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Friday, January 23, 2015

Beerbistro

Date Visited: Dinner on Tuesday Dec 30, 2014
Company: Reservation for 4 turned into a party for 2.

Amidst the holiday buzz, +Stanley tried to plan a get-together dinner, but after a few last-minute cancellations, I was the only one who was able to make it. Either way, we met up at Beerbistro downtown Toronto to grab a nice dinner with some drinks. Staying true to their name, Beerbistro does have a wide range of beers from various parts of the world. Many of them are limited to either bottles or draught but they have a good variety from what you would normally find. I opted for a Weihenstephan, a light and fruity German beer to start off an easy night. 
I had read on some blog that Beerbistro has one of the best 'cheap' steaks in Toronto so I had to try it since I was there. They also had a variety of mussel and pizza options that looked really good too but in the end I got a steak+Stanley got some mussels and we ordered some fries to start (Stanley forgot I had fries with my steak already). Our waitress took a while to get to us because she wasn't sure if our 2 extra seats were going to be filled or not. After a while we just called her over to take our orders.


From what I recall, it didn't take very long for our appetizer to arrive. The Belgian Frites were described as blanched in beef and fuck fat, served with house made mayo and smoked tomato ketchup. I was surprised at the portion size when it arrived, it was served in a large cone napkin with handy condiment holders on either side. The fries were amazing! They were lightly salted and were crisp on the outside but perfectly tender in the middle. The mayo and ketchup were good but hardly even needed as they tasted fine just alone, very addicting.

The New England Style Mussels had beer bacon, leeks, potatoes, smoked cheddar, parsley, shallots, la fin du monde, a touch of cream and came with sourdough bread. The bowl it came in was pretty large, we weren't sure what to expect but it was a hefty amount of food. We did notice that the mussels were pretty small but the overall flavour was good, especially with the bread to dip.
The Steak Fries was a grilled flat iron steak topped with caramelized onion jus and pommery stout aoli. We weren't even done our fries appetizer and I was getting more fries added to my plate! Even with the excess of fries, I could not stop myself from eating them. The steak was cooked a bit more well-done then I would have preferred for medium-well but there was a still a hint of pink there. The onions added some flavour to the otherwise plain steak. It was a good piece of meat but a bit tough and not much seasoning, slightly disappointed in it.

Food: 3.5/5 Could have been beer but still decent food I enjoyed.
Decor: 4/5 - Very classy and interesting layout, not too loud either.
Service: 3.5/5 - Pretty good until it took forever to get our bill.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Great spot for a fancy dinner with good ambiance.
Overall: 4/5


Beer Bistro on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 19, 2015

Pho Real

Date Visited: Late dinner on Saturday Dec 20, 2014
Company: Post-Secret Santa get together dinner with +Kelvin+Stanley, and Vanessa

After our Annual Secret Santa gift exchange in Woodbridge, some of us were leftover and decided to go for a small, late dinner. We looked up some Pho places and found Pho Real in the area which had some decent reviews. It was a little hard to find the location in the dark at the back corner of a plaza with small signage. The restaurant was medium-sized like a typical Vietnamese restaurant with tons of windows but very interesting decor in the corners. 

We got a table for four easily, it surprisingly wasn't empty on a late Friday night. I did notice that the prices were a bit higher than you would usually pay for pho. I ordered Grilled Chicken Vermicelli which ended to be around $14 after tax/tip. There was 4 of us so it took a bit longer than usual to get our dishes. +Stanley and +Kelvin ordered Pho while Vanessa and I ordered Vermicelli. In the end, the Pho was really the way to go. I had a small bowl to taste and thought the broth flavour was wonderful, some of the best I've had. The Vermicelli dishes on the other hand were a totally different story. I found my Vermicelli extremely spicy, nothing in my bowl seemed like it was spicy but I would get random bursts of it every so often so it was probably the sauce... bad idea to pour it all in? I found it a bit difficult to finish but managed to survive. But mine didn't even compare to the level spiciness of Vanessa's Beef Vermicelli had, her and +Kelvin had to order a drink in order to even be able to eat it. Other than that, the chicken its self wasn't the greatest, it was a fatty piece of chicken and just covered with spices of all sorts. The spring roll was also shaped oddly and very oily. Despite the fact that the Vermicelli wasn't very good, I still have faith from the few bites of the Pho I had that this place is worth checking out if you don't mind spending a bit more.

