqueray Gin, Aperol, St. Germain Elderfower Liqueur, Champagne, and a dash of fresh lemon juice. I hadn't really had anything similar to it before but it was very delicious, not too sweet and a bit tangy. We also got some interesting bread for the table to start with some crisps that were very oily but delicious and different breads on the bottom.

Our first dish was the amuse bouche, a bite-size hors d'oeuvre. Mine kind of fell apart while they brought it out so AJ switched so my photo would look better :) It was a mushroom puree on top of grilled eggplant and chipotle mayo with Plum relish. Everyone enjoyed the flavour and it got our taste buds ready for the rest of the meal. This is also when we realized that we'll have to take notes of our dishes as they were way too complicated to remember. Most of the table received wine pairings for each dish so it was interesting to hear the sommelier speak to each of them.

So when our first dishes came, we knew we were in trouble for remembering ingredients as they decided to do two different dishes for our table of 6. The plus side was that that we were able to try even more dishes by sharing. We received a Potato wrapped Tuna and Sesame Crab Cake with Lentil Salad. I'm not usually a fan of Tuna but this may have turned me into a fan, the middle was so soft and the potato exterior provided a crispy edge, great textures. The crab cake was not like anything I'd had before, very rich in flavour while the lentil salad provided good balance.

Next, we had Salmon Tappanyaki with Saffon in the front and White Asparagus and Peas in the back and Steelhead Trout with grilled white Asparagus. The Trout had an mild flavour as I've never had it before but I definitely preferred the Salmon, it was cooked perfectly and was presented with interesting ingredients. I was surprised how un-fishy all of the seafood tasted as they were mostly raw.

Our last seafood dish was an Octopus Carpaccio over a Radish Carpaccio and Butter Lobster with Sesame Soya Noodles and Tempura. I adored the presentation of the Octopus, it was like a drawing on paper, the flavours were light and refreshing. I was happy to see an Asian inspired dish with the Soya noodles, it was the heaviest of all our dishes so far but have a variety of textures to keep it interesting. 

Next would be our Fois Gras plates, and once again our Chef decided to be creative and make two separate dishes. One was the Duck in a Mint Crepe with Buffalo Mozzarella with Fois Gras on top and Tomato Foam and the other was a Fois Gras on Sweetbread. So I read and seen a lot of videos about fois gras before so I was both nervous and excited to finally try it. So the duck was basically raw which made it very difficult to cut through and chew. It was probably my least favourite dish of the night, there was just a lot going on on the plate. The fois gras specifically was extremely tender and melts in your mouth, it tasted pretty much how I'd expected. It made it a bit harder to eat just knowing so much about the controversies over it. A few bites were do-able but I didn't think I could eat it all. The second dish was served over sweetbread, which I just Googled now to find out what it was. I definitely thought it was just chicken and sweetbread was the coating they used over it. It tasted very good though and I'm glad I didn't know what it was when I was eating it.

Our peak of the courses were the red meats, I received a Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Asparagus and Sweet Potato while Will got the Beef Tenderloin with Cheese and Peppercorn. There was also some Pesto and Gnocci on the plate for sure but our waiter kind of stopped after the first part, I think he forgot what it was. Will and I were both happy with what we got so we weren't sure if we were going to do halfsies on this one. The Lamb was spectacular, pink on the inside but subtle flavour and so tender. The sweet potato were in sheets and stacked on each other, so creative and fun to eat, not to mention it accentuated the flavour. Will cut me off a piece of his steak, it was too rare for my usual liking but tasted pretty tender. The gnocci was an interesting addition but tasted great.

Our second last plate was cheese which is something I've never experienced before. This time they gave us three different types instead of two. I had the Pasturized Cow's milk with Apples and Pecans. The cheese was very creamy and thick almost like brie. The flavour was very tart so it was nice to pair with the other various things on the plate which were all generally sweet.

And finally, our desserts! We got three different ones again this time. Both Will and I were lucky to receive the Chocolate Souffle with Mandarin Tea! I thought at first it was Lava cake but once you broke into it, it was so soft, creamy, and held together. The Mandarin flavour was quite sour, all the sweetness was left to the chocolate. I didn't really enjoy the texture the cookie crumbs added to the plate, a bit unnecessary for me. I also tried some of AJ's Lemon Pie, it was so sour but actually tasted really good as it had equal sweetness, very lovely.
As an end note, I think everyone had a fun and enjoyable time at George Restaurant, I love discussing food over a meal and we were able to do that with this tasting menu. It offered so much variety and I don't think anyone wouldn't have enjoyed it! A foodie's dream meal :)

Food: 4.5/5 - Experienced so many new flavours and all done brilliantly.
Decor: 5/5 - Very classy, interesting decor and views into the kitchen.
Service: 4/5 - Mostly knowledgeable, a few staff weren't very detailed with their descriptions of the food.
Willingness to go back: 5/5 - Great experience and would love to return.
Overall: 4.5/5