Food: 2.5/5 - Authentic pho, wasn't a fan of the vermicelli.
Decor: 2.5/5 - OK, pretty clean, your average pho spot.
Service: 3/5 - Pretty on top of things.
Willingness to go Back: 3/5 - Definitely would recommend it if I was in the area.
Overall: 2.5/5

Website: none

Pho Real on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Memphis BBQ & Wicked Wings

Date Visited: Lunch on Saturday Dec 20, 2014
Company: Take-out for 8

For our Annual University Secret Santa gift exchange this year, we decided to hold it at +Kelvin's parents new house rather than our typical restaurant only outing. I still needed to find a place for lunch in the Woodbridge area though as a potluck wasn't happening with our group. I happened to find Memphis BBQ which is practically in Kelvin's backyard on a BlogTO list for one of the Best BBQ Restaurants in Toronto, lucky us! We decided to do take-out there since the photos didn't show it was very large and may have been a hassle to find a seating for 7.

When we arrived, the place was very dive-y, located just beside a convenient store with nothing else around. The place was hustling when we entered with the cooks just a few feet away and tons of steam coming from the meat, it smelled heavenly. It was a bit crowded when we were all standing there looking at what to order on their take-out menu, but we just decided to get one of their Party Packs listed on the wall. Split between 8 of us, it came out to be $12 each. There was quite a bit of seating as well in the next week if we really wanted to eat here, it wasn't too busy in the late lunch hours on the Saturday. The Party Pack we ordered came with 3 racks of Ribs, 2 lbs of Wings (Honey Garlic & Spicy BBQ), 2 lbs of Pulled Pork, Beans, Coleslaw, Cornbread and Fries. We waited outside for about 15-20 minutes and they called us in to grab our food to go.

When we arrived back at Kelvin's, we had a table for all the food to be laid out and where we could fill up our plates. It was a bit of chaos at first but we all divided the food evenly and sat down to enjoy the meal together. The main part of the meal was were the Ribs since we had 3 racks and the most leftovers of that. The meat was very tender and fell off the bone with a smoky, sweet flavour. I really wish I could have had some more of that but knew I needed room for the rest! We all had 1 wing of each flavour and I preferred the Spicy BBQ as it had a nice kick to it. The Honey Garlic was a bit plain and bland. The Pulled Pork was also very delicious, full of tangy flavour and easy to eat. Some people complained that they had large chunks of un-pulled pork in theirs though. The Beans and Coleslaw were a nice addition, the beans had a ton of flavour and the coleslaw added some vegetables and acidity to the meaty meal. The Fries were nothing special, as with the Cornbread, it didn't taste like much.


The amount of food was perfect for our group size, we had a bit leftover but everyone was happily full. Memphis BBQ did a great job on their meats and definitely worth a visit here if you're in the area.

Food: 4/5 - Great authentic BBQ!
Decor: 2/5 - Pretty sketchy but roomier than I thought it would be on the inside.
Service: 4/5 - Very friendly and decent wait time for the amount of food.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Worth it!
Overall: 3.5/5 


Memphis BBQ & Wicked Wings on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Symposium Café

Date Visited: Brunch on Saturday Dec 6, 2014 
Company: Walk-in for 6, post-sleepover at +Stanley's

The morning after a sleepover in Markham, we were looking for places in the area to have a nice brunch. After intensive researching on Yelp and Google, we found a Symposium in the area. I've been the the Symposium in Uptown Waterloo before as it's pretty popular for a fancier dessert place in the city but didn't know it was a huge chain. It had been a time long ago (before I was really into food) that I went there for dessert so I was excited to try out their savoury plates. The location was easy to find and in a newer plaza with very little surrounding the area.

For drinks, they had $4 a Bloody Caesar special so I definitely had to order one of those. It was pretty nice with little garnishes, I was very impressed for only $4 from 11AM to 3PM (everyday!).

I wasn't really feeling any of the breakfast specials and decided to order a Chicken Parmesan Sandwich, one of their "Symposium Signature Dishes". Our waiter was quite friendly and helpful, he seemed a little busy with the other tables also but was still attentive to us when we needed something. The wait was a bit long for our food but it wasn't too ridiculous... I think it was worth the wait when all the servers came and brought our dishes from the kitchen, it all smelled amazing.

The piece of breaded chicken was very large with odds and ends sticking out from the little Ciabatta bun. I was hoping for something very saucy and tender and even though I didn't get exactly that, I was not disappointed at all. The flavour from this sandwich was spectacular, the marinara sauce was brilliant, packed with flavour and the mozzarella cheese added texture to the breaded crust of the chicken. The fries came with an aoili that paired well if you still wanted ketchup. The fries were rather standard though. I could only finish half of the sandwich and packed the other half to go so I could enjoy it later. +Will ended up having it as I went to see him after and he hadn't had lunch yet. He also agreed that it tasted 'really good' which is saying something as he usually don't have much of an opinion on food.

Definitely one of the best Parm Sanwiches I've had to date, this is one dish where I would order again and again and worth not trying something new over.

Food: 4/5 - Great food and prices!
Decor: 3/5 - Got a nice window seat and interesting decor.
Service: 3/5 - Nice waiter, just a bit slow.
Willingness to go back: 4.5/5 - Definitely have to try their desserts also.
Overall: 3.5/5 

Website: http://www.symposiumcafe.com/

Symposium Cafe Restaurant & Lounge on Urbanspoon

Thursday, November 20, 2014

El Catrin Destileria

Date Visited: Dinner on Friday Nov 14, 2014
Company: Reservation for 6 (but actually we had 8)

+Stanley was back in town once again and planned a group dinner to catch up with everyone. I suggested El Catrin in the Distillery District and a lot of people seemed to also been wanting to check out this spot. El Catrin opened last summer and I've been hearing some mixed reviews of all different aspects of the restaurant. Apparently, you can only make a reservation online for 4 people here and we had about 8 confirmed attending. Stanley called in closer to our date and changed our reservation to 6 which we were allowed to do... we had 2 were coming later into the night. I was the 6th person to arrive on the Friday night, and found the entrance a bit confusing...I had no idea the entrance was behind the infamous heated patio. Nonetheless, I searched the area which actually wasn't that huge and found my friends in a half booth/half chairs table. We were luckily able to squeeze another on the booth and fine another chair for our extra 2 people who came later, our waitress was very accommodating even though it was very busy.

The waitress explained the menu to us and said that their portions are a bit smaller because they're for sharing. For us, we just decided to get 2 orders each :). But to start, we got the Guacamole which was made for us table-side and served with unlimited tortilla chips. It was really awesome to see someone mixing the ingredients right in front of us, a little awkward but still cool! The flavour was great, we got it spicy so I couldn't taste the lime as much but I think they have a great recipe. There was also some salsa and limes on the table that apparently were there when my friends sat down but didn't have any chips, maybe they were for tacos? Each of the salsas were different with varied levels of spiciness.

For my first order, I got the Vegetarian Mini Burritos with Sautéed Corn, Zucchini, Tomato, Mushroom, Tofu, and Black Bean Puree.  The Burritos were so small and cute, they almost looked like Taquitos, the 4 pieces were quite a bit of food though and good for sharing and sampling. There was nothing really special about them, just a bunch of cooked vegetables stuffed in a tortilla and grilled. The salsa is what really gave it some life as the vegetables were bland otherwise. I tasted a lot of mushroom and corn but it was interesting as unlike a real burrito, there was no rice or even much bean puree to hold it all together.

For my second order, I got the Tacos (which I've heard great things about)! +Laura+Brian, and I all got different kinds so it worked out perfectly that we could each try one of the Baja, Gobernador, and Pollo Con Mole Tacos. The first one I tried was the Baja Taco with Crispy Fried Cod and Chipotle Lime Coleslaw, the fish was very tender and light, not too greasy. The coleslaw paired nicely with the fried fish and added all the flavour it needed. It was a pretty decent sized filet, I wasn't very hungry after finishing it. Next, I went for the Gobernador with Sauteed Shrimp, Lobster, Chipotle Aioli, and Black Bean Puree which was my original order. I found the texture interesting, very creamy but with the bean puree, it wasn't all smooth. I was impressed on how much filling you were given in the taco because shrimps were dropping everywhere. The seafood was fresh and cooked perfectly. Lastly was the Pollo Con Mole Taco with Pulled Chicken, Crema Fresca, Cotija Cheese, Xni-Pec, on a Corn Tortilla unlike Flour like the rest. I didn't really enjoy this one, the chicken was a bit dry and dull, and I didn't like the Corn Tortilla either. I was also very full at this point and not sure it I just needed to stop eating...

Lastly, I'll talk about the lovely drinks I ordered. They have an an awesome assortment of tequilas and I couldn't resist trying some of their cocktails. In the beginning of the night I started off with a Watermelon Fire which was very tasty and the name speaks for itself. It was very refreshing and a great choice for the watermelon lover. Later in the evening, I went for the Cucumber Devil. I love cucumber drinks so I couldn't resist ordering this one. It had the flavour I was expecting but also a lot of kick! There's peppers in there so not suited for those who can't handle spice, none of my friends enjoyed it. Also, the drinks all price around $10 so not the cheapest of dinners.


Food: 3.5/5 - Better than I was expecting, I don't think it's as overpriced if you know what to order and have people to share with. 
Decor: 4/5 - Loved staring at that colourful mural all night long, felt like I was in old town Mexico
Service: 3.5/5 - Surprisingly good, very accommodating to our large group and good wait-time between each course.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Definitely left with a good impression and would like to return.
Overall: 4/5


El Catrin Destileria on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hunter's Landing

Date Visited: Dinner on Friday Oct 17, 2914
Company: +Will

+Will and I were heading to +Ishraque's new place for the night and decided to have dinner at a restaurant nearby. Luckily for us, Hunter's Landing is just down the street and it was a restaurant which I had either heard of before or read reviews on because the name sounded familiar. I later realized that it's the location where they have the epic Caesar, "The Cure". Unfortunately for me, they're only served during brunch on Sundays... but the rest of their food still looked good too.

We were seated at the top level of the restaurant and I noticed walking though that the place was very large with ample seating throughout. The decor was very modern and chic, catered to the yuppy downtown crowd. The menu was decently priced for a gastopub and a variety of dishes to choose from. For drinks, I wanted to try one of their Beer Cocktails and ordered the Creem of Dublin (Creemore + Guinness). It took a while to get our drinks, maybe because of our location, they were coming from downstairs? But mine was very interesting since the Guinness was clearly sitting on top so it was like drinking one then the other.

I ordered the Signature Fish Tacos with Grilled Pineapple & Jicama Slaw, Avacado, Cheddar, and Smoked Chilli Sauce. It was an appetizer so I wasn't sure how large it would be but I thought three was enough (you could add another taco for $4). Luckily, I was right as the tacos were quite large and stuffed to the max! The flavour of the slaw was very bold and perfect amount of acidity to sweetness. I actually thought the Jicama were radishes while eating them but now looking it up, they're actually Mexican radish. They were very overpowering in the overall taco and took away from the rest of the flavours, by the 3rd taco I was a bit tired of the flavour. It helped cleanse the pallet but I think they went a bit overboard with it. The texture of the fish was flaky and soft, great contrast to the crunchy slaw. I didn't have much of the chilli sauce on site because I wasn't quite sure how to add it in, but it tasted pretty good.

I also had a bite of +Will's Pulled Pork Pizza and the BBQ sauce tasted really good. Overall, the place has a great atmosphere and decent food, nice gem in the neighbourhood.

Food: 4/5 - Impressed with the food!
Decor: 4.5/5 - Loved the different levels and perfect noise level and lighting.
Service: 2/5- Service was nothing special, didn't really check on us.
Willingness to go back: 4/5 - Ummm I need to try The Cure!
Overall: 3.5/5

Website: http://hunterslanding.ca/

Hunter's Landing on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Momma's Family Restaurant

Date Visited: Dinner on Oct 7, 2014
Company: +Joslynn and +Caroline

The Oshawa girls and I decided to get together for dinner and a cheap Tuesday movie after deciding we all wanted to see Gone Girl. The movie was around 7PM so we had to find somewhere for an early dinner close to the theatre. I wasn't feeling the chain restaurants on Tauton so I decided to do some searching for other things in the area. There aren't many known restaurants in Oshawa I haven't been to at this point but I did find Momma's Family Restaurant in the Five Points Mall. I haven't heard of the place before but it had positive reviews on the internet despite not having much internet presence.

Five Points Mall isn't a very busy mall (if you can even call it a mall) so I'm sure I've passed by it on my odd occasional visit. I wasn't even sure where in the mall it was located, I found a sign outside and just parked outside the entrance. The girls said they did the same but it happened to be where I was closer, to the Target. The restaurant was right where we entered and was bigger than I had expected (not sure what I was expecting), it looked almost like a smaller East Side Mario's. Their sign said to seat ourselves so we grabbed a booth mid-way back.

They had an interesting selection of menu items, quite extensive but not sticking any one theme... had some Greek and Italian features. We all decided to share a Large Caesar Salad which was actually massive! There was 3 of us and we couldn't finish it. There was tons of parmesan and dressing which I enjoyed. There was also lots of bacon bits but I didn't like that they were the artificial kind and very crunchy. The lemon on the side was a great addition to add more flavour to the salad. I thought it was very delicious.

I couldn't decide between a few things on the menu for my main but +Joslynn was getting Lasagna already so the waitress said I could have a bit of hers when I asked for a recommendation. I decided on the Chicken Breast Parmesan with Baked Potato (I think that's what it was). I wasn't sure what to expect from the description, I thought I'd get something saucier rather than chicken with a layer of sauce and cheese. The chicken itself wasn't bad, don't think it was fresh but tasted fine. My criticism would have to be on the sauce, it had an odd flavour which tasted like the Chef Boyardee canned pasta sauce. I tried the Lasagna also and it had the same sauce which I found too creamy and thick. The cheese was nicely melted on top but was very unconnected to the chicken with the sauce inbeween. The baked potato was also fine, nothing special about that, came with butter and lots of sour cream. The side of coleslaw was tasty but not as sour as I would have liked. It was an interesting dish paired altogether, I was surprised how full trying to finish it because it didn't seem like that much food.

Food: 2.5/5 - Not the best food I've had but fairly cheap and reasonable.
Decor: 3/5 - Very cute and spacious with pictures of different mothers all around.
Service: 3/5 - Pretty quick and waitress checked up on us appropriately
Willingness to go back: 1/5 - Don't think I'll be returning soon on my own accord.
Overall: 2.5/5

Website: none

Momma's on Urbanspoon